Like any group of longtime friends, Brian Moen, Justin Vernon and Phil Cook get together when their busy schedules allow. Fortunately for Chippewa Valley music fans, sometimes those meetings involve performances by The Shouting Matches.
The blues-roots-rock group, which has evolved into a quartet including Moen’s wife, Jill Heinke Moen, will reunite again on Saturday night at the Oxbeaux III outdoor music event in downtown Eau Claire. They’ll be making a return appearance on the Oxbeaux stage, where they headlined two years ago. Moen explained what happens on such occasions.
“Really it comes down to having played music with Justin and Phil for a long time, and that’s sort of our conversation,” he said. “The music that we make in the band is really the result of just what happens when we get in a room together. … We have a rapport that naturally plays itself out.”
As anyone who follows the local music scene knows, the The Shouting Matches performers all have resumes that are, to say the least, impressive: singer and multi-instrumentalist Vernon leads the Grammy Award-winning, internationally known Bon Iver; Cook, a singer and multi-instrumentalist now living in North Carolina, fronts his own rootsy band that tours widely, and he performs with a host of famed musicians; and Moen, a percussionist, now is a member of the local indie rock group Orchid Eaton and has played in esteemed local groups such as Peter Wolf Crier, Laarks and Amateur Love.
Similarly, Heinke Moen has her own musical endeavors. She is part of the award-winning, internationally known flute trio Areon Flutes and is an educator. She also has played bass in rock bands, which is how she and Moen met: She was in San Francisco-based Birds and Batteries, a group that brought their music to Eau Claire and later toured with Peter Wolf Crier during a West Coast swing by Moen’s group.
The Shouting Matches formed in about 2006.
“We just booked one night at the House of Rock for fun and just played some old blues standards,” Moen said.
Not long after that, Vernon and Cook moved to North Carolina with their band DeYarmond Edison. But when Vernon returned to Eau Claire a bit later, he and Moen made an EP as The Shouting Matches, titled “Mouthoil.”
That was in 2008 or 2009, Moen guessed, but the EP wasn’t released right away.
At about the same time, “For Emma, Forever Ago,” Bon Iver’s beloved debut, came out, “and the record label politely requested that we not put out other competing music at the same time,” Moen said.
“Mouthoil” eventually was released in 2013.
As their respective musical careers progressed, the group didn’t perform together that often. But they did reunite once in a while through the years despite conflicting schedules.
“This was really the fun side project kind of blowing off some steam kind of zone,” as Moen described the continuing attraction to The Shouting Matches.
Heinke Moen joined the group some time after The Shouting Matches released the album “Grownass Man” in 2013.
“She sat in with us a couple times just on a couple of tunes, and then it seemed like we could really do this as a four-piece and that would actually make it a little easier in terms of instrument switcheroos and that kind of thing,” Moen said.
Moen said he’s glad that Cook and Vernon still make the time to play in The Shouting Matches, although he and his wife also keep busy schedules. He works as a graphic designer at UW-Eau Claire and also does freelance work, including the creation of this year’s Oxbeaux III poster.
On his musical schedule, Orchid Eaton will perform on Thursday, Aug. 29, for the Sounds Like Summer Concert Series in Phoenix Park (Irie SOL and Teawhyb also are on the bill). Moen said they plan to feature music from “Start of the Dream,” their 2018 album, among other songs.
His drumming also can be heard on “Hey, Ma,” the first single from Bon Iver’s latest album, “i,i,” set for release Aug. 30. When the single came out in early June, Moen said, he was surprised to hear his work.
“I got an email saying, ‘Hey, feel free to share this song out tomorrow. We’re going to be releasing the first single to the album,’” he said. “And I thought, ‘Oh, OK.’
When he listened to the song, he immediately recognized his contribution.
That opportunity came about when he visited April Base, Vernon’s studio near Eau Claire, last year. Work was being done in a variety of rooms, he recalled.
“I was hearing stuff and was inspired, wanted to get involved,” he said. “And so I said, ‘Hey, if you want to give me some tracks, I’d be happy to go home and throw down some ideas.’ So they sent me home with probably 10 different songs.”
He recalls being particularly impressed with “Hey, Ma.”
“That one really did stand out to me at the time,” he said. “The melody of that song is really great. I didn’t know if they would use any of the stuff. And I’ve heard the rest of the record, and I’m not on any of the other songs or anything.”
Moen’s varied credits include folk-oriented indie rock and more raucous sounds, including time in a hard-core punk band. But he always brings a similar orientation to the work.
“That’s always been my goal as a drummer is to play what makes the songs the best they can be or what makes them interesting,” he said. “And so that changes a lot based on the different music.”
In talking about whether The Shouting Matches will be something the musicians always come back to, Moen was understandably indefinite.
“Tough to say,” he said. “I sure hope so. What shape that takes and that sort of thing remains to be seen. And who knows. If The Shouting Matches as a band doesn’t continue, certainly I’ll play with Phil and Justin down the road in some way, shape or form. But I would like to think we have a good enough time in this quartet to want to do it every once in a while.”
Especially considering they’re among friends.