MOTH VELLUM is a collection of veteran musicians based in the U.S. The band began as collaboration between Tom Lynham and Johannes Luley. The fruits of these sessions led them to forming a band. Their 2007 self-titled debut is the result, and plans for a follow up started soon after. The influence of classic prog is obvious, but this is definitely a band of the times. They have been able to successfully blend more popular current styles into a definite symphonic structure.
When I asked the band for help with biography information, an interesting thing happened. They chose to give themselves some homework assignments, and came up with individual biographies. I thank them for the detailed information, and effort. MOTH VELLUM gets the credit for the following paragraphs.
Johannes Luley, Guitar
Johannes grew up near Frankfurt, Germany where Prog Rock has always been popular since it’s early beginnings in the 60’s. Bands like Yes, Pink Floyd and Genesis were a huge influence. At the age of thirteen, Johannes’ obsession with all things guitar literally forced him to spend all of his savings on his first Fender Stratocaster. Blame it on Dave Gilmour! Shortly thereafter, he began to study jazz with Dutch guitar legend Eddy Marron at his “Jazz-Werkstatt”. This resulted in a very deep understanding of music theory, which was later reinforced by classical music studies in high school.
Johannes’ style is best described as a mix of aggressive, sometimes exploding Tele riffs and mellower jazz informed passages. Listening closely to Jeff Beck, Steve Howe, Pat Metheny, Steve Hillage, Wes Montgomery and Roy Buchannan helped Johannes in defining his own unique guitar style.
In Moth Vellum he has found the perfect platform to express anything he had ever dreamed of in terms of his guitar playing.
Tom Lynham, Keys
Tom Lynham grew up in Medina, Ohio and was most encouraged musically by his mother, an organist for a few local churches. His piano lessons started at age 5, but by age 10 the drums seemed more satisfying and would become his primary instrument from that point on. Still, his first band, “The Subliminal Pop Tarts” found Tom among five Casio keyboard players and a drummer, playing Rush covers and lord knows what else.
In high school he began playing the guitar and bass, and by college he was writing and recording his own compositions while also playing in a few local groups on various instruments.
A move to San Francisco in 2001 eventually lead to meeting Johannes Luley, and they quickly discovered a shared enthusiasm for progressive rock. Several dozen bits and pieces of demo tracks later they had the beginnings of Moth Vellum’s first album. Tom was originally slated to be the drummer for the group, but the interesting challenge of playing keyboards in a prog rock band brought him back to his first instrument.
Tom’s playing is influenced by the keyboard greats of the 70’s, primarily Tony Banks of Genesis and Rick Wakeman of Yes. He borrows from them the sweeping organ and Mellotron textures of the genre, but is also perfectly happy with a monosynth and a pitch wheel.
Matt Swindells, Drums and Vocals
Matt Swindells has worked professionally as a musician since graduating from Salford University (UK) in 1997. Matt enjoys a career as a freelance drummer, teacher, and multi-instrumentalist as well as being the drummer in Moth Vellum.
Electronica pioneers Fila Brazillia hired Matt as their tour drummer from 1999 to 2003 completing two world tours and also using Matt’s drumming, vocal and guitar skills for several recordings and remix projects. Matt is also credited as a co-writer on Fila’s last album.
Some of Matt’s other career highlights include recording vocals for “Raising Lazarus” which is a record written and produced by leading session bass player Matt Bissonnette, and performing at the Royal Albert Hall with Australian jazz multi instrumentalist James Morrison.
Whilst playing with Fila Brazillia Matt made several live performances for television and radio in the UK, Europe, Canada and Japan and also performed at major festivals including Glastonbury, Mount Fuji, Lowlands, Redding and the Essential festival. Fila Brazillia headlined at Estnor Castle’s, The Big Chill in 2002.
Ryan Downe, Bass and Vocals
Ryan Downe was born in Los Angeles and raised on the seminal rock stations born in the 70’s. He began playing the guitar and piano at age 10 and quickly found an outlet for creative expression. Fortunate enough to have older friends with cars, he began to frequent the many arena rock shows at the Los Angeles Forum and Universal Amphitheater. Willing to go see any and all live music, he collected a variety of tastes attending shows ranging from Paul Anka to Rush and everything in between.
In high school he discovered his love for singing and song writing and by college began playing regularly in popular LA clubs. He was eventually discovered by Elton John and soon after offered a record deal on Elton’s Rocket Records label. The release of his debut album, “The Hypocrite” was met with critical acclaim and garnered him opening slots on tours with The Who and Iggy Pop.
Re-locating to San Francisco, Ryan met a group of musicians that shared his love for the Progressive Rock genre that made an early impact on him as a child. With Moth Vellum he felt challenged creatively and dedicated his musical efforts to that endeavor.
Ryan describes himself as a slave to melody. His vocal range affords him the opportunity to sing elaborate vocal melodies and harmonies that lend themselves well to the classic Prog Rock genre.