Baton Rouge progressive rock band Moon Honey is going west.
After performing elaborate Baton Rouge concerts in the Manship Theatre and the Irene W. Pennington Planetarium, hanging out with NPR music critic Ann Powers at the South By Southwest Music and Media Conference in Austin last March and receiving a rapturous album review from veteran New York Times critic Jon Pareles in December, Moon Honey will relocate to Los Angeles this September.
Two members of the four-person group, singer-lyricist Jessica Ramsey and guitarist-songwriter Andrew Martin, are going to L.A., while drummer Jermaine Butler and bassist and keyboardist Jeffrey Livingston are staying behind. The latter two band members opted to remain in Baton Rouge, but Martin and Ramsey will carry on the Moon Honey name.
Before the move, Moon Honey will play a farewell show Friday at Chelsea’s Café, with the entire band and special guests.
Discussion about leaving Baton Rouge took place in May during a tour that included the West Coast.
“Touring is a make or break,” Ramsey said. “We thought traveling was one thing but once we got on the road and we were working every day, it was a different monster.”
Moon Honey split in two following the tour, a taxing trek during which the group’s seven-member troupe crammed into a van along with its equipment, driving 10, 11 hours a day.
“Once the band dissipated, Andrew and I said, ‘OK, let’s go,’ ” Ramsey said.
Still keen to do their music, Martin and Ramsey, both 25, picked Los Angeles as their destination over New York.
“We want to make original music our career,” Ramsey said. “So it was New York or L.A. New York was tempting because it seems like it’s a place to harbor people who are doing music on the fringe. I don’t know if the dream is still living in Los Angeles, but there’s just something about L.A. And we need sunshine.”
Los Angeles also has a history of music that Martin loves.
“The late ’60s thing that happened in that area inspires me,” he said. “Joni Mitchell, the Byrds, Neil Young. It feels like there’s a certain energy there. Whether we stay or not, we’re yearning for the experience of success or failure.
“I’ll miss the talent in Baton Rouge,” he added. “It’s much easier to grab musicians here than it might be when we get there. All you have to do here is make a phone call.”
Ramsey and Martin have been to Los Angeles twice in their lives, both times during tours. The city hasn’t responded well to Moon Honey in the past.
“We got an amazing response during the recent tour,” Martin said. “We sold out of all of our albums. The tour was great, but L.A. is the type of place where no one claps after you finish your song.”
Ahead of the move, Moon Honey’s music has been evolving in simpler directions than the expansive neo prog-rock Moon Honey previously explored.
“I feel like it’s closer to us,” Ramsey said. “St. Vincent (singer-songwriter Annie Clark) quoted Miles Davis when she said the hardest thing to sound like is yourself.”
“We’ve been writing songs and listening to Dr. John,” Martin added. “Now that I’m leaving Louisiana, I want to take Louisiana with me. We’re incorporating these New Orleans percussion things and the Carnival spirit.”
“Dr. John cultivated his artistry in L.A.,” Ramsey said. “He didn’t become Dr. John until he was there.”