"As my children get older, I started thinking about what I was going to leave behind or pass on to them—how they're going to remember me," says Tofer Moran, graphic designer, father of two and singer/guitarist of Durham's Proud Valletta. "I hoped to leave behind a sort of anthology of music for or inspired by my sons as a kind of patrimony," Moran continues. "Music is something that can live on, hopefully, long after I'm gone, and it's my hope that they'll be able to have some of my music to mark the days we have together."
With his wife Vye Moran on percussion and vocals, childhood friend Paul Boccaccio on accordion and pals Brentley Cobb and Andrew "Shoe" Shoemaker adding a host of stringed and percussive sounds, Tofer Moran began crafting uncomplicated indie folk with simple melodies and shanty qualities suggested by the rickety foundations behind the nautically inspired tales. Borne out of Dapper Dandy and The Good Day Sirs!, a project involving the Morans and Boccaccio that recorded a "folk-opera retelling of the Pied Piper story" as Reckoning, its sole release, the new outfit borrowed songs from the old and began busking outside the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.
Despite being "constantly hounded by the yellow security guards on segways," Tofer Moran enjoyed the impromptu performances. "It was a lot of fun when little kids would come up and dance around our guitar cases," he remembers, those reactions held in sharp contrast to the "stoic faces" of the DBAP security personnel. Still wet behind the ears, the still-unnamed group was invited to open for Ponchos From Peru—Cobb's former band—and Durham's Ghost Cats in late August as a last-minute addition to a show at The Pinhook. The quintet had a marathon rehearsal the night before the gig in order to throw together a five-song set. They were encouraged with the response. "No one booed us off the stage, so we saw it as a victory," Moran recalls, praising the openness of Durham's music community.
Leading up to what Proud Valletta is calling its first real show, the band now has a name, inspired by a chapter from Thomas Pynchon's 1963 novel V, the city of Valletta and—fittingly—"the memoirs of fathers and children" who called it home. "It all kind of goes back to the idea of generations, time, heritage and parenthood," explains Moran. More importantly, their hobby turned semi-serious pursuit is starting to inspire Moran's three-year old son, Mickey, a rookie drummer who plays along to vintage footage of The Beatles. But it's not quite time to join mom and dad's band just yet, Tofer Moran adds. "He hasn't quite gotten the counting-off part right—he usually yells "1-2-5!" as he clicks the sticks together over his head."
Proud Valletta and Ghost Cats play The Cave Wednesday, Oct. 28, at 10 p.m. The show has a $5 cover.