A West Philly prog-metal band runs on veggie oil
by Jacob Lambert
For the average band, touring is a difficult proposition: the rush to and from cities, the endless gear-schlepping, the loss of proper sleep. All that makes West Philadelphia’s Mose Giganticus all the more notable: The prog-metal quartet, currently in the thick of a cross-country tour, runs their bus on vegetable oil—a process that, according to lead singer Matt Garfield, “increases significantly the work that you’re already doing” while out on the road.
For Garfield, who created Mose Giganticus as a solo project in 1999, the veggie-car concept sprung from necessity. Before embarking on a 100-date 2008 tour—with gas prices peaking—he and his bandmates realized there was no way they could make it work with their current budget. Garfield contacted David Rosenstraus of Braddock, PA’s Fossil Free Fuel, a company that specializes in vegetable oil conversions, and within weeks, the white Mose minibus was smelling like a fry cook.
But running on recycled oil isn’t easy. The band must seek out fuel “pretty much anywhere we are when we need it,” explains Garfield. “We’re flying by the seat of our pants whenever we roll into town.” When the group is lucky, they’ve made arrangements with a restaurant beforehand. If not, a lengthy search is possible.
Once they’ve scavenged a usable amount of oil—often in the bleary post-show hours—the work has just begun. The band still has a half-hour of pumping the grease into a processing tank; two hours of warming it in a water heater; an overnight cool-down to separate water and particulates; and a final, hour-long run through a series of filters. Only then can they spread their maps, shoot to the next town and thrash through songs about science, technology and escape.
Though the conversion was born from high gas prices, its benefits exceed monetary savings. In conversation, Garfield’s affection for the project comes through. “We’ll absolutely stick with it,” he says. “It’s like a job that we can take with us when we’re on the road.” He does offer a “disclaimer” to prospective tourmates: “Everything you bring on this tour, it’s going to have a fine coating of oil on it,” he laughs. “It takes a certain type of mentality.”
And that mentality might be catching on—the veggie bus has become a conversation starter with fellow musicians on the road. “Other bands see the opportunity and the advantage that this represents,” says Garfield. “It sparks their interest.”