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Even more obscure than they were groundbreaking, Moss Icon was an early emo band whose music remains chiefly the province of hardcore collectors and underground historians. Whether that music directly influenced or simply presaged modern emo, Moss Icon's shifting dynamics, chiming guitar arpeggios, and screaming, crying vocal climaxes helped set the template for much of the emocore that followed in its wake. Typical for many late-'80s emocore bands, Moss Icon led an unstable existence; due in part to the members' youth, they performed and recorded only sporadically, and were on hiatus as often as not. Their first CD release didn't occur until several years after their breakup, following distantly on the heels of limited chunks of material for very small labels. Thus, despite increasing name-checks during emo's rise to prominence, Moss Icon remained a mystery to many.
Moss Icon was formed in Annapolis, Maryland in 1986, when its members were still in high school. Guitarist Tonie Joy, singer Jonathan Vance, bassist Monica DiGialleonardo, and drummer Mark Laurence played their first show as Moss Icon in the summer of 1987. In early 1988, they issued their debut 7," "Hate in Me" (aka "Greta Garbo") on Vermin Scum, the small indie label Joy co-founded in conjunction with members of fellow Annapolis band the Hated. A second 7," Mahpiua Luta, followed in 1989, after which the band alternated between spurts of rehearsals and inactivity. From 1989-90, Vance and Laurence also played in a side project called Breathing Walker with guitarist Alex Badertscher, which later came to include Joy and DiGialleonardo as well. Badertscher joined Moss Icon as second guitarist in time for their third single, 1990s "Memorial."
Moss Icon remained together for approximately one more year after that, during which time they released a split LP with Silver Bearing. They had attempted to complete a full-length album, but the results of an initial session were abandoned, then redone at a later date. The LP went unreleased during the band's existence, and finally appeared on vinyl in 1994 on the Vermiform label, under the title Lyburnum (aka Lyburnum Wit's End Liberation Fly). Additionally, a half-live/half-studio 12" called It Disappears was released by Ebullition/Vermin Scum in 1995. The subsequent CD issue of Lyburnum appended the studio portion of It Disappears.
By that time, Moss Icon had long since scattered across the country and beyond, to travel or attend college. Only Tonie Joy remained extensively active in music, most notably founding the Universal Order of Armageddon and the Convocation Of..., while also playing with Born Against, Great Unraveling, and Lava, among others. In 2001, Moss Icon reunited for several live shows with a lineup of Joy, Vance, DiGialleonardo, Badertscher, and one-time Breathing Walker drummer Zak Fusciello.
Moss Icon is a punk rock band formed in late 1986 in Annapolis, Maryland. Its original members are singer Jonathan Vance, guitarist Tonie Joy, bassist Monica DiGialleonardo, and drummer Mark Laurence. Alex Badertscher joined as second guitarist in 1990. Moss Icon is known as an early influence on the hardcore punk splinter genres known as post-hardcore, as well as for the eventual development of emo, although the band members themselves have denied knowingly contributing to the latter genre in any way.
History and background 
Formation to breakup 
The band's identifying characteristics, and those that distinguished them from their contemporaries, included noticeable and abrupt transitions from loud to quiet, Joy's distinct arpeggiated guitar (often picked), and Vance's esoteric, stream of conscious lyrical content. Earlier recordings of the band are reminiscent of early Joy Division, while later songs embodied a less blunt approach with more exploratory arrangements and riffage. Vance's lyrics touched upon vaguely, among other issues, the plight of indigenous peoples of the Americas, and opposed the U.S. government's involvement in Nicaragua and Guatemala.
The band played frequently with fellow Annapolis band The Hated. Moss Icon recorded their debut 7", "Hate in Me", in January 1988, and entered the studio several months later to record their second 7", "Mahpiua Luta". Their Lyburnum Wits End Liberation Fly LP was recorded by Les Lentz (who engineered all of their studio recordings) throughout 1988 but was not released until mid-1994, three years after the band's break-up, by Vermiform Records. Moss Icon's third 7", entitled "Memorial", was recorded in January 1991 along with a split LP with Silver Bearing. In 1994 Ebullition Records released the It Disappears LP, compiling songs from "Memorial" with live versions of several songs.
In 1990 a splinter project of Moss Icon was formed called Breathing Walker, containing all four members of Moss Icon plus Alex Badertscher on bass, Zak Fusciello on percussion, and Tim Horner on violin. Breathing Walker released a cassette that was re-released on vinyl and CD in 2001 by the Vermin Scum label, along with live tracks.
Post-breakup and 2001 reformation 
After the dissolution of Moss Icon, guitarist Tonie Joy was a member of the bands Universal Order of Armageddon, Born Against, and The Convocation Of.... (later rechristened The Convocation). Other band members were less involved in music, excepting Laurence's drums in Lava, DiGialleonardo's Blue Condors, and Vance's solo debut LP.
Moss Icon reunited to play two shows with Zak Fusciello on drums, one at the 2001 More Than Music Fest in Columbus, Ohio and the other at the renovated Charles Theatre in Baltimore, Maryland.
Recent activity 
In July 2008, Moss Icon was named one of the "23 Bands Who Shaped Punk" by Alternative Press magazine in issue No. 240, released in July 2008. Vance's first officially released book Tulip Has a Room was published by Easysubcult.
Since 2007 Joy, Vance, Zak Fusciello, and Alex Badertscher have been occasionally working on new material in Baltimore, MD for a possible new recording. A complete reissue of the Moss Icon discography is slated for release by Temporary Residence Ltd. in May 2012, with live performances planned in support.