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Halifax’s Moon can’t be constrained within a time capsule

May 20, 2015

Call them "adventure rock."

Moon sail down the outerstellar Autobahn in a weightless vehicle fuelled by wiry pop. Yet while the Halifax band took their initial cues from the dusted sounds of krautrock (along with a nod to the contemporary kosmische territory explored by Victoria’s Freak Heat Waves), their wide open approach can’t be constrained within a time capsule. The group’s shared songwriting duties sees them alternating between spidery/slinky guitar moves or deadpan/agitated vocals, all driven by propulsive rhythms and topped off with a shimmering flute.

Following their debut EP from the not so unlikely source of Winnipeg cassette label Dub Ditch Picnic, Ottawa’s Bruised Tongue issued a split release with the equally singular Old and Weird, then a full length album that sharpened Moon’s approach into a crystalline paragon. We previously described it as “a surprisingly warm, airy take on the genre” and you can consider this our plea for the cassette to be reissued on vinyl.

Ahead of their appearance this week at Halifax’s OBEY Convention, founding trio Andrew Neville, Stephanie Johns and Noel McDonald fielded questions about video games, mysterious song lyrics, and a pair of pregnancies.

I heard a rumour that you originally formed to play at Rockin’ 4 Dollar$. Can you confirm or deny that, and explain what R4$ is for anyone outside of Halifax?

Andrew Neville: R4$ is a sort of full band open mic that happens every Monday at a bar called Reflections. You play for a few minutes and then get a chance to win some money at the end of the night by spinning a wheel. We played it once but certainly did not form for that reason.

Stephanie Johns: Our first set was at R4$. I think it’s a rite of passage for anyone who has a band in Halifax. It’s a very low pressure 10 minute set, and a good chance to try out songs live. I don’t think there was a lot of money on the wheel that night, it was just good timing for us. I remember I screwed up a lot.

Noel MacDonald: R4$ is kind of legendary and can be a good place to meet other musicians. Andrew is kind of famous for winning the prize money. I think he’s spun and won maybe seven times. I think he has a system.

Your music is often compared to krautrock and has even been labeled “Can-kraut.” Was that a conscious idea going into the project or did it come together after jamming?

NM: It was Andrew’s idea to start Moon and he approached Stephanie and I separately. He didn’t go into much detail about the concept but definitely did say “krautrock.” I trusted his taste and instincts, so I was on board right away. A few weeks went by, and then Freak Heat Waves came to town and played an absolutely incredible set. The three of us were there and I think we got together the following week, feeling really inspired.

SJ: Andrew came up to me at a bar and asked if I wanted to play drums in a krautrock band. I said yes because I really could only play a basic beat at that point anyway.

Outside of Klaus Dinger’s motorik drum beat, what other elements have your cherrypicked from the cosmic Germans?

NM: Beyond the motorik, we play a lot of parts that sound like loops. I like repeating really simple guitar parts for (sometimes) the entire duration of a song.

AN: Noel plays guitar backwards, sometimes I sing about space.

You’ve also mentioned the influence of video game music, specifically The Legend of Zelda. Would you describe your flautist Jaime Forsythe (a.k.a. Flute Skywalker) as your own ocarina of time?

AN: The video game thing got taken out of context a few times and ended up being a thing that people were saying a lot. In all honesty I’m pretty sure only Graeme and I understand what Ocarina of Time means, lol. Jaime adds a very important melodic element. I find especially in the songs that are more plodding and drawn out the flute adds a really crucial sense of adventure to the music. Can we start saying we’re adventure rock?

NM: Jaime’s flute playing consistently blows me away [Ed: No pun intended?], and her work is the best part of the album for my money. She was about eight months pregnant when we recorded and I don’t think blowing into that flute came easy after a certain point.

SJ: I’m not sure how she got that nickname. None of us have ever called her that, although I’ve called her lots of other nicknames. Jaime is my high school bestie, and she rules at flute. Neither of us play video games.

Can you offer some context on any of your lyrics? What does “Card Crane Ha” mean? Is “Dented in the Bag” about bringing home a damaged record sleeve?

NM: I can only speak for “Dented” because I wrote that one. It’s a good example of how sometimes song titles have almost no relation to musical content. That song is about doubt and depression. However, the title came from one of our first practices. Stephanie brought cans of beer for everyone and she said, “oh, I think maybe these got dented in the bag.” LUL.

AN: “Card Crane Ha” is an anagram for (The) Handcar Race, which was also the name of a band my close friend Alex Fountain was in before he passed away. The song is more or less just about that band’s songs. The rest of my songs on the record are just about feeling crummy in the winter.

SJ: I still don’t know what 99% of the songs are about. If you find out let me know. One is about Noel’s dog, I know that much.

Has Stephanie’s job as the music and arts editor at The Coast disqualified you for coverage, or are those kinds of conflicts of interests overlooked?

SJ: It sure has! I’ve been in many bands over the years and they’ve all gotten the shaft due to my work situation. It’s a complete conflict of interest, and I have ethics, goddamnit. I don’t think it’s been a detriment to us though. That could be either a compliment to the band’s popularity or an insult to the paper, you decide. It also makes me laugh when bands angrily message me about coverage or lack of coverage because I’ve never had that and I really don’t think it has the ability to make or break a show, at least in my experience.

On that note, everyone in the band seems to be actively involved in local music. Can you share some info about the different projects or things around town that people are doing these days?

AN: There isn’t much else to do here except play freak rock. Noel has a new band called Don Lovely, and I’m in a band called Wayne World. Jaime remains a prolific and talented poet, and as mentioned earlier Stephanie is plugged into the central nervous system of the machine. Graeme lives in Toronto now and is playing with Dorothea Paas and making really cool electronic music under the name Burn Cycle. I think he might be a blackhat hacker too. As far as the rest of Halifax there are always a lot of cool new bands. I think Vulva Culture is the best new band here probably.

NM: Andrew plays in Wayne World with Mark Grundy of Heaven for Real. Mark hides in a box on stage. The box has a hole and he pops his head out only during his singing parts. It’s insane. I have a new power pop/new wave band called Don Lovely. We are gearing up to play our first show! Graeme has also been working on a roots rock band called Grease Fire, but has been tight lipped on the project. I hope we can hear something soon!

Your next show is at the OBEY Convention in Halifax. In your opinion, what makes that festival special in comparison to other events across the country?

NM: Nobody in this part of the country can curate a festival line-up like Darcy Spidle. His integrity for sticking to his vision is exceptional. OBEY attendees are incredibly loyal and very willing to hand over their week to Darcy’s tastes. Can’t wait.

SJ: IT’S THE BEST! Darcy works so hard to bring in the most exciting acts. It’s the greatest time. What a fun festival! p.s. For the OBEY show I’m actually playing guitar because I found it hard to drum while pregnant. Nathan Doucet is drumming and Allison Higgins is playing violin too! I’ll be seated playing guitar, awkwardly.

AN: OBEY is proper lit every year. I definitely trust their programming choices in a way that I would never ever trust any other music festival, I have never been led astray and expect I never will.

What else do you have coming down the pipe?

SJ: A baby.

AN: We are playing a few away shows in June, then probably taking it easy for the rest of the summer. We have some really cool shows coming up in the fall that we can’t divulge yet. Maybe we’ll play at Stephanie’s baby shower.

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