Moon King dropped a brand new record entitled Secret Life two days ago, and in anticipation of the release (as well as two NYC shows, one at Mercury Lounge tomorrow night and another at Baby’s All Right Saturday, plus one at DC9 on Sunday) I spoke to Daniel over the phone a few weeks ago to get caught up on everything that’s been happening with the Toronto-based project. We talked about the record itself at length, as well as about Toronto’s community vibes (or lack thereof) and creative scene, and how those things influenced the new video for “Impossible”, which you can scope about halfway through the interview. (We also talked about aliens and Drake, so REALLY there is something for everyone.) Read up on all of that below, be sure to grab a copy of the record for your very own, and DEFINITELY grab tickets to the upcoming shows this weekend or risk ETERNAL REGRET. Here we go:
So congratulations on the upcoming release! I saw the pictures of that clear vinyl and it looks DOPE!
Thank you! Oh yeah, you saw the picture of the actual record! I’m pretty excited about it; I’ve never made a clear record before.
It looks amazing. Now, going into writing this one, did you have any sort of mission statement in terms of what you wanted to convey thematically or sonically, or did that sort of fall into place as you went about the creative process?
Not at the beginning, but at the end we had a lot more songs written (maybe fifteen or twenty songs) that could have gone on; we ended up cutting everything that felt a little bit lighter emotionally, and all of the songs on the final record are the ones that got me in the gut a little more. It’s a bit of a heavier record for me, which is funny, because everybody that’s listening to it has been telling me that they think it’s really uplifting or empowering sounding, whereas to me, it’s just a real bummer kind of album! [Laughs]
Well, I can see how that would happen. I guess you could make some comparisons to reggae, not necessarily from a sound perspective, but in the way that there is sort of an upbeat vibe with heavier lyrics and themes.
Yeah, I see what you’re saying. The themes, lyrically, are almost the opposite of the music, which was very intentional. I guess if there was a theme overall to it, that would be it; to sort of match the darkness with the lightness. There’s also this momentum that I wanted to capture (especially with some of the songs that are a little longer and more stretched out) that doesn’t hit you over the head, but sort of builds. I think our EPs were very much about trying to make it as loud and in-your-face as possible, and this one we sort of stretched it a little bit.
Right. And speaking of things being stretched out, how long did the writing and recording process actually take you from start to finish? Do you have a rough estimate? I know recording didn’t take you very long at all…
Yeah, the recording was very quick, and most of it we did in five days at this little cottage. It was totally surrounded by ice and snow, a Canadian wilderness kind of thing, which was very unusual; all the records I’ve ever worked on have either been in a studio or in someone’s apartment or something like that. We had these big bay windows that looked out on this completely white landscape, and to me, when I think about the record, I just think about this big, white, empty space, because that was what we were looking at the entire time. Writing it, it’s kind of hard to say…there’s one song that’s from 2010, before I even had an idea that I wanted to make Moon King into a band, and then we were writing stuff even into 2014.
So in terms of how you edited down the track list, I know you said it became fairly clear which ones suited the heavier vibes, but what will become of the ones you let go? And will some of the lighter stuff end up on B-sides?
Yeah, there’s gonna be another 12″ that will come out (I’m not sure when) with some of those songs on it, and then I’ve already been working on the next record since we finished this last one, which is halfway finished. (I’m actually in Montreal working on demos right now.) To me, I think the best thing to do would be to follow this up as soon as we can. And I do want to make something that’s a little shinier, something that I can listen to a little bit easier on my own, because this one is kind of a bit nightmarish! [Laughs] It’s like going back and reliving some really bad experiences that I went through but had to write about. I want to make something that I can put on with friends of mine, and this record (to me) is not that; this record is very twisted, shadowy…almost conflicted, I guess, is the right word. I definitely had to make it for myself, had to get it out, but I wouldn’t say that it’s a very positive listening experience. (Unless you’re one of these people that has been saying that it’s a feel-good album, because there have definitely been people telling me that.) [Laughs]
Totally. I mean, I will never not be fascinated by how a piece of music (or any creative project, really) can come from a place that is totally opposite to what the audience takes away at the end of the day.
You know what, that actually makes me feel really good. I never make something for someone else to experience in the same way I did, you know? I think that’s important of any kind of art form; you make something for other people to put their own story into, to see how it fits into their life. For me, I experience this in one way, but it’s for anybody to experience in their own as well.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8XwTawnFeE
Completely. Now, your brother (as well as friends of yours) are in Montreal, so I’m just curious to know why you’ve made Toronto your home base. Is there any particular reason for that?
I’m in Montreal right now, actually! [Laughs] I’m kind of a bit of a hobo; I generally don’t have a permanent apartment or anything, but Toronto is definitely home-base…you know, I grew up there, but it’s hard being a musician in Toronto. It’s almost as expensive as New York, really, and when I was growing up that wasn’t the case, but it’s just been growing so fast. And Drake isn’t really helping at all, actually. [Laughs]
Oh, I’m sure. [Laughs]
It’s crazy; I actually just found out that Drake’s studio where he was working on the two albums before this last record is like a block away from where we were always working on music in Toronto. It’s just cool to think of these artists lofts being used for late-night warehouse parties, people doing screen-printing workshops, and then the next building over is Drake’s studio. It’s all the same group of creative young people. That’s very Toronto, too; there’s very little awareness of what’s happening next door, and that’s something that’s a recurring theme…everybody’s just doing their own thing in Toronto, whereas Montreal is much more community-based.
Right, right. And so when you’re NOT in Toronto, or even Montreal, where has the music taken you that’s been one of your favorite places to have visited? And also, where are you most looking forward to touring this time around?
Well last year we got to do Iceland Airwaves, which was incredible. It’s an incredible festival, but then also just BEING there. I’ve been a fan of a lot of music that’s come out of there, so being there to play music felt really, really special. We even played in a record store as a side-show, and it was pretty amazing. So that would be my favorite place that we’ve toured, and the for the upcoming dates, I’m not sure…I love touring in the Southwest of America; it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been, just driving through the desert in Arizona and New Mexico and Texas. We have this song “Roswell” which I just wrote while we were driving around on the highway in New Mexico, and that’s the only reason that it’s called “Roswell”. I just felt very inspired by the whole scene down there.
Well this is an EXCELLENT segue, because I am about to ask you a few questions based on some of your song titles. These are just very loosely formed questions based on the actual song title words, so there’s not any deeper meaning // heavy lyrical interpretation, it’s just all superficial. (BEAR WITH ME!) So we will start with “Roswell”…have you ever seen an alien?
Well, I went to the UFO Museum in Roswell the day before we wrote that song, but the song has nothing to do with that. Have I ever seen an alien alive? No, I don’t think so. I’d like to. I’d cook them dinner. I think that would be nice to do.
Good peace offering.
Exactly! I’m sure they would eat something, I’m just not sure what. (What would I cook them?) But no, I love Science Fiction, and have done since I was a kid, but I haven’t had any luck there myself yet. [Laughs]
And for “Apocalypse”, are you prepared for the apocalypse should it ever occur? (Knock on wood that it does not…)
Oh man! [Laughs] I mean, my feeling has always been that the apocalypse will happen when the world runs out of water, and in that case everyone can just come on up to Canada, because we have lots of it. [Laughs] Am I prepared mentally? No, definitely not.
Yeah, I would have no idea what to do. Okay, finally, for “Come Back”, what is the first thing you like to do upon returning from tour to Toronto, apart from maybe sleeping forever?
Try to leave as fast as possible? [Laughs] No, that’s not true. I do love Toronto. I have a friend who works across from our studio at a really nice bar, so I usually just end up there. Our keyboardist did a solo drive from California to Toronto (it must be about fifty hours or something like that, really long), and as soon as he got in he just went straight to the bar. That guy’s a monster.
That’s insane! Well apart from the touring schedule and the record release (which are two huge things in and of themselves), what else have you got coming up that we should know about? Music videos or anything?
Yeah, we have a video coming out I *think* the same day the album comes out, and that one’s for “Impossible”. (To me, that is the obvious single from the album, and we’ve just been holding off until the record comes out.) But (speaking of Toronto), the video is trying to reflect the kind of emptiness and disassociative vibe that Toronto has, where you can feel like you’re lost but there are four million people all around you, so it’s basically just me and Maddy wandering, and that should be coming out really soon. Then there’s also our regular video for “Roswell” that our friend Mac (who’s Claire, Grimes’ brother, and he does all of our videos right now) did with us last month, and that should be coming out soon, too!