Moon King: The Camp Wavelength Interview

Purveyors of: Sophisticated cocktail music for people who are just as happy drinking beer.
File next to: Cocteau Twins, Stereolab, Beach House
Playing: Camp Wavelength, Saturday August 29 @ Artscape Gibraltar Point
Get your ticket here!

It’s a bold statement given that the year isn’t over yet, but I think Toronto’s Moon King have written the album of the year. With Secret Life, there’s a depth, both in sound and emotion, that many have tried to approximate but have fallen short. Sounding like an incredible playlist to your most memorable cocktail party, the songs weave effortlessly in and out of styles while never sounding out of place. In an email exchange with Daniel Benjamin, he all but confirms that sincerity is at the heart of it all.

I’ve read that you come from a musical family. I don’t mean this in a bad way, but is music a skill that you take for granted because it’s always been around you? Like, it’s just something that you do — kind of like becoming a great chef because you come from a line of incredible cooks?

For me personally, I only became interested in music when I discovered it for myself, I think in a pretty standard way, like watching MuchMusic and people at school starting to talk about Eminem, or whatever. But having music around when I was a kid definitely helped me appreciate how important it is to other people.

Moon King is very different from your previous incarnation, Spiral Beach. Do you compartmentalize them that way, or are there similarities that you can see?

Spiral Beach was a collaborative project, so it operated in a pretty different way.

With Moon King, you have a very sophisticated sound that reminds me of Robin Guthrie productions from late ’80s/early ’90s. Do you feel a particular affinity for that era?

Thanks! Yeah, I like a lot of music from that time. Maybe because I was born around then, there’s some kind of magnetism — like you’re attached to it in a cosmic sense, haha. But on the other hand, I think I just like the combination of electronic drums and loud guitars and soft pianos. Through Cocteau Twins, I discovered Harold Budd, who is one of my favourite artists right now.

You mention the Cocteau Twins. You definitely inhabit that same hazy melancholy that they did. Are you a particularly pensive person?

Definitely — I go up and down like everyone else, but Secret Life is meant to be pretty bleak, although a lot of people have told me it has a kind of uplifting feeling… It’s interesting to see what other people take from it.

Was Secret Life a hard album to make?

I think it was a hard album to write, but very easy to record. It took about six months to be sure of what we were gonna do, but then we did most of it in five days.

This is a great, organic-sounding album — feels like it just fell out of you. Is there spontaneity in making records, or is it more carefully plotted out?

That’s great! That’s exactly what I wanted it to feel like. There’s not a lot of decision-making involved with the way I write or record. I think you just have to go with your instincts and let them make your choices for you.

How has the reception been for the record? What are people saying? Did it match your expectations?

I don’t read anything that’s written about the band, so I don’t know! My friends seem to like it. I got some really nice messages when it came out.

Are you more of a recording person or live person?

I like to think of it as totally separate projects — for the live show I try not to stress about little details, just the overall impression. We want to make a very strong impact and we try to make it very easy to set up and sound good quickly. On the recordings, it’s the opposite. I’ll sit and redo the same samples or mix for hours, In the end, I’d hope to make something interesting that people could listen to while they do the dishes.

What is the band up to right now? Still on the road?

Back in Toronto now, we just got back a couple weeks ago. I moved into a studio space in the west end and I’m starting to work on new tunes, so I’ll be here the rest of the summer.

How was the tour? How many stops did you do on this leg?

This last leg was pretty short: Two weeks in the U.S. with one of our favourite bands, Mr Twin Sister. But the first three legs were really long — we started at the end of January, and I think we’re up to about 80 shows in 2015 so far.

What shows stood out for you?

We played on THREE different boats within a week in Europe. That was pretty exceptional haha.

Do you have a preference between bigger or more intimate shows?

I know it’s not what most bands say, but I’ve noticed that we sound better the bigger the room is, which is kind of weird.

Come hear Moon King fill the big room that is the west lawn of Artscape Gibraltar Point on Toronto Island this Saturday, August 29, for Camp Wavelength!

— Interview by Evan Sue-Ping

Moon Kings plays Camp Wavelength Saturday, August 29 at Artscape Gibraltar Point (Toronto Island). Get your single day tickets here! Or better yet, join us for the whole weekend and get a Festival Pass!