“We all turn to our communities in darker times and making art feels healing and more important than ever.”: 7 Questions with Moon Palace

Shadowcast

Recently, I was given the opportunity to preview the latest album “Shadowcast” from Seattle indie rock band, Moon Palace.  Twin sisters Cat and Carrie Biell alongside bandmates, Jude Miqueli, and Darcey Zoller create a psychedelia tinged, dusky, 41 minute kind of dream landscape that’s simply captivating. 

The album was like the progression of a day in that songs at the beginning of the album like “Bold” and “Gamma Ray” were energetic, but eventually the album faded into this meditative reflection, culminating in more subdued songs like “Embers” which felt like gathering around a fire at night. If there was any other way I would describe “Shadowcast”, it felt like the soundtrack to a long drive outside of the city.  Like I got in my car in the morning, watched my landscape change around me, and eventually, I’m night driving. I started kind of hyped for this drive, but eventually, it’s just me and my thoughts.  That’s what this album does, it provides a space to reflect.

“Shadowcast” by Moon Palace will be released on August 23rd.  In anticipation of the album’s release I was fortunate enough to be given the chance to ask the band a few questions.  Here’s my short interview with Moon Palace.

1.) What was the inspiration for “Shadowcast”? Was there a particular vibe you were trying to create?
Jude: We made it over the course of a year. Each week we would open ourselves up to what sounds were coming through. I think the record evolved with the changing seasons. For much of the year, Seattle is dark and partly cloudy so that may be why there is a bit of an ominous presence. Once summer hit we wanted to make brighter songs and that’s when “Gamma Ray” emerged. On practice days I’d listen to music on the way to work while riding the bus at 6 AM when it was dark out and text the group what I was listening to. They would text tracks back throughout the workday. Later that night we’d get together, talk about the sounds we wanted to make and get creative. “Shadowcast” was Talking Heads influenced, “Stop When It Hurts” was Sonic Youth, “On the Level” was The Cure, “Bold” was influenced by The Gossip. In the end, I don’t think the songs sound like any of those bands because we weren’t trying to replicate what they were doing even though they were heavy influences. With each song, I want to grow as a drummer so I try new styles or techniques and one way of learning those is by listening to other drummers.

I read an interview in City Arts Magazine, that one of the main things that drew members of the group to Seattle was how queer-friendly the city was. A quote in the article said that you like how Seattle is a “sanctuary city” and that the band was making “sanctuary music”. 
2. I like the idea of “sanctuary music”, but would you mind expanding on that? How would you define “sanctuary music”?
Jude: A sanctuary is a place of refuge or safety. It immediately brings up the idea of church which can be triggering for queers due to having been shamed by religion. But a bird sanctuary can also bring up ideas of a nature reserve and I think our band finds solace in nature. I came here in 2006 after researching where there was queer community on the internet. At that time Seattle had anti-discrimination laws protecting workers based on gender and sexual orientation and where I was from didn’t. I think sanctuary music can be anything that makes you feel safe in a space. Growing up as a teenager in the 90’s for me that was Bratmobile, Bikini Kill, Team Dresch, and Sleater-Kinney. Now when I listen to music at home I’m mostly playing jazz.

Carrie: Cat and I lived in more homogenous suburban area like 20 mins outside of Seattle. As out, queer teenagers, we would drive out to Seattle multiple times a week to be with the community we identified with and who supported us the most. Seattle did feel like a sanctuary in that way at the time. Nowadays it feels like making music in our band is a sanctuary from the current climate in America where hate crimes are on the rise and bigots feel more emboldened. We all turn to our communities in darker times and making art feels healing and more important than ever.

The music video for the song “Hunt and Gather” is amazing. Not only because the song is so good, but visually the video watches more like a high production short film with vibrant cuts and great use of light and shadow which really bring more attention to physical elements of the performers.
3. Was the concept for this video inspired by the song, or did you have this idea of what you wanted the visual to be like as this song was being created and then created a video to best reflect that visual?
Cat: The concept for the video was inspired by the song. An epic song deserved an epic video. The video reflects the process of creating peace with the wounded and unintegrated parts of ourselves. By integrating the ego, the wounded child, the wild one in all of us, we each move through our individual journey of reflection and transformation.

(These next 3 questions were provided by my last interview, the band “Tangerine”.)
4. What’s the last book you read?
Jude: Currently Reading Pleasure Activism by Adrienne Maree Brown
Carrie: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou

5. What was the most stressed you have been on tour and why?
Jude: When I went on a summer tour with a band called Scarves we were in an overheating van driving down I5 while California was burning. None of us had any mechanic skills which is why it was stressful. After a long drive and a mediocre show, we slept on a concrete floor in some dude’s apartment. In the end, we made it down the coast and back, had fun at the beach, and played better shows so it ended up being a good time!

Carrie: I did a west coast tour with my solo project joined by my backing band. We had great shows throughout the tour, but our show in Eugene ended up being really strange. The venue didn’t provide a PA that night and there was very little sound equipment ready even though there were four bands on this bill. One of the local bands ended up running around piecing together a sound system, which I was grateful for. After the show, some of the band members from the other bands invited all of us to some big mansion to party at because somebody was house sitting there. We wanted to take them up on the offer at first because it was a free spot to crash for the night. I felt somewhat reluctant because I was the only woman on the whole lineup of musicians that night and I didn’t see many other women around. We were about to go to the mansion, but then it turned out to be a bunch of drunk dudes all wanting us to get in a hot tub with them. Luckily the guys in my band always looked out for me and we all ended up sort of sneaking away and getting a hotel room for the night instead. I’m grateful to be playing music with more women and genderqueer folks these days 🙂

6. What were some rejected band names you almost had?
Carrie:
Desert Hearts
Wild Embers
Twin Shadow (Already Taken)
Carpet Ride (Too punk rock LOL)

7.) As a final question, I read that each of you are from other parts of the country and have performed in other groups, do you have any advice for other transplants trying to enter the Seattle music scene?
Carrie: I always think it’s a good idea to attend lots of shows and get a feel for the kind of bands and venues that our out here. Try to make friends with other bands and musicians and build a network of supportive fellow musicians who either want to play with you or book shows together. Bookers at venues don’t do as much building of bills anymore so it helps to approach some of the venues with a complete lineup or at least one other band that will bring out people. There are so many musicians and bands here so it can feel daunting to try and get out here, but if you have a few other bands or artists in your corner it really helps.

I also think it’s a great idea to make a professional recording and press them in a professional way so you have a better chance of getting on radio stations like KEXP. KEXP is awesome at supporting local bands and their reach is far and wide. It can be hard to get on their airways since they get tons of submissions, but showing up to the station or mailing an actual professional hard copy of the songs with a radio one-sheet really helps the chances of getting airplay.

 

I have to thank Moon Palace for providing such great answers.  Check out “Shadowcast” available August 23rd, and catch Moon Palace at Clock-Out Lounge on Friday, September 20th.

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