“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.

“Happy/Sad Place Somehow”: 7 Questions with Tangerine

Bumbershoot 2014 was the first time I saw Tangerine perform live. I had heard a few songs and wanted to check them out. My initial thoughts from seeing them perform were their sound is a lot of fun, this is a pretty sizeable crowd for a local band at Bumbershoot, and it’s hard not to enjoy this performance. The sound reminded me of pop music you would hear in a sitcom that would air in the post “TGIF” generation. Like a sitcom that would have the Lawrence brothers or a movie with Rachel Leigh Cook.

IMG_4399Tangerine performing at Bumbershoot 2014

In the years that followed, I picked up their EPs “Behemoth!”, “Sugar Teeth” and “Radical Blossom”, and would try to catch one of their shows around town. I remember catching their set at an exclusive Upstream Music Festival and Summit preview party, and also catching the band’s farewell concert when they relocated to Los Angeles. On February 7th, with a brand new EP “White Dove”, Tangerine is set to make their Seattle return. I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to ask a few questions to band members, Marika Justad, Miro Justad, and Toby Kuhn.

First and foremost welcome back to Seattle!
I read an interview for Grunge and Art magazine, where as a band you explained that certain bands and genres inspired your sound, but you also mentioned being inspired by movies and television shows, specifically you mentioned the films of Baz Luhrmann (“Romeo + Juliet”). I like the idea of a form of art and entertainment especially one focused on the visual element, inspiring the creation of another form of art and entertainment.
1.) What other films and television shows inspire you currently, and would you mind elaborating how they inspire your sound?

Marika: I’m so glad you picked up on those influences of ours! I have a feeling that a lot of musicians are inspired by so much more than just music. The music you make is sort of like this representation of how you experience the world in all its complexity, so of course all kinds of things find their way into our sound. We’re getting ready to release a new song on February 8th called CHAINS, that has this dark, dreamy, romantic feeling which was inspired by gothic romance novels like Jane Eyre (a favorite of Miro’s and mine that we’ve read many times), plus slightly trashier romance novels we’ve enjoyed that shall remain nameless. We tried to evoke that feeling in the visuals we created to go with the song. That’s just one example but I’m sure there’s more.

In past interviews, you mentioned how as a band you would love to curate the soundtrack for a film or television show, and how some of your songs were made with that possible intention in mind.
2.) Is there a regular storyline that you picture your music being used or you would hope they were used for (for example: A Cosmic Romance, A Modern Day Western, A Teen Road Trip Flick, etc.)?

Marika: One hundred percent we would love for our song Lake City (from our last EP, White Dove) to be in the sequel to Netflix’s “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before”. We’re all suckers for a good classic teen movie- Footloose, Pretty in Pink, Empire Records, Can’t Hardly Wait, 10 Things I Hate About You, etc. (fuck 16 Candles, no matter what anyone says). I think a lot of our songs would be good during like that moment in every TV drama where they do a cheesy montage of all the characters as they wander around pondering the meaning of life. Or maybe our songs would be perfect for the ending of a movie when somebody’s driving off into the sunset, and it’s a little happy and a little sad at the same time. All of our music seems to end up in that happy/sad place somehow.

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3.) Another thing I picked up from reading past interviews was a love for the Sci-Fi genre. What are some must see titles (film, television, teleplay, radio show, podcast, etc.) that you would recommend? (If you name a show, is there a specific episode that is must see?)

Marika: Buffy The Vampire Slayer! The title of our song “Monster Of The Week” comes from the TV concept of the same name and is inspired by Buffy. There’s an episode in season four called “HUSH” that has almost zero dialogue and it’s just weird and fun and completely brilliant.
Miro: The Arrival was one of the more recent science fiction movies that I have seen which really moved me because it teaches about having compassion for the unknown. The soundtrack really beautiful and abstract so I highly recommend checking that out!
Toby: Taken- It’s a miniseries presented by Steven Spielberg that takes place over half a century and focuses on multiple generations of families’ experiences with aliens. Very cool show, the score is awesome too, their theme song has been stuck in my head for years!

(These next 3 questions were provided by my last interview Alaia from the band Tres Leches.)
4.) From your last live performance, what’s one reaction from the audience that stood out to you and how do you perceive that reaction?

Marika: Our last show was for FOMO FEST at the Echo- there was one guy in particular who was dancing in the front giving it his all the entire set that stood out to all of us!

5.) What’s one thing you want to do that you’re not doing right now and why aren’t you doing it?

Miro: I’ve always wanted to tour Asia with TANGERINE! Marika and I are Korean American so performing in Korea is a shared dream of ours. It’s not in our cards for the immediate future as we are touring the West Coast and writing music in LA but hoping that we can make that work soon!
Toby: I’d love to learn to speak Italian, I’ve got family in Naples and every time I visit I deeply regret not having a greater understanding of the language. There are so many things I like to do when I get a spare moment I just haven’t committed to it yet!
Marika: I want to be able to run 5 miles! I can only run 2 at the moment….but I’m working on it.

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6.) What’s something that’s not tangible that is vital?

Miro: A constant sense of curiosity. I feel like there was a moment in my late teens and early twenties where I stopped questioning everything around me and lost a sense of awe for the natural world. The more curious I am the happier I have found.
Toby: Optimism. I try to be an optimistic person, for myself and the band, but also in terms of giving people the benefit of the doubt- trusting people, maybe too much haha. It’s certainly been vital to my well being.
Marika: There’s a Maya Angelou quote that is something along the lines of “people don’t remember what you said but they’ll remember how you made them feel” that’s always resonated with me. This question brings that to mind!

As a final question, as a band that started in Seattle, developed in this market, and left, do you have any advice for Seattle artists trying to expand beyond the Seattle music scene?

Miro: My advice would be to really take advantage of the supportive scene in Seattle and the surrounding areas because a strong base will carry you further in the long run even if you decide to leave.

(If you thought this band sounded as fun as they were to interview, be sure to support!  Tangerine will be performing live at Chop Suey, Thursday February 7th with Cumulus, and Emma Lee Toyoda, presale $10.  Listen to their music on most platforms, and be sure to check out their latest EP, “White Dove”, available now.)