Less is more. Noise is tuneful. Darkness is blinding. To talk about The Soft Moon, the brainchild of San Francisco’s Luis Vasquez, is to talk about an upside down, inside out world where the droning bass, the almost industrial drums, the smoky synths, the tempestuous guitars, the whispers, the screams are at first bleak and on second listen tantalisingly romantic. The Soft Moon debut album, released at the end of 2010 – too late, maybe, for “best of the year” polls – has managed to hypnotise an increasing number of listeners with its nod to the late 70s/early 80s no wave and its labyrinthine soundscapes, which are perfectly carried on when played live with the help of Justin Anastasi and Damon Way. And, because we assume autumn suits The Soft Moon perfectly, Luis is back with a new record, the “Total Decay” e.p., which takes the debut to the extreme consequences, sounding heavier and relying even more on the nightmares and mirages that repetition can create. We took the chance to ask him a few questions.
When did you start making music? When did you realize it was what you wanted to do?
I wrote my first song when I was 15 years old on an electric guitar my grandfather gave me. I realized that writing music is what I wanted to do immediately after that first song.
How do you start your writing process?
I usually start with the synthesizer. Once it feels right I create a drum pattern followed by the bass guitar. From there everything else unravels…
Both in your debut album and the “Total Decay” e.p. most tracks are instrumental. Are words unnecessary?
I find that words can sometimes limit the span of communication. That, and I never seem to find the right words to express most of my feelings. When I do sing lyrics they tend to be a short phrase repeated over and over. When I don’t use lyrics I find that vocal experimentation like screams, whispering, cries, and grunting help communicate emotions on more primal and universal level.
The new record, although retaining some of the sombre and claustrophobic qualities of your debut, sounds more open-ended and in Repetition the Liquid Liquid references you often mention in interviews finally come to the fore. Is the e.p. intended as a digression from a second album?
The EP gave me a chance to play around with more radical ideas and a chance to express diversity. The “Total Decay” EP is more of a stand alone release rather than a progression of the first LP and a prequel to a second album.
Most of your songs seem close to the spirit of 70′s krautrock bands in their structured and layered repetition, like a motorway landscape. Is the journey more important than the destination?
There never seems to be a destination in my music nor do I ever have a destination in mind when writing a song. Creating a sense of infinity is important in my music. Once there is closure or a destination is reached everything ends.
Everything concerning the visual aspect of The Soft Moon – logo, artwork, videos – is minimal and almost constructivist. Can you tell us more about it?
The Soft Moon having a visual aesthetic evolved naturally since I’m also a graphic designer. When I hear music or even taste food for that matter I tend to see shapes, colors, and textures. Ironically with The Soft Moon the artwork is meant to contrast the music. The music tends to take up a lot of sonic space and the artwork is minimal and takes up less space.
Although a solo project, when playing live, The Soft Moon become a band. Do you see that influencing your future works?
Having a band for live shows has given me a new perspective when writing new material. I find myself now wanting to create more highs and lows in my music which translates nicely during a live experience making it more dynamic for the audience.
Finally, 5 things that inspire you.
80s Sci-Fi movies. Friends and enemies. Guilt. Fear of death. Sea creatures.
“Total Decay” is out now on Captured Tracks
mp3: The Soft Moon – Total Decay
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