Interview: The Soft Moon on exploring personal hell, going Deeper, and making sense of Retrofuturism
Many miles from home, Oakland’s the Soft Moon took Great Scott into a dark storm late Friday night. The sky misted in a swath of black while fans inside the Allston venue were showered in a new kind of ghoulish pop music. Frontman Luis Vasquez, who began the Soft Moon as his own solo project before expanding the touring outfit into a full band, effectuated the likes of Bauhaus while ultimately treading through melodies that near the Cure, or even A Flock of Seagulls, with a modern twist.
Vasquez leads his audience through the dregs of hell by way of eerie chants and haunting murmurs. Yet, it feels so good. Bongos even make a surprise appearance. We meet the musician, deconstructed, as he bangs away on the metal arm of a symbol and a trashcan, too.
The Soft Moon, in the early stages of a North American tour that goes home and then back to the East Coast again, played an impressively long set, egged on by its attendees. Songs ranged, and an extra, extra extended encore (without begging and pleading required) made for a sweet reprieve from the actual hell that is all of our day jobs (here: retail woes). As Vasquez swept his guitar to and fro, there was a dryness in his sound and movement that hinted at a summery desert night: like running down into the deepest parts of some valley. It’s dark, it’s scary, but it’s liberating, spiritual, even uplifting.
The composition alone begets a strange sense of carnality that makes a girl blush. But, the silhouette of lights that entwine Vasquez and his band members reflect in sync with the perfect onslaught of sound. Maybe it’s something bigger than us all, something Deeper for sure…
For the Soft Moon’s live experience, we were well prepared, as we picked the mind of Luis Vasquez before his set, out on the patio of Great Scott where spring will eventually blossom.
Madi Silvers: Tell me about the inspiration for the new record, Deeper (out now on Captured Tracks and how it differs from the previous ones.
Luis Vasquez: The inspiration for this record was just to kind of rely on myself completely, and that’s also why I moved to a foreign place. Somewhere unfamiliar, so I could really focus on learning about who I am and what I am.
Where was that?
I wrote the record in Venice, Italy. I lived there for like a year and a half. It took close to a year to finish the record.
What did you learn about yourself?
Uhm, that I’m fucked up.
Aren’t we all?
Ha! Yeah. We all are. I’m just trying to relieve myself of the chaos I feel inside and by working on this record I can get closer to inner peace and happiness, and to get out of my hell. And that was the purpose of the record. That’s why it’s called Deeper. It’s pretty literal.
How has Captured Tracks sort of influenced your music? What’s your relationship with them?
I don’t think the label has influenced me. I think in the very, very beginning when I first got signed, I discovered Mike Sniper’s band Blank Dogs. I really liked his band, and I found out later that the label owner had that band and we had similar sounds, and I think it kind of influenced me a little bit. Because at the time the bands that were on the label were a little bit darker, more post punk. It’s kind of broadened out now, you get the Mac Demarco and stuff like that. But, that’s pretty much it. The inspiration always comes just from my own existence, really.
So you don’t feel any kind of external force shaping your music at all?
I think that just being alive and experiencing life has an impact for sure, and that’s something I notice. It’s more of a subconscious thing.
What does the genre “neo-post-punk” and the term “retrofuturism” mean to you, how do they define you?
I have no idea what any of it means. I had no idea I was making post-punk or whatever you want to call it. It wasn’t until after the first release that journalists and fans were kind of categorizing me this way and comparing me with other bands. I didn’t know, it just comes out the way it comes out.
What would you define yourself as?
I read an interview where you said that you were retrofuturism, and I don’t really know what that means.
I don’t even know what that means. I said it like four or five years ago. Retrofuturism. I think retrofuturism because a lot of my sound has kind of an ’80s kind of vibe to it. But then there is a lot of innovation within the music as well. I’m always looking into the future and that’s probably where I came up with that term.
What is the future?
The future is the apocalypse.
So, this is the beginning of your tour and you guys have a pretty long list of dates ranging across the country, in Canada and Europe as well. How is it going?
I don’t know. I like to be active, I guess. I don’t like to be stagnant. I don’t want to be stagnant. If I’m stagnant, I just feel like I’m dying. It helps me feel alive when I’m touring, and I’m active like this. It is hard and it takes a while. I haven’t adapted to this tour yet. It’ll take another week or so before I’m in it. Now it still feels kind of surreal.
All photos by Adam Schaffer…