Interview: Half Moon Run
Words by Gareth Channon - Published on January 30, 2013
Half Moon Run have recently released their debut LP, Dark Eyes. We’re calling it something between Fleet Foxes and Radiohead, and they’re often compared to those two groups. After hitting up their gig at Alhambra Lounge a couple of weeks ago, we were completely blown away. It was decided that we had to chat with Half Moon Run and discover how they create music so darn awesome.
Here’s what Dylan, backing vocalist, keyboardist and percussionist, had to say.
SCENEWAVE: How would you describe your music?
DYLAN: It’s tough to categorise yourself, but I guess if we talk about our music I would say we are largely inspired by folk and a lot of electronic music. But our music tends to sound a lot like indie and pop elements. But it’s different from song to song as well – if you listened to just a few songs randomly from the album you might get the wrong impression.
SW: You’ve been given a lot of great reviews, and some people have compared you to Radiohead.
D: Yeah we’ve heard that one for sure.
SW: Do you like being compared like that? Or does that get old and you want to make your own sound?
D: We feel that for sure that our influences come through in our sound, but we have many influences and I think we are all conscious that our sound is something unique. That has always kind of been the requirement for ourselves, we never write to imitate something.
SW: How is the writing process, do you all do it together?
D: We all do it together, yeah. We try it as best as we can to come up with the beginning of an idea and to complete it in the jam space. Somebody will come in with an idea or a riff or even a complete song in the jam space but then it will get completely messed and changed into something different.
SW: Well that’s the beauty of a band, especially yours with so many different voices. I love the harmonies you produce. Is that a requirement for your songs?
D: That’s certainly a requirement of being in this band: that you sing. It helps to get everybody on the same page as well when you all need to sing and be aware of the vocal parts.
SW: So, how was playing at Woodford over the New Year then?
D: Oh, for sure Woodford was – for all of us – one of the best festival experiences we’ve had in our life.
SW: Did you sit on the hill for sunrise on New Year’s day?
D: No, we had to play at Peats Ridge on New Years so we missed that unfortunately.
SW: Did you get to see many other acts at Woodford though?
D: Yeah we got to see some, and there was definitely some great music. Just walking around you know and meeting musicians or sitting in a Green Room and somebody is playing some incredible traditional flute or some neat instruments. Or anybody just getting together to start making some music. It was a really relaxed and awesome environment.
SW: And coming from Canada, how much does it mean to you to be playing internationally after being together for only a few years?
D: I don’t know, it’s special every time we play and fly to a new place or even go back to a place. Well, you know I didn’t really even travel before joining this band.
D: Yeah, so that’s been really exciting for me, for all of us. To travel under these kind of circumstances, it feels like an ideal way to get out there and see the world. You know, you fly to a new place and instead of being just a tourist – which we are kind of tourists when we come to these places – we play music and introduce ourselves to the people where we are playing. So playing gives us a better chance to meet people and to get a more immersive experience.
SW: I saw you last Friday night at Alhambra in Brisbane. Everyone loved the gig, and were especially gobsmacked after “Call Me In The Afternoon”.
D: Haha awesome. It’s crazy you know, we’re playing in a new country in new towns that we’ve never seen or been to and it’s so incredible to have good crowds come out. And even have people know all the lyrics to songs already!
SW: Do you have a favourite song to perform?
D: Ahh the song changes for all of us all the time. I think there’s certainly some favourites that we have to do live. ‘Call Me In the Afternoon’ has the energy that works great in a live setting.
SW: One review said: “Half Moon Run are chemistry, talent and technique all rolled into one, they are undeniably deserving of all the hype they’ve earned thus far”. Obviously people are digging your set! What are the fans like?
D: Yeah it’s great actually. I think we get along with Australian people in general extremely well. And hotels have been so expensive here that we’ve been making an effort to just not book them. And we go to shows and meet people and end up going to parties after, or just meeting some great people and hanging with them and going to their place. It’s been really awesome. But sometimes we stick to ourselves after a gig and order a big steak and book a cheap hotel and just be back on our own.
SW: You just wing it?
D: Yeah! It’s valuable to rest but at the same time you miss out on a lot when you do that. But when you get to meet people and hang out with them and stay with them, it’s much more less of a job and more of a vacation.
SW: Yeah. So people familiar with your music will know that your single “Full Circle” has an official video. I love watching a music video when I listen to a song for the first time. Were you guys keen on making a music video?
D: It actually happened so fast. We had just finished mixing the album and it hadn’t been released yet and the band decided to rent a cabin in north-western Quebec in the middle of Winter.
SW: How very Bon Iver of you.
D: Haha and the plan was to get our gear and we would jam and write songs whilst we were isolated on our own, without phones or emails. We had been talking about making a video for a while but it was tough to get everything sorted out. And then all of a sudden we were like ‘let’s get a director to come to the cabin with a film crew and do it!’. So he came all the way to the cabin and we were all in a good zone – my sister was out there and her friend, and my girlfriend too.
SW: Was it painstaking?
D: No, it all happened in three hours. We had an idea about what to do for it but they just filmed us jamming, eating food and hanging out basically. It just captured the time we spent there which I think was neat.
SW: Were there any problems?
D: Well you know, when they left after three hours, we kind of thought, ‘did he actually start filming?’.
SW: He just said that’s all he needs?
D: Yeah, exactly. And then he left and we thought ‘oh my God what is this video going to turn out like?’, but it was perfect really.
SW: When I saw you on stage, you all seemed really relaxed but playing as if you really wanted to be there. Is that what it is like?
D: Yeah, I mean we have been touring for so long now, you have to get into your music. It can never be a job. We are always looking for new ways to improve. But when we get on stage, it’s the environment that we thrive on the most. When we write a song, we make sure that it has to be able to come off live. And once we get that feel, we feel how the audience likes it and we get into it more.
SW: So do you have more songs you’re planning on writing?
D: Yeah. It’s been really nice in Australia as we often have 3 or 4 off days where we jam in a set-up down in Cronulla. And that’s where new material starts to get tossed around.
SW: In between surfing some barrels?
D: Well you know we have been going to the beaches in the morning…
SW: Are you all snowboarders originally?
D: Yeah I grew up with season passes, going more than 3 or 4 times a week. So definitely love skiing and snowboarding.
SW: And with Triple J’s Hottest 100 just passed, what would be your favourite song or album of 2012? Although there’s no rule against it, it’s probably a voting faux pax to nominate yours…
D: Ah that’s a tough one. Off the top of my head, one band that I discovered in 2012 that totally blew my mind is Alt-J.
SW: The album did score well in the countdown.
D: And it should have. The album is really special and I think they have really good music, it’s incredible.
SW: Agreed. And lastly, when you play live you have a mannequin hand that sits on the microphone stand. What is the story behind that?
D: (pause) What is the story with the mannequin hand? Well you know, sometimes you just need a hand.
SW: Haha. I hear you.
D: But I can’t remember exactly when we first got it. We just started playing with it at every gig for so long that it almost became a bit of a superstition to have it with us on stage.
SW: Fair enough. Well thanks for your time, hopefully Brisbane will hear you again in the near future.
D: Cheers. See you later.
Half Moon Run’s debut LP Dark Eyes is available now, have a listen here if you like what you’ve read!