In 2010, The Soft Moon released their eponymous debut record on Captured Tracks. An unassuming white cover with a series of gray shapes; a curious purchase based solely on the power of recommendation. I remember the first time I dropped the needle on the record, with modest expectations and an open mind. The results were raw, primal, powerful, and hit me harder than any new album had in years. While I was able to pick out a sense of style: the at-this-point cliché comparisons to Neu! and Suicide, the music spat and churned like nothing else I had ever heard before. The band remains a favorite to date and a welcome respite from the commercially driven and frankly limp post-punk bands, shining both on stage and on record.
Since their debut, the band has released an EP, a high profile collaboration with John Foxx, and a follow up, 2012’s Zeros, and recently a self released “FEEL” as a 7” / CASSETTE and show no signs of giving up the ghost. We were able to have a few words with Luis Vasquez- the principle songwriter and singer of The Soft Moon, and the results are as follows…
1. How long have you been playing music? What other bands have you played in?
My grandfather bought me a guitar when i was twelve years old and i wrote my first song a few months after. I called the song “Claustrophobic Man.” I often look back and wonder why i wrote a song about claustrophobia at twelve years of age? I’m sure I didn’t know the actual definition of the word at the time. At fifteen I started my first band. I convinced my best friend to buy a bass guitar and we started a band the same day he got one. I remember we had to get permission slips signed by our parents to play our first shows at local bars and venues because we were so young. I had to forge my mom’s signature because i was afraid she wouldn’t allow me to play. Through my teen years I played in numerous punk bands and when I was twenty I started writing music on my own.
2. While the usual songwriting process centers around you, how do the other members contribute to the songs?
Because The Soft Moon is a personal journey for me it is important that I write on my own. Everything about the project is about self discovery, growth, emotional healing, battles with my inner demons, my biology, and digging up the past. I started The Soft Moon as a means of therapy for myself. It’s the live shows where the other members come in. I feel the live show is a separate entity of The Soft Moon. With the live aspect the other members can contribute their own unique interpretation giving it new life.
3. Live and on record, the Soft Moon is an incredibly visceral experience. I know playing music, for me, has always been mostly about exorcising my own personal demons. Is this the case with you as well?
The visceral experience stems from the honesty of the songs. I can’t help but wear my heart on my sleeve when writing music, therefore the outcome is extremely sincere. I feel an intense catharsis when performing live. The audience sees that which adds to the performance. Within the songwriting i am always exorcising my own demons as if I’m trying to defeat an enemy and the enemy being myself.
4. The Soft Moon’s lyrics are usually difficult to hear on the recording (though often clear during live performances). What do you convey in the lyrics?
I’ve always struggled with expressing myself through words. It’s as if the words simply don’t exist. My vocal style in my music represents that. It’s as if I’m hitting a wall every time i try to say how i feel through a verbal language. I try to mimic my frustration with the vocal production in my music. This is why my voice is often buried and unclear. I feel as if I’m underwater struggling to swim to the surface. However, when i do sing, i tend to repeat a phrase over and over like a mantra which becomes meditative and psychological. This ties back to the healing process i mentioned earlier.
5. It’s easy to trace influences in terms of the obvious touchstones, including the motorik beats of Neu! and the harsh catastrophic dread of Chrome, but outside of that, who are your idols?
I don’t particularly have any specific idols. I just love music in general. I can find inspiration within any type of music. But if i were to call out a few artists i would say Prince, Michael Jackson, Arvo Part, David Byrne, Brian Eno, Tito Puente, Patrick Miller, Enno Velthuys, Beethoven, Omar Khorshid, Erkin Koray, Madonna, etc. This list goes on…..
6. Other than music, what or who else inspires you?
I’m mainly influenced by existence. Music is the tool in which feels most natural for me to express myself.
7. Touring is often difficult for bands, given the manic highs and obviously strained lifestyle of being on the road. Do you enjoy touring? What’s your favorite place to play so far? What’s the most ridiculous thing that’s happened on the road?
In the beginnings touring was very difficult for me. It was a big lifestyle transition and took a while to get used to. Not to say touring is a breeze now, but it’s definitely gotten a little easier. In fact, I feel quite comfortable on the road these days as it gives me a sense of structure and purpose. My life tends to be chaotic when I’m on breaks living in some random city. Many ridiculous things have happened on tour and of course i can’t remember one specific thing at this moment but i do remember having to drive straight from Barcelona to Amsterdam after our last show of a tour because our tour manager stayed up all night doing enough drugs to kill an adult horse which incapacitated him of driving. We finally arrive at the Amsterdam airport 14 hours later to catch our flight home and i realized i left my passport in Barcelona. It was my birthday. We had to wait a few days before we could finally catch another flight home after a month of touring.
8. Working with John Foxx must have been a dream. How did the collaboration come about? Did you actually meet and work together, or did “Evidence” stem from an online collaboration?
John Foxx contacted me a couple years ago about possibly working on a collaboration together. Until this day I’m not sure how he discovered The Soft Moon but I was incredibly excited for the opportunity to work with him. The Soft Moon had a show planned in London around the time he contacted me so I put him on the list and got to talk with him backstage. A few months after meeting him he sent me something to work with. It was an interesting sequence he created using one of my favorite synthesizers (Arp Odyssey). Because i loved his first album so much I decided I would take it in that direction hoping to create some nostalgia for the both of us and at the same time creating something fresh. After bouncing ideas back and forth we finally came up with an incredible finished piece of work. What I gained from this project was that i wasn’t such the lone wolf I thought I was and that I can actually work well with others.
9. Any immediate plans for a follow up to Zeros?
The Soft Moon will be playing live through the summer and then I plan to take a break to write the third album. I’ve never been so anxious to write and it’s killing me actually. I’ve had such a strong urge to write these days but am committed to continue touring in support of Zeros. I only worry that I’m not missing out on expressing and learning important things about myself that will continue to help me grow as a human being. I guess I’ll just have to wait.
10. In what ways would you develop The Soft Moon’s sound? Do you see the project growing or changing in the next few years?
When I first started the project I only used what equipment I had. I didn’t have a particular sound in mind. It just was what it was. In terms of evolution, I plan on letting it happen naturally. I never predetermine what i am going to write. It all happens in the moment based on how I’m feeling or on new experiences I’ve had, whatever. One thing I know for sure is that i am going to continue to go deeper…
The Soft-Moon will be playing European festival dates this summer, including headlining Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig.