The music we record is going to end up being the music we play and hear for years to come, so it’s worth it to get it right.
I love Half Moon Run. There’s the music, of course, but beyond that, they’re a bunch of clever and funny and engaging guys. Lyrically I already knew, but interview-wise, I have now fallen in love. That said, I’m not quite sure which band member gave me these witty responses, so I’ll spread my admiration across the four of them: Devon Portielje (vocals, guitar, percussion), Dylan Phillips (vocals, drums, keyboard), Conner Molander (vocals, guitar, keyboard), and Isaac Symonds (vocals, percussion, mandolin, keyboard, guitar). After far too long of a break following their 2012 debut Dark Eyes (if, for some reason, you’re one of the 10 Americans who has not yet heard “Call Me in the Afternoon,” remedy that and do so now. Incredible, isn’t it?), the Montreal quartet has finally returned with the rootsier, more introspective, and stripped-down Sun Leads Me On. And even better, they’re bringing it to America. What better reason to celebrate?
There was a three-and-a-half-year gap between your debut album Dark Eyes and your sophomore release, Sun Leads Me On. Why so long?
Well, it wasn’t because we were lazy! We took literally a one-month break after having toured for three years before jumping full on into writing the new album. Once we really started getting into a flow of writing and getting ideas down, we wanted to make sure that we gave every song the unique care and attention that it deserved. We feel that there’s no point in rushing to release something we all feel mediocre about. The music we record is going to end up being the music we play and hear for years to come, so it’s worth it to get it right.
Even then, we also didn’t want the music to stagnate, so we tried to make sure we got into studio just on the early side of being prepared to keep things fresh.
You’ve said you felt “a bit like being underwater” going into writing the new album. Can you dive a little deeper (no pun intended) and explain how that felt and why that was?
I think that three very intense years of touring had just simply taken their toll on our minds and bodies. While it was so exciting to see things rise so quickly, we just found ourselves in the trap of never being able to say “no.” I mean, when you’re a new band that’s just released their first record, when opportunities come your way, you just have to have a “yes” attitude. But three exciting years of saying “yes” quickly plunged us into a feeling of losing touch with our sense of home, and it became very hard to find purpose and inspiration in our creative spirit.
Where being in Montreal used to represent an exciting new home with endless possibilities, returning to it after years of touring just felt like moving to a new city all over again. We were trying to catch our breath, but we were still in a state of mind that was still submerged in being on the road. We had to put a lot of work into rebuilding our lives, to reconnecting with friends and family, and to gaining a sense of balance again.
Here in Denver, you’ve been embraced by Channel 93.3, including playing the station’s “Not So Silent Night” Christmas show in 2014, two-and-a-half years after your debut album dropped. Are there other rabid champions of your music here in the United States, or does Denver just rock harder than anywhere else?
Denver is pretty much one of the best places on earth! The city seems to have an abnormally high concentration of music lovers, along with unbelievably delicious food, and progressively minded people.
It’s seriously been an honor to have been embraced by 93.3, and while we are getting more and more radio play in the rest of the country, it would be amazing if other stations would follow suit! J
A word-loving journalist asks you to use three adjectives (not including music genres) to describe your music. Go.
Metaphysical, meditative, meticulous. I don’t know why “M” words came out, but they did!
Now a harmony-loving musician asks a word-loving journalist to describe their journalism in three distinct harmonies. Go? [Ed: I don’t know the first thing about harmonies; can I just use words? Assuming so, I’ll go with passion, inquisitiveness, and exuberance.]
How does a bunch of cold-weather Canadians become surfing aficionados?
Well, we’re certainly not aficionados! We have learned how to enjoy ourselves, though. We were lucky enough to get to spend some time on the beaches in Australia during a couple of our tours down there. Also, with three of us from Vancouver Island, we all had some experience with the waves in Tofino. We all feel pretty drawn to the ocean in any case and take every chance we can get to get in.
Maybe going to California to surf (for a period while writing the new album) was a necessary step in feeling like we’d finally risen from the depths of our touring struggles. Rather than fighting against the touring current, we voluntarily put ourselves back on the wave and drove to California—and rode waves!
Probably digging too deep now…should probably get back to the music. | Laura Hamlett
Half Moon Run is about to embark on a winter 2016 headline tour throughout the United States. I’ll be there; will you? [Hint: The answer should be a resounding “yes.”]
01.14 | Tractor Tavern, Seattle
01.15 | Doug Fir Lounge, Portland
01.16 | The Independent, San Francisco
01.19 | Troubadour, Los Angeles
01.20 | The Casbah, San Diego
01.22 | Urban Lounge, Salt Lake City
01.23 | Larimer Lounge, Denver
01.25 | Granada Theater, Lawrence KS
01.26 | Triple Rock Social Club, Minneapolis
01.27 | Subterranean, Chicago
01.28 | The Basement, Columbus OH
01.30 | The Hollow, Albany NY
01.31 | Higher Ground Showcase Lounge, Burlington VT