Monday, August 9, 2021

Interview with Moonlight Lily by Dave Wolff

Interview with Moonlight Lily by Dave Wolff

Your debut single “Masquerade” flavors gothic metal with alternative rock, emo metal and groove; the mix sounds natural and unforced. How did Moonlight Lily put this together and how much input did they have?
Blue Maddox (vocals, lyrics, synths): We didn’t really have any particular genre in mind while writing this song. We all like heavier sound but our influences are very diverse, so I guess it’s not strange that it’s showing in our music. This song was written when the pandemic just started so we did absolutely everything over the internet. The same happened with a few other songs we wrote last year.
Ed had these riffs buzzing in his head for a while so one day he decided to record them. That was the first draft of the song. Amazingly the guitars, bass and drums were already pretty solid. He shared the instrumental and I immediately heard the melodies that would go with it. I laid down the keys, then the vocal line and then the music inspired the lyrics. Everything came out instinctively and organically. Ed produced the song and I provided input as well. We recorded all in our home studios. Eric Rachel mixed the song and mastering was done by Alan Douches from West West Side Music.

Did arranging your single via the internet and taking time to develop your respective parts help the band compose a better song?
Blue: In recent years the technology has provided so many options that had not been available before. You can record the entire album at a home studio if you so choose. I personally like this, and I think it did help a lot. During the lockdown if it weren’t for the internet how would we create something at all? But when you ask if it helped compose a better song, I can’t say. In comparison to what?

Did everyone in Moonlight Lily meet through the internet, or were you acquainted with one another “in real life”? What made you decide how to pool your varying influences into your sound? Is the formula working so far?
Blue: I met Jenna and her drummer over the internet back in early 2017. I was living in Boston at a time, so we were meeting in Connecticut for rehearsals. I later relocated to New Jersey. Jenna and I parted ways with the drummer in early 2020 and started working with Ed at about that time. Ed and I are colleagues from work. I am not sure that we have a formula. At least not consciously. We know we want a heavier sound but other than that all options are open. We create what we feel at the moment. That’s worked so far but we will see how the listeners will react.

Were you all working in bands before forming Moonlight Lily? How much experience do you have as musicians, vocalists and songwriters?
Blue: We’ve all been in the bands since we were teenagers. Jenna in Of Beauty and Madness, The Riffsurfers, Dead Emotion… She also holds Bachelor’s in Music. Ed was a part of notable acts from PR, Madera Negra and Codigo Civil. I come from another continent so you’ve probably never heard of any of my previous bands. I’ve been writing and singing for years too.

Do your previous bands have material available for streaming? How about Ed and Jenna? How long have you been vocalist and writer to date?
Blue: You can look up Ed’s Madera Negra on Spotify or Jenna’s Of Beauty And Madness on Bandcamp. Me, I am not sure. What would count as a start date? I sang in every choir of every school I ever attended. I was maybe nine or ten when I first started. And writing, it was in high school when I started writing more seriously. I was big on Russian classics back then, Dostoyevsky especially. He had opened my mind to strange human nature and psychology, which I was just starting to grasp. There were also a few poets, Baudelaire or Poe come to mind.

What kind of a writer was Dostoyevsky and which of his ideas about human nature and psychology spoke to you and why?
Blue: I will oversimplify but to try and answer your question, he was an exceptional novelist who had a profound understanding of human nature. The idea that we are complicated beings born into this condition rooted in suffering and full of neurosis and pathology, tortured by our own existence full of all kinds of fears and ambivalent feelings, where default is inevitable while we, for the most part, remain unconscious, strongly resonated with me then and it still does today. The majority of us, when we are kids, we just are. But then, at some point we realize we exist and there is a world around us, and we try to make sense of it. Nothing strange there. It’s just how it is. But the moment you start asking questions you find there is no good answer, and no one bloody knows who we are, why we do what we do and why here.

Were there other Russian authors who you read as often as Dostoyevsky?
Blue: I read quite a few others, but they didn’t click as much as Dostoyevsky. There was, of course, Tolstoy, then Pushkin, Chekov, Bulgakov…

In what ways did Poe and Baudelaire help you understand you were not alone in your feelings and your questioning of what was around you?
Blue: Death, dreams, fantasy, beauty, passion, failure, fears, paradox, melancholy, impermanence, ecstasy, contrast, imagination, horror… All heavily present in their writings. To avoid setting myself up for a very long and possibly confusing answer I will just quote Poe: “All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream…”

Which of Poe and Baudelaire’s writings had the most profound and lasting impact on you when you read them?
Blue: Poe’s “A Dream within a Dream”, “Annabel Lee”, and “The Raven” … Baudelaire’s “The Flowers of Evil” …

How did you hook up with Eric Rachel and Alan Douches to mix and master the single?
Blue: We had done a lot of research before we decided who we’d want to mix and master the single. We also wanted someone local. Eric and Alan both have rich portfolios, and we like their work. We got in touch with Eric. He heard the material and agreed to mix it, then he hooked us up with Alan.

Who had Rachel and Douches worked with before you discovered them? What about their track record convinced the band they’d do a good job?
Blue: The list of bands they worked with is very long. Some bands are well known some less known but everything we heard was well done. For example, Eric Rachel worked with In This Moment and Alan with Mastodon. Your readers have probably heard of those two bands.

What is “Masquerade” about lyrically and what was the inspiration? Can you describe how the lyrics and music complement each other?
Blue: The music created a certain mood, the mood evoked memories, and the memories inspired the lyrics. The song is about the irony of our existence, which, I often think, is nothing but a masquerade. We live the roles we created for ourselves, and we fight with all we have to live another day. Always rushing, always thinking we’ll be late for something. Then eventually we run out of days and then what? Would anything you lived, or didn’t live, matter?
The chorus describes the last days of my father’s life. The verses talk about my struggle to remain after he was gone. The bridge is a conclusion.
I intentionally wrote it as sort of a love story nested in imaginary realms. That, coupled with gothic metal, I thought would help people create their own version of “Masquerade”.
Jenna (piano, keyboards): “Masquerade” is a personal story of Blue’s, but we feel it’s a story that many can relate to. We will all experience great loss in our lives, and hopefully “Masquerade” will serve as a help during difficult times.

For what reason did you write such a personal song as your first single? Do you hope it will inspire listeners to look at themselves and make their own decisions
Blue: All our songs are personal. Every sound, every word. Even the stories that didn’t happen in the objective reality on some level do draw from experience and are still very personal. Ed didn’t know what I was going to do with the song when he first wrote it. And I wrote to it as I felt it. Why I felt like writing about my father, I can’t explain. I also didn’t think in terms of 1st single or 10th single. It just so happened that we decided it to be our first release. I certainly hope it will inspire the listeners in some way, whether to look beneath their own roles, or not to look at all… and of course, to decide for themselves.

How many streaming and social media sites is “Masquerade” posted to since its release? How aggressively has the band promoted it and how have reviewers received it?
Blue: The song was released on all major platforms (Spotify, Apple, iTunes, Deezer, Pandora, Amazon etc.). It’s posted on Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, MeWe. We haven’t promoted too aggressively but the reviews we received were very rewarding. We were definitely pleased to read them.

Do you remember some of the favorable reviews that came from the single’s promotion? How much did they show how appreciated your efforts were?
Blue: All the reviews were favorable, but yours definitely stood out. I was genuinely touched. You didn’t just hear the music, you “saw” us. I hope that there will be others who would see beyond a genre.

Is “Masquerade” going to be included on a debut EP or full length or was it intended to be a stand-alone single?
Blue: We are not sure yet. We have two more singles coming, one now in July and another one in August. Several other songs are in the making. We may continue with the singles, but we may also go for a full length.

What can you tell the readers about your upcoming singles before their release? Are they going to be of the same personal nature as “Masquerade”?
Blue: Hmm, personal yes, but not as personal. One will take the listeners to a journey through a magical forest. What they make out of that journey will be up to them. The other one could make them ask similar questions as “Masquerade”. Musically all three songs are different. I am very curious to see what people will think about the new songs.

Are these upcoming singles going to be the songs composed around the same time as “Masquerade”? How many do Moonlight Lily have written? Briefly summarize the lyrical content of these songs?
Blue: One of the two upcoming singles was composed around the same time as “Masquerade”. The other one was completed at that time too, but it is actually a second incarnation of the song that Jenna and I had done before. It was completely redone/recomposed keeping only the main keyboard lines and the original lyrics. We have about five finished songs and probably twice that in progress. If I have to briefly summarize then the lyrics are mostly about love, passion, death and things occult and invisible.

Why did the band decide to write lyrics of a personal nature? Is it meant to be cathartic and/or a means of connecting with people who listen?
Blue: Many songs are cathartic, in a way. At least I think most of our songs are. But “Masquerade” especially. It tortures and provides relief, all at the same time. I guess there will be a lot of people who would probably be able to connect to it. I can only say that it wasn’t a conscious decision on our part.
Jenna: Many great songs have a personal story to them. Those songs tend to stick with people throughout life. The songs that take you back to that time and help find closure or a pleasant memory are songs many keep listening to them for a very long time. Which, as artists, is something we all want.

What about the occult and the invisible is the band interested by and how will your lyrics approach it?
Blue: I think it’s possible that we live in a super advanced VR game where quantum physics (and science in general) may soon prove that magic, and everything that goes with it, is real. This is why the lyrics always dance somewhere between the worlds.
Jenna: We as humans more than other animals question our place in and the world around us and beyond. Whether or not there is true magic or what we don't have the ability to understand yet it's good to explore.

How will love, passion and death fit with the occult subjects you write about? Are you also drawing from literature, or will it all come from your imagination?
Blue: They fit naturally. Everything is intertwined. What happens and what is felt in the objective reality, and everything seen and felt in our minds, all is a part of the same flow. It starts in the world of ideas and then it becomes solid. Some of it we understand, and some of it we still don’t, but both are equally real. I found a lot of interesting ideas in the work of Dion Fortune, Manly P. Hall, and other similar writers. But to answer your question, I draw from experience and imagination, from movies, literature and folklore. I am a huge fan of Anne Rice novels and vampire movies, fantasy and sci-fi movies too.

Which of Anne Rice’s novels helped fuel your imagination? Which fantasy and science fiction films?
Blue: Anne’s novels… all Vampire Chronicles. The Vampire Lestat is my favorite. I liked The Queen of the Damned, the Tale of the Body Thief, Vampire Armand. The Mayfair Witches were interesting. I liked the Violin too. Movies, there are so many. Any vampire movie or series you can think of I am sure I’ve seen it. I watched The Queen of the Damned like a hundred times (absolutely love the soundtracks!), Underworld, Blade, Only Lovers Left Alive, Let Me In, Dracula… Other fantasy/fiction: Devil’s Advocate, Constantin, Matrix, Avatar, Star Wars, The Hobbit, The Lord of The Rings, Marvel Movies, Ghost in the Shell, The Fifth Element, The Last Witch Hunter, Crimson Peak… There are really too many to mention all.
Jenna: I'm a fan of cartoons and comedy as well as some sci-fi fantasy movies. I enjoyed Dragon Prince on Netflix recently on the fantasy spectrum. I enjoy a good novel now and then too. I read A Dirty Job by Christopher Moore, and it was dark and hilarious! I need a good laugh as well as a good story, I guess.

Which of the works of Dion Fortune and Manly P. Hall should the readers look for?
Blue: I’d rather recommend them go to Spotify, or any other platform, and listen to our music instead. I guess if anyone is interested in the history of esoteric traditions, the “Secret Teachings of All Ages” by Manly P. Hall is a good book. It’s also his most famous, I believe. As far as Dion, it may be better to read a bit about Golden Dawn and the Theosophical Society and if that’s of any interest then check her books. She wrote fiction as well. I am by no means an expert on the subject. I just read what I am drawn to in a given moment. Right now, I am reading “Sorcery, The Invocation of Strangeness” by Thomas Sheridan, “Introduction to Magic, Rituals and Practical Techniques for the Magus” by Julius Evola and the UR Group and Jung’s “The Archetypes and the Collective Unconscious”.

What have you gotten from the occult nature of Fortune and Hall’s books?
Blue: I am not sure I understand what you are asking. Almost everything in their books is occult. There is also philosophy, esotericism, metaphysics... I don’t claim to understand it all but what I do understand I have no way to summarize it in a few lines. I can say though that even creating music, or any form of art, is occult in nature. We connect to other levels of ourselves and other realities. You can even say that we connect to the source (and I don’t mean this in a religious way). By creating a work of art, one wills the spirit into a physical form, which is nothing but magic. You are a writer, right? Can you write if you don’t get into “the space”? I certainly can’t. It’s almost as if opening some kind of portal within oneself and connecting to or with something else. You may say that all artists are magicians. I hope I’m making sense.

Is there any information you can offer about your new singles? Or do you prefer to keep them a secret until they’re made available?
Blue: Actually, our second single “The House of Butterflies” is already out. We published it while we were doing this interview. In the old Slavic folklore, there is a story about female demonic kind of fairy which would call people out at night, put them in some kind of hypnotic state and lead them through the woods and to a precipice where they would meet their end. In our song these fairies are much nicer  They are inviting the listeners to step into a beautiful, magical forest. There is a house hidden deep in those woods, a house full of shimmering butterflies and blazing colors. If you dare to step in, you’ll find there is something still kicking inside your shell. What happens next is up to the listeners. Musically, the song is different from our first single, but I would like to leave it to you and to the listeners to tell us what you thought of it. The third single will be out on August 13th. We can talk about it then.
Jenna: Masquerade was a song that speaks to everyone with the lyrics (in my opinion). Butterflies is a song that is visual as well as being a song. You might find yourself reaching for those butterflies while listening. The next song will hopefully be a nice surprise for our fans!

Where is “The House of Butterflies” available for viewing? Is there just a streaming single or did the band also produce a promotional video?
Blue: Ed and I made several visualizers and lyric videos for, both “Masquerade” and “The House of Butterflies”. The videos for the third single are ready too. You can see them on our YouTube page. We will probably make an actual music video in the near future, but we haven’t decided when, yet.

How well known is this Slavic legend you based “Butterflies” on? How did you think up the idea of altering this legend for your single?
Blue: I am not sure, but I imagine in some parts of Europe it would be well known. The idea came to me, I didn’t rationalize it much. Ed is an absolute genius. His music has a certain atmosphere, almost mystical. I heard the instrumental and then saw pictures. I saw the story happening. I guess I just connected to what was before me. Talking about magic, eh? I think somehow Ed and I visited the same forest. Why the fairies from the legend were there too, I don’t know 

Why did you decide to leave “Butterflies” open-ended and allow the listener to conclude the story? Was this to build a connection with your listeners or just for the sake of mystery?
Blue: I had to leave it open-ended. The path to discovering one’s essence and true will is different for everyone. What I experience in “The House of Butterflies” will more than likely be different from what you or someone else would experience.

Would the band consider basing future songs on the movies and novels you mentioned above, or maybe writing more orchestral songs sort of like the soundtracks you mentioned?
Blue: I doubt that we would base our songs on those movies and novels as far as the storylines, but some of their characters could be an inspiration. I can tell you that we’ve just finished a song that has something to do with vampires, literally and metaphorically. As far as orchestral songs, I am not sure which ones you mean, but everything is possible. We want our music to come out organically so we will see.

-Dave Wolff

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