The Soft Moon is an Oakland based project masterminded by front man Luis Vasquez. The music sounds anxious and visceral; dark without being melodramatic or over the top. The Soft Moon does not follow the lead of the all too common Depeche Mode worshipping contemporary Post-Punk outfits. Vasquez isn’t crooning below his vocal range to sparse snyth. His whispers turn into screams, delicately layered in a collage of sound. I can’t think of a band to compare The Soft Moon to, they have created an unapologetically hypnotic sound that is all their own. And that is the point. With The Soft Moon’s latest album, Zeros, Vasquez set out to snatch the listener out of their own reality with the albums beginning and spit them back out at the end. I had a chance to meet with the band before their sold out show at the Mercury Lounge in New York City to talk about shitty childhoods, Nine Inch Nails and getting seasick on a barge in Leon, France.
While people tend to file The Soft Moon under “post-punk”, you sometimes strike me as unique approach to “post-industrial” music. You aim to create a full sensory experience with your live shows and create atmospheres and noise landscapes rather than manufacturing traditional “pop” songs. What do you make of this?
I think it’s funny. Most bands talk about how they don’t like to be generalized and think they are too cool or too pretentious to be some sort of genre. I am open to whatever sort of genre people want to align me with. I am open to what they feel. I don’t really know what I am making, honestly. I am just making music, whatever feels right, whatever happens naturally. You can call me whatever, and it is cool. I like the genres like post-punk and post-industrial because those feel like they work.
You mentioned not writing conventional songs. That is totally true. That is something that I do on purpose to stay away from the typical approach to making music. Critics, every once in a while, will take note of that as though it is wrong of me not to write songs. But every track that I write is more of a soundtrack to my emotions. Or sonic photographs of how I am feeling at that moment. Memories. I don’t necessarily need to write a hook to express that I am sad or mourning over the death of a friend or something like that.
Speaking of post-industrial, you recently re-mixed ‘Ice Age’ by Trent Reznor’s new band How to Destroy Angels_. How did that happen? Did it feel strange? Are you a Nine Inch Nails fan?
I never really delved into NIN. I had downward spiral. I would watch Pretty Hate Machine videos on MTV, things like that. It was still an honor. I consider Trent Reznor a pioneer. I respect him completely.
The way it came about was really random. It was out of nowhere. My publicist just e-mailed me and was like ‘Trent Reznor gave you the go ahead to do a remix’ and I was like ‘What?’ We talked about maybe crossing our fingers and touring with NIN if he ever released a new record and that was the last thing we talked about. A few months later there was this e-mail requesting a remix. I never talked to him directly.
I procrastinated on it. I didn’t want to listen to the track until the absolute last minute because I was really overwhelmed with the project. Especially knowing that he is really precise and that he is really particular and is a perfectionist when it comes to his music and I am the complete opposite. I like flaws.
At the same time, I embraced what I do and my style of writing and combined it. But I was scared. I wanted him to like it and I was scared that he wasn’t going to like it. In the end I pulled it together and I’m pretty happy with it.
Do you know if he is happy with it?
Yeah! He considered it his favorite remix. We got that e-mail and we were like “yeahhhh”. And I just got another e-mail. They want me to send them stems of an instrumental of the track because I think they want to perform my version live.
Read that right before I got on the plane here.
You’ve said that the Soft Moon has been largely inspired by you facing your difficult childhood. Do you feel that The Soft Moon has helped you come to terms with your childhood? Do you feel emotional growth with each release?
I am still trying to unravel my childhood. I completely blocked the entire thing out and that was the initial reason why I started the project. I wanted to figure out why I feel so fucked up in my head. Why I feel so much paranoia and anxiety and suffer from depression. I mean we all suffer from these same things but I know that mine is directed towards my upbringing.
The sole purpose of The Soft Moon was to dig up what I buried away. It has definitely helped me realize certain things about me but it has definitely fucked me up even more because I am realizing things about me… Becoming more aware. Become more awkward. Having worse social disorders and things like that. And drinking more because of it. I am hoping that there is going to be some clarity in the future. The whole purpose of the project was to help me feel sane and it is driving me crazier at the moment. But we will see what happens.
Have your parents heard The Soft Moon?
I keep it away from my Mom. I have invited her to a show though… She says she is going to come and she never does. I don’t think she would be able to handle it if she came. She would be able to see exactly what I am saying. She would see so much reality in it.
I get text messages from her all the time telling me that she is a horrible mother and all that… And that she is sorry… So if she sees the result of it on stage… She’ll be able to consider it me doing something that I love but at the same time I am doing it so I can live.
My brother came to a couple of shows and he totally saw it. He has a similar upbringing… He is younger than me but once he told me that he could feel the “family stuff”. But I think it would fuck my Mom up for sure… But maybe one day… We will see…
You grew up in the Mojave Desert. I recently returned from a trip from Joshua tree and was awestruck by the almost un-earth like beauty of that area. As a New York native, the Desert was brilliantly foreign to me. You are now living in the rather bleak city of Oakland, CA. How do you think this change of scenery affects you? Did you move to Oakland specifically to remove yourself from the Desert, which while being beautiful- is isolating and holds bad memories?
Growing up there, I completely hated it. The second that I was old enough to move out I moved to LA, Long Beach and those areas. I think it is because I went to a contrasting city to gain perspective on where I grew up that I started to appreciate where I grew up. After gaining that perspective and once I stepped away from it for many years and started appreciating it allowed me to go back their sonically through The Soft Moon.
Have any major developments in your life [since the self-titled album] inspired Zeros? Or would we have to wait a few years to hear that album?
I think the third record is going to be the most evolutional for me. I approached Zeros with more of a concept in mind. I wanted to bookend the album with the opening track and a reversal of it to bring you out of your consciousness, into mine and then bringing you back to reality at the end. I went with a post- apocalyptic approach because I have reoccurring end of the world dreams all the time. I played into that. And I wanted to have a soundtrack formula to writing music.
The third record feels like freedom to me. I am going to be allowed to do something that comes natural. There are always expectations when it comes to a second record. Now that that’s over with, I think the third record is truly going to be me.
Do you see the project taking all sorts of different directions, tackling something new?
More me. I don’t predetermine what I write. I don’t like to think about it until it is time to write. I do want to make it more visual. That is a goal of mine. In terms of the music, I can’t really control that. But when it comes to the visual aspect, I want to enhance that more. Make that more focused. Have more a concept. I think the music already has a theme and a feel to it. People know it is The Soft Moon. Now it is time to hone in on the vision.
It sounds like you really want to develop the visual aspect of the project. What would you ideally be able to “pull off” for a live show? If you could do anything? You seem very interested in soundtracks, have you considered making a movie and scoring it? What would be your dream live performance?
Definitely. It would be amazing to make a film and score that film and combine it with the third record so the third record is part film. That would be pretty amazing. I also want to bring in more of a Neubauten approach and start banging on things… I am doing that more and more with each recording. But I want to embrace the industrial thing, but in a different way. Not because it is industrial, but because I am curious about the way that things sound.
You dropped a new video for ‘Die Life” today and are beginning an international tour tonight. How do you feel about this upcoming adventure? Do you like to tour?
I do. If I am home I get really depressed and stare at walls and drink a lot. When we are on tour I feel like there is purpose to my life. I like being active. Being productive just makes you feel better. And also having a schedule. It is cool to have a place to go, a place to be every day. But besides that it is completely spontaneous and stimulating, you never know what is going to happen because we are somewhere new everyday. It is the best of both worlds.
Are there any places that you like touring to in particular?
France is amazing. I don’t know what happened there, but they like us a lot. Barcelona, too. I could play there ten times a year, easily. Of course, Berlin. Mainly, Paris, huh?
Remember the boat in Leon? [The other dudes egg Luis on to tell “the story”] What happened? I mean, I broke my elbow open. It was the encore and it was kind of slippery…
[Justin and Kevin chime in intermediately]
We played a small barge. We were watching as the light moved up and down. As more people got on the barge we could see more and more movement.
What was cool was that drinking balanced it out.
That seems kind of counter intuitive!
It was really bothering me until I started drinking… A lot. The stage was tiny and wet. That’s the name of the new record, Tiny and Wet. I think Bon Jovi already took that… What was the name of the new Bon Jovi record? Because We Can. Seems kinda arrogant.
The Soft Moon tour dates:
January 9 – Cambridge, MA @ T.T. The Bears *
January 10 – Rochester, NY @ Bug Jar *
January 12 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle *
January 13 – Columbus, OH @ Double Happiness *
January 14 – Lexington, KY @ Al’s Bar *
January 15 – Atlanta, GA @ 529 *
January 16 – Athens, GA @ Caledonia Lounge *
January 17 – Durham, NC @ The Pinhook *
January 18 – Philadelphia, PA @ North Star Bar *
January 19 – Hamden, CT @ The Outer Space *
January 20 – Washington, DC @ Black Cat *
March 5 – Las Vegas, NV @ The Beauty Bar
March 7 – Phoenix, AZ @ The Crescent Ballroom
March 10 – Denton, TX @ 35 Denton (Denton Fest)
March 12 – Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald´s
March 13 – Austin, TX @ SXSW
March 14 – Austin, TX @ SXSW
March 15 – Austin, TX @ SXSW
March 16 – Austin, TX @ SXSW
March 18 – Kansas City, KS @ Riot Room
March 20 – Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
March 21 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Kilby Court
March 29 – Aarhus, Denmark @ Atlas
March 30 – Copenhagen, Denmark @ Loppen
April 2 – Helsinki, Finland @ Kuudes Linja
April 6 – Prague, Czech Republic @ Meet Factory
April 7 – Budapest, Hungary @ A38
April 9 – Ljubljana, Slovenia @ K4
April 10 – Rome, Italy @ Circolo degli Artisti
April 11 – Milan, Italy @ Elita Milano Design Week Festival
April 12 – Bologna, Italy @ Covo
April 13 – Padova, Italy @ Loop / Bastione Alicorno
April 14 – Dijon, France @ Consortium
April 15 – Paris, France @ Trabendo
April 16 – London, England @ Islington Academy
April 17 – Amsterdam, Holland @ Melkweg
April 19 – Lille, France @ Le Grand Mix
April 20 – Amiens, France @ La Lune des Pirates
April 28 – Austin, TX @ Austin Psych Fest
* w/ Majical Cloudz