“Thank You From the Future” is Moon Letters‘ second album, released in 2022, following the success of 2019’s “Until They Feel the Sun.” It’s not overconfident to say that their sophomore album is quite a magical journey through the past, staying true to the elements of progressive music.
The Seattle-based quintet has created an amalgam of traditional progressive influences with symphonic, blues, jazz, and psychedelic echoes, all being beautifully mixed in a modern and unique style. We talked with Michael Trew about their latest release, creative process, and future goals.
Hi, Michael! First of all, how did you start making music? Tell us a bit more about yourself!
One day as a child, I visited a thrift store with my mother. During the visit, she noticed that someone began playing some haunting improv on a wurly organ that must’ve been in the store somewhere.
She later found out it was me… she had no idea I could play! We didn’t have the money to buy it, but some time later, we saw a sign at the end of someone’s driveway that read “free organ”. Glad it was a keyboard and not a heart.
Given the state of mainstream culture that permeates how we consume media, how would you introduce your activity to a stranger?
I feel that grassroots, person-to-person is the best way. That’s part of why we finally started doing live tours. I like when the online presence has something in real life to feed off of.
When listeners make their way through your band, what do you want them to feel?
The music I love most, usually kinda takes me to another place. I feel that the many styles that we draw upon, and combine in this band can do that for some. I honestly hope that people feel recharged by our music, either the way it dances around their brain, or whichever emotion is present in each song.
Take me through your sound design process. Is this a quick process, or something you might obsess over and re-visit?
Absolute obsession. Sure, sometimes that great sound just pops up, but often we keep whittling it down until it’s something that sounds really fresh. Kelly, our drummer is constantly re-writing certain parts (even after the record is out!). Beyond that, the rest of us spend quite a bit of thought on just the right instrument tone, and how it fits in with what others are doing. It excites me that we can cover this amount of ground in a five-piece band.
How do you even know when a track is ready? Does it ever become difficult to either refine ideas down or to stop perfecting?
Sometimes we have that nagging feeling that there is just that one last change that could finalize a song, and it can take some time. I’d say there is kind of a curve of a song improving with each edit, and slowly it just feels like all the things have been tried and we’ve gotten the best out of a song.
“Thank You From the Future” is the latest album you’ve released. Can you introduce us to its creative process? What were your influences on this album?
This was the pandemic album. Along with that, I was living about 4 hours away in another city. This made for months of each of us working on demos that would eventually turn into the final versions. On this record, you can hear echoes of the original demos sometimes in the final. I’d say our playing as a group had improved as well, and we had a thirst for more demanding passages.
This album felt a bit like 5 mad scientists getting together in a room, to make one creature. Personally, I was feeling very inspired at the time by The Zombies and Aphrodite’s Child. And I was approaching vocal arrangements, very much in the school of Queen.
With there being such a great set of tracks on “Thank You From the Future”, is there one you’re most looking forward to playing live for people?
We just did our first round of touring, on the West Coast of the US. We played all of the new songs as well as a 15-minute medley from our first album (Sunset of Man / Beware the Finman). There are certain little moments that are my favorite in each song. I’m kinda into the longer pieces we do right now. I’m really into stage production stuff, costume, and lighting, so that plays into it. We brought our friend Will on this first tour as a lighting tech, and I found it came together quite well.
What song “costs” you emotionally so much that it’s difficult to perform it nowadays? Speaking of, which of your songs has the most interesting backstory to it?
It’s all catharsis to me. They all feel good. From my perspective, the songs were written pre-pandemic, when I was touring a lot for a living. So I’d be coming up with vocal parts or lyrics in motel rooms, with earbuds in. Then several were in the first pandemic year, either in my home or on really long solitary walks in eastern Washington where I was living. When we finally came together to play our pieced-together demos, it was both quite difficult and very thrilling.
Music has known a substantial change once with the evolution and development of technology. How do you see this change given that there where technology appears, the emotion may lose its course?
I’d say there is a trend nowadays that some people are using tech tools to very quickly come up with finished music, using a lot of pre-made beats, and sounds and over-editing the human voice. Obviously, some folks are making some of the MOST creative music now, using all this stuff.
I come from a quite primitive background of hand-me-down guitars, Wurlitzer organs, and recording on tape decks. I just know that for me, all my biggest mistakes along the way have yielded some of my favorite stuff (in the end).
How is “Thank You From the Future” any different than any of the previous works? What is it new that it brings to the table?
We came in really knowing what we wanted, for the most part. I think we had a much better grasp of how to make all the instruments fit in the right place. We still feel we could have improved. I feel like the music on this record sounds vital. To me, it’s very bold and over the top at times, but always carefully put together.
What are the main aims and objectives for Moon Letters in the future?
We are touring again this May, on the East Coast of the US, and even heading up into Canada. Then in a few more months, we’ll be visiting the Southeast US for the first time. It’s a pretty big step and adventure for us.
We have a lot of fun in this band, so I hope we can continue to build our audience and share this music with many more people. I think we’d love to partner with a label, and would love to play some festivals in the EU and elsewhere.
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