HIGHWAY COLLISIONS, PLATONIC IDEALS, AND A WHOLE MESS OF DOOKIE
A CONVERSATION WITH BILLY MOON
I was lucky enough to speak to Billy Moon who’s debut album, Punk Songs was released on Missed Connection + Old Flame Records. We spoke about everything from small town upbringings to everything that has went on in a messy 2018 for Billy. Enjoy!
I’ve seen your sound be described as ‘developed out of a kind of loneliness that’s only known through experience’, if you can, can you talk me through this? Does this relate back to the small-town upbringing?
I’m not going to take you through my entire childhood, but for the greater part of it, I was the weird kid. I went to a small school of about 100 kids, the kind where you literally know everyone. So I was usually known as the weirdo. In third grade I ended up getting the option of transferring to gifted program in another school. I thought that I had found my oasis, that I was going to finally find my group, which I sort of did. I still spent a good chunk of that time feeling like the resident wet-blanket. I guess the feeling becomes a little hard to shake. When you feel like you’re too weird for the normal kids, but too normal for the weird. Even as you get older and you start to understand that these are really universal feelings, sometimes that’s not really enough to sort it out. The best you can really get to is that living your best life doesn’t always feel great. You just keep on livin’.
So I guess it all just comes from that.
Before we get into your debut album, which is terrific – congratulations. If it’s okay, can you talk me through the fact that we almost didn’t get a debut album from you? I’m talking about that night in rural Quebec where your car flipped twice after being hit by a truck? Did this have any impact on the bands momentum before the final release of the album?
OK, this is a longer answer than you think. I still think that I deserved to die in that wreck. I was driving. Not anyone else, just me.
At the time things were getting a bit difficult with the drummer I was with, so after the accident I told him that I couldn’t continue with him in the band. The really fucked up thing was that the last thought I remember before getting hit was: “how do I tell him I can’t have him in the band anymore?”. It’s kind of hard to think about now.
So that kind of put a damper on things. I lost 2 amps, a car, and I had to let my drummer go. I had a few different people cover while I was still playing as a duo, which eventually lead me to playing with Marlon, who’s a great musician. By the Fall, we started playing shows but it wasn’t until the following Spring that we decided that I was writing music that needed a bass player, enter Patrick Hayes. That following fall was when we went to Boston to start recording the record. Some of the songs were written years ago, a couple others I had written a couple months previous. We did bed tracks in two days so it was a really fast process.
We did more recording in Hamilton and in Toronto with Michael Keire and Asher Gould, we weren’t exactly sure about who was going to mix the record, but eventually we found Ian McGettigen. The record was done at this point but we actually recorded I’ll Push The Pedals in January so we put it in storage and spent some time promoting that. In the Spring, Pat planned on focusing on his other project so we started playing with Jamie and Chuck, who are two excellent musicians. After some brief touring in the fall, the initial plan was to put Punk Songs out in the Spring of 2018 but things aren’t supposed to work out like that.
I had recently moved to Toronto, but had to move back home because my Dad’s cancer had taken a fairly serious turn. He died in January and ever since my brother and I have been doing our best to pick up the pieces, take care of the estate, and sell our house. Things have also been a bit nutty because in the span of 6 months we went to three other funerals for a family member and two others who were dear very to us, so it’s been a really long year.
2018 marked the launch of the debut album titled Punk Songs, how have you found the reaction to the album?
Alright, I guess. It’s just satisfying to get the damn thing out. In terms of reaction it’s a bit hard to think about when all of this other shit is going on. All I can really say is that people seem to like it. When I come across a record that really hits me I get really stoked, so it’s nice to know that the music you make can touch someone in the same way.
What other album names made the shortlist and why was Punk Songs ultimately selected?
It was always going to be Punk Songs. I didn’t really have any other titles in mind. I was listening to Parquet Courts a lot a the time and there’s a reference that Andrew Savage makes to how when he was young he thought that punk songs were these things that had some special aura about them, when in reality it’s all an illusion. I guess I meant that as a kid, punk music was this thing that felt like this incredible liberating force, but as I got older I fell out with it. The punk ideology is a powerful thing but it’s more powerful as a platonic ideal as opposed to a real political solution.
I was at a show in Washington, DC and I talked to a guy who was a part of Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARP or baby Anitfa) in the 90s and he said that beating up Naziis only took him so far. He currently works for the Department of Defence, and is getting a Phd so he can start affecting real change by writing government policy. The idea of “Punk Songs” is how punk music can really charge you into action, but ultimately it’s just an aesthetic. It’s just a reference to the feeling you get when a song gives you that feeling of liberation.
You reflect on your younger behaviour on both White Shoes and Dingus. Do you think there is something in writing songs about vulnerability that resonates with you?
I mean, people want to hear that those they look up to are just as human as they are. I’m a terrible liar so the thought of “faking it till you making it” is utter bullshit to me. I remember being in my first week of university and someone actually said those words to me and I realized that there were people who just attached themselves to things because they’re so scared of being on their own. They just drink whatever kool-aid they’re handed for fear that they’ll be alone. White Shoes… is kind of an incel song, the narrator is pulling the “nice guy” narrative. When you’re young and surrounded by jerks it’s easy to fall into that trap, I avoided it somehow. Dingus I re-wrote all the lyrics for. It was an older song and I guess I felt that it needed some updating. Lyrics about how a girl was “a kitten with claws/ a lover and a fighter”, it felt weird. I wanted the song to reflect about how we’re all just trying. Imperfect people doing the best we can as opposed to someone who’s a total ding-dong.
I have no interest in writing songs that make me sound “cool”. Just songs that sound cool.
The album has a mixture of genres and influences throughout. Did you set out to make an indie pop record with it turning slightly punky throughout the process? Tracks such as Living Room have excellent pop hooks, whereas Tangerine Dream boasts colorful melodies with White Noise full of fuzzy noise?
I’m a big Parquet Courts fan, who have a lot of Minutemen-style songs. Minutemen (I’m only a novice on this), were a band that really defied the definitions of punk. Double Nickels on the Dime, isn’t really a “punk” record the way Damaged is. I just like good songwriting and fuzz. I love records that have a cohesive sound, but I love songwriters that don’t feel confined to a single genre. Jonathan Richman, Frank Zappa, Iggy Pop, Bowie, Deerhoof, Chad Van Gaalen, Women. The songs are the songs. I feel like when you’re writing a song, the goal should be to make the song the song that it deserves to be. I’m only thinking now about making songs that are more cohesive or having a more consistent sound, but the root of it all should be about making the music it’s own powerful thing.
I’ve read that the album took a few years to pull together, can you talk me through some of the artists you were listening to at the time and do these come across in this record?
Oh, boy. That was a while ago dude. Parquet Courts, METZ, Preoccupations, Vince Staples, Car Seat Headrest, Title Fight. I mean, the influences are pretty obvious if you look for ‘em. I feel like it’s only now I’m getting closer to writing stuff that I’m really excited by.
I haven’t really been writing in a long time so I’m not sure what I’m sounding like at the moment, we’ll see what happens once I can sit down and make some songs again.
For those who haven’t had the chance to see you live yet, how would you describe a Billy Moon concert?
What are your plans for the remainder of 2018 and where can we expect to see you in 2019?
I have no clue man. We’re doing a couple more shows this month, hoping to do some videos, and get back to making art again. Like every traitorous sonuvabitch I’m moving to Toronto in January once our house is finally sold, so we’ll see what happens with that.
Again dude, it’s been a really long, messy year. One day we were going to a memorial service and before we left, we realized that our septic tank had backed up. So during this whole ceremony, all we can really think about is how we have to go back home and clean up the mess of dookie in our basement. The day before, I texted a buddy of mine saying that I was sorry I couldn’t make it to a festival he was playing, but I hoped to do a bunch of festivals next year. He responded: “next year will be the year of billy”. I had no idea how to respond until that evening when I texted him: “It better, I’ve literally been carrying buckets of shit”. 2019, Year of Billy. The year I de-radicalize straight white men.