Highlights of Half Moon’s Discography
After a well-documented tour where Half Moon Run were pretty open about their ambivalence towards one another, the Montreal-based indie rock quartet first approached their sophomore album “Sun Leads Me On” (Glassnote Records) from the mindset of homesickness and strife.
Through the turbulence, the group has harnessed the earlier sense of fatigue to create an album that verges from the alt-folk of their debut “Dark Eyes,” and layers the melancholiness with mature, self-aware lyrics, pitch perfect harmonies, eclectic production and an aversion towards premeditation or subscription to any particular genre or mind frame.
“Sun Leads Me On” toes the line from post-punk strutting of early 2000s The Strokes with “Consider Yourself,” to the powerful, feel-good harmonies with “Turn Your Love,” to a pulsating electro-pop heartbreak ballad with “Trust.”
1AM recently spoke with multi-instrumentalist Isaac Symonds of Half Moon Run about their new album, their new live show and the dynamics of the band today. Catch Half Moon Run January 27 at Subterranean.
IAM: How and where did Half Moon Run find their first true fans?
Isaac Symonds: I think it’s just a matter of playing shows. First of all, you have to be writing music that you personally love and are very proud of. It’s kind of like the world Olympics out there in the music world; if it’s not great, then it’s nothing at all. The bar is set really high, so you have to strive to try and create the best stuff you can and once you get to that point where you think you have it, then you just start playing shows and touring. With Half Moon Run, it starts off playing to empty bars and soon enough, you’re playing to festivals with 70,000 people. I think it’s just a matter of getting out there and playing shows.
1AM: How are you approaching this upcoming tour from a mental standpoint?
IS: [With “Dark Eyes”], at first it was really exciting because there were so many great opportunities coming up. But once it got to 2 1/2 years, it was sort of getting a bit ridiculous and taking too much of a toll on the body. We’re sort of just getting into the album cycle of “Sun Leads Me On.” We had the chance to organize a lot better this time. We pretty much have the whole year laid out ahead of us, which really helps. You can actually plan things. [Now], we can actually have a life and make plans, which is good. We’re just doing our best to eat healthy and continue the hobbies we like to do.
1AM: “Sun Leads Me On” diverges quite a bit from the sounds of “Dark Eyes.” Are you doing anything differently live when performing from the new album?
IS: We have a lot more gear. For example, in “Dark Eyes,” my setup [was] I’m the guy that sort of switches around the instruments. During “Dark Eyes,” it was this kick drum and a snare, and a keyboard. Whereas now I have another tom, I have a huge pedalboard and another mic. We all have other gadgets that it is still reasonable to take on tour but we’ve all expanded big time in terms of gear… It varies song by song, but sometimes I play the keyboard, most of the time I’ll play drums with Dylan [Phillips]. Occasionally I’ll do the mandolin on some acoustic sessions and acoustic guitar and vocals. I’ll switch it up.
1AM: What are the dynamics of the band today?
IS: It’s better than it’s ever been before, actually. That being said, we are just starting the tour cycle too, so we are all pretty fresh. [We’re playing] new songs, we’re all learning how to play the songs again and learning how to play the show with the new songs. We have a bus now, so we have time in the day to actually pursuit hobbies outside the band, so that keeps the tension low. It’s going really well.
1AM: There’s a song in particular off “Sun Leads Me On” I wanted to ask about, “Narrow Margins.” Based on the title I initially thought the song would speak to some political debate over distribution of wealth. After listening, it sounds more about a personal battle. Can you speak a bit about the song in particular?
IS: That song originally came up at the end of the “Dark Eyes” tour, which was rather dark at the time. The first lyric in the song is, “I can’t live this way.” You have this idea of what you want to do, and you have discretion in your art and everything. Then, when you are trying to do it, we find ourselves constantly compromising to meet other people’s needs. By the time you get to this original idea you had, it’s something completely different and maybe not what you expected it to be. We treat every decision like its really, really important. Took the rules and narrow margins, that’s what we live by.
1AM: Given the name of your new album, and that you are coming to Chicago in the dead of winter, do you have any tips for surviving seasonal affective disorder?
IS: Oh yeah, I’d imagine it’s similar weather here in Montreal to Chicago, but I would say it’s just as important to eat healthy and get the blood flowing, get some exercise. That’s pretty much the most important thing to stay happy and healthy. Because otherwise, at least in our lifestyle where you’re traveling in a van or a bus for most of the day, if you eat fast food and you don’t go for a run, you just find yourself sitting in the green room all day and you become a piece of garbage.