Secret Thirteen Interview - The Soft Moon

Interview with The Soft Moon

Photo by Julie Bonato

Luis Vasquez of The Soft Moon talks about recurring nightmares, introspection, retrofuturism, technological dystopias, and hope in this exclusive interview.

The Soft Moon manages to channel the romanticism of post punk through the raw madness of kraut-influenced futurism. It might be one man's inner journey towards himself, but at the same time it is very easy for the listener to be immersed into Luis Vasquez's post apocalyptic soundscapes. As Luis points out, Soft Moon is not a band or a music project, but rather a separate world with its own rules, emotions and aesthetics, sometimes resembling some odd black and white German expressionist film, where music, live performances, cover arts, and videos are merged into a subtly elegant, aggressive, terrifying, yet energetic and coherent whole.

Last year The Soft Moon released their sophomore full length Zeros, which represents the more straightforward and punkish side of Luis. After a while we caught up with him in Venice (via Skype, of course) in the middle of a European tour for this exclusive interview. Here the reader can take a glimpse to the backstage, where reoccurring nightmares, introspection, retrofuturism, technological dystopias and various kinds of art forms inform the dark, but still hopeful world of The Soft Moon.


Zeros is more straightforward and aggressive than your self-titled debut. Why is there such a shift in style?

Well, for the first record, I wrote it, produced and recorded it by myself in my apartment, not really knowing what I was doing. And the biggest difference between this one and Zeros is that even though I still wrote Zeros at home, I took everything into a more professional environment and worked with an engineer. And so I was able to be a little louder and more aggressive. I mean, it also probably has to do with what was happening with my life at the time. I am affected by everything that's happening, mainly subconsciously. It's always like I look back at it in hindsight and realize “ahhh, ok, now I know why I did this, I did that”. But I think I wasn't so happy with my living situation, so that's why there is a lot more aggression on Zeros. But I think the main difference is just working in a more professional environment in an actual studio.

Do you have any ideas about your next album yet? What kind of direction are you going to take now?

You know, I just let things go naturally and I don't like to predetermine or think about what I am going to write until I am actually sitting and writing. But I do know that I want to become a little more percussion heavy. So I am planning to bring out more of a primal aspect in terms of percussion and my heritage.

As far as we know you grew up in the Mojave desert, are you planning to incorporate some things from your heritage into your music?

Yeah, my family is from Cuba, so I grew up with a lot of that music as a child, hearing it in the background. My uncle was a percussionist. That was my earliest memory of him. He went to prison, so... When I was a young kid, I remember him being a percussionist and that was my last memory of him. Therefore, it's one of my first memories in terms of being a musician.

So, basically, this emphasis on percussion is what we might expect.

Yeah, that's the one thing I can say, which would be expected. Everything else I have no idea, I am not sure how I am going to be feeling at the time of writing or what experiences are yet to come. And then in the near future, before I start writing, everything can happen.

The Soft Moon has many elements from different genres like 80's post punk, krautrock, some synth stuff. But you rely on an 80's post-punk structure and at the same time retaining a futuristic feel. Where does your music stand in terms of present and past? How are past and present influences important in terms of creating the sound? What is more important in creating - the present or the past?

It's an equal combination of the two. I'd like to call my music retro futurism, so it's 50-50 of the past and future. The past is really important, because the initial goal of The Soft Moon was to go back to my past and learn more about my childhood, that I had blocked out, kind of trying to discover my past, but at the same time living in the future and thinking about the future too. Also, the reason why the future plays an important part is because it is almost like a reaction to today's technology. I think that for me it is important to create something very honest and sincere and very human, because we are living in an age of technology, so the future aspect of The Soft Moon is a reaction to technology.

Somewhat dystopian moods can be felt in your songs. What is your general opinion about the future of mankind and technology? Are you generally optimistic? What's your vision of the future?

I am generally an optimistic person, but for me humanity and the future is kind of a dark path. I have these recurring nightmares about the end of the world. I've just had one the other night. They happen all the time. So, I feel like we're kind of destructive, and as human beings we are like a virus destroying nature and our own existence. But in some weird way, I find it romantic. It's something I think about all the time and really try to figure out what my viewpoint on it is, but deep inside it is kind of a dark feeling.

Maybe you could tell us in more detail about one of your nightmares?

It's funny, because I've had maybe at least a hundred end of the world apocalyptic dreams. It's different every single time. Sometimes I am super afraid and there are other times, when it's peaceful as the world is ending and I accept it and close my eyes within my dream. But the one I just had was two nights ago. My family was in it, my mom was in it. And basically it was like gravity kind of disappears and everything is sliding in one direction. Sliding at a high rate and most of the time some sort of buildings or skyscrapers were sliding. And I am crumbling with the building and moving at a really fast rate. And then somehow I usually tend to survive. I am one of the few survivors left. It was like a movie, I guess. In this one it was weird, because after the world ended I managed to stay alive with my mom. But then I started seeing life reform again. It was like God was creating this web in front of my eyes. Creating life again. It was really interesting to see that. Then I woke up.

In one of your past interviews you mentioned that you create music to know yourself better. Does it really help you achieve this goal? How do you find the balance between creating music for introspective reasons and communicating with the listener? Is it difficult?

It's extremely difficult, in fact. I started this project for therapeutic reasons to help myself feel more sane. But in fact, the opposite has occurred. I feel like I am going crazier. Honestly, I am going a little more insane the deeper I go. And then at the same time of course I am communicating with listeners. I am learning about myself and at the same time there are listeners along with me on the journey. So I feel very vulnerable, because I am exposing so much. I can't help but expose myself. The whole purpose of this project is for me to be completely honest with myself. But it does become very difficult and the fact that I am expressing myself to strangers... Yeah, I am just becoming more vulnerable. And I am actually working on trying to find that balance or I can just keep going and see what happens. But at the same time I have no regrets that I am going a little crazier and getting more emotional and sensitive. I guess it happens for a reason. Something is happening for a reason. My life is pretty insane. I look back all the time and something is going right, something is happening for a reason.

Having in mind the fact, that Soft Moon started as a one man project, does the presence of other musicians distort your initial vision or do they contribute to it organically?

Well, I think it is very important that when it comes to the writing aspect of the project, it's my vision. The music is about my life, about my personal journey, it's for therapeutic reasons, so there is that aspect, which I think is important for me to maintain. And then there is the live aspect, where the band members come in and they can open up within that world and contribute their own unique style and ideas. So, that's when they come in, in terms of being creative and adding to The Soft Moon.

Another thing is the cover art of your records. You used to work as a fashion graphic designer, do you still employ those skills in creating your cover art, and how important is the cover art and the visual side to you in general? You use lots of stage lights.

I find this very important. I consider Soft Moon more like an art project than just a band. Due to that all stimulation is important. I like to create a separate world. Especially with the lighting. I would like to encompass the viewers as much as possible and stimulate the senses as much as possible. To encompass the listener and bring him into the world. Therefore, even with the cover and packaging art and other stuff it's important for me to create a world. It's not just about the music, it's about the world.

What other art forms or music inspire you as a person and your project?

Everything. In fact, I think, music is probably the second area of influence for me. I am inspired by existence and just contemplating life and my own biology. I am just curious about being a human being and just life itself is probably the biggest inspiration as well as nature, animals, reptiles. Considering music, I love it and I think it is the best tool to express myself. I definitely have influences when it comes to music. But overall, I would say just existence itself is the biggest influence.

Why did you call your album Zeros? What's the meaning behind that?

Zeros is a conceptual album. From start to finish I wanted it to be like an art installation or a novel. The concept behind it was to play into those nightmares I always have, those post-apocalyptic nightmares. I wanted to create an album that lives in the post-apocalypse, therefore, Zeros represents everything starting over again.

So it’s both an end and a beginning of something?

Yeah, that's why the opening title track “It Ends” was created to represent the world ending and every song after that is the song that exists in the post-apocalypse.

What about your videos? Are they a continuation of your music or an entirely separate world? How do you come with ideas for them?

They are separate. In the beginning the videos tied back to cover art and things like that, you know, geometric shapes, constructivism and all that stuff. And now the videos are becoming their own thing, like “Insides” and the latest video - “Want”, which really represents the actual track and how I felt, what that track means to me. They are becoming their own little thing now and expanding. And also it’s worth noting that the last video was in color, while everything up to that was in black and white. So they are becoming their own little entity.

Maybe there are movies that influence your videos?

Yeah. For example, “Want” was inspired by Gaspard Noe's Enter The Void. Another inspiration is Darren Aronofsky's film Pi. Another film is Possession. Also slasher films, serial killer films, drug addiction films. I am also inspired by David Lynch and Cronenberg and even 1920's German expressionism films. Just everything that's cool and weird.

What are your future plans? Next album? As far as we know, you are touring at the moment?

Yeah, right now I am in Venice, Italy, hanging out. Then we will go on tour in about one week. We will go for a two week tour and then I think in September I will stay in Berlin or Paris for a while and start writing the next album. And at the end of the year I will be taking a long break to focus 100 percent on the third record.

How do you like Europe by the way?

It's funny, because I feel like I am here more than I am in the States these days, so I am getting quite used to it. And I definitely enjoy it.

Is there a big difference between touring Europe and the States?

Yes. Touring the States is a pain in the ass. I mean, New York is cool as well as Los Angeles and San Francisco, both the East Coast and the West Coast are great, Chicago is cool. But everywhere else in the States the people are not resonating with The Soft Moon as much as Europe does. I mean, here we sell more shows and the capacities are larger, people just seem to get the project more. In the States it is a little more difficult.

We heard the same words from many musicians. It's quite a tendency.

Yeah, Europeans seem to connect with music on a deeper level or just in a different way. It has more meaning out here, it's still considered an art form, whereas in the States it's just like everyone has a band or anyone can make music, so it's not as respectable.

Nowadays in music we face a significant goth revival tendency (e.g. Captured Tracks, Dark Entries, Electric Voice labels). Having in mind that you play in some goth festivals, do you consider yourself part of this scene?

I personally don't, but if the fans consider The Soft Moon in that category or within that genre, I'm open to it. I did not really grow up listening to any goth music. The closest I got was The Cure, but everyone listens to The Cure. For some reason, when I write music, it just comes out dark. I don't know, it's just the way it comes out. It's very natural for me. It was funny, because in the very beginning, when I did my first release with Captured Tracks, all these journalists were comparing me to these bands, that I've never heard of. And there were a lot of goth bands, so I was doing research, because I had to listen to these bands and then I realized, that there are definitely a lot of comparisons. I always wondered about that. For me, I guess, all those bands, all the musicians in those bands are kindred spirits. We just think alike. But I wasn't really trying to revive goth. In fact, I was anti-goth in high school. I was just a punk rocker. But I am totally open to how people interpret the music.

About Author

Paulius Ilevicius is a Secret Thirteen journalist, editor and occasional DJ focusing on more dreamy and melancholic soundscapes. Born in post-industrial town of Pavevezys, currently he lives and works in Vilnius, Lithuania.