Who Are…Moon Duo

Austin L. Ray

By Austin L. Ray

on 10.02.12 in Who Is...?s

File under: Druggy, locked-in-the-groove psych rock for lovers

For fans of: Jesus And Mary Chain, Yo La Tengo, and The Liminanas

From: Blue River, Colorado

Personae: Ripley Johnson (guitar, vocals), Sanae Yamada (keyboards, vocals)

Moon Duo’s second LP, Circles, will probably be the best record made in the most obscure location this year. Although parts of it were recorded in the band’s previous home of San Francisco, and some mixing and other worked happened in Berlin, the majority of its creative efforts came from a Rocky Mountain eternity of a winter early this year. The band’s new home of Blue River, Colorado, sported a population of 685 during the 2000 census, and you have to wonder what those 700 or so folks think of their local rockers.

As for those who are a little more familiar with the band’s hazy, rewarding chug, Circles won’t surprise much, though it’s quite good. Across its nine tracks (all but two of which stretch beyond the four-minute mark), keyboard through-lines and so-fuzzy-they’re-practically-woodland-creatures guitar riffs carry the catchiest, laid-back sing-a-bongs this side of The Jesus & Mary Chain.

eMusic’s Austin L. Ray caught up with guitarist Ripley Johnson (also of Wooden Shjips) to find out how one procrastinates in the Rockies, which drugs go best with Circles, and what Ralph Waldo Emerson’s got to do with it.

On isolation’s influence on Circles:

There aren’t a lot of distractions out there, but the mind can always create its own distractions. It’s interesting in that sense, the grappling with one’s own mind, boredom, lack of exterior stimulation. But that also allows for a certain purity. The creativity really flows from within. The inspiration is mostly from within.

On procrastinating in the Rocky Mountains:

It’s cold in the mountains, but it’s also very sunny and snowy. We would snowshoe and cross-country ski right out of our back door. Plus, we like to read and watch films, so it’s perfect for that.

On which drugs to take while listening to this album:

We don’t generally encourage drug use but I think a few honey slides would probably do nicely.

On movies:

I love seeing films on the big screen, but we don’t get the chance very often. I love the immersive aspect, the total experience. We try to bring that to our live shows as much as possible but I don’t think it influences the songwriting much other than as pure inspiration.

On finding a groove and locking in:

That’s a natural place for me, musically. I’m drawn to repetition and drone. Part of the process lately has been to push beyond that, to find ways to engage with that aspect of our sound in other ways, through song writing. I can imagine going further in that repetitive direction in the future, discarding more of the song conventions, and just have each song sound like a skipping record. That would be nice.

On Ralph Waldo Emerson:

I was reading and digesting Emerson’s essay, “Circles,” around the time I was writing the songs, so that’s just where my head was at. It’s about change, flux, movement, and is very Buddhist for a 19th-century American. Good things to ponder in the mountains.