As I made my way into the back room of the Silver Dollar, a rundown heritage landmark that runs the length of the side of the soon-to-be-demolished Hotel Waverly in Toronto’s Chinatown, the late-winter cold seemed to seep through the blue walls. The venue itself was almost deafening in the amount of activity taking place in complete silence. This was the operations of a tour that was just hitting it’s stride. I don’t know if you, reader, have ever had a partner or co-worker where what you are doing is just so in-tune to each other that classical forms of communications no longer apply, but this was exactly what was happening here. On more than one occasion there was a point where Ripley looked over my shoulder to a member of his crew or band-mate Sanae Yamada and silently communicated exactly what was required. This was a tour just hitting it’s stride, put together by a band who are hardened by the road.
“I’m a bit of a homebody actually”, Ripley said when pushed on the topic, “we really like just being at home and going to see movies”.
I sympathized immediately with this. It is very tough being on the road for such a grueling schedule. Going from Portland to Montana in the back of a truck took many days according to Ripley’s own count, and even the 6-7 hour trek from Toronto Montreal due the next day seemed like child’s play.
Moon Duo is a band of paradox, a couple of homebodies yearning for the road while at home and yearning for home while on the road.
“We thought we were making a very dark record; a sort of brighter record than before,” as we spoke about their most recent release Shadow of the Sun “In Portland, where we live now, everything is green and everything is bright, but there’s a sort of lingering overcast darkness to the city […] but it’s really easy to lose perspective”.
That perspective is something that still confuses Ripley to this day. This paradox of trying to create a bright record that still becomes cold, dark and trance-like keeps bringing the group back to their own personal re-mixer, Jonas Verwijnen of Kaiku Studios, “I don’t know why we don’t just plan for this every time”, Ripley said of their work in Berlin, “I feel that having that ‘other voice’ after the project is ‘done’, so-to-speak, let’s it go somewhere different, with a completely different point-of-view”.
The more we talk the more it seems so obvious that the group requires isolationism to write and create, but when it comes to actually finishing the product, the ability to bounce a semi-finished product off of somebody they know and trust truly makes the sound that has become such a hallmark of Moon Duo.
About this time in the conversation a star-struck, fan-girl interrupted us to tell Ripley how much she loved his music and how happy she is to finally meet him. When she departed we kinda looked at each other and chuckled, “That doesn’t happen too often, honestly..”, but the whole ordeal brought up a interesting point, “I never write for the audience”, Ripley proclaimed, “I’m kind of a music geek myself, I listen to old stuff, I listen to new stuff, but I get excited about records. To me it’s just about creating an awesome record. You can drive yourself crazy trying to think about what someone else would like. For me, I just want my music to be something that I would get really excited about. That’s where I start.”
How Moon Duo approaches writing and creating seems to have not changed – and neither has the guarantee of hypnotic, driving, phyche-rock that is expected from these Portland rockers. Dark, brooding, circular music written in happy isolation is exactly the kind of paradox that allures audiences to this band in the first place.