You might not guess it while listening to their music, but Canadian indie rock outfit Half Moon Run are forging a pretty unique legacy as a band. Their captivating brand of full-bodied, often emotion-tugging music doesn’t quite tell the full story of what you’re hearing, and to fully appreciate what this group of multi-instrumentalists are achieving day after day you really need to witness their intensely entertaining live show.
Simply calling them multi-instrumentalists doesn’t quite do the band justice either, with the band having developed a reputation for switching between instruments and members playing several instruments at once on stage. Such talent has allowed them, both in the studio and in live settings, to create music with melodic and rhythmic complexity that a conventional set-up can only dream of.
On that note, you might just be in luck because Half Moon Run have announced that they’ll be returning to Australia in 2017, the first time since releasing their second studio LP Sun Leads Me On. We caught up with vocalist, guitarist and keyboard player Conner Molander to chat about why the band doesn’t have a bass player, that time they had to travel between the USA and Canada in an Uber, and the innate value in road-testing music.
Music Feeds: You guys have been to Australia a couple of times before and now you’ll be back in January. What do you like about touring here?
Conner Molander: Oh man, so many things. I’ve travelled a lot with the band over the past five years or so and I’d say that Australia is probably my favourite place that I have been in my travels. I think it’s really paradise in a lot of ways; and the touring is great too. Additionally, when we tour, I find we generally stick to our jobs and it’s work, but in Australia for some reason we meet a lot of friends and have a really good time. I’m really looking forward to coming back.
MF: Your tour bus broke down earlier this year. Is that the worst thing that’s happened to you on tour?
CM: No, that was bad – but it could’ve been worse. It broke down after the last show of the tour, so the only thing was that three out of the four of us had a flight the next day out of a different city so we had to get a… do you have Uber in Australia? Yeah so we had to get an Uber across the border of United States and Canada to get to our flight on time. That was a bit hectic but overall it wasn’t that bad, we’ve had worse things.
MF: How has your live show changed since you were last here?
CM: Well we haven’t been back to Australia since we released the new album so we’ve got tonnes of new songs. A bunch of new instruments and it’s completely different actually.
MF: All of you guys are multi-instrumentalists and you’re known for each playing multiple instruments during live shows. What do you think this allows you to create live that other more conventional band setups might not?
CM: A lot of it has to do with the bass. Bass is one of the most important things for a band of our style, but it’s kind of an inefficient instrument to play; the bass guitar. It takes two hands and one full person, so we started off by relegating the bass to synths, and our drummer played the bass while he played the drums. So that allowed us to have a pretty expansive sound right of the bat.
That was then turning the conventional band set-up on its head because we didn’t have a bass player. Right from the beginning it was never clear who was going to play what instrument; there was kind of a frame work, but right from the inception when we were getting to know each other and even still learning our instruments, it was never clear. I think that’s allowed us total versatility and it’s definitely an important part of our sound.
MF: Sun Leads Me On sounds like an album that is supposed to be listened to as a whole. Is it important for you guys that you create albums in the traditional sense – as a body of work?
CM: I’m a fan of that format, personally as a listener. But I wouldn’t say that it’s a requirement. In fact, releasing more music more often is more in tune with the way that people tend to enjoy music these days, they always want more, our attention spans are very short. So we’re not stuck on it by any means.
MF: Touring is such a huge part of being in a band now, especially in the age of digital downloads – but at the same time it’s important to keep creating new music. How do you guys balance the two?
CM: That’s one of the main conflicts that is really present in my life. They’re totally different things for me and for us as a band. For every band it’s different. A lot of bands are able to write on the road – but we’re just totally not. It’s never worked. So touring is a huge part of the career of a musician these days, so it’s a real balancing act man – and it’s tough.
MF: So as you say, you guys don’t write anything on the road. Does that mean you tend to perfect music in the studio without any road-testing?
CM: Well we bat ideas around on the road, but to finish a song for us it takes a lot of polishing and a lot of careful studio work. The thing is, the life of a song tends to have a lot of incarnations; there’s the inception of the idea and you bat it around, then you rehearse it in a jam space for a while and sort it out. Then you go into the studio and record it there and that’s another stage of its life. Then you take it on the road and it changes then, too, and matures.
I often find that we record something in the studio, put it on the album, then take it on the road and you wish that you could record it again because you finally figure out your guitar part. So road-testing is an invaluable part of the songwriting process, you just don’t always have the luxury of being able to have that happen before you record it.
MF: There seems to be a lot of honesty and emotion in your music. Is that something that’s intentional or does it seem to happen fairly organically as part of the songwriting process?
CM: Interesting question, because what’s the alternative, you know? If you’re not striving to be honest or naturally being honest… I could talk about how it happens, but I don’t see any alternative. Sometimes you do have to struggle to find honesty in the music that you record, that’s the hard part of the process.
When you’re writing something you develop a framework, some patterns that you can rely on. You can shoot something out based on a bag of tricks that you have – but that’s not honest, because you’re not really saying anything, you’re just doing what you know how to do. When you look inside yourself and think; ‘what do I really think,’ and how does that correspond to emotions of your music and lyrics. Once you do that then you end up with something that I find to be more honest.
It’s a different definition of honest than is conventional. For me it’s all tied up in our creative standards. You don’t want to be bullshitting people, because they can tell.
Half Moon Run’s Sun Leads Me On is out now. The band will visit Australia in January 2017. See dates here below.
Half Moon Run Tour Dates
Presented by Music Feeds
Tickets on sale now.
Wednesday, 11th January
The Triffid, Brisbane
Tickets: The Triffid
Thursday, 12th January
Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Saturday, 14th January
Metro Theatre, Sydney