LISTEN: New Moon Diagrams Album
We catch up with Deerhunter's Moses Archuleta ahead of the release of his debut solo album; plus full album stream.
Drummer, occasional keyboardist, and co-founder of Deerhunter, Moses Archuleta has been teasing us with the thought of a full-length solo album since releasing an ambient three-track EP back in 2015 as part of Geographic North’s cassette series.
His debut album, Lifetime Of Love strikes us as surprisingly atmospheric and shadowy in comparison to his crisp and generally uplifting indie-rock as part of Deerhunter, arriving as a collection of a decade of work made behind the scenes during Deerhunter’s rise to fame.
The album is a product of three separate creative bursts, the first between Deerhunter’s Cryptograms and Microcastle albums, the second around the collapse of Archuleta’s marriage from 2012 to 2015, and the third holed up in the Michelberger Hotel after an isolated stint in Berlin.
As the final member of Deerhunter to come out with a solo record, Archuleta opened up to us about finding a life outside of the band, calling a prostitute in Berlin, and of course, the long-term relationship that directly and indirectly inspired most of the album.
What made you want to start another project at the same time you were so busy with Deerhunter? And why did it take three separate periods over the course of ten years to put together?
Moses Archuletta: I never wanted to be a solo musician. I like being in a band. I like my role. I enjoy collaborating with others - it’s very satisfying for me. Now, with all that stated, life doesn’t always play along in a linear fashion, and that’s what this is an example of. For starters, I was always more of the organisational, sonic, aesthetic type of contributor when it came to Deerhunter. Conversely, my weaknesses as a musician and collaborator are as a traditional songwriter. I was an avid, obsessive music listener, but never imagined myself as much of a musician. Deerhunter is still my first band. I learned to play drums in the band. Over time, we got older, individual romantic pursuits developed, and we began to spend more time apart in between constant touring activity and what not. This led to the songwriting process for the group becoming more about individual demoing than jamming. So, at some point, I decided to give it a shot with whatever musical skills I had. The whole idea was that it was good for the band. I had no intentions of stepping out on my own.
My attempts didn’t really go well. I was unable to shape efforts into a specific direction. It was just random splatter and largely instrumental, often formless. Over the years I got a little more structured and evolved, but it started to become clear after about three albums and attempts at writing for them, that I was kind of on my own path that didn’t completely gel with the group, so nothing was ever really used.
So yeah, there’s a lot of story to get into about motivating factors over the years for creating the material, but in summation: attempts at Deerhunter songs, trying to polish discarded songs to figure out what my own individual creative instincts could be, going on tour with Ariel Pink in 2012, trying to find out what my life could be made of outside of Deerhunter and my relationship/subsequent marriage (those being the two things that were most time consuming), doing some music for Rodarte, Geographic North asking if I’d like to put out a cassette, Chrome Sparks’ tour last year and, last but not least, my failed marriage and eventual divorce.
This album comes across to me as a lot more intimate and yearning than a lot of the Deerhunter stuff. Were there specific incidents in your life that prompted you to write for this separate project? And is there any inspirational overlap or broader theme between the different periods in which you wrote it?
MA: A lot of it has to do with love - which feels so, so tacky to say - even if it’s just in my own head and ambient stuff. Once you go through any life crisis, such as a divorce, I think it’s natural to re-evaluate everything. Your belief systems… your motivations… your direction... both the direction that led you to that very point and what direction you want to make for yourself from then on out. So, while taking stock of a lot of things, I looked back at a lot of music I had lying around and finally detected a clear narrative, both sonically and emotionally, that made sense of what was once a fractured tapestry of demos. It was only about three-quarters of the way finished once I cobbled it together, so I then spent 2015 and 2016 trying to find the way out, so to speak, by rounding out the material with the new directions I saw.
The inspirational overlap is simple. It’s me. It is a solo album after all. So it’s all pieces of me (as opposed to Jewel’s 'Pieces Of You’), large and small, arranged just so and the finished product is an embodiment of that. I’ve just been following this weird thread when I can and it’s gotten me here and I'm pleased to report that it feels worthwhile after so many moments of questioning and wondering where the meandering was leading. But, I’m a believer that everything moves forward and it all collects into whatever your current moment is and there’s something beautiful about that, whether it’s happy or sad moments in life.
For example, when I was trying to finish the album, I decided a good place to find inspiration was Berlin. I found myself estranged from my family, marriage exploded, and was feeling lost around the holidays. I had enough SkyMiles to fly somewhere and decided to go to Berlin. Instead of getting bogged down in a lot of those dark realities, I wanted to exercise the freedom I had that most of my friends don’t. It was meant to be the perfect set-up to me writing and recording the last bits. Instead of being productive in all the ways I intended... I was floating and disorientated: jet lagged, up at all odd hours, wandering the city, watching TV and movies, reading in the lobby of the Michelberger Hotel, unmotivated every time I opened up my suitcase of music equipment, self-loathing. So, sometimes I like to push my own limits in ways that surprise myself. This time it came in the form of calling a prostitute, which was a completely alien experience. I don’t know what I imagined would happen and I got really worked up about my decision and then, the moment she arrived, I had a full blown panic attack, just gave her her money, feebly apologised and explained to her that everything was fine and it was me and she shrugged and left. I lay on the floor afterwards, room spinning, and just beat myself up all night over the whole thing. Just overwhelmed with a strange mixture of despondence and freedom. The entire trip was a study in those contrasts.
Fast-forward a few days later and I’m heading back home... I continued to beat myself up over how I didn’t accomplish anything of note, wasted time and energy and money and that I was a total failure. Next thing I know, plagued by jet lag, I finished the album in a flurry of activity over three days. So, the trip was inspiring and did lead to something, just not in the way I had expected at all.
What inspired the name 'Moon Diagrams'?
MA: A combination of it being phonetically pleasing and the moon being a fascinating astral force. It’s like the barely visible hand constantly affecting the planet’s rhythms. There’s a metaphor for the subconscious and its different permutations somewhere in there, I’m sure.
What are your goals for Moon Diagrams? Can we look forward to a solo tour? And will there be future albums or is this a one-time deal?
MA: My goal was for it to come out on double 12” 45rpm. So, now that that’s happening I can hang it up now.
Kidding, of course. No real goals I can articulate, because this music has been in my head and largely only existed in my world and then among a few friends and label folks. I think once I experience other people hearing it and some kind of psychic dialectic is established between myself and listeners it’ll be cathartic and affect how I feel about what’s next. I’m just putting myself out into the universe and I’ll have to wait and see what comes back in due time.
I have a sprinkling of solo dates planned for the States in July. Some shows with Algiers, Shigeto, Hiro Kone, Atlas Sound, so I’m excited and terrified to be doing that. I have vague ideas for another album or two, but I’m taking things one step at a time and seeing what comes up. I’m like a half meticulous planner and half improviser. I like to be well informed and appreciate when a good plan comes together, but I equally love identifying side paths to take when the moment is right, so we’ll just have to wait and see.
The Quietus Link: https://thequietus.com/articles/22699-new-moon-diagrams-album-interview