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“Who I am, what I am…” : Best Fit speaks to The Soft Moon

“Who I am, what I am…” : Best Fit speaks to The Soft Moon

09 November 2012, 11:01


The Soft Moon’s Luis Vasquez has a special connection to Halloween. Call it a coincidence, given the macabre sound of his band, but it’s been a tradition for him to play a show on the night where souls tend to be most restless, and this year proves no different. The Soft Moon’s latest album Zeros also just so happens to have been released in the U.S. the day prior to the holiday, a move that is largely unintentional, Vasquez pleads, but his music begs to differ.

With minimalistic, reverb-laden snare beats, morbid, flanged-out bass grooves, and walls of synthesized atmospherics and assorted agony, The Soft Moon calls to mind Unknown Pleasures-era Joy Division, or The Cure circa Pornography, Faith, et al. It’s unapologetically dark post-punk, the very kind that goths used to paint their nails black to thirty years ago. For Vasquez, who writes every part himself, The Soft Moon is an exploration of unequivocally dark terrain. Which isn’t to say it was any sort of conscious decision, on his part, to make this kind of music; it all exists outside the realm of self-control.

“It just so happened that this project started getting attention,” Vasquez says, ”it wasn’t really meant to surface… I feel like even if I do a folk project, it’ll end up being dark folk.” And try as he might to escape, the darkness seems to offer him refuge. “I guess I’ve always liked the aesthetic of that type of music. I never meant to try like, ‘okay, these are my favourite bands, I want to try and sound like them,’ or anything like that. I just happen to write what I feel, and it happens to sound that way.”

“I’m a pretty happy guy,” he adds, “I can joke around and stuff, but my thoughts are completely opposite from my outside. I’m pretty… I don’t know… I have dark emotions or something.”

This inherent darkness, however, goes a little deeper than his record collection. Vasquez offers some insight into who or what may be responsible for that black shroud he can’t seem to shake off his head: “My mom and dad would practically kill each other every night. So seeing that every night was pretty rough. I wasn’t really treated the best. I had a rough childhood. I blocked most of it out, and I guess when I started working on The Soft Moon, I kind of picked up those memories. Now that I’m older… I kind of feel like I’m a little fucked up I guess. Like I have anxiety and stuff. I have tons of fears and phobias… I was like, ‘why do I have all this stuff?’ And basically the whole point of the project was to learn about myself. Who I am, what I am…”

As a child, Vasquez clearly needed to find a form of escape, or at least create one. And so he did.

“I was always kind of creative when I was a kid. I used to draw a lot. I guess just being creative for me is just an outlet in and of itself. And I was always fascinated by music. I remember just watching MTV like all my childhood. I guess I got fascinated by the guitar, so my grandfather bought me a guitar when I was twelve. And every since I got a guitar in my hands, like that was it. Sound is the perfect outlet for me.”

Vasquez formed his first punk band when he was in eighth grade, and played at bars (illegally, he admits, being of a town where negligence was local tradition). In those early musical days, he also took the role of band leader/songwriter, and even then, he was a brooder, with song titles like ‘My Life’ and ‘Wasteland.’ Reflecting on his early self, he states, “Thinking about it now it’s really weirding me out. It was so serious too. I don’t know why I was being so serious. was my way to expression emotions, even at that age.”

To this day, music still serves the same purpose for Vasquez. It stirs up a lot of subliminal feelings for both the creator and listener. And it’s accomplished entirely by sound, and everything non-explicit. Note even how rarely any vocals occur in his creations.

Vasquez admits, “Words aren’t my best form of communication. I don’t mind singing and stuff, but when I write music, I don’t find myself needing to say anything. I feel like I like to create expression through the sounds. And if I do say something, I like to repeat my vocals. Almost like a chant in a way.”

The way he approaches music is less like a songwriter, but more like a sort of visual artist, unique tones and timbres his modeling clay. “I’m not really interested in writing songs,” he says. “I just like making sounds and combining them together. Almost creating a world, or a dream, or something… I think my approach is to make something you can actually see when you listen to the music.”

He adds, “I’m not necessarily inspired by other bands – I mean there are bands I really like – but I get inspired by watching documentaries, or watching movies, or reading books, or looking at art.”

Not surprisingly, Vasquez expresses interest in eventually finding his way directly into cinema. “Actually that’s a personal goal of mine, to get into scoring films,” he says. “I notice that whenever I watch documentaries or films, I’m always attracted by the music.”

While he may not quite be doing that yet, his music does find its way naturally into film and TV soundtracks; most recently, an episode of American Horror Story featured his song ‘Want’ from new album Zeros, a song which, with its dark ambience and hypnotically simple beat, musters terror in no time flat – the perfect underscore to a scene depicting a mutilated corpse suddenly reanimating itself (or some such similar). “I like when I get approached by dark TV shows or horror movies,” he comments, “it works pretty well.”

The music he makes, which at times can sound both organic and affected, is emphatically handmade. “I don’t use any software on my albums,” Vasquez stresses. “A lot of it’s physically created, all of it really. It’s not too hard to emulate that live. It’s already being played physically on the albums. It’s not like computer software or anything like that.”

Most of the ‘artificial’ sounds come from effects pedals, through which Vasques passes sounds from various sources, adjusting frequencies and intensities to achieve unnatural results. At any rate, it all comes from Vasquez’s own ingenuity and resourcefulness. “Usually I hear something in my head, and I go out and try to figure out what to get to make that sound,” he elaborates. “I just work with what I have, and the effects pedals I had. I tend to give things an unorthodox layer or unconventional lick. Like the way I play guitar, I don’t play a lot of chords. I play guitar to make sounds basically. I think that’s how I approach every instrument.”

For Zeros, Vasquez says he used sandpaper to achieve shaker sounds, and megaphones to manipulate natural guitar and synthesizer sonics, the results sounding both contrived and entirely unique. Zeros, with the addition of Vasquez’s blood and sweat, is a living, breathing (literally, at points), and often terrifying creature, like Frankenstein’s monster. But you might also say there is a greater human legacy lying beneath all the grim preoccupations, vis a vis Stanley Kubrik’s 2001: A Space Odyssey

“I love the concept of that film. They show you the past and then the future. I like to do that within music too. Everything’s very primal, based off of emotions we all have, but then there’s this look at the future too.” In Vasquez’s life and his music, the past and future are inevitable. And perhaps a little intimidating.

Zeros is available now through Captured Tracks and the band will play the following live dates:

23 London, Cargo
24 Bristol, Start The Bus
25 Leeds, Brudnell Social Club
26 Manchester, Ruby Lounge
27 Birmingham, Hare and Hounds
28 Brighton, Green Door Store

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