Moonface: Spencer, alone

Spencer, alone

Moonface: There will be an entire garden at the end of this
Photo: Spencer Krug

With Wolf Parade and Sunset Rubdown on indefinite hiatus, Spencer Krug lets his inspiration run free as Moonface

In 2001, Spencer Krug moved from Victoria to Montreal and started a band called Wolf Parade. Ten years later, I reach him by telephone in Austin, Texas, where he played a concert last night under the name Moonface. This is because Wolf Parade have more or less broken up. Sunset Rubdown, Krug’s other band, have also more or less broken up. There is something gentle, brave, in the "more or less."

Moonface is a new thing. Krug spent this afternoon sitting in river water. "I’m not a very well-spoken person," he warns me. He speaks softly, thoughtfully. He does not use complicated metaphors. He will return to Montreal on August 6, launching the first Moonface LP, Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I’d Hoped. It is an album of organ music. Not vibraphone, like he’d hoped. We’ll get to that later.

"With Moonface, the only rule is that there are no rules," he says. "The only consistent thing about it will be me." Later this summer, Krug will record with the Finnish instrumental rock band Siinai. This winter, he will make a duelling marimba record with percussionist Mike Bigelow. All of these things are Moonface.

None of this is a response to the end of Krug’s other projects. It’s a response to what happened before they ended. "Rock has this weird expectation that you stay in the groove you’ve created," he says. "I went through it with Wolf Parade and then I even went through it with Sunset Rubdown, which was originally set up [as a platform] for more experimental things." It’s "something that happens with bands," he complains. You’re allowed to change, so long as you stay the same.

As Moonface, Krug plans to keep changing. "After a few records, the traditional rock listener might say, ‘Fuck this guy!’ But I’m hoping that others will get into this zigzagging around." Last year, he released the first Moonface EP – one track, 20 minutes long, consisting of voice, percussion and marimba. The title was Dreamland: Marimba and Shit Drums.

For the follow-up, Krug imagined an LP with vibraphone, a little guitar, some beats. He worked at home, playing with a digital vibraphone, amassing 90 minutes of loops "but never a whole song." It sounded "like pop techno from the early 90s" and "it wasn’t inspiring anything other than itself." "So I got in this weird creative funk. You know Montreal in the winter. I was just staying at home, talking to the cats, wandering around in my bathrobe muttering. Drinking too much coffee all day and too much red wine all night."

"And then I decided to buy this organ."

It was a Yamaha Electone. Something for "really big fat warm songs." Something with "three tiers of keyboards I could really fool around on." Something that changed everything: gone was the 90s techno, replaced by sour, eldritch synth-pop. It plumbs the lush, industrial sound of Sunset Rubdown’s earliest days – but it’s more moonlit, more intricate. And urgent.

"I tried to return to the place I was at when I was 21," Krug remembers, "anonymously writing music, never thinking that someone else could hear it. Just making a song you want to hear."

Moonface’s lyrics bear Krug’s hallmarks: girls, spirits and transformations; hearts, gardens and crows. "Shoddy attempts at half-assed poetry," he deadpans. But this expressionism also seems more sited than it has in the past – there are verses with places and times, nostalgias easily understood. "Talking Heads make me miss my friends," he sings. Or, on Fast Peter: "Peter loves a girl / He told me all about it on the balcony / when we were high on drugs."

Fast Peter is the highlight of Organ Music, beautiful and persistent, a motorik romance. Its origins are apparent: "I was moved one night by my friend Peter and how much he is in love," Krug says. Peter told him all about it, on the balcony, when they were high on drugs.

"You know, I’d like to write more that way," Krug admits. "Those moments in life where you kind of get the tingles when someone tells you something." But he says his goal is still "to give myself the tingles, more than other people." And lyrics need not become transparent. "I don’t want to spell out everything word for word. Some things are too personal or too crass and base to just fart out. I like when there is an ambiguity there, for the listener to exploit."

***

The last question is whether Krug will stay in Montreal.

"I don’t know," he says. He pauses. "I love Montreal." He pauses some more. "It’s not a place to grow old, not for me." He sounds very far away. "The reason I’m still there is that I haven’t been given a reason to leave."

Today, Krug is in Texas. Earlier he sat in a hot spring.

I recall a prior moment in the conversation, discussing songwriting. Krug said, "Sometimes there’s a lot of discovering what you were saying after the fact. Sometimes you realize what the story is only when you’re done."

Moonface
w/ Flow Child
At Il Motore
August 6

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