The Soft Moon: Pop for Outsiders
The sound of San Francisco's Soft Moon is disorienting: A darkly hyperactive Neu! mixed with the dance-floor sensibility of Depeche Mode and the stark despair of Bauhaus makes The Soft Moon one cynically crafted machine. But the most disorientating tactic in frontman Luis Vazquez's arsenal is his muted vocals.
Alessandro Simonetti Luis Vazquez
Listen to some '80s bubblegum pop again, like "Promises, Promises" by Naked Eyes or Soft Cell's version of "Tainted Love" -- it's the same thing, but without some exuberant pop singer pushed in front. You can really feel some sort of malice.
With the Soft Moon, that malice comes from Vazquez's rough childhood, whispered between rings of post-punk horror and gothic echoes. We spoke to Vazquez while he was in Berlin and asked him about his ideal environment, how his music therapy is actually sorta worsening his anxiety, and how he's struggling to express himself using vocals.
Up on the Sun: How is Berlin? Whatcha doing out there?
Luis Vazquez: Just kinda hanging out, working on the next record here and there. Just taking life in, I guess.
How's the new record coming along?
It's going okay. I'm not really pressuring myself or anything. It's just kinda letting things happen naturally. The last record didn't come out too long ago. I want to let things marinate before I move on. It's more of like a vacation, I guess.
A lot of people say your music is disturbing, but I don't think it's the music itself. I think it's really the lack of vocals. If you listen to '80s music, you can hear similarities. But without vocals, it resembles a horror movie soundtrack. I like it. That's the disconcerting thing about it.
Yeah, I struggle with communication through words. My whole life I've always struggled with expressing myself through words. So it kinda just translates in the music. On top of that I prefer to approach my singing more as another instrument. There's that and also the frustration of trying to express myself through words is also sort of mimicked in the music. That's why I'll whisper, I'll scream. It's just a different way of using my vocals in a non-conventional way.
I read that for your first album, you did all this whispering because you couldn't bother the neighbors.
Yeah, actually that's how it all started. It's almost like a thanks to them, in some weird way. But at the same time, I remember being criticized after the first record came out. Journalists were giving me shit because I was whispering, but they didn't know I had to, otherwise I would have gotten evicted. Then, at the same time, the whispering created this formula, this thing that the Soft Moon is known for. It worked.
Do you ever plan to use vocals?
Basically, this whole project is for me to challenge myself in many different ways. I'm learning about myself, trying to discover my past, and everything is kind of a challenge for me. The vocal thing, I may try to sing a bit more. I'm actually kind of in the back of my head to try to vocalize my expression a little bit more because for me it's just another challenge.