Interview : Sonnymoon


Anna Wise, Dane Orr, and Joe Welch have tapped into a magical, musical sweet spot -where experimental approach successfully marries innovative vocals. With the addition of live instrumentation on Welch’s end compounded with front woman Anna’s broad range of idiosyncratic tones elevated by Dane’s fearless synthesized textures and samples they effortlessly produce the sound synonymous with Sonnymoon. Granted, they have defined their own approach to pop music, but it is not without influence from the realms of psychedelic, hip hop and R&B genres.

Delving deeper into who they are collectively and individually it became more apparent that it’s their innate curiosity for humanity as it relates beyond music that sets them apart. Challenging the conventional aesthetically and socially translates directly into their “post-normative” “post-cool” sound.  Anna Wise and Dane Orr candidly speak in regard to maneuvering the music industry as indie artists, their personal quirks, and how they have maintained a connection to the world of hip hop without spitting the conventional 16 bars. Dig in. 

What’s happening out in LA?

Anna: We’ve been working on the new Sonnymoon record. We’ve been getting up, going on hikes, then going to the studio. It’s been cool.

What’s the new jam you’re working on?

Anna: We don’t really know the name yet

Dane: It’s definitely more representative of our current live set up. We’ve had a drummer for the past year, so we really tried to incorporate him more in the project. A more live band vibe.

What made you switch our your original formula of just the two of you on stage?

A: Just more energy to play with.

D: We always grew up playing actual music too, so the doing beats stuff was kind of just a little diversion for a bit. We always planned on going back to the full live stuff.

Is going back to a full band the goal?

A: Yea, that would be really awesome. We actually played with strings and voices and Joe the drummer at the Questlove BAM event.

D: That whole show was suppose to be more experimental, so it was definitely on a crazier vibier interface.

What can we expect from the next record?

A: I’d say it’s simpler.

D: Yea we tried to pair down the amount of sound that we have. We wanted it to be more in the vein of the live [ show] vibe. We’ve kind of been vibin’ off the term “soul punk”. It’s like you said, we like the R&B kind of smooth, but we also like to get crazy. There’s the two sides to the coin.

I hope you still stay wild! 

A: Well that’s the problem, we try to write what we would think would be a typcial pop song, and it still comes out sounding weird.

What has influenced your new sound?

 A: I’d say our experiences. We investigate a lot about the world. As much as we can. New publications have a bias. You have to read like five articles on the same subject to get a 10% idea of what is actually going on, you know? Investigating the world through reading news and also talking to tons of people about their experiences. Where are we going as a species? As humans?

D: We try to reflect the current situation. It’s definitely more political.

A: We’re at a point now where people have to be paying attention to how we are governed.

D: Yea, shit is crazy.

Then can we expect to hear a lot of social commentary on world issues?

A: Yea a good amount.

D: At least metaphorically every song comes from something we are trying to say. You never know how it’s going to end up.

A: Or how we will be perceived. It’s like acting as a mirror. That’s the beautiful thing about art. You bring art into someone’s home, and it’s always to rely on the context of that person’s life.

What has gotten you fired up most recently?

A: Oh god! Drones have got me pissed. That shit gives me shivers just to think about.

What message are you trying to convey overall in your music? Does it go back to the social commentary and waking people up essentially? 

D: Definitely, there’s this thing that I always hear in pop music. This escapism of live for tonight. Which is cool, but you should forget about your responsibility to self and the world. It’s about being present and enjoying your life and being conscious of what’s going on.

A: For me, a lot of it has to do with discovering where things come from and how to live my life in accordance to what I find morally important which is kind of a weird thing. I try to investigate the life cycle of a product. And a person who wants to look nice, why do I feel the need to buy new clothes every season? “You’ve seen me in this sweater five times so now I have to buy a new one.” You know? For a while, I wasn’t shaving my legs to see how people were going to perceive me. On top of razors and shaving cream are all things that add up and become wasteful. Figuring out how to live – this is were we diverge – but just questioning everything.

Take me into your process. Is there a particular setting, space, or time that you are most  creative? Do you always create together?

A: I’d say the best time for me is the most inconvenient time because it’s right when I’m falling asleep. I get a lot of ideas through dreams. I’ll have a dream, wake up, the nI’ll have to have a recording device or pen and paper right next to me.

D: There are many different ways we go about putting stuff together. Sometimes someone will bring something and I’ll have a riff or chords. Then also, we’ll be in the studio working on something that someone has prepared. Then we’ll start jamming together. The engineer will be like, “Oh shit, let’s record.” Then, that will be a song. We’ll be taking a break from mixing, sitting down at the piano, and Anna will be fucking around like “Oh shit! Voice memo this is a song.” You just have to be open for it to happen anywhere basically.

Soonymoon: We make voice memos all the time!

Last time we chatted, you mentioned you guys were living in secluded upstate NY. Are you still living there, too?

A: Yea we were, we were staying there a while. Then we were on the tour with Kendrick Lamar so we weren’t really living anywhere. Now we are staying in San Francisco working on the record.

You guys are really influenced by various musicians. You’ve done some great covers of Drake and Lil ‘ Wayne “I Feel Like Dying”. Can we expect to see any others?

D: Yea I think we want to but just live. We aren’t going to release them as tracks anymore.

It’s interesting how you all have woven yourselves into the fabric of hip hop. Granted your music is not traditionally considered hip hop, it’s awesome because it’s exposing a community of people to a refreshing, new sound. You’re now on the Yeezus tour with Kendrick Lamar. Let’s talk about it! 

A: It’s been really fun. It’s been cool. I really like my job which is to improvise on stage the whole time. I have box full of medal pedals – a delay, harmony pedal, and octave pedals. The set starts with “Money Trees” and we improvise through all the songs. Then we get to “Madd City” I put the octave way below my voice -it’s so cracked out! We have this screaming match!

D: Yea it’s good. Kendrick is getting into this punk vibe a little bit, as well.

Do you have a projected date on when the record is going to come out? 

D: No, not yet. We are just dropping little tracks here and there. We’re in the free agent realm now. We can kind of do what we want.

That’s a conversation we’ve been having a Saint Heron now. What is indie? Many people think of it in terms of a genre of music. Then there’s the concept of indie in creating and distributing your own music. Where on the spectrum of indie do you all fall? 

D: I think we’re completely indie at this point.

A: Yea we’re completely do it yourself.

D: Even on the last record, all the music videos were on our own, we did all our own album and packaging design.

A: We did our own tour. We did everything ourselves.

D: We try to have our hands in as much of the process as possible.

It’s inspiring to a lot of musicians coming out now. You have platforms like Soundcloud where everyone can hear your music and you don’t need to get signed to get 50,000 plays. 

D: It’s also really easy to get your music on Spotify and iTunes and actually sell it to make money without having to be on a label. There’s a lot of different ways to get your music out there.

Are you still open to being signed? 

D: If the situation is right.

A: Yea, it all depends on what’s being offered.

What are you guys listening to right now?

A: Connan Mockasin. Have you heard of him?

No! Tell me about him.

A: [smiles] He’s good! [His sound] is like hmmmm rrmmmmm [ hums high and low pitches]

D: It’s very psychedelic. It’s like guitars, bass, drums stuff. He’s got a really cool voice.

A: Yea his videos are just like whew so cool.

D: We’ve been listening to a lot of Arcade Fire too. That’s pretty dope.

Saint Heron stands behind the rejuvenation of the R&B sound. Are there any R&B artist you would recommend? 

A: There’s this girl, here name is Gwen Bunn. She is so good! We met at Berkley. She plays the keys, produces…

D: She worked on “Collard Greens”.

A: Yeah, for Kendrick and Schoolboy she did part of the beat. She’s good friends with THC the producing group.

Take me back to the moment that music was solidified as your path.

D: I actually grew up playing music and singing with my family and doing stuff for church. I also was really involved in filmmaking and different stuff like that. The decision to go to music school wasn’t the same as knowing I was going to be involved in the arts. That was always something I knew I wanted to do. I almost wish I hadn’t gone to college, but it’s cool because we met.

A: The only thing I can attribute it to. I go a lot by feeling. To me, singing, not even creating yet, because that took me a long time…I’m one of those weird perfectionists that’s not going to do something unless it’s going to come out right. In terms of singing, I’m still discovering what it means to be spiritual. Understanding energies of what’s beyond the veil. As soon as I opened my mouth to sing, I tapped into this beam of what you could call my higher power. My higher power in feeling powerful and strong and completely engaged in my body and soul; in a way. There’s nothing else that I do that makes me feel that way.

More Sonnymoon here

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