Celebrating nearly 10 years as a band together, Canadian trio and Juno Award winners Half Moon Run are ready to share their newest EP, Inwards & Onwards. We sat down with band members Devon Portielje and Conner Molander, who shared their insights into song meanings, creative processes, what to expect from their new music and the growth of Half Moon Run over the last decade.
Known for their colourful sound that consists of “folk music for the modern dark age, art rock for harmony-pop enthusiasts, and rustic indie anthems for neoclassical heads,” Half Moon Run continues to do what they do best: leave you teary-eyed and covered in goosebumps.
Inwards & Onwards features their singles “How Come My Body” and “On & On.” Both tracks present their signature three-part harmonies, rich poetic lyricism, and enchanting musical arrangements. Tomorrow (June 18), four more tracks will be graced upon us.
Listen to their singles and check out what the band had to say about their new EP below.
Indie88: Your last EP, Seasons of Change, was made up of songs that you originally wrote during the making of your album, A Blemish in the Great Light; are the tracks on the new EP all brand new? What was the creative process like?
Devon: Well actually two are very old. “How Come My Body” has got to be like 10 years old. We have this system where we have two large white boards in our studio and we have all the songs from all time that haven’t been finished yet written on them. I guess we just picked up “How Come My Body” at some point and it hit a vibe and we finished it. “It’s True” as well, is very old.
Indie88: For the other tracks, were you influenced at all by the pandemic and lockdown? I feel like there has been a ton of pressure on artists to be creating and releasing all the time. Did you feel affected by this?
Conner: Yeah, surely. When we were writing some of these songs, I remember we’d have discussions about all matter of things, which would last sometimes 5 hours before we actually picked up our instruments to start playing or writing. We still do that now, though it’s not something we’ve always done. I guess there was just a lot to think about. All the pomp that surrounds the industry got stripped away and there you are, you and your instrument locked down with your collaborators. So when you’re staring at yourself in the mirror like that, there’s a lot to think about and talk about when you analyze what’s looking back at you. So those are some of the patterns and themes that I think just inevitably ended up in the lyrics. Especially on the song called “On & On.”
Indie88: It’s truly incredible, your ability to draw such specific scenarios and realistic characters into your lyrics. Many of your songs have such vivid imagery yet they are so poetic in that it leaves a lot of space for interpretation. I think we get the same thing here and especially on “Fxgiving.” Can you tell me the story behind it? Or maybe more generally how you approach song-writing?
Devon: Well, it started off a bit as a joke. If you celebrate Thanksgiving, you give thanks. If you celebrate “Fxgiving,” you give a fuck, and if you don’t celebrate it, well you don’t give a fuck. We had a little bit of a giggle about that. Also, if you go through enough trouble to say you don’t care, then it could very well mean that you do care a whole lot. It felt like some venting with this song, and maybe the joy of letting go of some gripes.
Conner: There were long deliberations about how that came across. Because you can imagine some people may have felt rubbed the wrong way, I guess just by bad words. Especially because the song builds up in this atmospheric way, and the punchline basically is “I don’t celebrate fxgiving.” So we tried everything, we tried thinking of a new word, we tried obscuring the word so it didn’t sound quite like that, we thought about not releasing the song. Then eventually we thought, you know what, it’s something. Not everybody has to like it and if we kill it then that’s bad karma so we let it live.
Devon: Generally, the writing process is, I will sit down with a guitar or sometimes the piano and see what happens, see what flows through. That riff just came and “I don’t celebrate fucksgiving” were the first words out of my mouth, I thought ‘huh that’s a novel concept.’ Then I had most of the lyrics pretty quickly and the guys had a laugh about it and got on board right away and we developed this dark mood to it. Some songs happen really easy, other songs take years of chiseling.
Indie88: How do you intellectualize the difference between your best songs and your most famous songs? Have you ever made what you thought was a personal best song or favourite and it doesn’t get as popular?
Devon: I think at one point every time you’re doing a song, in order to give it enough fuel to succeed, you have to believe that it is quite incredible. There’s been many times that you think ‘people are going to lose their shit when they hear this’ and then 6 months later, you’re like ‘I don’t know about that one at all, maybe no one should even hear it.
Conner: It’s usually a surprise which ones I find do well. “Grow into Love” recently did well, if I had known that was going to become popular, I would have planned around it. I think overall, your best bet is to probably just have a mindful letting go of all such considerations to the extent that it’s possible. We encourage each other to let it go, don’t think about it, and just write something that you like. I try to write stuff that Dev likes and that Dylan likes and that’s all you can really do.
Indie88: You’ve come such a long way and it’s so cool to watch and be a part of the journey as a fan. How would you describe your journey and the evolution of Half Moon Run from its beginning to what we hear on this EP?
Conner: If I had to roughly sketch the trajectory from my perspective. Just before the 2014/2013 period, we had just emerged and we were somewhat surprised that we could actually do what we’ve always wanted to do. It was incredible. What followed was a period of extremely heavy touring from 2013-2016. Incessant touring, lots of highs and lows, some great moments but it became kind of dark and kind of difficult and unhealthy. What followed after were periods of introspection and reframing things. We wrote the third record, then Covid hit, and now we really were forced to re-examine our identity and where we’re headed. Isaac, our fourth member, left the group, so were back to just the three of us and we had lost a lot of income from all the cancelled festivals. All of these things led us to where we are now, which is, in a way, back into some semblance of where we started: all three of us in a room working hard to make music that we like. It’s like a seasonal cycle has elapsed from the beginning to now.
Indie88: The music video for “How Come My Body” is a really sweet and sentimental montage of video clips. I bet it brought up some major waves of nostalgia?
Devon: Definitely. It was quite emotional, indeed. I don’t know if I teared up or I was almost going to. Images of us hugging, or fans being so close to each other. It’s almost surreal to believe that we’d had ever done that or that we might do it again.
Conner: We’ve been on some great adventures. It’s been a true privilege, flashing before our eyes when I watched that video for the first time, it was emotional.
Indie88: On the topic, since we’re all missing live music and shows, what are some of the aspects of touring that you’re looking forward to?
Devon: I love going to new places. I can’t wait. I have an intention of being more carpe diem about the whole adventure for as long as I can manage. Being in front of an audience also, it feels right in the groove of where I should be in my life and I miss that feeling.
Conner: Just to enjoy where I am, a nice sunny day like for example, Amsterdam, just getting up early in the morning and grabbing coffee, reading your book or writing in your journal. Also, just having a show to look forward to that night.
Indie88: In your words, what can we expect from the forthcoming EP?
Conner: You can expect to hear evidence of the reason why the three of us believe in this project enough to carry forward optimistically into the future.
Lead photo courtesy of Alexis Sevenier
In-article photos by Charlotte Jailli