Electronic group featuring singer Livvy Holland and producer/multi-instrumentalist Moonhead. The duo describe their sound as night-time music that is downtempo, alternative electronica with trip hop and industrial elements. It was somewhere above 35,000 feet over Europe in August 2019 that the band came to fruition, with Moonhead lamenting the absence of electronic acts from the 90’s in the current musical soundscape. With Holland in agreement, the duo vowed to start an electronic act and upon landing in Eastern Europe, they started working on their debut album.
Interview Meikee Magnetic
Where were you born and where are you now?
I’m officially from Canada but my parents are from Uruguay/Europe and Morocco. Sometimes I like to tell people I’m from Bristol if I’m feeling feisty. Currently I’m about to land in Frankfurt, on my way to Eastern Europe to put some final touches on our debut album ‘Made Not In Berlin’. Moonhead currently lives in Europe doing the Schengen shuffle and he’s just loving the culture, history and inspiration in Europe.
Could you touch on the elements that make up your sound:
We like to call our music nighttime downtempo music, but it’s evolving. The elements are electronic and synth in essence, with organic elements like guitars and bass. Beats are usually synth based but it does depend on the tune and what it needs. We use instruments and gear from Warm Audio, GHS Strings, Seymour Duncan, Sennheiser, Kemper and Supro to name a few. We also use plugins from Plugin Alliance and Universal Audio, and we record all our music in Logic Audio. Moonhead, dA’s producer and guitar player, has been using Logic since Notator on the Atari 1040STE. For live shows, Moonhead uses a Kemper stage and a MacBook Air with a Focsurite Saffire interface for backing track playback, and I use a Roland VT-3 and an awesome Sennhesier MD431 for vocals. For studio recordings, I use either Warm Audio’s WA-251 or WA-47 tube microphones.
Your newest music video ‘Voices’ was filmed at Dracula’s Bran Castle in Transylvania, Romania. Tell us a bit about that:
Yes, we thought there was always an eerie quality to ‘Voices’. The verses, melodically, sound a bit like a hymn and the concept of being constantly haunted without reprieve of the voices in our head beckoned darker imagery. We happened to be in Romania at the time, and Vampires have always been a fascination of mine since childhood, in fact when I was 13 years old, I used to log in to vampire chat rooms online to speak to fellow vamp fans. Our opportune geography made it very tempting to shoot a video at Dracula’s castle, and with the help of some incredible friends of ours, we were able to do just that. Surprisingly, Dracula’s castle isn’t all doom and gloom but actually more like a mid-century Tudor style mansion that’s well-lit with lots of windows. Still, it was a fun experience to film and visit the castle and the quaint little town of Bran, near Brasov, Romania.
How are you staying creative during the Pandemic?
Learning languages, learning new recipes, reading. It’s been challenging from the perspective of no live performances. There is something so awesome about playing live, one of the things we miss the most is the social hang of a live show, meeting people and having awesome chats. We love playing music live, it’s such a gift to be able to do it and we can’t wait to get back out there, which right now will happen in a few weeks as we start playing some smaller shows on terraces etc. Playing as a duo means we can play pretty much anywhere, regardless of venue size. I’ve also been writing new lyrics and Moonhead and I are recording more material for our debut album ‘Made Not In Berlin’. I recently completed a painting, and other than that… trying to read the news less and less as the days persist, and watch more cute dog videos.
The world has changed the past few months to a new normal, what was life like for you pre Covid-19?
There was way more travel involved, we simply played as many shows as possible. Life was, other than that, not much different. Though extremely different. The work we do can be done in a mostly insular fashion on the creative side but the live shows cannot be replicated without a live audience for interaction. Sure, you can live stream, but for us, the real draw is the live show at a venue. It’s our lifeblood, we love the whole vibe of a show. Those livestreams are well intentioned, but don’t come close to taking the place of a live interactive show with other humans. I think when the world changes, we do. The biggest change is the emotional one really, learning how to process the new normal. To be honest, we don’t like it. I don’t think it’s something we will get used to. It’s unnatural to be isolated, to remove yourself from real time interactions within a community. We come from thousands of years of community-based rearing, so for that to stop is incredibly challenging. That being said, we absolutely understand the importance of social distancing to protect the immune-compromised and to stop the spread.
Electronic music in the 90’s had a special vibe, did you see a gap in music that needed to be filled and what is it about that sound that you love?
I agree so much – we are huge fans of the 90s, and I love all the music of that era. The rock music, RnB, electronic, progressive, soul. There was so much amazing music, originality and uniqueness were so celebrated. Historically, certain styles of music are derided for their simplistic delivery or so-called banal melodies. Take the 80’s for example. I think there was a backlash against certain genres in the 80’s, especially the pop stuff. When you listen to that stuff now, there’s a character and vibe to it, and definitely an originality. If you listen to an 80’s pop song, you’ll notice quite deep lyrics put to an upbeat and seemingly bubble-gum backdrop. Break those songs down, and they are incredibly complex. Think of tunes by Tears for Fears or Whitney Houston. Nowadays everyone is using the same plugins, the same autotune, the same mastering software. As per Moonhead, “Mainstream popular music has become so cookie cutter and homogenized, with banal lyrics and we’re sick of it. It sounds all the same. It’s simply background music to shitty tik tok videos, and we will be judged harshly by our alien overlords for allowing it to propagate the way it has. May the supreme alien leaders have mercy on all our souls. Music production nowadays lacks all diversity, that is something we miss. While what we’re doing may not seem extremely original, perhaps it is in that, we fill the hole for 90s electronic music right now. Music trends seem cyclical, we’re just patiently waiting for everyone to be sick of this carnival, fairy floss, corn dog, junk food music fad to be the fuck gone.
Where do you see the musical landscape going as far as live shows?
I think we’re already starting to see some drive-in concerts, which seem interesting. There are also some outdoor concerts starting to emerge. Concerts with larger crowds are, I think, going to take a minute to return, unless the pubs can find a way to distance the concert goers or if they insert some sort of see-through cubicle system. Not sure! We’re all hoping a vaccine will come so that we can jump back in and celebrate with the people again, in a safe way, and of course are so extremely grateful to all the medical professionals and scientists working around the clock to make this happen. Maybe virtual reality will become the new normal, wouldn’t that be something. If that happens, I’m becoming a pirate.
Are you participated in live stream performances?
Yes, I’ve done several live-stream performances thus far in the pandemic and one on the our Facebook page itself. Got to be honest, it felt pretty non-inspiring and I’m not even sure if anyone cares about us doing it. We want to play live to real humans, and we will find ways to make that happen in a safe way that doesn’t impact the safety of others.
What does Dark Beauty mean to you?
Dark Beauty is a celebration of our inner voice, our unique vision celebrated through our expressions in art, fashion, whatever creative outlet we wish to use. It can even be as simple as just being. Being in our own skin, feeling like we are enough. There is a strength in that and something enticing in just skipping to the beat of your own drum. Of course, in diving through our creativity, we come across our shadow, which if we choose to paint with can expose even more intimate sides of us. I believe that connection with others comes from this exposition. From baring our authentic selves to others, and hoping they’ll in turn, reveal back. Dark Beauty to me also involves caring for others well-being. It is dark because it’s uncommon. It is the way of the black sheep in our world to give of oneself to the other, to really love and see those around us.