Half Moon Run on why it’s important to reinvent the songwriting process every time
Chatting with Conner Molander from Half Moon Run is an odd occasion.
Not because of anything overtly peculiar, but at the time of talking the focus of our interview – the ethos of the band, the development of their touring lifestyles – wouldn’t actually be experienced by Australian audiences for many months. It’s a long gestation period, which really means that their sophomore album, Sun Leads Me On, has plenty of time to entrench itself in your inner playlist (and those indie rock harmonies, my my my). Once you’re familiar with that, then you get the pleasure of seeing these guys rock out live.
“The first time that we jammed together as a band,” Molander recalls, “I’d had a lot of jams before that, and what tends to happen is that people want to show the others how good they are. They start playing loud and at each other. But the first Half Moon Run jam was different. Everyone was very quiet, listening to each other. Dev [Portielje] opened up singing for the first time, and we were all blown away, he’s such a good singer. Like, where did this come from? Within 20 minutes of us walking in the door, we were all singing harmonies together. It was the first thing that we did together.”
It led to their critically acclaimed debut, Dark Eyes back in 2012. Since then, the Canadian quartet have enjoyed sold out shows across the world, and have joined the adventures of bands like Mumford & Sons and Of Monsters and Men. Across the years, the band have been candid about the struggles they’ve surmounted, and have embraced the necessity of needing to challenge themselves.
“Our approach to songwriting changes with every song. I think the differences between the two albums have a lot to do with the way they were recorded. Dark Eyes is a bit smokier, because we were learning, we didn’t have as much high fidelity going on. It’s really song by song, and it has to be that way. If there’s ever a process that you discover and start relying on, then people are going to be able to tell that you’re not really creating anything. You’re just using a bag of old tricks. It’s the responsibility of the artist to reinvent their process every time, otherwise it’s not creative.
“We’re still a band that learns through obstacles,” Molander continues. “In some ways that’s the only way you can learn. If everything is going great, where is the change, what are you going to learn? We talk about this as a band a lot. A way to reframe it is to accept the greater peaks and valleys, all as being part of a good life. When things start going bad you can step back from it and start using it as a learning stage. That’s fuel. It’s conflict, but it doesn’t have to sucker-punch you so bad.”
For a young band, Half Moon Run broke through the glamour of life on the road nice and early. Not that Molander and the gang are loathe to leave the frozen Canadian wastes (“I find winter in Montreal to be pretty shit, to be honest,” he laughs), but the realities of bruised egos, absent families and friends, coupled with physical and creative exhaustion were concerns they had to address in short order. Yes, it has taken talent and perseverance. But it doesn’t hurt to have a dose of luck on your side.
“On one hand, I feel really fortunate where music is my career. That’s what I’ve always wanted, and it took a lot of things, but one of the big things is luck, especially in this day and age. But on the other hand, I think it’s important not to dwell on it too much, and just keep on thinking about the next thing, to be a normal person as much as you can. I don’t spend much time thinking or reflecting about the grandiose aspects of it. I find it more important to focus on being normal.”
By Adam Norris