Moon King: mooning the music industry

Having arranged to meet Daniel, one half of the Canadian duo Moon King, outside the 02 before their gig, but having my calls repeatedly evaded, I resorted to sneaking through a hefty fire exit door to find him. Walking in on their soundcheck, I was treated to an intimate performance of their punchy reverb layered guitar playing. If you haven’t heard of Moon King yet, the sum of Toronto-based Daniel Benjamin and Maddy Wilde, then you should; their brand of shoegazey fuzz-pop will pique the interests of those with a predilection for the glacial, atmospheric sounds of Cocteau Twins or a penchant for nostalgic dream-rock.

Currently touring the UK, Daniel tells me the response “has been better than we could have hoped for”. I ask Daniel how he would describe Moon King’s sound to someone in the dark. “Usually I tell people we play like bummer, sad songs but with a lot of joy and energy,” he says. “When we play, I kind of try to get in the mindset that this might be the last time we ever get to do this, and try to do that every night. It sort of fucks with your head, but I think it gives the right feeling for people watching,” he tells me.

Although the band is only a couple of years old, the pair have known each other all their lives, having grown up a block apart, and this is felt in their inextricably meshed androgynous vocal timbres. “We have this way of collaborating that we’ve been doing for so long, it’s just psychic at this point,” Daniel states. “I’ve been writing for Maddy’s voice for so long that it feels very natural – there’s certain parts where I’m not sure which of us is which on the recordings, and a lot of people have told me that they thought it was all Maddy. I want to reverse things a bit and do something that’s a little bit different and unexpectedly feminine sounding.”

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Their debut LP, Secret Life, out in April, has a distinctly different vibe to their EP, Obsession, Daniel tells me. “It’s a sort of shadowy, twisted album. The EP was kind of like, turn-everything-up-as-loud-as-possible and really quite punchy in the face. I really like doing that stuff, but this one felt very cathartic to make and I feel like there’s a little bit more depth to it and things going on in the songs lyrically and sonically that are a bit under the surface,” Daniel discloses. “We’ve also waited a long time to release it, and there are only nine songs on the album, and because they’re the songs that have stuck around, I’m very sure that I like them.”

Daniel tells me that the duo, unsurprisingly, listen to a lot of older stuff, which is reflected in the nostalgia of their dreamlike melodies over buzz-saw guitars. “There’s so much music coming out all the time, that it can feel a little overwhelming, so I tend to revert to the things that make me feel comfortable as opposed to constantly checking out new things . But that doesn’t apply to dance music at all. When we’re driving, we mostly listen to Boiler Room sessions,” he reveals. “It just keeps you going – put on six hours of really good techno, pop a couple of Red Bulls, and that’s your American tour right there.”

But despite their shoegaze post-punk influences, their full embracement of electronic percussion and shimmering synth also sets the band apart from other current artists operating within a more traditional instrumental framework. “We really don’t fit in in Canada at all, because it’s a very indie rock scene and I mean we’ve got guitars and stuff but like, we don’t even use amplifiers,” Daniel tells me. “I’m hoping that it’s a sort of forward-thinking idea of how a rock band could be, because I still like the idea of a live band and being able to move around and kick things on stage, rather than sit at a laptop. But I do use almost exclusively electronic instruments for recording.” Perhaps Moon King have tapped into a new market with their IDM-ish dream rock.

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Daniel tells me they’re hoping to come back to the UK for some summer festivals. “I remember being 14 years old and watching bands play at Glastonbury on TV, and we don’t really have stuff like that. In Canada there’s no festival culture. I think the UK just loves music,” he says, somewhat despondently. “We’ve had a much better reception over here than anywhere else we’ve played, so I’m hoping we just come back here.” I’m hoping so too.