In­ter­view Moon King

Daniel Ben­jamin ex­plains his disco rev­e­la­tion

NOW Magazine - - CONTENTS - By MICHAEL RANCIC

MOON KING with SCOTT HARD­WARE and DJ RYAN SPENCER at the Baby G (1608 Dun­das West), Friday (Au­gust 11), 9 pm. $12, adv $10. tick­et­fly.com.

The rhythms of be­ing a pro­fes­sional mu­si­cian – writ­ing, record­ing, re­leas­ing, tour­ing, rinse and re­peat – have the po­ten­tial to be­come just that: an ex­er­cise in rep­e­ti­tion as op­posed to a process driven by creativity.

For Daniel Ben­jamin, the im­pulse to write mu­sic for his Moon King project never went away, but he says he “def­i­nitely lost in­ter­est in re­leas­ing mu­sic” af­ter tour­ing so hard be­hind de­but al­bum Se­cret Life. He ended up aban­don­ing an al­bum’s worth of ma­te­rial between then and now.

Speak­ing over the phone from Montreal, Ben­jamin is quick to point to his time in Detroit last year as the step that rein­vig­o­rated his creativity and kick­started Moon King again, lead­ing him to swap bands, la­bels and sounds.

Named af­ter a neigh­bour­hood in Detroit, Ham­tramck ’16 (out on Ar­bu­tus on Au­gust 4) bears the lo­ca­tion and time of this pe­riod, though that’s not the ex­tent of Detroit’s in­flu­ence. Whereas Moon King’s pre­vi­ous records were de­fined by a dreamy, gui­tar-pop-driven sound, Ham­tramck ’16 ditches the gui­tars for an elec­tronic ap­proach.

There were al­ready hints of synths, but this shift is far bolder.

“I’ve al­ways been in­ter­ested in dance mu­sic, elec­tronic mu­sic and us­ing syn­the­siz­ers, drum ma­chines and stuff,” he says. “But af­ter ar­riv­ing in Detroit, I was im­mersed in that world a lit­tle bit more.”

Ben­jamin traces this new in­flu­ence back to see­ing Mo­tor City res­i­dent DJ Scott Zacharias play an ear­ly­morn­ing set at the Move­ment Fes­ti­val.

“That was the mo­ment I re­al­ized that [elec­tronic mu­sic] is some­thing I re­ally care about, want to be more in­volved in, and the di­rec­tion I wanted to take my own project.”

Ham­tramck ’16’s lead sin­gle, In & Out, is the funki­est thing to come from Moon King up to this point, yet it never sounds un­nat­u­ral or forced. Cuts like Come Around have a strong disco in­flu­ence but still main­tain the dreamy weight­less­ness we’ve come to ex­pect from the project.

What hasn’t changed is Ben­jamin’s knack for killer vo­cal har­monies. They’re still there de­spite the fact that Maddy Wilde, Ben­jamin’s long-time co-vo­cal­ist and gui­tarist, is no longer in­volved.

Moon King is and has al­ways been an out­let for Ben­jamin’s song­writ­ing, but un­til now, he’d largely writ­ten for Wilde’s voice, an ap­proach he’s in­ter­ested in build­ing on.

“I love writ­ing for other singers, and I re­ally love writ­ing for fe­male voices,” he says. “Only within the past five years have I been brave enough to sing the parts that I write my­self. Prior to that I was writ­ing for Maddy to sing [in their for­mer band, Spi­ral Beach], and a lot of the early Moon King stuff is Maddy do­ing lead.”

Vo­cals are now han­dled by Natty G, one of the few con­trib­u­tors to the new record out­side Ben­jamin’s brother, Air­ick Wood­head (also known as Dol­drums). The back­ing band in­cludes Natty G and drum­mer Ryan Spencer, a new set of mu­si­cians Ben­jamin can’t wait to hit the road with.

Wary of fall­ing into his old rhythms, he’s tak­ing things one step at a time.

“I’m more just ex­cited to play a show at all,” he says of his cur­rent mind­set. “[Af­ter that] we can think about play­ing 100 shows.” mu­sic@now­toronto.com | @there­was­nosound

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