Toronto’s Moon King put on one of the tightest and most enjoyable performances I have had the pleasure of attending in Kingston, this year. The duo that is Daniel Benjamin and Maddy Wilde electrified the Mansion Thursday night with a powerful blend of electronic and indie-rock. Opening the show with one of the duo’s first songs, Apocalypse, the audience immediately knew they were in for a high-energy, head-banging set. Supported only by a third member on the drums, Moon King left me stunned by the raw-power that 3 individuals could bring to a stage. After walking us through some new material and old favourites off their first LP, Secret Life, Moon King closed off the night with album opener, Roswell. When played in succession, Roswell and Apocalypse seamlessly transition from one another; acting as if they were on long track. When played at opposite ends of Thursday’s set, the two songs truly gave the performance a sense of “wholeness”; as if the performance had come full circle.
I had the chance to sit down with singer/songwriter Daniel Benjamin before the show to talk about the band’s influences, recent signing with Last Gang Records, and upcoming projects.
Check out our little Q&A below:
Q: How did Moon King get started?
A: “Maddy and I have been playing shows together since we were kids. We grew up playing music together and listened to a lot of the same bands in high-school. When we discovered music as something exciting, we discovered it at the same time. Everything we found out about, we found out about together. I had a lot of songs written that I didn’t have an outlet for, I figured Maddy was the best person to perform them with. We ended up doing just that. That was about 4 years ago.”
Q: How has your brother Airick (AKA. Doldrums) been an influence in your music? And vise versa?
A: We influence each other a lot. Airick’s project started a few years before Moon King and I was performing in the live version of his Doldrums set. We were doing a lot of raw, loop-based, free form stuff, which I think got me interested in electronic music. I was writing songs with more melody attachment and started to notice that my brother’s music started to reflect this as we would show each other songs. In the same way, my music started to get more electronic and noisy. Really recently, I think we’ve started to switch a little bit because I’m starting to write songs that are more beat-oriented where he is writing music that is more song-oriented. It’s a lot of back and forth.
Q: How has signing to Last Gang Records helped Moon King?
A: “Last gang has been a very established label for years so they have a pretty good understanding of how difficult it is to be an artist. They also help us outside of Canada a lot as they have offices in London and LA. For a big label, they’re very relaxed and open to ideas. A lot of labels seem too focused on curating their sound and focusing on the brand. I think Last Gang is very focused on the artist and helping them do what they want to do. They’re very diverse. I’ve been really happy with them so far.”
Q: What have been some of your favourite places to play?
A: “My favourite thing is to go somewhere “exotic” where you feel a bit like an outsider. If you show up in a very small town like, for example, our show in Oxford Mississipi, it is unusual to have an indie rock show at all. At these kind of shows we feel like we have something new to bring. Shows in Toronto, on the other hand, have a million things happening with lot of bands playing every night. That’s cool, but thinking you’re kind of the only show in town is a special feeling.”
Q: Favourite acts to play with?
“In the last year we got to play with a lot of really good bands. We did a European tour with “Tops”. That was great. We did something like 30 shows with “Alvvays“, including Kingston. Actually Kingston We did a de-ja vu show in the same venue with roughly the same lineup, a year later. Very weird – I was like ‘we already did this’, but those guys are awesome. We also played with one of my favourite bands from New York, “Mr. Twin Sister“. We did a U.S. tour with them in the summer. “Fucked up” as well. I think the amount of times we’ve got to play with bands that I actually really like and listen to is great. I love it, I feel very lucky.”
Q: What do you think of the Canadian Music Scene right now?
A: “I think everybody is listening to everything. It’s the way it should be I, think. It is very possible for a purely electronic or purely rock band to have the same audience. When you talk about music after a show or something, it’s surprising how much people care about it. That’s what keeps you going, because shit is hard. If it wasn’t for that, having someone to talk to that really cares about what you’re doing, it would be very easy to give up. I think the most important thing about music is that people stay supportive and keep showing artists that they care about what they’re doing.”
Q: What would be your dream collaboration?
A: “There is a composer named Harold Budd that I listen to all the time. Mostly ambient piano stuff, but also electronic “dream like” music. I’ve been very inspired by his stuff for a few years now. I would love to do something with him. He’s like, VERY old, but he’s still putting out stuff every year or two. I think it would be so cool to go in with a few songs or something and just listen to what he could do on top of it.
Q: Anything big coming up?
A: ” We just finished another record a couple weeks ago. I don’t think the record will come out for a while, probably not until the end of the year. These things take a while. I think the plan is to play these Canadian shows for now, then as things start to ramp up near the end of the year, we’ll probably start getting busy again. Last year was crazy, we played I think 100-110 shows. This kind of off-and-on thing works better for everyone.
If you haven’t already, be sure to check out the band’s LP, Secret Life, here.