by Sophie Pay
Hailing from Montreal, Canada, The Moonlight Club released their self-titled debut album on February 2, 2018; successfully through PledgeMusic, a crowdfunding website. Defining themselves as alternative rock, the album comes after their 2015 EP Words in Gold, which was the band’s first release since forming the band. They took the funding of the album to their fans and The Moonlight Club successfully reached 110% of their goal. I had the chance to interview Francois Royer Mireault, the lead singer and guitarist of The Moonlight Club.
For starters, what inspired you guys to form the band? How did you guys meet?
We all come from a small town near Montréal and even if we were all playing music then, we initially met through skateboarding, snowboarding and just going out. Music was not a cool thing to do back then. When John & François moved to Montréal in 2010, they discovered an eclectic scene and it revived their ambition to write, play and record music. Simply having a rehearsal space and some instruments to play felt like achieving the ultimate dream. We kept going and a few tunes turned into an EP, and into some shows and into an album. We didn’t have a band name before we actually had to pay an invoice from a recording studio. Haha!
What are some of your main musical influences as a band and also individually?
We all grew up in the 90’s so we share a lot of love for cheesy rock, grunge, punk and pop groups from that era. As a group, we’ll agree that The War On Drugs, Ryan Adams, Kurt Vile, Tame Impala are all great contemporary rock artists. Individually though, we have our own quirks. John (bass) will listen to a lot of current indie such as Future Islands and good rock classics such as Tom Petty. François (drums) has a soft spot for obscure metal bands and an obsession with Luke Holland. I’ll switch between a britpop and a country playlist in the same hour. We’ll jam some Québécois classics such as Richard Séguin (you won’t know that one!). And last tuesday at rehearsal we were banging on Greta Van Fleet, the 18 years old Led Zeppelin fans. We’re all over the place.
What were your main inspirations for writing the songs on the album?
Songs are weird. You’d think you control them but they control you. It’s not like we brainstorm on themes and we have a clear direction. I think moving to a new city in our early 20’s and just trying to figure out life, work and love inspired a lot of songs. Traveling, seeing and experiencing new cultures fueled some of our stories too. We’re reflective and sometimes nostalgic but definitely optimistic in our tunes. We’re still a rock’n’roll band and we like to think you’ll listen to the album and be like: ‘yeah, I’m *&?%$ lucky to be alive and free, let’s go out and do something good with my time’.
How has social media influenced the making of the album?
It actually influenced us a lot. Social media is like writing in a journal. It allows you to write your own story and reflect on it. We try to document what we do so we learn from it and the feedback we get from people fuels new ideas. And we won’t write and produce tunes so it will fit our local radio ‘creative direction’. So we need to connect with like minded folks online. You know the feeling when you meet someone and check their Spotify playlist and go ‘wow, you’re deep into REM early stuff? Great, let’s hang out!’. People who came out of nowhere (small towns in England, France, Australia, Ontario, and even one guy from Indianapolis!) and went out of their way to write to us to say they liked this tune or this artwork and had comments or ideas. It’s so much better to have 100 people in 100 different place who really dig your stuff than 100 friends in your area who just think you’re OK. Social media allows that. You find your crowd if you put your heart into it.
You guys successfully used Pledge Music as a mean in funding the album, would you choose any other way in making the album if you got the chance?
Great question. I’ll start by saying that Pledge Music is an awesome platform for musicians to organize and streamline their commercialization process. If you’re independent and need structure, it’s great. But it requires time, effort and a lot of energy. They have an amazing support team and they’ll help you craft a nice project. But consider that you’ll need to sell every single copy yourself. They’re not salesmen. And the real work starts when the campaign starts, you’ll need to hustle a bit to get the word out. We’d do it again with them but we’d reserve 200h of work, instead of 10-20h.
What was your music-making process of this album?
We had a bit of training with the recording of ‘Words In Gold’ so we had a process we liked. We’re not trained musicians so there’s a lot of trial and error. It all starts with having good songs. And you need to write a lot of them to have one that sticks. A song is usually a bit of music, a melody, a few lyrics and and overall feeling or mood. It’s something you can play with a piano or an acoustic guitar and tell your friends ‘look, this is gonna be an epic 7-minute ballad with distorted solos à-là Cream, and it’s gonna be called X, it goes like this (play 30 seconds of music)’. Once you have that clear vision, and everyone is excited, you jam the hell out of it and you build arrangements. After that, we like to record demos ourselves in our rehearsal space. We bought cheap gear so we can record everything at the same time. We play the song one or two times and we have everything on the computer in seperate tracks. We try to add some stuff on it afterwards: vocals, piano, harmonica, guitars, etc. and we do a crappy mix, just so we can listen to it in the car and feel it. When you hear your own demos, it gives you ideas for better lyrics, back-up vocals, bass lines and better arrangements. Once we had 10 songs we liked and the whole thing felt like an album, we were ready to go in the studio, where you do it all again but with a real producer and top notch recording equipment. That's how we did it!
What has changed for the band since your 2015 EP release Words in Gold?
We recorded ‘Words In Gold’ with another drummer, a friend named Cedric. It was a great experience and we learned a lot. It was enough for him after that, and we completely understood. So we looped in our old time friend François who had just moved to Montréal. He brought in a lot to the band, musically and visually. He’s an all around creative guy. Always building and creating stuff. And he’s so stoked to have a band, he’s always optimistic, he’ll send you a text a 11pm on a Monday night because ‘he has an idea for a drum patterns on song X’. He added a lot of dynamism in our trio.
What has been your biggest challenge as a band?
Two things. First, we really suck at organizing gigs. Playing live is hard when it’s not your full time job or if you don’t have someone who organizes everything for you. Events are hard. You need to manage a lot of variables. It distracts you from actually writing and playing music. We’ll get better at that. And second, balancing music and promotion. They work great together, one fuels the other. If you play music by yourself and don’t share it with anyone, you’ll get bored after one year. But you have to be careful not to do too much promotion and forget to show up inspired at rehearsals. We did a bit too much emails in the last months. We’ll ask for help and get back to making more music in the next months.
What is your stance on streaming services as an independent band? Some people hate it, while others don’t. Does it hurt the band or help you guys get your music out there?
Great question, again. We have to be realistic about that. We have a product (an album or a song) that hasn’t evolved since 100 years so it’s hard to expect people to still pay the big price for it. We expect to read the news, watch movies, download photos and get updates from our friends for free online. People expect the same for music. CDs and vinyls are luxury collectibles (we personally love them, but they won’t be around for long). There will be new ways of capturing value for musicians and artists. But we’ll have to create these opportunities instead of waiting and praying Sony or Warner does it for us. As an independent band, I think it’s better to aim for the best distribution possible – that means signing up for all streaming services and making sure someone who wants to hear you can do it anywhere at any time for free – and develop other revenue streams around that. Whether it’s live shows, merch, limited edition records, donations. I mean, you can literally live stream your rehearsal and ask for tip on Twitch. We’ll have to be creative, nobody will ‘save us’, we never go back to old models once we adopt new ones.
P.S. Don’t be fooled though. Big labels literally own streaming services because they own branded playlists (Filtr, Digster, Topsify) with hundreds of thousands of subscribers but only promote their artists. They still act as gatekeepers. They have so much distribution power. This is a good read by the way: http://www.hypebot.com/hypebot/2017/06/secret-lives-of-playlists.html
Does the band have anything planned in the future at the moment?
Yes! We have almost 10 events lined up in the next few months. A few local gigs, a launch party, a few acoustic sessions and a live radio session. This summer we’ll try to relax a bit, live a little, and get back into demo-ing mode next fall-winter for a second album. We’re still 100% independent but we’ll try to get some help for the next one, we were in way over our heads in the last few months. We’re all professionals so it is truly a ‘Moonlight’ club!
To end, is there anything you guys are currently listening to that I or others should check out?
We have a secret crush on Canadian artist Leif Vollebekk, who recorded his album with our producer David Smith a few weeks before us. His album Twin Solitude is beautiful. We listened to it one night when we were in the middle of our recording process and felt a bit overwhelmed. It’s our 2018 pick. And it’s SO Canadian. Also, I don’t think you have anything about Elephant Stone on your blog, check out their 2013 eponymous release, it’s right up your alley. They’re from Montréal as well, they’re a great inspiration for us.
Check out their new album on Spotify!
Go follow them on social media!