A huge hip-hop-laced journey into outer space
Sonnymoon are Boston duo Dane Orr and Anna Wise. Their expertly punchy, loping beats and grooves capture perfectly the Los Angeles weather; woozy, hazy, rich in colour and gloriously Sonny. Anna’s vocals glide effortlessly over the productions like Jill Scott meets Rickie Lee Jones, with just a touch of Joni Mitchell’s jazzy inflections. The sonic depth and attention to detail on ‘Sonnymoon’ never dips below impeccable, making for an immersive and engrossing listen. ‘Greatness’ is genuinely uplifting on its own terms, not needing to wheel out tired landfill stadium formulae. The irresistible, sitar laden, low-slung classic ‘∞’ literally pours out of your stereo and ‘Kali’ sounds like Alice Coltrane’s rhythm section borrowed the Tardis and popped by the studio. The chanted ‘Watersboiled’ veers into the territory occupied by Regina Spektor or Joan as Police Woman, albeit with levels of bass never comprehended those ladies. The trip darkens with the introduction of ‘Others By’, akin to Fonda and Hopper wondering into a New Orleans graveyard. Dane and Anna met at, the prestigious Berkley College of Music, where he was studying saxophone and her singing.
Part of the burgeoning LA scene, Sonnymoon have won plenty of fans, having toured with Teebs and played at Plug Research club nights alongside Shabazz Palaces and Gonjasufi. Dan Prince fastens his seat belt and checks into one massive musical journey…
Dane, Anna welcome to DMCWORLD. A brand new self titled album swinging our way on Plug Research. You met at the Berkley College of Music – the largest independent college of contemporary music in the world that to date has seen 99 Berklee alumni receive 221 Grammy Awards. Dane, you were studying saxophone and Anna singing. What was the ambition of going to college there before Sonnymoon began?
ACW: “It was an attempt to get as far away as I could from the situation I was in and start over. At the time I still thought getting a college degree was essential to my life path, however, I did not find like-minded people in the classical or jazz programs I had previously attempted.”
DEO: “Nobody has all the answers when they’re 18 or 21 or 30 or 70. I knew I wanted music in my life and I believe in opportunity. There are more “right place right time” opportunities in Boston than there are in Schenectady, so I went there hoping it would increase the frequency of music in my life and whaddayaknow it did.”
Dane, you were in the same apartment at college and first heard her voice when she started singing in the room next to you. What were your first thoughts on hearing her voice?
DEO: “I wanted to sing with her! I could tell it was a very pure form of joy for her.”
Anna – you claim that you were hiding your voice from people back then, Dane was playing jazz sessions with your boyfriend at the time – why the secrecy?
ACW: “Because it was very “sceney” and I’m not into scenes.”
You saw a lot of amazing bands at Berklee who didn’t make it for personal reasons, simply because they didn’t like each other. How come you two keep in check with each other and don’t tear each other’s bloody hair out?
ACW: “We recognize a higher purpose, which has nothing to do with our petty egos or daily life struggles and everything to do with getting a message across. We’ve got some bald spots, but you can’t see them.”
Anna – your vocals have been described as a mixture of Joni Mitchell meets Jill Scott meets Ricki Lee Jones! Who were your early musical influences?
ACW: Joni, Jill and Ricki huh? I respect those three so much, especially their phrasing, and they all are incredible songwriters too! Earliest musical influence I can remember would be The Sound of Music.”
Dane, who were the artists that help model your musical direction?
DEO: “The artists that I’m constantly looking to for advice in this field are those who avoided monotony, developed their own thing and/or had an interesting approach to existing in the business outside of the musical aspects. Miles Davis is the obvious example. Also Jimmy Page, David Byrne, and Phish. Most recently I’ve been completely obsessed with Frank Zappa because of his attention to detail concerning his music, the people who played his music, and the business surrounding his music. Then there’s also more straight up musical influences, such as Thelonius Monk, Wayne Shorter, Dilla, Stevie Wonder, Debussy, Chopin, Stravinsky and Wagner. Then there are the guys who are into SOUND as music like Paul Lansky and Brian Eno. Then there are producers and DJs…the list goes on and on.”
How did you decide on the name Sonnymoon?
DEO: “It was a karmic thing.”
Talk us through the album, it is a really diverse collection of songs ranging from the uplifting ‘N!GreatnessN’ to the chanted ‘N!WatersboiledN’. What are your highlights on this release…
ACW: “The album is a sonic representation of a 24-hour Earth cycle, each song representing 2 hours. It begins in the morning, right at sunrise with “Wild Rumpus” and ends with “Just Before Dawn” which occurs literally just before dawn. Every song is a highlight for me, especially when we perform live with Joe Welch (drums) and Tyler Randall (sitar, guitar, bass, electronics). Having them as part of the tribe opens up infinite possibilities and makes each song new and fresh each time we play. I’m also excited to start performing material from our first (self-released) record “Golden Age” again and mix em in with the songs from “Sonnymoon” and our “2012” EP. “
When you get into the studio, what is the process in making a record?
DEO: “It’s always different. We use lots of computers, but we’ve been experimenting with other formats recently, such as tape. In 2012 if you’re not using fidelity as a compositional tool, you’re fucking up. The one rule for us is experimentation. Terence McKenna says one of the biggest enemies of humanity is Monotony.”
You use a lot of original source material on your records. Throwing rocks at trees at recording it on your iPhone, that sort of shit. What other home made samples have you used on your tracks…
DEO: “We mangle the shit out of our voices. There’s stuff that you’d think was a synth or a drum that’s actually a voice. Another fun one was we got these cutting boards and slammed them together a bunch and that’s what plays the “snare” roll in ‘Watersboiled’.”
Who are the artists you are listening to at the moment?
ACW: “M. Constant, Claude Debussy, Igor Stravinsky, Animal Collective, Avey Tare, Panda Bear, Franz Joseph Haydn, Teebs, Ab-Soul, Frank Zappa, MNDSGN, DevonWho, Dirty Projectors, Radiohead, Thom Yorke, Arthur Russell, Knxwledge, Alice Coltrane, Grass is Green, Richard Wagner, Frank Ocean, Jonti, Kate Bush, Kendrick Lamar, Brazilian Girls, The Log.Os, Time Wharp, Phillip Glass, Nina Simone, David Lynch, Jennah Bell.”
DEO: “Zappa and Wagner.”
You signed to an indie label rather than a major. Anna – a great quote from you…”Labels are like college. It doesn’t change your life.” Discuss…
ACW: “Growing up I was taught that it was important to graduate from college in order to have a “successful” career/life. I was also told that if I wanted to be a “successful” artist I needed to be signed to a record label. Neither is true in reality, and outward success is bullshit. There is a misconception that being signed to a label means you are financially stable.”
Imagine a shit scenario. You fucked up at college. What jobs would you have ended up doing, probably…
A: “Well…..I DID “fuck up” at college, and not just one college, multiple colleges, so I would still be doing the same thing. College does not guarantee success, but it does guarantee a mountain of debt.”
D: “If you entertain a plan B, then you obviously don’t have too much faith in yourself to actualize plan A do you?”
What is the wildest night out you have had this summer?
A: “We didn’t really have a wild summer, we’ve been working, and on tour I am pretty regimented, which ensures that I will be able to sing as well as I want to every night, but doesn’t allow for many wild experiences. I used to socialize a lot before and after we played, but now I have to keep to myself and save my voice”
DEO: “We went camping at this place that had BB Guns and Bows and Arrows and I’ll tell you one thing that doesn’t mix well with those things and it’s Whiskey.”
Not many people know this, but Sonnymoon are really good at…
ACW: “Time Travel.”
DEO: “We actually suck at everything, but I really enjoy sucking at basketball.”
What is each other most annoying habit?
ACW: “He’s a mind reader so that gets pretty irritating when I want to keep something to myself.”
DCW: “Anna isn’t annoying at all. I’m a man and she’s a woman.”
What is the best piece of advice your families ever gave you?
ACW: “That it is not important to be famous or successful more so as it is to be a good, honest, fair, and loving person to all of the Earth. Be conscious of your purchases and what companies you choose to support by buying their products. Everyone is a coward and a hero. Look for the mutually beneficial option. No ones motives are completely “pure.” Have a healthy suspicion of your own motives. There is good and evil in everything”
DEO: “They instilled the Golden Rule in me from a very young age. “How would you feel if so and so did that to you?” or “…if that happened to you?” were questions I heard often. It really put things in perspective for me. They also just taught me to believe that I could do anything I put my mind to.”
What is the most expensive thing you have ever bought?
DEO: “My saxophone.”
What is your idea of a perfect Sunday…?
A: “Well, I’m going to assume, because most people consider Sunday a day of rest, you are asking what my ideal lazy day would be like. I would rather work hard all the time (no matter the day) then take a few weeks off every now and then. I’d love to wake up on a farm somewhere where there is no internet or cell phone service and spend my morning hanging out with animals, then, in the afternoon venture out on a hike to the top of a hill or mountain, or venture into a cave and observe ancient human art, maybe have a musical jam inside the cave. Next, me Dane, Joe and Tyler would all head out to the local town and drink whisky or wine and play cards or darts or chess, anything we wanted, and hang out with the people who live in this town for the rest of the evening. Or! I want to head to Costa Rica and live there for a few weeks learning to be self-sufficient by cultivating our own food, communing with the local culture, and the last week of the trip participate in a psychedelic experience with the local shaman. Oooo and I want access to a huge white walled room that I can paint however I’d like.”
Which song do you wish you had written?
ACW: “Oliver Twist by Avey Tare. Danseuses De Delphes by Claude Debussy. Within You Without You by The Beatles. All Matter by Bilal and The Robert Glasper Experiment. Coming Home by Alice Coltrane. Rubric by The Philip Glass Ensemble.”
DEO: “With Voice: As by Stevie Wonder. Without Voice: River People by Weather Report.”
And finally, Anna…what’s with the nickname Tweety Bird????!!
ACW: “HA! It’s a nickname my parents gave me when I was a toddler because I would not shut up.”