As a culture, we often fall into the trope of the “tortured artist”—the lonesome, shake-their-fist-at-the-world type of individual whose genius must come from their selective solitude. I don’t know about you, but the idea seems to do an incredible disservice to collaboration and the joy, as well as complexities, that accompany trusting others with your art. In fact, it’s this sort of mutual understanding and unabashed exploration that actually drives Moontype’s brilliant debut album, Bodies of Water, out next month via Born Yesterday.
A record of sonic push and pull, it’s an album that playfully teeters towards the edge, yet never fails to guide itself back to focus. It’s an impressive feat largely due to the group’s undeniable chemistry as musicians. Meeting back in college at Oberlin, the three-piece made up of Margaret McCarthy, Ben Cruz, and Emerson Hunton reconnected in Chicago to form the new group and start recording their debut back in 2019. Charming and brimming with curiosity, the group brings forth this spring a refreshing collection of songs both rhythmically and lyrically—tackling together the intricacies of friendship, insecurity, and connection.
Recently, the band picked up a camera to show us a snowy day in Chicago, and we chatted about Bodies of Water, their creative process, and their favorite memories both as a band and as friends. Check out our conversation below, and listen to their new single “3 Weeks” out today.
Slumber: If you could describe Moontype’s sound with a movie title, what would you say?
Emerson: Sounds of the Deep: Whale Symphony
Ben: Pulp Fiction
Margaret: Earnest the Fish Makes a Friend
Slumber: When you were a kid, what was your favorite snow day activity?
Margaret: Sledding!! Rolling in the snow at the bottom of the hill.
Emerson: Also sledding probably but igloo construction comes in close second.
Ben: Sledding too. Best winter activity of all time full stop.
Margaret: That’s why we’re all friends, because we all like to go sledding.
“Having a team of friends that we trust and are also excited about the record has made the back-end process fun and not stressful, and being able to listen back to this thing we recorded pre-pandemic is a reminder of how much fun it is to play music for and with people.”
Slumber: What’s one of your favorite moments from the writing, recording, or releasing of this record?
Margaret: Writing these songs seems far away at this point, but I am still in awe of Ben and Emerson’s ability to hear what a song needs and take it somewhere I never would have thought of. That moment when the song comes together and it feels just right happened with every song on the record.
Emerson: The process of hearing a song sketch and fleshing it out together is probably my favorite part! Taking something that feels like it could go in a lot of directions and letting it wander around together is always exciting. Being able to perform these songs and let them take shape in front of people is so crucial, I miss it!
Ben: Recording with Doug Malone at Jamdek was really special too. He really got the sound and idea of the band from the get-go and helped us capture things organically while also pushing us to try out whatever our little hearts desired. Also, working with Born Yesterday has been a dream. They are both good friends and great business partners with our best interests at heart. We have been feeling lots of love and support from their end which has made the release process relatively stress-free and exciting!
Slumber: Pick one to warm you up: Coffee or Hot Chocolate? Why?
Margaret: Coffee because it makes you warm and also excited!
Ben: (two thumbs up)
Emerson: Hot chocolate for holiday rom-com energy, coffee for real-life energy.
Ben: (three thumbs up)
Slumber: What’s your favorite thing to do in Chicago during the winter?
Emerson: Soup? Go to shows usually, but currently just soup.
Margaret: Drinking tea and whiskey, taking a bath every night.
Ben: Read books, photosynthesize when possible. Also soup.
Slumber: How have you been spending your time during the pandemic? Have you started any new hobbies, or enjoyed any new music, books, or movies people should know about if they don’t already?
Margaret: Been going on sooo many walks. Also weaving a bit. This summer I went to swim at the lake several times every week.
Ben: I have been reading a lot! Not really a deep cut here but reading Moby Dick in quarantine last spring/summer was a game-changer. A much weirder book than you’d expect, though I guess if you think about it a book about a sociopath obsessed with killing one particular whale is pretty weird.
Emerson: Never heard of it… I’ve been learning how to build furniture! It’s definitely keeping me sane and I get to make stuff for my friends.
Slumber: It’s now the year 2050 and you three are still releasing music under Moontype–what does your most recent album sound like?
Margaret: Hm it’s gotta be post-apocalyptic space rock if it’s in the future right?
Ben and Emerson: The chords in this are just so good honestly.
Margaret: Ahh nice. Yes, it will be like this.
“Taking something that feels like it could go in a lot of directions and letting it wander around together is always exciting. Being able to perform these songs and let them take shape in front of people is so crucial...”
Slumber: You all recorded this record back in 2019, yes? The world has changed a lot since then (to say the least). Is there anything finishing this album has taught you or instilled as you prepare to move forward as a band? Any unforeseen lessons?
Ben: Yes, we started recording it in 2019 but finished all of it up in May of 2020.
Margaret: It’s been really nice to work on putting out the album since we haven’t been able to practice or play shows.
Emerson: I agree! Having a team of friends that we trust and are also excited about the record has made the back-end process fun and not stressful, and being able to listen back to this thing we recorded pre-pandemic is a reminder of how much fun it is to play music for and with people.
Ben: I think for me it also just made clear how important this band is to me! As both a band of musicians and a group of people who I care deeply about. It’s also been a beacon of hope for the future–the world has gotten a lot worse this past year but there is a light at the end of the tunnel and perhaps positive change afoot!
Margaret: Yes! (Ten thumbs up!)
Slumber: What’s your favorite thing to do together as a band, outside of recording music?
Margaret: On tour, we went swimming in a quarry in Chattanooga, with some super nice friends of a friend that let us crash in their house for the night, that was nice…
Ben: Drink beers by the monument in the summer!
Margaret: Aw true. I miss that!
Slumber: You’re having a listening party for Bodies of Water, if you could invite one person dead or alive, who would you choose?
Ben: I would choose many large dogs.
Emerson: …that are surprisingly good at basketball! I would invite Josie and the Pussycats because they would keep it very real.
Slumber: Lastly, thanks for taking us along for your day out in the snow. Winter is *hopefully* almost over, what’s next for Moontype for the spring and onward? Any hopes for after the pandemic?
Margaret: We are so excited to go on tour whenever we can! In the meantime, we’ve started to practice again which feels so good, and we are looking forward to some virtual performances that are in the works.
Ben: And then in-person performances whenever that’s a thing. And working on new music! There are quite a few songs now that aren’t on this record that we’ve all written and they rock.
Emerson: I can’t wait to make the next record!
Ben: Mostly I’m just looking forward to hugging Emerson and Margaret and packing ourselves into Emerson’s little car again with Sharky.
Margaret: Sharky is my plush shark.
Ben: Moontype’s secret weapon/4th member.
Watch the new video to “3 Weeks” below and pre-order Moontype’s debut ‘Bodies of Water’ out 4/2 via Born Yesterday