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Review and Interview: Moths & Locusts

Review: Moths & Locusts – Helios Rising (Released July 8, 2016)

Hailing from Nanaimo, British Columbia, this Canadian quartet of Angus Barter and Mike Breen on guitars, Dave Bean on drums and vocals, and Dave Read on bass, with guest musicians adding additional vocals and synths, blasts out a sound that encompasses both space rock and psychedelic garage rock, even with touches of post rock in the mix. They seem to be in love with their delay pedals, so the music on Helios Rising comes out spacey and hallucinatory in all the right ways.

The album has many moods that shift from decidedly mellow and spacey to moments of blistering rock energy. Opening track, Our Dear Leader is built on a propelling barrage of delay guitars, with some heavy riffing during the choruses taking it to the next level. The brilliant and sexy Beach Party Shakedown starts off with some slinky guitar feedback before the bass and drums enter the picture and it rockets into the stratosphere with Middle Eastern fretwork and catchy vocals. There’s a hint of Hawkwind style spacerock here, but also a heavy dose of garage rock. Troubled slows things down a little with a menacing cosmic trip of drones, eerie space whispers and snarling feedback on the guitars, but it’s tempered with some haunting piano, reminding me a bit of Grace Slick’s playing on Blows Against the Empire, which I always loved. Invisible Light continues at a slower, dreamy pace, hanging on a simple drumbeat, with an almost angelic chorus of vocals drifting through a minimalist dronescape, giving the sensation of floating through space. Capsule, on the other hand, is an instrumental that slowly builds in pace and intensity, with some truly weird and incendiary guitar. After the short and quirky Aftershave & Nicotine comes the epic 10 ½ minute Biblical Prophecy, a swirling space rock blow out that takes you on a breathtaking journey into unknown realms. The title track, Helios Rising finishes things off with a with a more low key tune of bluesy vocals riding a slow wave of beautiful, echoing post rock bliss.

From delirious highs to mysterious deep space explorations and beyond, the music of Moths & Locusts, shifts, drifts and rocks you as it takes you on a voyage that draws from the past but looks ahead into the future of psychedelic music. Helios Rising is a winner through and through. Highly Recommended!

Interview: Moths & Locusts

I had a chance to catch up with the band via e-mail and asked them a bunch of questions. Here’s what they had to say…

Psychedelic Waves: Tell me about the beginning…how did Moths & Locusts come to be?

Angus Barter Guitar/Vocals/Synth (Virgo): Dave Read and I jammed a few times with my brother who then moved away so DB came by and we played and after a few I said "where have you been?" The foundation was formed. We added a singer and another guitarist, Jon Carter. Cut a single and played a few shows, the singer quit and JC moved back to the UK. MB had played with DR previously so he came in and what had been pupating became fully formed M&L.

Dave Bean - Drums/Vocals (Scorpio): I met Dave Read at, of all places, a kid’s birthday party and we were introduced as fellow musicians (both on hiatus with young families). We met again at the same kid’s birthday the following year, set up a jam, and it took off from there.

PW: Why psychedelic/space rock?

AB: Set the Controls for the Heart of the Sun basically showed me the way.

DB: The style of music that comes out when the four of us set to work isn’t a conscious choice. It’s just what the alchemical reaction produces. It’s born of a love for visceral music, melody, and striving to create something that can transcend our immediate reality.

PW: You mention in your list of influences your love of science fiction. Any particular titles (books or movies) or authors you would consider favourites or very influential on you and your music?

AB: Aside from the classics like Philip K. Dick, Ursula Le Guin, William Gibson a personal favorite is The Moon Pool by A. Merritt. We have a love for the rebooted Battlestar Galactica which touched on themes of technology, monotheism and what it means to be human as well as just looking awesome. Lasers, lightspeed and wormholes. Jump!

DB: I was introduced to the new Battlestar Galactica series in the early days of M&L and was pretty deeply hooked.

Dave Read Bass/Synth (Pisces): Blade Runner is a classic sci-fi film to me, it really shows where we've been and where we are going as humans, as the best sci-fi always does

PW: Tell me about the renaissance of independent music you have said has been occurring in your hometown of Nanaimo, BC, and how has Moths & Locusts been a part of that?

DB: The two factors that have amped-up the creative collective in Nanaimo are enthusiastic people and supportive venues and we count ourselves among the enthusiasts. I like to think our relative longevity and the care and effort we put into our releases and our shows is a good example for younger bands – high level DIY is what we strive for.

Mike Breen Guitar/Vocals (Libra): Nanaimo has been fostering independent music for some time, with a definite upswing over the last few years. There is now a huge "underground" scene of art as well as music here, an entire world you won't see mentioned in the local papers!! Many musicians have moved into the area from Victoria and Vancouver to raise families, etc and it is now a hotbed of talent! Our little city could very well become a Portland or Seattle for its music.

PW: What’s your impression of the current psychedelic music scene across Canada?

AB: Psych in Canada is strong and diverse, rooted and blossoming, reckoned and jostling.

DR: So many good bands all across the country!! Notable mentions Shooting Guns, Public Animal, The Backhomes, Colliding Canyons, Radiation Flowers, and Golden Hand

PW: I met with and interviewed Damo Suzuki (one time lead singer of Krautrock legends Can) many years ago, great guy he is, but you guys actually got to play with him in 2013. What was it like backing up such a legend?

AB: Damo Suzuki is a sweet, quiet, thoughtful guy who transforms onstage into a powerful shamanic scat singer to the universe. Backing him on an improvised musical journey was transcendent and transformative.

DB: Playing with Damo was an all-time creative highlight. The musical chemistry among the ridiculously large band we assembled to back him was magic and you can hear it on the live album that came out of it. I think the band succeeded in creating the right tone and dynamics to boost Damo’s amazing vocalizations without ever trying to. On top of that, it sparked the Cymatics Research Institute, a rotating collective that creates improvised music and have played a ton of shows since.

MB: It was an amazing experience to improvise for an hour and three quarters with someone you just met when you climbed onstage!!! A truly magical experience with a rock legend!

DR: I feel like the two occasions we played with Damo was like getting an improv PHD! He's played so many incredible shows in his lifetime it's hard for that not to rub off on the musicians

PW: I read that the recording sessions for Helios Rising were quite emotional because guitarist Mike Breen’s father had passed away just two days before recording started (my condolences). How do you think this affected those sessions and the creation of the album?

MB: Losing someone close to you is a confusing and surreal experience, you need to do SOMETHING while it is hitting you. Going in the studio turned out to be a great way to start venting off some of the emotional storm that was beginning to form inside. It was in no way all doom and gloom, we had some fun, which is what my Dad wanted as he was one of the most supportive people in my life, and continues to be.

PW: I love the video you did for Beach Party Shakedown. What was the inspiration behind it?

DB: We wanted to do something with a sci-fi flavour that was within our abilities to put together and that had a story arc. I like that the themes of desperation and susceptibility can be interpreted widely. It’s got a good b-movie feel and was a ton of fun to create.

PW: What are some of your favourite delay pedals?

AB: Love the Boss DD3 and a Ghost Delay was featured heavily on the Noise Floor sessions.

DR: The Boss DD-7 is a mainstay in my pedal board, other studio delays we have and use are a Roland Space Echo, a Death by Audio Ghost Delay and a Korg SDD-3000

PW: Any other favourite gear?

AB: We all have Ampeg amps and the warm, fuzzy tones are like a second home. Also love blasting a Microkorg thru a giant Sunn cab.

DR: Recently we acquired our first Moog, a Sub Phatty, expect to hear that on our next recordings!!

MB: All my great gear and pedals are getting old, so my favourites are the ones that work! I am quietly looking at Dave R.'s pedals in envy. My favourite piece of gear is the 1960's transistor radio which one can plug a guitar into and use as an amp. we'll be taking that on the road for hours of entertainment between cities.

PW: You’ve talked about the ‘absolute clarity of musical vision’ that you possess, both as individual musicians and as a unit. How did you achieve this clarity of vision? Where do you think this vision will take you next?

AB: Clarity and cohesion of vision come thru the collective expression of creation. Lessons learned from Damo, to inhabit the moment and listen to each other and respond intuitively and truthfully. If it sounds good and feels good it is good so do it. Next is more eternal art and touring overseas.

DB: Angus wrote those words, but, again it’s not a conscious choice or an act of willpower, it’s just what emerges from our beloved jam space “The Republic of Doom” when we plug in and start playing. And it’s not just one thing – if you were to stand at the door you might hear an ambient electronic wash, a ripping fuzzed-out rocker, or, if you’re lucky, the ‘ol funk jam (everybody loves a good funk jam!). If the future holds more of the same: playing shows, making records and videos, and all the ensuing hilarity, we’ll continue to be the luckiest dudes on the Island.

MB: We share the vision, but our music is never planned or styled in any way. We have never said " lets write this type of tune, or wait, that’s not psychedelic or space rock enough" what you hear is what comes out of us naturally.

DR: Probably has something to do with all that pot smoking haha cough cough

PW: Thanks guys for giving some insight into Moths & Locusts!

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