Moon Duo, Returning to Johnny Brenda’s: “We always try to create some kind of immersive experience.”

Psych-rocking post-punks Moon Duo are currently between the releases of the two volumes of their fourth album, Occult Architecture (on Sacred Bones Records), a wonderfully heady album that explores the dualities at the core of our culture, such as lightness and darkness, maleness and femaleness, and nature and spirituality.  Among other things, the album was inspired by the changing of the seasons in their own Portland, Oregon, in addition to the lofty, mystical writings of the likes of Aleister Crowley (If you’re not currently flashing “the horns,” I probably don’t “get” you.) and Colin Wilson.  Occult Architecture Vol. 1 dropped this February and represents the colder, darker, more organic side of their recent sounds, and May 5th sees the release of Occult Architecture Vol. 2, which boasts the band’s lighter and more spiritual side.

I last caught up with Moon Duo in March of 2015, on the heels of the release of their third LP, Shadow of the Sun, which drew critical comparisons to Suicide, Jonathan Richman, and 45 Grave alike.  Guitarist Ripley Johnson told me about his amusement that, despite the fact that it was their darkest yet, inspired by dystopian fiction and existential crises, the album was being received as their sunniest and most accessible.  Well, yesterday, I got to chat with the other half of Moon Duo, Sanae Yamada, who tells me that the best thing about the past two years of Moon Duo was the conception and production of their latest work: “For me, the biggest highlight was making the Occult Architecture record.  It felt like an evolutionary step for us… With Shadow of the Sun, I wound up happy with it, but it was a hard record to make and this one felt a little easier.”  And although Yamada tells me that she doesn’t feel like the music is a huge leap from Shadow of the Sun, there was definitely a change in the way she went about it: “We tried new things and we didn’t.  I switched completely over to synthesizers and did not use any organs and synths are a different animal from organs and keyboards, so it forced me to approach our music, which I think is still similar, in a different way.”

Moon Duo has spent much of the year on the road already, including dates in the northwest and a European tour.  I actually caught Sanae on a brief break from tour, which they will get back to on April 21st at The Empty Bottle in Chicago, when they kick off a batch of headlining dates with support coming from their musical buddy Jackie Lynn, including a stop at Johnny Brenda’s on Friday, April 28th.  I ask Yamada what Moon Duo have planned for their upcoming live dates and she emphasizes that their drummer (although not an original member), John Jeffrey, continues to play a major part in the band and that they also hope that their live show resembles more than a simple musical performance and hopefully some sort of multisensory spectacle: “We have our drummer, John, with it, who we’ve had since 2012, and we will have visuals, as always.  We always try to create some kind of immersive experience.”  And when I ask what the rest of the year holds for Moon Duo, she tells me that it’s likely to be a lot more of playing live: “This year it’s an awful lot of touring.  This is a road year.  Then maybe next year we’ll get back in the studio, but for now we’re just really excited to play the new material on the road.”