Music Spotlight: Moon Palace
We’d like to introduce you to our latest music craze Moon Palace. The indie-rock band, composed of twin sisters vocalist + guitarist Cat Biell and vocalist + bassist Carrie Biell along with cellist + synthesist Darcey Zoller, and drummer Jude Miqueli, is taking the stage for a few upcoming shows surrounding their sophomore album Shadowcast—starting this Saturday in Seattle. The 10-track album is a transcendent masterpiece filled with bold guitars, dreamy vocals, nostalgically angsty lyrics + dark, mystical undertones. We can’t get enough of the lush title track, the eerie Long Road, + our personal favorite off the record The Cave. We caught up with Carrie + Jude all about Shadowcast, their songwriting process + how they created a DIY home setup to record parts of the album.
Asymmetric Magazine: Congrats on your recent release! Can you tell us about Shadowcast?
Moon Palace: Thank you! Shadowcast is the culmination of our collective life experiences and experimentation with music collaboration. We have been friends for a while, and our lives have parallelled each other. Our influences from early nineties queer and grunge musicians inspired us on this record. The first record stemmed from Cat and Carrie’s acoustic singer-songwriter past with Jude and Darcey supporting. This is the first album that is truly a collaboration with each individual contributing to the songwriting process. Shadowcast represents the balance between light and dark. It’s the shadow self trying to be positive through interactions with people you love. Outer world to the innermost personal world. Balancing the sun and moon sign. Knowing your inner personal self within the context of the universe.
AM: How does it compare to your previous self-titled album?
Carrie Biell: This record truly feels like a sophomore record where we built on what we started with the first. We hadn’t all been playing together for very long before recording the first record, and many of the songs were written by Cat before forming the band. Now, we have been playing together for three years. During that time, we’ve all grown together and understand what each person brings to the table, and we push each other to be better. This record was more of a collaboration, so there is more diversity in the song styles. We experimented with dance beats, synth, and some new guitar effects, so this record has some fun upbeat songs to move to and some new interesting layers of sounds.
Jude Miqueli: We used technology to collaborate on this album. Being that we all have careers outside of music, we can’t always get together in the physical form. At one point, Carrie and I started sharing music via our iPhones to create drum and bass rhythms for this album. One Saturday night, I created a DIY home setup by playing her iPhone bass line recording through my UE Roll Bluetooth speaker. Next, I ran my Alesis drum pad through my vintage Goodwill-bought home speakers and took a video of my performance with my laptop to send back to the band. What came of this process was the foundation of our first single Bold.
AM: What song from the album resonates with you most?
CB: For me, the song Characters is the one I’m most proud and connected to. I just love the lyrics, delivery, and the dynamics in the song. It feels like it runs the whole gambit of our band’s sound from a gentle and lush grove, to a poppy and dancey ending. To me, the lyrics serve as a good reminder that time is short, and it’s best to focus on being true to yourself and to surround yourself with genuine and grounded people. As I get older, I find myself shifting away from worrying about vanity or what seems cool to everybody else at the moment, because those things are fleeting.
JM: I would also agree with Carrie about Characters. Going into the recording process, we left a few songs intentionally semi-structured, so that we could create together with our producer Aaron C. Schroeder. Being open to the unknown, we left space for that undeniable force to arise from collaboration and the willingness to expand. Characters was the least structured. Cat and Carrie are the twin masterminds of song writing, and because they hadn’t fully formed the structure, I couldn’t record the drums first. We decided to try a new method where they would finish writing the song structure in the studio while recording bass and guitar to a click track, along with scratch vocals. Kraut rock drums were of influence along with the lo-fi drums from the first Julie Ruin record. A click track and the music Cat and Carrie recorded was in my headphones. I played through on acoustic drums for about five passes, and while doing this, I was adding to the dynamics of the song. Later, I added samples of each one of my drum sounds from my full kit with a drum machine. I think breaking it all down and playing the song in smaller chunks initially felt so weird and foreign. I felt far away from the structure but close to the vibe. I’m excited about the end result because the beat is familiar, but the quality of sound was affected, and I learned a new process.
I find myself shifting away from worrying about vanity or what seems cool to everybody else at the moment, because those things are fleeting.
AM: For first time listeners, how do you like to describe your sound?
MP: Driving in the desert at night moodiness, 90s nostalgia, beach lounging, vast landscapes, open spaces, mysteries of the universe, the unknown, discomfort, angst. Genres: indie rock, psychedelic rock, dream pop, art rock, neo-psychedelia.
AM: Are there any consistent themes you typically pursue through your music?
CB: When I write music, it’s usually a time of self-reflection, so I’m often looking inward to describe something personal I’m going through, or I’m pulling back to give an overview of what I see in my relationships with others. Many of the songs are about navigating relationships through the lovely and sometimes difficult moments. I have spent the last few years working on cultivating deeper connections and vulnerability with others, and it became a recurring theme my songwriting.
AM: What other musicians are you currently listening to?
CB: Y La Bamba, Solange, Lizzo, Big Thief, Alabama Shakes, Sonic Youth, Slowdive, Beach House, Cat Power, Mountains
AM: Where is one place that you feel completely in touch with your creative self and your music?
CB: Usually in my basement late at night where my gear is set up, and when the rest of the house is quiet. I’m sort of a night owl, and I do most of my songwriting super late at night when I’m a little wired but almost borderline tired. Also, more and more these days, I’ve been finding that I have some of that creativity and drive come out during practice when I’m playing with my band members who inspire me with their ideas and creations.
JM: For me, it’s usually with other people collaborating. That might have something to do with the fact that I live in an apartment and can’t play my kit whenever I want. I did have a really nice solo winter drum session when I had access to a 24-hour practice space last February. I would go to the practice space in the mornings around 10:00am when no one was there and create. The quiet of the morning inspires me.
AM: You have some shows coming up; what can people expect from a Moon Palace set?
CB: Some joyful tunes and sometimes darker songs that are fun to space out and move to. You may get some funny twin banter in between tunes, as well.
AM: What can we expect to hear from you next?
CB: I imagine the next record incorporating more synth and new interesting layers of sounds and textures. We’ve been getting more experimental with the synth, time signatures, and dynamics, so I imagine our current sound on this record will continue to grow into some trippy ass shit.
// listen to Shadowcast:
// Listen to more Moon Palace on Spotify.