Avant-pop group Arthur Moon represents everything that is good about music.
Fronted by award-winning composer and singer Lora-Faye Åshuvud, the group, which also comprises collaborators Cale Hawkins and Martin D. Fowler, breaks all the rules, celebrates queer impulse, and encourages embracing the power that comes with doing things “wrong.”
It’s Åshuvud’s unique approach to songwriting that will hook most, if not all, listeners. Not only does she have no formal training in composition or songwriting, but she often writes her lyrics using cut up newspaper articles and thrives on intuition and improvisation.
Going into Arthur Moon with a background in folk and rock, the project releases Åshuvud from following the same path and she instead is running those influences through the filter of electro-pop. The result: transcendent, deeply original tracks that are wonderfully “incorrect.”
On Friday Arthur Moon released their anticipated self-titled debut album, and Åshuvud broke it down, track by track, exclusively for Musical Notes Global. Check out her thoughts below.
I rarely start a song with lyrics, but on this one I did. I found myself writing a lot about a kind of overlap I’d been noticing in my thinking around three things I’d always naïvely considered to be separate: addiction, inherited trauma, and gender. I wanted to see if I could find a way to talk about those intersections really simply.
I guess this is sort of a requited love song? Or a tired New Yorker in their late-twenties song? Or maybe it’s a song about the art of losing? Actually it’s just a love song to Jack Halberstam: “The queer art of failure turns on the impossible, the improbable, the unlikely, and the unremarkable. It quietly loses, and in losing it imagines other goals for life, for love, for art, and for being.” But mostly it’s an excuse to listen to Aviva and Cale do amazing vocal shit.
“Reverse Conversion Therapy”
This one took a long time to get right—I had all these sections and all these lyrics and all these breaks and transitions and I couldn’t figure out how to get them to live together in the same dusty space. I almost abandoned the song altogether. But the band (Cale, Nick, Aviva, Marty, Dave) was exceedingly patient with me, and so helpful in workshopping the arrangement over and over again until it felt right. There was a moment, a few exhausting four-hour sessions in, when everything just clicked on the choruses—the shifting, displaced downbeats just brought the lyrics into such clear focus. We were rehearsing at the Pfizer building at the time, which is no longer used to make drugs but rather to house lots of musicians and small odd businesses, and I remember going upstairs afterwards to the overflow baking space of this amazing patisserie and the whole band just slowly eating these still-warm chocolate croissants together in silence.
Ok this one’s sort of extra: I imagined this song as Arthur Moon’s story of coming out as a teen boy, struggling with the tension between his own emerging neurological capacities of self-discipline and cultural assimilation as they develop alongside his own ethical and sexual development. The chorus, “fine white lines”, marks his awareness of the intersection of his whiteness and queerness and maleness and how that reflects on his experiences of power and alienation and fear and entitlement, etc. But also: myelin essentially turns the brain into a series of interconnected white lines (as it’s the fatty white insulation around nerves), so that’s a cute poeming thing.
“I Feel Better”
I wrote this song while I was on an artist residency in the desert in New Mexico, sleeping in a single bed in a windowless room. I was reflecting on my life in New York, the propulsion of anxiety, and how to harness that anxious energy toward being a self-critical member of an artistic community.
This is a co-write with my bandmates Cale Hawkins and Marty Fowler. I brought them this shifty loop chopped from a string arrangement for a half-baked song I abandoned a long time ago, and Marty immediately started running it through a gate on some drum samples. Marty always has the perfect creative production ideas to spark arrangement ideas, and Cale is so good at finding the exact right chord progression to invite you in and then smack you in the face. Which is what my experience of writing the lyrics was, later—both familiar and painful in a good way.
“Wait A Minute”
I realized making this song that my favorite thing about vocal harmonies is when the overtones of each individual voice start to rub together and create new overtones. I remember being such a pain to Marty during the mixing process, constantly asking for more high end in the vocals. He was like “WHY MUST YOU TORTURE ME” but I think we got it to a nice place in the end.
This is the first song I wrote on the vocoder. It all came out in one sitting on a particularly dark winter evening when I was hungover and really sad. The production process on this one was intense—I’d initially tracked a trio of singers performing the arrangement live as a duet with my vocoder at Strange Weather Recording in Williamsburg, which was absolutely gorgeous, but I just kept feeling like the song needed to be less human to express the feeling I was trying to get across: that particular depression of realizing you’ve been looking at your own Instagram for 20 minutes feeling sorry for yourself for getting older and also angry that you don’t feel like you’ve actually acquired any knowledge or insight with your age. It’s a sort of an empty-shell, I-am-my-avatar kind of feeling and I think it really just needed to live in a digital world, with only brief glimpses at humanity poking through the clouds every once in a while. So I took the song to my dear and brilliant friend Andrew Sheron, who very patiently helped me turn it into the recording you hear on this record—just vocoder, my vocals, and his. I’m thinking maybe I’ll release the live vocalist version as a bonus track sometime soon, though, when I’m feeling more optimistic.
This is one of the oldest songs on the album. One sad thing is when we play this live and people try to clap along at the end and then slowly start to look confused when they realize the pattern is irregular. But our friend Asher from Iris Lune learned the pattern and always stands right by the stage and claps with us and smiles his pretty smile. I would love to have the audience clap along, though! Audience: It’s a repeating pattern counted in 7, with the claps on the one-two-three, then the one-two-three-four, then the one-two-three-four-five. You’ve got this!
A love song for my love that I wrote when we were far away. I like that it lives next to Standing Wave, which was a love song that I wrote for my love when we were just becoming close. I loved working on the strings on Ships with Cale Hawkins, who did the arrangement, and Malcolm Parson, who so tastefully performed all the crunchy cello stacks one pollen-y spring morning at Strange Weather Recording.
Arthur Moon will soon embark on a fall tour with Oh Land. Dates below.
9/24: Brooklyn, NY @ The Bell House
9/25: Philadelphia, PA @ World Cafe
9/26: Washington, DC @ The Miracle Theater
9/27: Chicago, IL @ SPACE
10/20: Seattle, WA @ Columbia City Theater
10/21: Portland, OR @ The Church Concert Hall
10/23: San Francisco, CA @ The Independent
10/24: Los Angeles, CA @ Bootleg Theater
Listen to Arthur Moon now on Spotify.