Josie Moon is a rising indie-pop act, whose work is inspired as much by imagery and colours as it is by musical ideas. Recently she’s been working with Nik Brinkman (Physical) on a new EP of tracks, with a first single ‘After Hours’ out now. She talks to Gareth Shute about how her synesthesia helped inspire her songwriting.
It’s been two years since Josie Moon released her first two EPs (Pulse and Lone) and in that time her music has evolved enormously. Those early songs had Lorde-esque vocals backed by minimal beats and only hinted at Moon’s individual aesthetic. Yet lyrically, she was already beginning to show her interest in creating songs around particular characters and moments in time. In 2017, her single ‘Satellites’ had the cinematic quality of the best Lana Del Rey songs, the narrator giving the perspective of a younger woman having a relationship with an older man (‘You been thinking about me at your 9-to-5, I make you feel young, so baby let’s drive’) and blaming herself when things go awry.
Moon’s interest in creating strong imagery to go with her music is something that she traces back to her love of art. “Before I started chasing music, I did a lot of drawing and painting,” she says. “My father moonlights as a painter, and I remember having a conversation with him when I was back in high school. I said, ‘I wish I could sing because then I could become a musician and I wouldn’t have to choose out of all of the art forms I love.’ With music you have film with music videos, fashion, design, acting. I think the imagery in particular is so important to me because I have a form of synesthesia where I see colours, landscapes and textures when I listen to music. Each track has its own visual personality and I have to represent that as best I can to do it justice.”
The ‘Satellites’ single ended up being Moon’s only release in 2017. It gained a solid response (15k+ cross-platform streams), but Moon was studying full-time and found it hard to focus enough to complete a follow-up track that she was happy with. Fortunately, in the meantime her song had reached the ears of producer Nik Brinkman. “I came across Josie on the Coup De Main website,’ he says, ‘and I just really liked her overall aesthetic. I read that she was based in Wellington, so I decided to cold call message her about doing a writing session together. We ended up spending the summer making an EP. I love working with her because her vision for her art is strong and very defined. And she always thinks about the overall picture, which means she comes up with the music video even before we finish the demo.”
Brinkman brings a wealth of experience – his career goes back to indie guitar bands like Ejector and Over The Atlantic – but over the past decade he’s become more well known for the dreamy pop music he creates under the monikers Physical, Bright Music and Junica (as well as being a co-writer on the Mitch James track ‘All The Ways To Say Goodbye’ which now has 6 million streams on Spotify alone).
Yet Moon was cautious at first. “I didn’t know him or why he was interested in working with me and I had been burned pretty badly from some previous collaborations I had tried with some Soundcloud artists,” she says. “I have this rule though where I’ll always try something once because I need to learn as much as I can. I was in a writing rut and needed to do something fresh and break myself out of it. After our first session together I felt so happy and relieved!
“Before we actually wrote the first song together I had asked him if I could shadow him over the summer and learn production from him … I like to be as involved in production as much as I can and I don’t think Nik was really used to that, but the more we write together, the more cohesively we operate. I think now he knows all the shortcuts to the kinds of sounds I like, and what inspires me.”
The collaboration with Brinkman has seen Josie Moon’s music move in a more atmospheric direction – with washes of synths and percussive samples – without burying her catchy vocal hooks. Her new single captures the downside of late night romantic entanglements. “’After Hours’ came from a place where I was feeling pretty lonely and would go out to these parties,” she says. “I would just kind of push myself into situations just to do something new, but I wouldn’t really look after myself and would get involved with people who didn’t want the best for me. Basically, the song is about me messing around with this person who was also seeing other people at the same time. I knew it would come back to bite me, but I didn’t really respect myself a lot at that point. I’m actually a pretty soft romantic so it ruined me for a little bit.”
Moon’s new EP will arrive next month (31 August) and gives her greater scope to condense her colour-inspired musical ideas into pop gems. “My upcoming EP is called Rose Tinted. It’s a title that has a couple of different meanings. The first is the one we’re all familiar with where we romanticise our surroundings. I do this myself – especially with how I perceive other people – and this EP is partly about me trying to put myself first instead.
“The second meaning is linked to my synesthesia. The first track we wrote for the EP was ‘Call Me’. I remember experiencing such an overwhelming wash of pink and cherry blossom flowers while writing the track that I wanted to keep writing tracks with colours that worked around it. As result, most of the tracks are shades of pinks and red, with the exception of ’97 (Hurt)’ – it’s white with little dapples of coloured light. It’s the last track on the EP, and is my fresh start towards attempting to be a bit more realistic with things.”
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