Grave City’s first band interview was with THEM ARE US TOO, way back in July of 2016. I had had the privilege to book Them Are Us Too’s first show in Dallas the year before (under my Wardance moniker) at the sadly now-defunct Crown and Harp. At that point, TAUT was a Bay Area band; vocalist Kennedy had not yet moved to the North Texas area and/or started her excellent Denton-based SRSQ project (another band Wardance recently had the honor to work with). So Grave City’s first feature violated its self-imposed rule to only cover bands in the DFW area. This feature about Tearful Moon will be the second article on Grave City to do that.
Houston-based Tearful Moon came to my attention in 2015 mainly thanks to social media. Later I saw a great performance of theirs at Texas’ annual DIY dark postpunk/punk/deathrock fest, San la Muerte, in San Antonio (members of Aztec Death interviewed them at that show here). Impressed by their minimalist approach to darkwave, I asked them to come to Dallas in the Fall of 2016 to play with Eva O, a show that took place at Double Wide with iill and Static of Masses in October, 2016.
Tearful Moon’s second LP, Evocation, was announced and posted onto Bandcamp just as the band was being battered by Hurricane Harvey last month. “We were both out of work for two weeks during Harvey,” singer Sky Lesco explains. “And we hunkered down in our home in fear of our loved ones.” As the flood started to abate, the band incredibly decided to remain committed to a previously agreed upon tour, but the devastation they left behind affected their mood on the road. “While we were on the road we heard it started raining again back in Houston, and people were freaking out. It was a ‘we may never get out of the woods’ sort of feeling. I think we were all suffering from PTSD.”
Although the material on Evocation was written before the hurricane hit, the tone of the new album is reminiscent of the mood during the storm. The music is itself like the stormy weather — dark and tempestuous: “The world is ending now/Crumbling upon the ground/Madness is all around/This cruel, ole town,” the band sings on the dark dance track “Conviction.” A mournful atmosphere pervades the LP’s twelve songs thanks to Manuel Lozano’s work on the synths. Keyboards linger at the lower end of the scale and are used to embellish the gothy duo’s songs with a ghostly, cinematic texture.
The LP as a whole is built on a skeleton of dancey, drum machine-driven, eerie minimal wave sensibility. The iciness of coldwave groups like Das Kabinette and Kas Product provides the main sonic reference points for the band’s brand of electronic gloom. Track 5 on the LP, “Cold and Burning Truth,” would get play at dark dance clubs in a world where djs were not afraid to play new bands (but, alas, it often seems that we do not live in such a world).
Interview with Tearful Moon is below, below the cut!
Silent movie imagery in the band’s visual materials complements Sky’s deep vocal intonations; lyrics warn “how a frozen heart/can burn you/with ferocious fire.” Importantly, Evocation also features collaborations with four other musicians, a result of Tearful Moon’s extensive networking both through social media and from playing in Mexico. Suzi Sabotage of Finland’s Masquerade appears on the track “Parasite,” while there are also appearances by Brazilian darkwave project Wonder Dark and Mexican artist Stockhaussen. The band’s label also reflects Tearful Moon’s internationalist approach: Peruvian label InClub Records has promised a vinyl version of the release in late December. The digital version of the LP is now on Bandcamp.
Shortly after Hurricane Harvey got to ask Tearful Moon about their new LP and how the hurricane affected them.
Sky Lesco of Tearful Moon was interviewed by Oliver Sheppard in September, 2017.
Can you give us some basic background about the band — when you started and who’s in it, etc.?
Tearful Moon is just two of us. I’m the songwriter and vocalist, and Manuel is the boss of all of the music, and also does some vocals. I’m from Houston, born and raised, and Manuel is from Mexico. He’s lived in Houston since 2013.
What was the sound you all were going for on Evocation? I guess a common genre tag would be “darkwave.” Do you think that fits? Who are the band’s primary musical influences? I know I’ve seen Manuel wearing a Siekiera shirt…..
I think darkwave fits well. I’ve always preferred that title although I’m not easily offended by other labels people might use. Just don’t call us techno, EBM, or industrial, and we are good. We’re mutually influenced by Dead Can Dance, Clan of Xymox, and Sixth June. You could also add acts like Asylum Party, Sad Lovers and Giants, The Sound, and Euroshima.
You’ve indicated that Tearful Moon began as a means to set your poetry music. Is that correct? What was the guiding vision you all had when the band started?
Well, yes, it’s true. I had been dating Manuel for almost a year, and I saw so much potential in him as a musician. I had never been in a band or pursued singing because I certainly didn’t know how to sing! Ha. But I was actually trying to publish a book of my poetry before we met entitled Decade of Melancholy, which was a collection of writing I had been working on for the past ten years. I just had this idea, like hey… why don’t we do a spoken word thing, and record it? And I think we did about four or five tracks, and posted them on the internet. It was very fun and rewarding. So the first vision that I had for the project was just spoken word, nothing else.
How did it get from that to the sound we hear now?
What Tearful Moon has turned out to be today has happened by complete accident. Manuel took a song he had with guitar riffs and asked me to sing the verses of a poem I recently penned (“Pollution and Poison”), but I was mortified to even slightly hum into the mic, so he offered to sing it along with me, and it was just a fun joke. We sort of liked it though, and posted it around on the web. Next thing we knew, it was being played in Peru on a radio station, and then this lightbulb went off in my head. It took some hard convincing for Manuel to pursue the new vision. We talked about it for awhile and then ultimately decided to make an electronic duo project where I pretend to know how to sing, and that became the band. Haha.
What was Hurricane Harvey like for you guys?
That was a very scary and devastating experience. We are the few that got lucky. Our neighborhood did not flood, and we never lost power, but we were both out of work for two weeks. We were hunkered down in our home in fear of our loved ones. I do have a couple of friends who lost everything. The worst part was worrying about my family across town, and feeling helpless on the phone while water was hitting their front door and not being able to help them. Luckily, that’s as bad as it got. But I was genuinely worried and heartbroken for all of my city. I was also so touched how many people stepped up, got in their boats, and helped others.
How is Houston faring now, several weeks after the flooding? Are there any places still flooded? What is the situation like there?
Houston is doing well. It’s almost back to normal for the most part. It’s amazing how resilient a city can be. I think we are all suffering from PTSD. I’m not pleased with the apathy, hatefulness, or jokes that I saw circling around.
You all seem to have a lot of ties to the Mexican postpunk scene. How did that happen and can both of you speak Spanish? Also, how would you describe the Mexican postpunk/darkwave scene and what are some good bands there?
Manuel speaks Spanish, of course, and I can say a few words, but I can’t speak Spanish well (which I admit with regret and shame). We were invited to play Mexico City just a few months after we started our project, and we certainly were not ready to play live. But we accepted the opportunity, and worked really hard for the next few months before the confirmed date to be ready. Because of this, we now always go back. We have established lots of great friendships and have a decent following over there. I love Mexico City! I feel like it’s a second home to us, and in all honesty, we are accepted there more than we are in our own hometown, as we don’t have much of a following in Houston.
It’s a real darkwave renaissance over there. The scene is massive. It feels like you just walked off a time machine and into dark underground haunts of the 80s. The venue we first played at is called El Centro de Salud, and I call it the CBGB’s of Mexico. We have been helping with coordinating bands to play there, and it brings us joy to do that. Some of our favorite projects over there are Stockhaussen, Werner Karloff, Momentut, Identik Fact, Cruz de Navajas, Espejo Convexo, Nue Strasson, Equinoxious, etc. There are way too many to name!
But I also want to say that Mexico City is now suffering from the awful earthquake, and I’m so sad for the people there. We are sending all of our love to you now.
Explain the collaboration with This Cold Night that’s on your own Bandcamp page — how did that come about, where is that band from, and who all was involved?
This Cold Night is the solo project of my best friend, Chase Morledge, who is from Austin. He sometimes will do solo sets live, and other times will have a couple of guys fill in on guitars. But it’s all just his project. He is one of my favorite artists, and I’m one of his biggest fans. His music moves something inside me. Anyhow, we talked about working on a song together and we did it relatively fast. Manuel is actually playing both bass and lead guitars on the collaboration while Chase plays the synths. He (Chase) had already written and recorded the music for it, as well as the chorus lyrics. I wrote the rest of the verses and added my vocals. It came together naturally and nicely.
You’ve mentioned before an interest in silent films, which is an interest I share. And it seems like some of the visual aesthetic of Tearful Moon is rooted in silent movies. Can you explain why this is an influence, what you all like about the imagery of silent movies, and how that has influenced the approach of the band?
Well, the first memory I have of silent films was watching a Rudolph Valentino movie when I was about 9 years old. He looked just like this large Pierrot clown doll I had, and I was just in awe of him. He was so sexy and beautiful to me. Shortly after that, I spent time in this study room my dad had with lots of shelves full of books and one of them was an old Hollywood biography. It had all the decadence with pictures and gossip! I even destroyed the book by cutting out pictures and making collages, which included Rudy of course. I was fascinated with all the bobbed haired goddesses: Theda Bara, Louise Brooks, and Gloria Swanson in particular. I think the 1920s was a hell of a time! I love everything about it–the wildness, the aesthetics, art, decor, etc. I think pictures and film look so much better in black and white. And I just love all the spookiness found in old pagan Hollywood films. I can’t remember who’s idea it was or how we started to use the visuals, but I think they work somehow. We both do love and appreciate these films.
What is coming up for Tearful Moon? Any new releases coming out or any tours in the works. As I write this I see you’re engaged in a tour — how extensive is it?
Well, we just released our second LP with InClub Records. It’s available digitally now, and you can preorder the vinyl version that’s set to be out on December 30th. Our first tour ever just ended and it was fun sharing dates with WINGTIPS, and a couple of them with Milliken Chamber, a project that you need to check out. A West coast tour is in the works for next April, and we are excited to be playing at the Out From the Shadows festival. We also have two dates in Mexico City next month, and one of them we have the honor to open for Qual and Sixth June.