Interview: Coral Moons on Persevering Through a Pandemic

By Lily Doolin, WERS Blog Editor

Local retro-rock band Coral Moons is no stranger to the airwaves of 88.9. Most recently, they gave an incredible performance during their exlcusive WERS At Home Concert, and took over our blog for our Offstage series. After premiering their latest single "Winnebago" on Wicked Local Wednesday, WERS Blog Editor Lily Doolin spoke to the band about changing things up in the studio because of the pandemic – and how it's actually refined their production process.

First off, let’s talk about this pandemic. How has it affected you all? I know you recently released your single Winnebago, and it looks like you did all of the recording and production pre-pandemic. How has this situation affected you all personally, but also together as a band creating work at a time like this?

Carly Kraft (singer/songwriter): It’s kind of affected us all a little differently. Obviously, we haven’t been able to get together and practice, which is something that’s very different for us. But yeah, we got in to record Winnebago the week when the pandemic started happening. So, that was really interesting, we were all like, “Oh my gosh, maybe we’ll never be able to record again,” but we’ve made do with what we have. We’ve been doing some demoing on our laptops as a prerequisite for when we go to the studio because now that we’re social distancing we try to limit our time together when we do go into the studio.

I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s stopping us from recording, we’re still recording a lot of music right now and workshopping a lot of songs, which has been one thing for us that’s been really great – that we’re still able to record. Even with songwriting, it makes us be able to… instead of just sending a voice memo and going to the rehearsal space and working it out, we get to put it in writing in a logic file and send it around and people get to add stuff to it, so it’s actually helped us in that way. We’re solidifying a lot of ideas that maybe wouldn’t have happened separately, so that’s been kind of exciting for me.

Manuel Camacho (bass): It’s definitely been a different process. The hard part for me, at least, is that we can’t play the songs live; we don’t really know what resonates with people. Instead of getting feedback from the three people that listen to us, we get feedback only from inside the band, which is a little harder. But, we also are doing a lot of new stuff, which is cool.

CK: Yeah, writing new music in the studio is something new to us, where before we would play a lot of new stuff live and if it worked we would stick with it, and if it didn’t work we would just be like, “Okay, moving on, that didn’t work.” So maybe it’s a bit more experimental then…?

Yeah, why not, call it that! (Laughs)

CK: (Laughs) Yeah!

Justin Bartlett (lead guitarist): I was gonna say that it’s been a fun process, not necessarily having the stage environment to test out new material. We’re, like you said, experimenting a lot and relying on the four of us and our producer to help us come up with an idea that we all feel really excited about. I think that’s really cool because all of the projects I’ve been with in the past have been a lot of… you workshop a song, and then you bring it to the stage and you learn a lot about the song while you’re performing it, and by the time you go to the studio, you’ve done it a hundred times, even more live, so you’re like, “Okay, we kind of have the basic idea now and we know what want.” But now, we’re going into the studio with a blank slate, having very open ideas about what the songs could be, and going in a certain direction in pre-production and demoing, and then totally changing it. I like it, I think it’s an experiment in itself.

Kevin O’Connell (drums and keys): It’s definitely feeling like a studio record, and not like playing all of our live tracks in the studio. It’s been really wild and experimental, a little more processed.

Is Winnebago a part of a larger project, or do you envision it as having been its own separate thing?

CK: It’s kind of a mix of both. Winnebago, I think I wrote it almost a year ago at this point. We were just really excited to get it out for the summer because we were like, “We want people to be excited about traveling,” and then the pandemic hit and it was kind of like, “Wait, we still really want people to feel excited about something.” It’s definitely a summer song, driving down the highway with your windows open. We wanted to capture that but in music. We released that on its own even though it is a part of something bigger, we’re still recording a lot right now. It will be a part of something we haven’t announced yet. It’s definitely a song of the time especially because of the pandemic, but it wasn’t originally for that. It works.

It ended up translating.

CK: Yeah, definitely!

We loved premiering it, it was so fun tuning in and listening to it, and what I love most about the song is that it felt like classic Coral Moons – and I say “classic Coral Moons” even though you only have the EP and the single out so far (Laughs) – but it really felt genuine to your sound. But it also had more of a developed vibe to it, it felt like you guys have a rhythm down. How would you say this single and this new project, in general, is different from what you guys have done?

CK: That’s a good one. And it’s something we also recognize, especially when we go back and listen to our first EP. We’re like, “Yeah, this definitely feels like a first album.” I would say a lot of it is confidence and this experimental phase that we’re going through. I wrote all of the songs on the first EP – except Justin actually wrote some – and now we’re kind of working together more as a team on how we write. Usually, I just write a song and bring it to the band and then we workshop it, but in this phase, there’s a lot of things the band is challenging together. We’re kind of growing into a group, versus me being like, “I want a band, let’s make a record off of the songs I’ve written,” and now it’s more like us writing together and that comes out in a different way if that makes sense.

Absolutely, and speaking of growing as a band, that transitions well into the idea of knowing more about each other both personally and about your process. How was it coming into the next phase of the project – minus the whole pandemic situation – knowing each other’s rhythms? Was it easier, what did you guys learn about each other?

MC: For me, it just felt easier to bring in new ideas. I don’t usually listen to songs that are very similar to what we do, so I’m conservative about what new ideas to bring in. But for this new project, everything was so fresh that I was like, “You know what, let’s try this new thing.” I feel like everyone just started trying new stuff. It feels like we’re doing a lot more stuff that we probably wouldn’t have dared to do on the first project.

CK: Even adding horns is a big thing. We’ve kind of established ourselves and our sound, and it’s kind of like, “Okay, now what’s next?” It’s kind of pushing in that way, there are all these things now that we’ve freed up for ourselves after we established what we want, even just for us, this is kind of the direction we want to go in. It’s hard, you write all these songs and you’re like, “This could be a folk record, this could be punk.” I don’t know, there are so many different ways with a structure of a song from where it starts to where it ends up, there’s so much in between, so really expanding that with new stuff.

As you said, you’re bringing in different sounds into this record, and it even shows in the visuals of the record. Aesthetically, you guys seem to be really inspired by the beach and summer. How did you guys come up with the aesthetics of this project? What inspired you visually?

CK: Just everything (laughs). Being in Boston, near the beach, was always something that was really important to me. The retro look is something that’s also really important, bringing together the old and the new, that’s definitely something; So how do you visually capture that? I think a lot of this new stuff is more desert-vibes, kind of growing from the beachy vibes, which is like Boston, expanding our roots. All this new stuff is about the desert, which is really fun, and which also brings in another color palette, which is still very retro. I love design, so we really think heavily into the branding that you see, so it really means a lot that you’ve noticed the correlation. We work really hard on that, so thank you.

Of course, it really adds to the experience of the record. Speaking of the branding, I was really interested to hear about this beer collaboration you did. I think it was so cool, and reading about it more online, it’s actually a fundraiser for local indie Boston venues. I know you briefly talked about it with Vanyaland, but I was wondering if you could give a little more voice to why you did this, but also… beer? Yay! (Laughs)

CK: I guess I was kind of the driver of this. Aeronaut Allston was kind of our home last summer. Kevin works at the Podcast garage right next door. Pretty much our Friday routine would be that everyone would meet there on Friday at five. We wouldn’t even see what band was playing, we would just show up, drink beer, have a good time no matter what, and that was our summer vibe. We were all just really bummed that wasn’t happening this year, and we started reading… I think a survey came out that 90% of independent venues would close if they didn’t receive federal funding. The State of our Stages effort started from there, and all of our favorite artists that we follow started with "save our stages," and we were researching it, and we were like, “Oh my God.”
We’re an indie band, and obviously, we rely very heavily on these venues. We’ve created our fanbase from The Lizard Lounge and Aeronaut specifically, and all of these places that have been our home. We can’t imagine what life would be like without them, and luckily The Lizard Longue has a bar and a venue for food, so thank god they’re staying alive. And obviously, you heard the news about Great Scott. So, it’s very relevant to what’s happening right now, so we were just focused on that. It was super easy with Aeronaut, we were like, “We’d love to do a beer collaboration.” They are our number one favorite brewery in town. We’ve all had our time with Aeronaut. I met Kevin at Aeronaut, Justin had his first show in Boston at Aeronaut before we were in a band together.

KO: The first time I played with Justin was at Aeronaut.

CK: Exactly, so it’s like we have all of these connections with each other at Aeronaut, we have a community at Aeronaut. It’s kind of this explosive thing that happened with us. We know the staff, and we were like, “How about this beer thing?” and they were like, “Yeah, let’s do it!” It kind of flourished from that.

That’s such an awesome effort. I’ve heard from most artists that they miss the venues the most. Respectively to each of you, what is the thing you miss most about being on stage?

KO: I think seeing the bands we were playing with, that’s a big one for me. Like, whoever’s opening, or if we’re opening… I don’t know. There’s a certain energy in the room when you’re sharing the stage and being able to have that camaraderie. You’re all presenting your art and your work and all you’ve done, put all this effort into, and that’s a really special moment. There’s no replicating that without gigs, I don’t think.

JB: I think it’s just the matter of the community, especially as a musician in Boston, you pretty much know the scene and you know everybody in the scene, and everybody’s supporting each other. Not only are you playing shows for new fans, but you’re also getting an excuse to see other bands who are also your friends. Trying to align calendars with other musicians is impossible because when you have a show your friends also have a show, but there are those occasional nights when the stars align and you can see all of your favorite people not just on the stage but also in the audience. I miss that a lot.

MC: Live music itself is something I really miss. It’s a great experience, and when you’re on the other side of live music it’s even better. So yeah, it sucks – quote me (Laughs).

Justin, you mentioned one of the things you miss is the local music community. What has it been like behind the scenes of the community through this pandemic? What has the support been like?

JB: It’s been different for sure. I remember toward the beginning, a lot of people were doing the live streams, so you’d still get to support each other via live stream. People are still releasing music, so people are still trying to support in that sense and lift up people’s voices and support their releases and their art. We were actually doing a couple of Zoom open mics at one point with a bunch of different people in the scene, just nice to catch up with people and hang out in that sense. It’s definitely really strange, there’s definitely been a drop-off and distancing, but in a way we’re still communicating with a lot of people. I don’t know, it’s just weird, it’s very bizarre.

CK: I feel like a lot of live streams have kind of chilled out, a lot of that community has actually kind of chilled out. And a lot of people aren’t releasing music right now, because of lack of resources and because of the Black Lives Matter movement, we really wanna focus our energy on that, which we definitely agree with that. It’s all devastating, but a really important moment all at the same time. We’re lucky we have jobs and can remotely stay together, but a lot of people don’t have those resources, so it’s just a matter of really trying to support those people who can’t pay rent or work or things that they’ve done that they can’t do anymore, it’s really devastating for a lot of people.

Listening to a lot of the artists I’ve been talking to, a lot of them are either college age, or some of them are just starting out and only have a single or two out. It’s difficult to hear them talk about having all this stuff planned and then having it go on hold. What advice would you give to someone who is looking to start out during this time, either in Boston or beyond?

JB: I think maybe find a way to collaborate digitally. If you are an emerging songwriter or someone who’s working on new music, reach out to artists that inspire you and asking for maybe feedback on work. Reaching into your network. One thing you can do now is, I feel like a lot more people are open to communicating, so just reaching out to people who you’re inspired by and asking for advice, or just getting to know somebody, I think that’s one way.

By now – for those who are WERS fans – I feel like we’ve featured you guys so many times that I’d hope by now people would know you guys and appreciate you all. But, for someone who maybe hadn’t taken a chance to listen to your stuff, how would you describe the “Coral Moons Experience,” if you will.

CK: I think we want people who are listening to just take away good vibes, especially right now. We want people to feel good and connect with something that is beyond themselves, and just create that community within music or whatever it could be. The “Quarter Life Crisis” is something that could be very specific, it’s very relatable, you go to school and into the real world and it’s like, “What the heck, what am I supposed to do?” And it’s just feeling okay with that, especially right now. I keep saying that, but it’s okay to not know what’s next and just follow your heart and your gut and enjoy the little things and just capture that. Our music is focused a lot on that.

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