06 Mar MY BICOASTAL CALL WITH CHASING MOONLIGHT
I don’t remember who followed whom first, but I do know when I connected with Chasing Moonlight last September on Instagram it was right around the time they released “Jagged Symmetry”. In my pajamas amidst another writing all-nighter, I queued up the song inside Spotify. Then, I proceeded to listen to it FIVE TIMES IN A ROW! (Just play it and you’ll understand why.)
What I loved (and continue to love) about “Jagged Symmetry” is its depth. Throughout the track, Chasing Moonlight addresses a number of complex concepts with the type of candid compassion owned only by those who have collected a few scars along the way. Delivered with oh-so-smooth vocals, the powerful lyrics cast against the striking music conjure up something almost theatrical in my mind. When I slipped “Jagged Symmetry” into one of my playlists, I sandwiched it between two Thirty Seconds to Mars songs – none of the others could stack up against the track’s epic storm of evolution.
At that time, my blog existed only in my thoughts. I had planned to make contact with Chasing Moonlight only after I had something concrete to share, but I was so inspired by “Jagged Symmetry” that I couldn’t wait. I messaged them right then to relay my upcoming plans. (In fact, now that I think of it, Brett and Zeke learned of the news before the majority of my friends did!)
The months in between then and now passed quickly – MMM is live, and Chasing Moonlight recently released “We Are Strong (feat. WordSpit)”, a gripping anthem of unity. A few days ago I connected with them via a bicoastal Skype call, and it could not have been more fun! I can say, without hesitation, that Brett and Zeke are every bit as dynamic and uplifting as the music and the art they create. The conversation from our call is chronicled below in a pure Q & A format.
Q & A:
How did Chasing Moonlight come into being?
BRETT: Zeke and I met at a show one night in high school. The following day after class I saw him walking outside – at this point, he was a senior and I was a freshman – and I called him over, and let him know I was the musician from the previous night. I told him I needed him to play bass for me for an upcoming show, one I saw as a HUGE opportunity: a competition at the Knitting Factory in Brooklyn. Long story short, this competition basically included 99% metal bands…and us. I didn’t know it at the time, though, so when I sold the show to him, I really did believe what I was saying. When we reached the venue and realized what we were up against, Zeke led us through some meditative practices in hopes we could reach Zen; but, the next band before us took the stage and just started screaming AT THE TOP OF THEIR LUNGS. It was kind of rough. Shortly after that we started a band called Run On the Sun.
ZEKE: Run On the Sun ended up being a thing for about a year and a half. I was finishing my senior year in high school and right at the beginning of college, and we did a lot of really cool stuff in that band. We played The Bamboozle festival and the Virgin Mobile FreeFest, and we even played on Howard Stern’s Sirius XM radio channel where we were interviewed by Baba Booey. It was this really exciting time in my life. Previously, I thought I was going to be an actor – music wasn’t really a main focus for me. Then, all of the sudden, things just started working out. I loved working with Brett and the rest of that band, and we kept things going pretty strong until outside forces pulled us apart. We took a couple of years to reset and find ourselves, and then also found our readiness to work together again. Brett and I kept in fairly regular contact, and we recently expressed the fact that we really missed working together. There was something about being able to write together that we hadn’t really found with anyone else in those intervening years.
Two years prior to this, we had met up for a demo writing session where we spent a whole afternoon cranking out a bunch of ideas. We came pretty close to finishing four songs, but we never ended up doing anything with that material for years. And then, this past summer, after basically a year of not talking too much, we reconnected again, decided to meetup, and started having a series of what we refer to as songwriting sleepovers. Brett would come over for two to three days, and we’d work all day and all night in the studio, eating as much pizza as we could consume. It was awesome, because we were not only writing new songs together, but we were also digging up our old stuff, which had so much potential, and reimagining it through the new perspectives we had gained. And that’s how a lot of the Chasing Moonlight songs came together.
“Jagged Symmetry” was a song we had started years ago, and it wasn’t until we met up again that we were able to write the lyrics and flesh out the crazy dubstep bridge that happens in the second verse. Everything just felt right, and it’s been a really fun journey being Chasing Moonlight ever since.
We have to write together. I think that, music, in particular, is one creative field in which no man is an island, and unless you are a some prolific god sent to be a human, you literally cannot write a good song by yourself – I think there are so many different elements that need to come together perfectly that an outside perspective is the only way you are truly going to refine it into something that is intelligent, enjoyable, dynamic, and fun.
BRETT: But I think it’s hard to find those people who can actually give you good feedback and also inspire you with their ideas that they come up with that can trigger other ideas that you come up with. And that along with the basic friendship I have with Zeke are the two main reasons we decided to do this venture, which, for all for all intents and purposes, is really inconvenient. We live on opposite coasts, but it’s worth it because it’s hard to come by people who understand the specific vision you have for the music you make.
What’s the story behind the band’s name?
BRETT: When we decided we wanted to start a new project, we were reminded of all of the really hard things that go into starting anything. Things you kind of forget about once you are further into it – in this case, picking a band name. We needed a name we could honestly stand by for years to come, a difficult task since so many names are already taken and there are so many different connotations people can place on each word. At first, we joked around with it. Walking through New York City, passing by subways, we came up with some funny names that had to do with subways. But then, after our first, as Zeke put it, ‘slumber party studio session’, we really started talking seriously about a name. Honestly, I don’t think it was as painful as other experiences I’ve had. I think it was kind of intuitive.
ZEKE: It was the easiest band naming process I have experienced in my ten years of music. Usually, you try to come up with a band name and everybody has taken it before. There are usually five bands that have taken any good band name you can think of. And, for me, I mean, I know Brett doesn’t quite view it this way, but all of my bands have always, for whatever reason, had this slightly celestial theme. I had Ghost of Pluto and Run On the Sun, and Run On the Sun was really a major catalyst for me. I felt like success was eminent. There was so much opportunity in the excitement of youth, and the potential of my future was exhilarating. Then, it kind of fizzled out. For me, Chasing Moonlight resembles the ongoing search for that satisfaction and that fulfillment. Like, you’re trying to catch something that will always disappear, but will always still be there at the same time.
BRETT: That’s been the theme of some of the songs we have written – this, kind of, ironic illusiveness of fulfillment and happiness. It’s funny, whenever we take a break from recording and walk around the city to get a bite to eat and whatnot, we’ve had a lot of conversations about what fulfillment means to us and what success means to us and the cost of it all. At the end of the day, we want to be happy and feel like we are doing things with a purpose. We have both recently come to the conclusion that ambition and dreams are paramount to our lives and make our lives more exciting; but, at the same time, making music for the sole purpose of getting to Madison Square Garden or some sort of big stage, ironically, takes some of the joy out of the experience. The focus should not be on the glory, but rather on the writing, the practicing, and the day to day studio sessions. Those small moments are actually the most substantial moments.
You most recently released the brilliant, politically charged single “We Are Strong (feat. WordSpit), which could not have come at a better time! Can you tell us a little bit about the origins of the song and what you both experienced in the recording process?
BRETT: “We Are Strong” came at an interesting time, not only because of the political climate, but also because of our own lives. Zeke was moving to LA in five days. I was going back up to UConn a couple days after that, and I had just returned from visiting my friend in Florida. It was a really weird time and we only had one day, so we knew we had to be really efficient with the recording session. I came for the day, and Zeke had already written a very minimalistic instrumental. There was a beat, and then a couple, kind of, strange ominous synths on top of the beat and I said, “Why don’t we strip it down, and just kind of have this beat? I feel like we can’t write about anything other than, you know, the controversy with Trump as president, and all the movements that are rising as a reaction to that – and a reaction to Brexit, to extremism, to violence, to Black Lives Matter, and just everything that seems to be more relevant than anything else – how a lot of people’s lives are being shaped in this very narrow point in time.”
So, we agreed, quite quickly, about the message that we wanted to convey. I think it was a combination of us wanting a minimal sound to correlate with the brutal reality of the present and us wanting a minimalistic sound since we didn’t have much time to work on the music to begin with. Those two circumstances – our personal stories meeting with the story we wanted to tell – informed what the music became. The song ended up being different in production in the sense that, at least in the verses, it seems very minimalistic and raw, and I think that served the message pretty well.
What was it like working with WordSpit? How did you come to collaborate with him?
ZEKE: Years ago, WordSpit had performed at The Bamboozle festival we played at as Run On The Sun. Later on, Brett and I saw him at the Gramercy Theatre. His performance was educational in how to be a life-changing artist. He took the stage, and the passion he possessed in every second of that performance electrified the room. It was incredible for Brett and I to watch. For years, we kind of watched his career from a distance, and never really got involved other than being connected on Facebook.
BRETT: Everything Zeke stated is completely correct, but about a year and a half ago I randomly ran into WordSpit in Washington Square Park when I was playing a show with another band of mine. In the middle of the afternoon, I saw this guy drumming in the corner, and WordSpit was just sitting on a bench watching the drummer. I went up to him and asked, “Are you WordSpit?” and he replied, “Yeah.” Then, I explained who I was. It’s just crazy how he’s become this almost mystical creature that’s kind of entwined in the fabric of my life…it’s strange.
ZEKE: So, basically, WordSpit’s an angel! We had “We Are Strong” mostly written, but there was a section that we had nothing for. I kept telling Brett I think we really needed a guest rap. We wanted to use WordSpit, yet we figured he wouldn’t be interested. We were broke and we weren’t able to pay him nearly as much money as he deserved for it, but the message resonated with him and he wanted to be a part of it. Working with WordSpit was kind of like the rest of our musical relationship lately. We never met up. We never sat in a studio together. We sent him the track. He sent it back. We liked it. We paid him, and it came together wonderfully.
BRETT: The funny thing about this whole process is that we had the song completed, from start to finish, and we were going to release it later on. It could have been a comfortable release; but, instead, we were like – the inauguration is in two weeks. Let’s finish this in a week and a half! That decision encompassed writing the entire song in one day, coming back to my home studio and recording the vocals, approaching and convincing WordSpit, having WordSpit send us the recording, acquiring the stock footage for the music video, recording ourselves singing for the music video, conducting outreach for the fan vocals, putting the fan vocals into the last chorus, and getting the word out to the public. I don’t think we ever promoted something so hard. We reached out to, like, a thousand different blogs, organizations, newspapers, radio stations, contacts, management, etc. It was, perhaps, the craziest whirlwind of a week and a half that I’ve had in music, at least in my experience with Chasing Moonlight so far.
ZEKE: “We Are Strong” definitely received more coverage than anything we had done before, and I think that the timing and the message were just right. People wanted something like this. People were frustrated with the political environment and with the way that relationships were being damaged by it, and a message of, “Hey, we’re stronger when we stand together,” resonates.
Last year, Chasing Moonlight also released the single “Jagged Symmetry” – can you tell us something about it?
ZEKE: Yes, I believe that “Jagged Symmetry” speaks most closely to our experiences and our struggles as artists. Brett, take it away!
BRETT: Hang on, I just took a huge bite out of my veggie burger….So, “Jagged Symmetry”, even just sonically feels really true to us, because I think it’s just this great hybrid of Coldplay meets Skrillex – and that’s always been the dynamic between Zeke and I. We have a lot of music that we both really like, but we also have our favorites. I’m more into melodramatic, ambient music, and he’s more into distorted synths smacking you in your face. “Jagged Symmetry” sounds and feels like a great meshing of our influences. It follows the theme of our band name, Chasing Moonlight, in terms of how chasing after the wrong things will lead you down a path of thinking that your worth is solely in your success or solely in your idea of fame. The misconception that once I become this higher thing, somehow my relationships will improve, somehow my worth will increase. Really, what I get out of it, is this almost warning sign of: given a little more experience, you will understand that’s maybe not the meaning of all this. That the meaning is actually found when you look into yourself, rather than looking to exterior forces, whether it’s fame or accolades or attention. Not to say that those are bad, but that those should not be what you rest everything on.
ZEKE: There is a strength that comes from struggle, and that’s really what that song says to me. That there’s never going to be anything great that comes easily, and if it does, it’s bound to fall apart. You have to accept the fact that this life is complicated, and the pleasure comes from the complication, not in spite of it.
Who does your album artwork? I love the image for “Jagged Symmetry”!
ZEKE: Usually when we do album artwork Brett is very inspired by a few things, and he sends along a couple of ideas as examples. Then, I will go in and make something that’s close to it. Or, I completely ignore it and make something else entirely. I’m the one putting the graphics together, but we both weigh in.
BRETT: Basically, I come up with an idea, Zeke makes it, I send him a text message (telling him he’s a wizard), and the process is usually complete after that.
That’s how I feel about my graphic designer! I think she’s a wizard, too. (Shout-out to Trish Lapointe!) You guys are providing me with some great content.
BRETT: You are giving us good questions!
I refuse to ask cheesy questions.
BRETT: Before we go any further: BLUE is my favorite color.
ZEKE: I like BLOOD RED. If I actually see my own blood, though, I pass out.
BRETT: You’re like Batman! You are facing the thing that scares you to overcome fear! You are an anomaly to me, man.
How would you categorize your music? You can use whatever terms you want to use. If someone hadn’t heard your music and wanted to know what your music was all about, how would you describe it?
ZEKE: Our music, to me, is a Buddhist therapy session.
BRETT: I’ve never heard that before. You just totally pulled that out of your ass!
ZEKE: No, but like, if we had to break the genre mold that would be it. I love the question, because how often do you actually get to think of your music as anything other than rock or pop or alt? Those would obviously be the traditional genre tags along with some electronica in there. I think, just from the way that we write our music, and from our goals and perspectives, it always seems like we’re trying to find some clarity in our lives and some way of processing our hurt or our confusion. We hope to provide comfort for others through the songs we make. It’s a visceral process. It’s not always pretty and it’s not always clean, but it’s exactly what you need to feel good.
BRETT: I remember after we wrote “Wake Up!” I came up with the term optimistic fuzz. That’s more of a sonic description rather than a thematic description – it actually does go along with what Zeke was saying. It’s gritty, yet, at the end of the day, it has this message of clarity and togetherness.
What is the most encouraging comment you remember hearing from your earliest fans?
BRETT: I like that one! I’ll give you two quick answers. In my career so far, about four or five years ago I played a show – a decent crowd, nothing too big. I met this one girl who came, and it was GREAT meeting her. There wasn’t anything super specific about her. In terms of her response to the music, she was excited and seemed happy. The next day, she sent me a message, saying that she had struggled with anxiety and depression pretty heavily over the past few months or few years, and that that night was one of her favorite nights that she had in a really long time. It was one of those thank you’s that you know is really genuine. That comment still affects me to this day, more so than a lot of other things that I truly appreciate. I am forever appreciative of anybody and everybody who listens, but there’s something about the brutal honesty of her message – that she wasn’t afraid to admit what she’s been through. It just cut to the core of the beauty of music and connecting with people through that medium. That was incredible. And then, in terms of Chasing Moonlight so far, honestly the people who sent in the vocal submissions for “We Are Strong”. We’re still receiving occasional submissions even though it’s a month past the deadline. People want to show us their own personal expression and interpretation of the song. I’m amazed at how many people took the time out to make it their own, and that was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had connecting with people through our music.
ZEKE: Building off of that, it’s also been amazing how people have gotten involved, not only with the submissions for “We Are Strong”, which was incredible, because we received dozens of those, but also how people have started covering our music and doing remixes. From making music ourselves, I know how much time it takes to actually make something that you feel comfortable putting out in the world, and that is a labor of love. For people to feel inspired enough by the stuff that we’ve been doing to bother, that’s more flattering to me than if someone gave me a hundred dollars.
BRETT: We’ve been talking a lot about how to make the connections between those that follow Chasing Moonlight more personal, because I think the experience of “We Are Strong” just made it that much clearer how fulfilling it is to have those type of connections with people who listen.
ZEKE: The other thing is that we are so active on Instagram that with all the videos that are coming in, that’s definitely a way we want to continue featuring people, too. If they give us permission to actually share the footage that they sent with the rest of our fans, then everyone can see the communities getting involved, and know this is actually an awesome thing to be a part of.
BRETT: We also had a conversation about, maybe once every other week, doing video submissions about a specific question about each other’s lives, and we can have fans send answers in, and edit a minute long video from the responses – that’s in the works, too. Smaller projects, so we can have more organic connections with our audience. I think, at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about.
Because I always want to keep MMM super positive, do you guys want to shout-out anyone? Is there anyone you’ve worked with – studio people or other artists you’d like to draw our attention to?
BRETT: Yeah! This project is about to explode onto the scene. It’s called Between Giants. A good friend of mine named Tyler John is leading the project, and I was able to help co-produce the album. It’s going to be fantastic, and I’m really excited about it!
ZEKE: Hey Brett, how about a shout-out to the mastering engineer?
BRETT: Yes! Zeke mastered one of the songs so far, so shout-out to Zeke Hunter as well! Also, I’m in another band, and we just played a show and a band backed me up – they’re called Flight of Silence, and they are really great – more like rock n’ roll / Foo Fighters type sound. REALLY good stuff. And one more, let’s see: Dreamer & Son from Boston – they just released a music video called “Cheat On Me”, and it’s fantastic – it’s so well done, and they put a lot into what they do, so people should definitely check them out.
ZEKE: I’d love to shout-out some press! Jason Scott with Popdust. (He also writes for AXS and Billboard.) He’s been incredibly supportive of Chasing Moonlight, covering pretty much every song we’ve put out. It’s people who are willing to take that time that make all of this worthwhile and positive, so THANK YOU Jason!
Connect with Chasing Moonlight:
Listen to Chasing Moonlight:
YouTube: User: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCfw3mucOgB_bVrIFpESb_VA
Listen to what Chasing Moonlight is Listening to:
Spotify Playlist (User: Ivy Cayden, Playlist: MMM: Chasing Moonlight)