Raised under the blistering sun of California’s Mojave Desert, Luis Vasquez creates shape-like sounds under a design of minimal darkwave. Vasquez began The Soft Moon as a process of expelling memories of a rotten upbringing. After a decade of working as a graphic designer and playing in various punk inspired bands, snarling post-punk and industrial synthpop felt like the perfect mode of expression. Vasquez won’t deny a kindred affinity with early post-punk artists, but The Soft Moon is his project, houses his demons, placates his fears, and blisters with his successes. I spoke with Vasquez about his aesthetic vision, the genesis of his musical expression and his dark-leaning peers.
SLUG: Your latest music video, “Insides,” directed by Jaqueline Castel, is fantastic! You used a Hans Richter film as the video for your song “Parallels” and your visual aesthetic draws from Dada/ Constructivist designers like El Lissitsky and video artist Nam June Paik, among others. Do you find that the harsh, angular nature of these movements parallels your sound?
Vasquez: I have this strange thing where when I hear sounds I see shapes—it kind of just happend naturally—I’m into the Bauhaus movement in art, all that Suprematism, Constructivism and stuff like that. I was a graphic designer at the time I started working on The Soft Moon. I like to go for a minimal approach when it comes to the album artwork and things like that to contrast the heavy textual atmospheric music. A yin and yang, if you will. I can’t help but constantly be inspired by art or anything for that matter around me.
SLUG: Ron Robinson’s addition to the band brings these aesthetic philosophies into a live setting with an audience. How important are visual components and an audience’s experience at a Soft Moon show?
Vasquez: Its heavily important. In fact, it’s pretty crucial because for me because I like to create something more than just a live band performing. For me its more about creating an experience, or creating a world, an environment for the audience to kind of be in—to hit on all sensory levels. I think it’s really important to envelop the person who’s watching the show.
For me to get my expression across it takes more than just sound- it takes vision as well. Ron’s a good friend of mine and he’s always busy and always travelling around. He’s not with us for every show but he used to do live visuals for us. Since he’s so busy what we do is we work together on visuals and he’ll hand me a disc that we’ll use for the live shows. In Europe we have a bigger light show but here in the States we just use a projector. I’m actually curious now that you’re asking me questions about visuals if we brought our visual equipment on tour—I’m hoping we did.
SLUG: I hope so too!
Vasquez: I think so. I guess I’ll find out soon.
SLUG: Speaking of Europe, are there any differences you’ve noticed between touring in the States and elsewhere in the world?
Vasquez: There’s a really strong connection in Spain, Italy, Germany definitely Paris—they really get the music. We’ve grown a lot larger out there so we play large venues—the live shows are a lot more dramatic. In the States we do well in California, on the East Coast, in Canada as well. We’re still growing out here. It’s interesting. It might take a little more time to have the fan base that we do in Europe. Here there’s a lot more expectations in terms of songwriting—people are expecting more of a song, whereas my music’s more soundtracky.
SLUG: How did The Soft Moon begin and what has the journey to Zeros been like?
Vasquez: When I first started writing music on my own after being in bands through my teenage years I remember I wrote these three songs in 1999. I forgot about those songs and then years went by and in 2009, ten years later, I came across those again just by coincidence—one of those stood out to me and I developed it into a song called “When It’s Over,” which is on the first record. Once I developed that track it felt right to me. It felt therapeutic. It also felt unfinished, like something I wanted to dive deeper into and develop more—so I wrote the first record based on that. The first record was very personal—it was a means to go back into my childhood and learn more about myself. By the time I got to Zeros I had been touring a lot and had formed a band around the project, so a few things changed—my experiences in life changed. Playing live and hearing what works well in a live setting is how I approached Zeros. On top of that, I approached Zeros with more of a concept in mind- I wanted it to have a certain type of story, to feel more like a book.