The Soft Moon – “Breathe the Fire”

As The Soft Moon, SF’s Luis Vasquez crafted one of 2010’s great debuts, a self-titled album that mixed alternately lush and abrasive tones into dark synth-driven pop. For The Soft Moon, Vasquez drew on a sense of personal musical nostalgia, an approach that is one of the important differences between his work and bands that crib liberally from post-punk’s past. For Vasquez, the inspiration initially came from his memories, and, like all memories, they’re indelibly his. There’s a connection to the past here, but it’s secondary to the drive of a unique artist looking toward the future.

Via e-mail, I spoke with Vasquez about the project’s origins, the role of personal history in the music, and his plans for 2011. The Soft Moon will be performing at Milk with Violet Tremors on February 10th (9pm, $5), and at Cafe Du Nord on February 25th (8pm, $13) as part of Noise Pop.

How did The Soft Moon get started?

I wrote an untitled song in 1999 that would later become “When It’s Over” in 2009. The Soft Moon was a way for me to return to my past in the hopes of learning more about myself. In the process I found each track more and more relieving and therapeutic. Because of this, The Soft Moon has become a necessity to me.

When you began the project, did you approach it having a particular aesthetic in mind or did the sound evolve over time?

I didn’t have any particular aesthetic in mind when I approached The Soft Moon initially. However, it makes sense to me why the sound has a similar formula to late 70s and early 80s music considering the initial point of the project was to create feelings of nostalgia on a personal level. Meaning, everything I was listening to at a young age sort of found its way into my music. Since then, I’ve let the sound evolve on its own naturally. Not exactly sure where it will go next.

A fair number of bands have been labeled “post-punk” over the past several years, but it feels like The Soft Moon is musically coming from a totally different place. Are there any particular older bands/records that had a formative influence on your musical interests?

I don’t necessarily disagree with The Soft Moon being labeled as post-punk, and I also agree that my music for the most part feels like it comes from a different place. Everyone is different in their own way, therefor the music i create is unique to me and my personal experiences. Bands that have made a strong sonic influence to my sound are Danse Society, Can, Liquid Liquid, Iron Curtain, Patrick Miller, Neu! and Chrome.

I’m struck by the strong sense of atmosphere you’ve been able to create with this music. When you’re crafting a song, how important is mood or feel? Is how a song feels a part of the initial songwriting process, or does it come later?

Moods are a crucial element to my sound. I find that incorporating layers of atmospherics/textures within each track help to express whatever mood it is I’m in or wanting to create. A certain type of mood is never predetermined as I let the mood sort of unfold on its own during the songwriting process. Once the mood surfaces I tend to expand on it.

Some of the songs on the self-titled album channel a real dark intensity. Do you think that’s reflective of your broader worldview, or is that just what interests you musically?

I actually never intended to write dark music. I only wanted to create a sound that reflects and expresses my feelings and thoughts. Who knew that I was so morbid? haha but then again The Soft Moon is a way for me to learn more about myself.

Were you involved in developing the concept for the video for “Circles”? What do you think of the video?

The concept for the Circles video was inspired by random footage and lost tapes I came across. I put together a list of inspirational footage and talked about the direction with my friend Ron Robinson who handles the visual element of our live shows. He pretty much took it from there and created something beyond my expectations.

You’ve assembled a band for live shows. How does the band impact the music?

I’m working with two very dedicated band mates (Justin Anastasi and Damon Way) who have a strong understanding about the project. Working with them has elevated the project to a level in which I would be unable to achieve on my own. As of right now we are working together on translating the LP into a dynamic live experience.

You’ve got some upcoming California dates and then SXSW. What else do you have planned for 2011?

Aside from the upcoming San Francisco shows, Southern California dates with Autolux, and SXSW festival, we have a UK/EU tour planned for May. We’re also working on a North American tour later this year. I’ll be working on the 2nd LP in between the madness.