Haunted Summer

Haunted Summer sounds like the best nightmare you’ve ever had.  I know that proclamation seems a bit strange, but once you hear their music it will all make sense: the otherworldly sonic arrangements, the eerie synthesizers, the somber vocal melodies that creep into the deepest recesses of your mind. The band sounds exactly like what their name suggests, a dreamy mix of sunshine-drenched hooks and sinister undertones.

“The band was sort of formed amid personal crisis,” says Bridgette Eliza Moody, singer and co-songwriter/founder of the group, “We just learned to work with the dark elements inherent in life and used it to fuel our music.”

Husband and other half of the songwriting foundation John Seasons agrees: “For every horrible situation in life, there’s a way to shine a light on it. I think that’s what we try to do with our music.”

The Los Angeles-based band will be taking this surreal mixture of darkness and light, dream and nightmare, to San Francisco this month with a Tuesday night residency at Amnesia starting on the 7th and ending on the 28th.  I spoke to the couple about their thoughts on the Bay Area, the limitation of genre labels and just how they strike that tenuous balance between hope and despondency in their music.

The Bay Bridged: What attracted you to the Bay Area music scene and what are you most looking forward to in your upcoming San Francisco residency?

Bridgette Eliza Moody: We’ve always been fans of the city and we’ve been really lucky with the reception we’ve received on past tours up here.  We were welcomed with open arms by music fans in the area and we love how tight knit the community of musicians is; the way they take care of each other is incredible.

John Seasons: Yeah, the Tony Bennett song definitely comes to mind every time we leave this place.  We’ve played Bottom of the Hill, the Great American Music Hall, the Chapel, among others, and every time we’ve had a fantastic experience.  You’re lucky to get a enthusiastic reaction anywhere nowadays, and it’s even more special in a city as beautiful as San Francisco.

TBB: Where do you draw inspiration from?

JS: We’re all over the map when it comes to influences. Bridgette has a background in theater and I have one in jazz, but we listen to a bit of everything. Off the top of my head I guess I could call out Bjork, Radiohead, the Moody Blues and the Beach Boys, but I know there are so many more I can’t even contemplate right now.

BM: Yes, we’re definitely eclectic in our listening tastes. But outside of musical influences we both pull a lot from our own dreams. We make music almost as a way to make sense of those intangible experiences, as a way to bring them a step closer to reality.

TBB: How does being a husband and wife songwriting team affect the process of creating a song? Does it ameliorate the process? Does it complicate it?

BM: For us it’s not a complication at all. Its almost been too easy to write songs together. We’re extremely collaborative and as long as we don’t take the criticism personally, no feelings get hurt in the process. It’s a give-and-take experience, so as long as there is balance in the relationship the creative process flows naturally.

JS: We’re pretty lucky in this aspect too. It’s like we can read each others mind at times. It’s such an organic process with us and I can’t recall ever having a major disagreement when writing a song together.

TBB: The term ‘dream pop’ is thrown around a lot in the indie scene today. How does Haunted Summer distinguish itself from the many other similarly labeled ‘dream pop’ bands out there?

BM: I think we just try not to become constrained by labels because it’s so easy to fall into categorizations other people place on you. Our goal is never to fit into a certain easily definable label or genre, but we are trying to balance that line of accessibility, of neither being too complicated nor too subtle in our approach to melody or song structure.

JS: When it comes to songwriting we don’t worry too much about certain genre restrictions. We try and leave generally accepted rules outside the door as much as possible, and I think that’s what people who really like our sound latch onto. It’s too easy to be limited musically by constricting labels, but if blogs and fans want to call us ‘dream pop,’ I’m okay with it as long as we’re not compromising our own sound to conform to it.

TBB: On your website you mention the philosophy of ‘spreading darkness through light.’ Can you explain this to people who may be unfamiliar with your sound?

JS: We try to balance both aspects of life in our music, the good and the bad. You really can’t have one without the other. Even when we pull from other realms of inspiration like dreams we try to include both its surreal and euphoric aspects.

BM: There’s a little bit of nightmare in every dream and vice versa. This band is a way to find the beauty and meaning in each. You have to understand the darkness in order to truly appreciate the light.

Haunted Summer
October 7th, 14th, 21st, 28th, 2014
9pm, $7-10, 21+