A Chat With: Elliot Moss
The New York City based singer, multi-instrumentalist, and producer Elliot Moss released his stunning new EP Boomerang in April. Layered and complex. the seven song EP takes its listeners on a dynamic journey. There's the seamless flow between the third through sixth song, with their blurred edges, and there's the James Blake-esque tune "99," as well as the rhythmic "Closedloop" which opens the EP. Essentially, Boomerang mimics the actions of its namesake; it keeps moving, but eventually it comes back to the core sound that Moss has developed. Moss will be taking these new songs out on the road this month, starting in DC today and ending in Chicago on July 1st. We'll be covering his hometown performance at the legendary Baby's All Right in Brooklyn this Saturday, June 24th. Before the show, we chatted with the multi-talented Moss about his creative vision, his tips for wearing multiple hats in the studio, and what's next for 2017. Get to know all of that and more in our chat with Elliot Moss!
ANCHR Mag: So I wanted to start off by talking a little bit about your new EP Boomerang. Congrats on the release! You’ve mentioned it’s best to listen to straight through, and the transitions are really strong. Did you map it out ahead of time or did it come together once you’d written some of the songs?
Elliot Moss: A bit of both, probably. When I wrote “Closedloop” I didn’t have the idea yet of having it have these sort of seamless moments. There is something nice about something stopping, and then a song coming in. So it has a bit of both of that. It goes in a particular order because it takes you through a certain experience of kind of removing yourself from the world around, and then sort of coming back into it. Dipping your feet in the water and then diving in. So the moments where they didn’t feel like they needed to be jarring, they’re not and they kind of move in a more fluid way. It just sort of seemed like the way to do it. I worked on the three tunes that are seamless all in the same session. It was like 300 tracks. It’s a lot of work to make things move seamlessly like that. To change keys without feeling forced or wrong. But yeah it was an idea that sort of developed after I wrote “Without The Lights.”
AM: So you’re writing your music, you’re playing multiple instruments, and producing your own music, which has got to be challenging. How do you deal with those challenges while you're recording, and were there any particular songs that were more challenging than others?
EM: “Without The Lights,” by far. That was the single hardest--producing it was tricky because there’s so many different parts to it, but the mix for that song, I’ve never worked harder on anything in my life. It was waking up every day for a couple of months and just trying to figure out how to make it feel like nothing was done, but everything is in order and presented to you as clearly and as discreetly as it can be. Cause you know when a song sounds mixed, it can almost take you out of it and sound overproduced. Giving it this maximalist approach, but having it be natural is a really tricky thing. Most of my music is not that dense. It’s hard when you’ve played everything, because every little part is your baby. I’m so grateful for the things here or there that I’d get friends of mine to add to the music. Like the bass lines on “Closedloop” and on “Falling Down and Getting Hurt.” It sort of takes the responsibility out of my hands a little bit and allows me to just enjoy what he played. And it’s somewhere I would have never gone. I think it just adds a dynamic to the song that wasn’t there before, that I couldn’t possibly generate.
AM: Do you have any tips then for managing it all or being able to handle producing and writing?
EM: I guess, just don’t get lazy. Don’t rely on what you’re good at to finish a song, and instead sort take a step back and ask yourself what it really needs and what you should do. Then put in the hours to make that happen.
AM: That’s great advice! So you also have some great music videos to go along with your songs. Are you really involved with the concepts behind the videos, and does that kind of come into play when you’re writing the songs?
EM: Almost too involved. Like standing on a mountain and flying drones involved. Actually for some of the shots in the “Closedloop” video...I’m not built to climb the side of a mountain holding a bunch of gear, so that was very challenging. But worth it in the end. It was freezing cold and you couldn’t find the light up there. We shot it all in Utah where you can just sort of drive into Nowheresville pretty easily. That song, the visual representation is sort of, it echoes a lot the same themes of what I tried to achieve in the production. Where it’s like these two worlds at odds almost, and “Closedloop” is about retreating to a place where you can process things at a safe... at a speed where you’ll be able to assess things and come up with a solution. So the light and the spotlight in “Closedloop” that we shot out of these drones, was just focusing on that piece of the world for the time, rather than everything at once. It also looked really cool.
AM: For sure! So you’re really into putting a deep meaning into your songs and just from talking to you now, it’s clear you’re passionate about the visual concepts in your videos as well. Do you look to other art forms besides music, like film or certain visual art for influence on your own projects and your music videos?
EM: Well sure, yeah. Art can put you in a particular mood and I guess after walking out of a movie or looking at a painting, you can paint in those colors, if that’s not too cheesy. I definitely try to keep my mind open and look at new things as much as I can because it keeps your gears turning. Definitely, I think I draw on all of what I’m consuming. More than just art too. Just lots going on in my life....books I’m reading, etc…
AM: Totally. Do you have a specific book you read or a movie that might have inspired a certain song on the Boomerang EP?
EM: Richard Ayoade directed a movie called The Double with Jesse Eisenberg that I thought was really, really cool. It sort of has this murky, shadowy vibe throughout. It’s coupled almost with this fluorescent blue every now and then. It looks almost electric. “Closedloop” feels that way to me, sort of wading through murky water and then suddenly there’s this fork-in-the-wall voltage right up in your face, which came from this synthesizer that was not processed in any way. It was as direct as I could possibly get it from synth to iPod earbuds.
AM: Taking these songs to the live sense, you’re starting tour this week. Are there any new songs you’re particularly excited to play, or any new arrangements?
EM: Yeah, we did a live in the studio video of the whole EP, that we’re kind of dropping one song at a time. There’s a really interesting arrangement that we did of the three songs that are seamless- “Boomerang,” “My Statue Sinking,” and “Dolly Zoom,” where I stay on the piano the whole time, and we start with my bass player actually on the piano with me. That was a lot of overdubs on that song, but live, there’s only one piano that can fit in the room. So we had to find a way to make that clunky, disjointed rhythm work in a way that it wasn’t weird sounding in a studio setting. We’re taking elements of what we learned from doing that live video to the stage. I get excited about “Falling Down and Getting Hurt” and “Without The Lights” because we didn’t have a lot of big, loud tunes to play. Live, depending on the room, sometimes this big mezzanine and all these seats demand that you play a little bit louder and faster because you want to fill the room with sound. I’m excited to have a few more tunes that do that.
AM: Are there any cities you’re particularly excited for?
EM: I actually like all of the cities that we’re doing this tour! I’ve played them all before and they’re really cool. DC is always really cool. DC9 is right around the corner from 930 club, which is one of my favorite venues we’ve ever played. And Montreal, I feel like I have absolutely no understanding of the layout of that city. I like getting to explore every time we play there.
AM: Yeah, awesome! Then are there any new artists that you’re really into, or new music from an older artist that you’re into?
EM: I could tell you that for sure. I’m probably the last person in the world to listen to it, but up until a couple of weeks ago, I’d never listened to Dummy by Portishead, and I’ve been completely obsessed with it now. It’s one of my favorite records now, it’s just too cool. Speaking of production that sounds natural, it’s exactly what Beth’s voice needed behind her. I think that will be a real source of inspiration in the future. I’m trying to make my music as effortless and as fluid as theirs is.
AM: Nice. When you’re on the road and on tour, what do you do to stay entertained besides listening to music? Any podcasts that you’re into?
EM: I like the Adam Buxton podcast. He interviews some interesting people. I try to make as much music as I can on the road. I have this makeshift desk thing in the van, that I try to stick a keyboard on and at least come up with an idea or two per day. My bass player, Evan, is just so prolific. It's hard to keep up. Just watching him work away on his computer makes me feel like I need to be working too.
AM: Anything else you're looking forward to this year? Do you think you'll release more new music, with some of the stuff that you're working on on tour?
EM: I hope so, yeah! There's a lot done already. I'm just trying to get my bearings and understand what it means in terms of whether it's an album, or another EP, or some singles. I do want to get an LP2 out there and happening in the near future. I guess I'm really excited to just do some more touring too. Last year was a working year in terms of getting an EP and a lot of new songs done. This year marks the beginning of touring for us. Do the west coast, and some European dates. We get to see the world.