Moon & Moon: Musical Theater Meets “Hyper-Art”

Moon & Moon: VII Acts of an Iron KingMoon & Moon: VII Acts of an Iron King (La Société Expéditionnaire, 11/11/08)

Moon & Moon: “Act II: Hands of a Man”

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“I want to trick people into coming to a regular show and then be like, ‘Ahhh! You’re at a musical! Oh, shit. You’re fucked now,’” William Lemon III explains when describing his ultimate vision for his band, Moon & Moon. “I’ve always been into the idea of musical theater. It encompasses so many things.”

“If someone gave me a million dollars [for a production],” Lemon continues, “I would have hors d’oeuvres, I would have smell-o-vision, I would have projections in the background, I would have moving backdrops, and I would have dancers that would go and — depending on the song — caress or slap the audience on the ass, or feed them, or goose them, or some shit to get people completely immersed in every single sense. Eventually, it will happen. I have faith that it will happen.”

Moon & Moon

Lemon is the driving force behind the theatrical rock of Moon & Moon as well as the group’s only official permanent member. Including pianist Lou Rogai (Lewis & Clarke), drummer Stephen Kurtz, bassist Jay Hudak (An Albatross), vocalist Stephonik Youth, and percussionist Edward Klinger, a circle of friends and collaborators appear on Moon & Moon’s debut album, VII Acts of an Iron King, and assemble for live shows. That’s not to say that the other musicians are hired guns or one-offs. In fact, plans are already in motion for a second album.

Lemon’s faith is the crux of the album. “The record is more or less a religious exorcism of beliefs that were holding me back,” he says. “The archetypes that I was doing battle with, with my religious upbringing, are archetypes that everybody can see in every single human conflict. There were these characters inside of me, fighting with myself and creating this anxiety. I got to name them and then describe their imperfections and why they were fighting.”

“I want to trick people into coming to a regular show and then be like, ‘Ahhh! You’re at a musical! Oh, shit. You’re fucked now.’”

Each song, or “act,” represents these archetypes as characters in an epic story. An iron king sails on the ocean with no real destination in mind, and suddenly sets his sights on a woman who he decides that he wants as his queen. He launches an attack on her city, sending in an army of boys to attack the populace. Ultimately, he gets his queen, but while surveying his new “accomplishments,” he realizes that he was only at war with himself.

As seven-year-old Olivia Galarza’s narration guides the listener, different sounds and voices evoke specific emotions: a baritone saxophone represents a wild-eyed celebration of murder, and an echoed trumpet blasts a war cry and levels a city. The music, storyline, and varied textures alone create an enveloping atmosphere on record, and if Lemon ever puts on the live show that he would like to, the experience would be overwhelming. “The whole thing is like a hyper-art project,” he says.

Moon & Moon

Lemon is fairly new at creating music, more or less getting started when his friend Devendra Banhart gave him a flute leftover from a video shoot. “I took it home, I looked at it, and I was like, ‘I’m going to learn to play this fucking flute,’” Lemon says. “So I taught myself how to play flute.” After a learning curve that involved basement jams with Banhart, members of VietNam, and other friends, he began working on putting together an album, a three-year undertaking.

“I am the worst musician on the album,” he says while praising his collaborators. “Instead of giving [the musicians] a note structure, I would play a little melody, we would jam out with it, and then I would say, ‘Okay, now you are this person.’ Not unlike a play, like a theatrical thing — like they were acting through their instruments.”

The resultant album represents the emotional shedding of beliefs with which Lemon grew up. He still has faith, but it no longer involves “massively organized religion with no focus on personal enlightenment.” Concluding about his new spirituality, Lemon says, “Religion is a beautiful thing. I still have a tremendous amount of faith, but now my faith is directed toward the entire human race as opposed to a fraction of it.”

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