Words by Tommy Johnson
Having found themselves intersecting within each other lives for years, the members of Moontype finally coming together feels like it was serendipitous. Bodies of Water, their debut album for local label Born Yesterday, further accentuates their captivating chemistry by encompassing each member’s strengths. Throughout the album, what stands out is the push and pull instrumentally on top of Margaret’s pacifying vocals.
Off Shelf: The band came together throughout nights that included all of you hanging around in the summer. How long did it take for Moontype to develop to be what is it now entirely?
Margaret McCarthy: We all hung out on our friend’s porch playing country tunes on summer nights, but that’s not actually how the band formed; it’s just how we became friends in Chicago. I played a few solo shows that fall – 2018 – and Ben came to one of them and asked about playing music together. So we asked Emerson to join us on drums for our first show, in the spring, after realizing we needed a drummer as well, and the rest is history!
OS: Were there demos brought to flesh out at the start of this project?
MM: At the start, I had some demos that I brought to the band and Emerson and Ben wrote their parts – the songs developed naturally that way. All the ones on Bodies of Water originated that way. At this point though, Emerson and Ben have also brought songs to the band that we’ve played together.
OS: I’ve been told by many just how great the DIY scene has been in Chicago. What could you say about the community that many haven’t heard already?
MM: I don’t think I can say anything that hasn’t been heard – I think it’s common knowledge among music scenes now that the Chicago DIY scene is incredibly supportive and full of kind people. We are super grateful to our friends for lifting us and that is one of the amazing things about living here – friends supporting friends!
OS: Having been deeply influenced by vastly different genres, do you feel that it was challenging to come together to find a uniform sound?
MM: No, it has been a fun and organic process for us to develop our sound together with all of these varied influences. It’s not something we think about consciously.
OS: How big of a role does your studies in geology in terms of your songwriting?
MM: Studying geology has influenced how I conceptualize the world around me and influences the images I use when writing songs. For example, I tend to gravitate towards earthly metaphors for emotion. I also tie my emotions and feelings of home to my geological surroundings, which came up a lot in Bodies of Water, trying to feel at home in Chicago by connecting to Lake Michigan. I also love to imagine how the earth around me is constantly moving and changing, as am I, but we are operating on such different timescales.
OS: Were there any strong influences in terms of artists or albums that swayed each of you before going into the studio to record the album?
MM: Lots of albums influenced us subconsciously for sure, but we really figured out how we wanted the record to sound by playing the songs live on our short tour in the fall of 2019. Playing them every night for ten days solidified the feeling and sound of each tune, and we went into the recording process with the intent of capturing that sound.
OS: Bodies of Water was recorded at Jamdek Recording Studio with Doug Malone. What did Doug bring to the time in the studio that helped you during the recording process?
MM: Doug brought an incredible combination: extremely deep technical knowledge and precision, along with a discerning ear and an open heart. We owe so much to him for how the album sounds. On top of that, the process of recording with him was fun! He was really open-minded and the four of us explored together what sounds were right for the album.
OS: When going into the studio, how much was demoed and how much was crafted within the studio?
MM: I had recorded four of the songs previously on my own with just bass and vocals and then we demoed a few more with Seth Engel – also a good friend and amazing engineer – to send around to venues before we went on tour.
OS: So much has changed since Bodies of Water was laid down, yet lyrically it feels untimely. What was the process like when crafting the songs?
MM: All the songs were written alone, and they lyrically are all about personal emotions and experiences, but I think once they have been fleshed out with the whole band and then performed and shared with other people, they take on a new life. My hope when I share songs with people is that they will put themselves into the emotions of songs and get into their feelings, which are different from mine! So if people listen to a song about longing for friends because of moving away and connect with it because this year felt so lonely in quarantine, that works for me.
OS: I loved the flow of the album from start to finish. It ebbs and flows gracefully at times when you need it to. How vital was the sequence of the songs to go how they did?
MM: Thanks! I think there are a lot of different moods represented in Bodies of Water – some songs are short and fast, some are long and slow, some are angrier and some calmer. We tried out a bunch of different album orders before we got to the right one – but we always knew that “Me And My Body” had to be the last song, and we almost always play “Anti-Divinity” first at shows, so it felt right for it to be first.
OS: How much are all of you longing to get back on the road?
MM: We are craving it so much! We’ve been able to play a couple of shows for small audiences this spring, and playing for people feels so good. Touring will feel even better and we hope to get out on the road soon.