I never thought my neck would have hurt so much after a night of head-bobbing, but there’s something about Moonchild’s sound that makes you continuously groove. Whether it’s in the irresistible backbeats, the colorful horn harmonies, or the soothing melodies coming from lead singer Amber Navran, Moonchild’s show on November 11th resulted in a whole night of groovin’, thanks to the release of their biggest album yet, Voyager.
Recorded entirely in a cabin at Lake Arrowhead, Voyager feels organic and naturally soulful, even with the inclusion of synths and the occasional glitchy beats. “We bond a lot in nature, and musically, hidden in the tracks there’s a lot of nature sounds” says keyboardist and trumpet player Andris Mattson, perhaps in reference to the bird song samples on their lead single “Cure”.
“We all have set ups at our houses so most of what we do is home recording” says Amber, “but what’s nice about Arrowhead is we’re all in the same place, because we live spread out throughout LA so it’s nice to just live in the same house and bounce ideas off each other quickly.”
The group originally met as jazz students at USC Thornton School of Music (like many students here, they made their first recordings in practice rooms). “It’s nice to be in a community of musicians, because before college it was hard to find people who were really passionate about it, so just being around that energy is really cool” says Amber. “A lot of our stuff will have horn breakdowns or horn solos, and we picked up a lot of arranging skills in college. Now, we don’t necessarily write everything out, but Amber can, when she’s not singing, record this flute solo for a track and know what voicings work well from music school” adds Andris.
After a few small recordings, they released their debut album Be Free in 2012, and grew bigger after the release of their most popular song yet, “Don’t Wake Me” in 2015. Today, having toured and recorded with everyone from Kamasi Washington to Jill Scott and Stevie Wonder, Moonchild’s music seems to resonate well with artists from across the soul spectrum, and they reflect that in their own tastes as well they cite everything from Emily King and Noname to Roy Hargrove and 9th Wonder as current inspirations. Most recently, The Internet recruited them to open their fall tour. “We’re doing this tour with the Internet now and that wasn’t initially the plan, we were going to record this time, but they asked us to open for them and we were like ‘Fuck Yeah!’” says Andris. After the tour, Moonchild plans to spend the winter recording their next album and preparing to perform in new venues across the globe, as far as Indonesia and South Africa.
Regardless of their growth, the group continues to stick to their Jazz and DIY roots. On the state of the sound today, they show that Jazz is the best it’s been in a long time, and that talent and artistry stay crucial in the music industry. “There are platforms now that are glorifying the musician, and now you have all these instrumentalists that are establishing huge names for themselves just by playing their instrument, whereas before it was more the front people that get the attention,” adds Andris, “Jazz as a genre has evolved into a bunch of different things.”
After they ended their night at the loft, the group rushed towards their open table in the back, right next to the bar. Taking pictures, signing T-Shirts, and saying “Thank You” to every fan that came out, Moonchild’s show was not only an exercise in soul, but also an exercise in musicianship. Look out for what they come up with next!
Interview & article by Tino Tirado and Needhi Sharma