This month a year ago, Moonlight Bride packed up their 1999 Dodge van and drove 922 miles to Austin, Texas, for a show they’d booked only two weeks prior. They had no connecting dates, no sleeping accommodations, and little in the way of a plan once they arrived. When they did, they parked two miles away from the venue, unloaded the van and carried their gear through the crowded city center where the South by Southwest music conference was under way.
“It was a 16-hour drive for one unofficial show at 1 o’clock in the afternoon on a Friday,” said guitarist Justin Grasham.
For the band, it was one of the most important trips they’ve ever taken. And, given the chain of events that began there, it’s easy to see why. It precipitated a lineup change, putting longtime friend and collaborator Dave Maki on bass guitar. Their afternoon performance impressed a coterie of industry onlookers. They signed on with their current manager and drew the attention of West Coast producer John Goodmanson (Death Cab for Cutie, Hot Hot Heat).
Most importantly, the trip broke down a wall of self-doubt that had built up over the preceding months. In its place, confidence took root.
“We just grew and bonded so much on that trip,” Grasham said.
They return to South by Southwest this week on stronger footing. Having put together a management team that handles day-to-day business, the band can concentrate on writing and performing. Last year, they covered thousands of miles up and down the East Coast, growing their fan base outside their hometown of Chattanooga and picking up some fantastic anecdotes along the way. (Getting Myrtle Beach drunk? Check. Raiding the minibar and feasting on crab cakes in a five-star suite in Baltimore? Check comp’d.)
And though it’s been more than two years of silence on the recording front, they have a spate of releases planned for 2012, starting with the “Twin Lakes” EP, which came out last month. Soon to follow are a collection of remixes—Tom Bromley of Los Campesinos! is contributing one of the tracks—an acoustic-based record in May, and a new full-length album in the fall.
“We’re going to focus on meeting people and spreading our music around as much as possible,” said frontman Justin Giles, who’s dropping his surname for future releases. “I feel like ‘Twin Lakes’ is just a little starter for everything to roll up into the next full-length.”
Recorded at As Elyzum Studio in St. Elmo, “Twin Lakes” captures the band’s confidence and energy upon their return from Austin last spring. It’s a departure from 2009’s “Myths.” There’s less keyboard, more guitar noise, and richer dynamics. The quiet passages come to a standstill before opening up and moving into new territories. Falsetto melodies haunt its darkest corners and seem to linger much longer than the brief, 20-minute runtime would otherwise suggest.
Two of the songs, “Drug Crimes” and the single “Lemonade,” were written literally days before the session began. They spent two weeks in the studio, a time consisting of live-tracking, very few overdubs, and the consumption of strong drink. (A clue to the latter lies in the title of the EP’s third track.) “In the studio, we were extremely confident,” Giles said. “We played better and sounded better.”
John Goodmanson mixed “Twin Lakes.” He got involved with the band after their performance at South by Southwest— his manager was one of the industry onlookers. “I’m always looking for people who are hungry and excited about what they’re doing,” he said in an email. “I liked the melodies and the voice, but that paired with the psychedelic, My Bloody Valentine vibe is what made it unique.”