Dylan Moon :: The Aquarium Drunkard Interview

Unassuming in every aspect of its presentation, Dylan Moon’s Only The Blues nonetheless functions like a snowglobe of sparkling psychedelic pop. Its 14 short songs are flush with hopscotching drum machines, delicately ear-catching melodies, and quiet emotional resonance.

If Only The Blues was released in the 1960s or ’70s, it could have been a gorgeous private press loner obscurity like Dave Bixby’s Ode To Quetzalcoatl, discovered by waxidermists decades later. If it was released in the ’80s, it could have been a proto-synth-pop masterpiece like Nick Nicely’s “D.C.T. Dreams” that magically caught the ear of a major label. If it was released in the ’90s, it could have landed on K Records, Shrimper, or maybe even Flying Nun.

Instead, Dylan emailed his demos to RVNG Intl. in 2018 with a modest message: “I’m hoping to get something released… don’t know how it all works.” The New York label is best known for its lavish reissues from subterranean legends (Craig Leon, Harald Groskopf, Syrinx, Breadwoman), while simultaneously stacking up a deep catalog of contemporary artists on various sonic vanguards (Julia Holter, Helado NegroVisible Cloaks). Needless to say, RVNG head Matt Werth probably doesn’t have much time for unsolicited submissions, but this music stuck out. He and Dylan talked back and forth for the next year, finessing the selection of songs that have now been released as Only The Blues.

There’s not much information about Dylan out there. He’s in his early 20s and lives in LA. He studied library sciences and sound design before finding a job in film post-production. He records in his bedroom, digs Jerry Garcia and cartoon dogs, and… that’s it, really. Though his commentary adds some context, Only The Blues capably speaks for itself.

Aquarium Drunkard: Can you tell me a bit about your initial submission to RVNG? Did you contact other labels at that time, or was there something specific that interested you in working with them?

Dylan Moon: I sent that EP to a handful of labels about two years ago. I didn’t want to leave the house and yell about myself, but I did want some people to hear what I was making. I thought a label could help in that regard.

I found RVNG through Julia Holter. I’ve gone deeper into their catalog/world of music since, and the admiration keeps growing.

AD: How did the album evolve as you traded songs and ideas with Matt Werth over the next year? That sounds like a pretty unusual artist/label head relationship.

Dylan Moon: Yeah, RVNG Intl. is sort of unusual. I had no online presence when I sent the EP. It was really a long shot, hoping a label would listen and respond to music without any hype.

The correspondence was hugely motivating. I would send Matt versions of tracks I was working on. His responses were encouraging and usually effusive. For the tracks that weren’t so hot or quite there yet, the responses would maybe take a bit longer. I was excited by the prospect of a release through RVNG and I asked about that a few times. Eventually, he said “yeah!” and we were in agreement. He sequenced the tracks on the record.

AD: I understand you’ve explored a few different genres of music, from pop to psych to prog to beat-making, which makes me curious to hear more instrumentals like the song “Interlude” on your new album. Do you feel like you’ve settled into a style now with the release of this record?

Dylan Moon: I’ve made some new songs that sound not too different from what’s on this album. But I’m also interested in more experimental styles and have some wacky! ideas to develop.

AD: How have your studies in electronic production, sound design, and subsequent experiences with the film industry impacted your creative process?

Dylan Moon: It’s funny, I don’t think that background has had much influence. As I got further along in my studies, I was getting more interested in folk music and moving away from electronic. I worked as a runner at a post-production facility that has since closed. It was a sad place to be—maybe that was an influence.

I spend a lot of time mixing and thinking about sounds. But instead of synthesizing the sounds from scratch, it’s usually working with a live source, like a guitar.

AD: Matt Werth has compared your music to the German musician Jürgen Gleue of 39 Clocks (a.k.a. Phantom Payn), while I hear some similarities to British psych-pop artist Nick Nicely. On your end, you name-check Jerry Garcia in a song. Who else would you consider to be your influences?

Dylan Moon: I think most of my influences are not that interesting—all the marquee artists of ’60s psych, shoegaze, and ’90s indie. Some other artists that come to mind are Emily Yacina, Chris Weisman, Joni Mitchell, Guided By Voices, Scritti Politti, and Jay Dilla.

AD: I also understand you’re a fan of Hanna-Barbera cartoon dogs. Can you shed some more light on that?

Dylan Moon: I watched the original ’60s-’70s Scooby Doo series as a kid and really loved it. I vaguely remember seeing Wacky Races and then later heard MF Doom mention Muttley. Old cartoon dogs seemed like a good way to reference childhood nostalgia!

AD: Have you always made music at home on your own, or have you ever worked with other collaborators/bandmates? Is that something you hope or plan to do in the future?

Dylan Moon: Yeah, I’ve mostly always done things by myself and found that easier. Although it’s hard right now to record this big guitar amp in my room. I shared a garage with friends who were also recording albums at the time, and I think we all indirectly influenced each other.

I’d love to collaborate, maybe with someone doing more electronic-based stuff.

AD: Why did you decided to donate part of the album’s proceeds to the Amazon Conservation Association?

Dylan Moon: RVNG/Commend suggested donating some of the proceeds to a cause. The Amazon Conservation Association seemed like a good bet. And unfortunately, that choice feels even timelier now. words/j locke

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