'An Interview with Moonlover' / Jared Gibson
Moonlover (a.k.a Quang Dinh, formerly of Little Red) has dropped his debut album Thou Shall Be Free, a true psychedelic-pop journey that travels through time and space, and pays homage to sounds and styles past, present and future. In the wake of this release, Jared Gibson spoke to the Melbourne musician about recording experiences, artistic inspiration and that one time David Bowie came to him in a dream.
I understand the name Moonlover is more than a name, in fact your releases coincide with the lunar cycles. How did ‘Moonlover’ come to be?
I think everybody’s fascinated with the moon. It’s this thing in the sky that kind of brings out the nighttime consciousness, the night owl kind of thinking comes out. The subconscious is more available during the nighttime, people dream during the nighttime. You can’t look at the sun whereas you can look at the moon. I was also born under the sign of cancer, which is ruled by the moon.
Moonlover is a name I can wear for a long time and do lots of things with. It’s a beautiful thing and I think everybody’s affected by it.
So your anticipated debut album ‘Thou Shall Be Free’ dropped on the full moon on March 2nd. How long has it been in the making?
About nine months. It’s a DIY solo project from a recording point of view. So I just spent nine months in my bedroom, not really going out much. I was just researching things, making things and trying to get my antenna out to see if I could find anything out there.
And you recorded, produced and performed the entire album?
Yeah. At the end, because my mixing skills are limited to some respect, I went to this other mixer in melbourne town called John Lee and we finished off the rest of the album together.
Do you find full autonomy over a project allows you to work at a much faster pace, without relying on other musicians?
I think it definitely makes it easier to spend long amounts of time on it. You’re not really wasting time on organising and communicating, just doing. Doing it alone, I can spend as much time as I want to. I could have been there 3 years! But no one else would really have the patience for that.
Tell us about the inspiration for the fantastic title track of the album ‘Thou Shall Be Free’
I wasn’t heaps into David Bowie but then he died and everyone was wearing tight glittery glam pants and that lightning strike across peoples faces. Eventually David Bowie got to me and I got deep into his music. When he released that film clip for Black Star, I remember one morning I got extremely high with my housemate at the time and I was under the spell. David Bowie was speaking directly to me. He jumped into my soul pretty much, he jumped through the screen and I kind of felt his spirit just go into me. The whole universe disappeared and it was just me, him and the film clip of black star which is an amazing clip.
A few months after that, David Bowie came to me in a dream and I don’t remember anything of the dream, all I remember is the last bit where he sung to me the first lines of the song- notes and everything - and he said “oh oh oh oh Thou Shall Be Free”. Then I kind of half woke up, grabbed my acoustic guitar - Which I sleep with! I kept my eyes shut, half awake and wrote the rest of the song.
I love the album artwork. Is there a story behind it?
It kind of just made sense to me. When I first saw it it was an already finished piece. And I was trying to figure out what the artwork for the album was going to be. Then I saw it and it struck me - just the angles on it, the colour, that pinkish kind of colour. Absurdism, surrealism, that kind of subconscious element, the collage element, it all kind of resonated with me. Sometimes with art it’s better to pose questions than provide answers.
Lyrically your songs read like poetry. Is this another interest of yours?
I’ve been writing poetry since I was an angry sixteen year old who wanted to go see adult films. I’ve been doing it for a long time and I guess listening to a lot of Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen - who were like my musical parents - eventually it seeps through.
Is it too early to say how you intend to follow up this album?
It could go in any direction. At the moment I’m just thinking about making these video clips for some of the songs on the album. I’ve got some plans but I don’t want to tell anyone about them because I think that destroys the little secret of it.
Do you enjoy making the videos?
I love making the videos. It’s been really great to learn about how to make them. Coming from a DIY perspective - not trained or anything, just trying to figure out how to do it myself. But I’ve been really enjoying learning these programs - how to edit properly and special effects and all that. And it’s kind of another creative expression. It’s good to have something that ain't music because sometimes I could spend too much time on music. Sometimes it feels like you’re drowning at the end of it and you need something else.
Lastly, what’s next for Moonlover?
We’ve got a single launch April 25th at Old Bar, we’re launching one of the singles off the album called Lazy Dazy which has just come out. After that we’ll do an album launch.
I’ve been thinking about what Moonlover is recently. There’s a live band as well and then there’s my solo recording. These days I’m also thinking more broadly. Moonlover could be anything really. Like it could be a rotating lineup of musicians, it could be a collective, it could just be me.
I hope to release a zine next as well. I think that’d be fun with just some collective musings and thoughts.