Since forming in 2009, Night Moves have carved out an addictive sound where psychedelic guitar licks and otherworldly vocals twirl together seamlessly with folksy nuances. The Minneapolis outfit first broke into mainstream recognition with their debut album Coloured Emotions, which gained waves of positive exposure on sites like Pitchfork and Stereogum, before touring with the likes of Father John Misty, Lord Huron and Django Django. Riding off their past strengths, Night Moves has now brought a second full-length release to the table, which has seen them release two nostalgic singles so far: Denise, Don’t Wanna See You Cry and Carl Sagan.
Ahead of the release of their highly anticipated follow up album Pennied Days, we pulled vocalist and guitarist John Pelant aside to ask him about what it was like creating the album with producer John Agnello, the meaning of Carl Sagan, and how to stay sane while on tour…
John Pelant: YO! Doing well…Currently in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
DC: Your upcoming album Pennied Days is soon to be released on April 8. Creating a sophomore album to follow up a debut that received such high praise both nationally and internationally can be a pretty daunting task; what was it like making this album?
JP: Yeah, it was a little crazy trying to make something ‘new’ but trying to make it not ‘too new’ in so far as it’s alienating, while all along trying to not even give a shit about other people’s opinion of what a “sophomore album” is – so fuckin’ dumb. We took our time though, wrote a lot of material that spanned a large stylistic area. A lot of the time I was pumped on making cool music, although there were definite low moments where I wondered who I was and what I doing, was it worth it, was I wasting time or making progress? It all bore Pennied Days in the end.
DC: How did your producer John Agnello (Alice Cooper, Sonic Youth, The Living End) help bring the album into its final form?
JP: Because a lot of the material spanned a large gamut stylistically, he helped make it all work in one framework, albeit vast; it ended up sounding like the one band in the end. He helped marry my folky worlds with my astrally synth ones.
DC: What does the title ‘Pennied Days’ mean to you?
JP: It means broke, as well as earning, working towards sometimes, looking at your days with the most basic units of value, also refers to a period of time, and thusly a passing phase. Counting your blessings next to your pittance.. [it] could mean a lot of things.
DC: It’s been said that George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass was a major influence of yours, along with Leon Russell, Curtis Mayfield and pre-punk band Suicide – just to name a few. What is it about these acts that resonate with you creatively?
JP: Their grooves, melodies, compositional arrangements, and realness.
DC: What significant elements from these artists have you taken and reworked to mould into the songs we can hear on Pennied Days?
JP: It’s just a vibe, attitude, and certain sonic motifs. If I told you it would basically be spoon feeding the listener, listening to the textures and the layers of the record you’ll be able to pick it out. Maybe clear, maybe more abstract…
DC: Which song from the album do you think best represents the Night Moves sound and why?
JP: There isn’t one. The album was given a title that referred to a period of time for a reason. The 9 song record and the additional 3 song EP reflect Night Moves and it’s sound and where were are at currently. It’s a vast tonal palette, it most certainly is not monochrome.
DC: Carl Sagan is most commonly known as a free-thinking, radical scientist of the 1980-90s who had a passion for astronomy and often acknowledged the vastness of our universe. Where did the concept of writing a song called Carl Sagan come from?
JP: I was going through a big Cosmos phase during the initial inception of the song. The title was merely a place holder for the tune that became Carl Sagan. I simply needed a title to distinguish the sound file from the rest of files on my computer and I admired Carl Sagan and his work so I just put the title down always intending to change it. I revisited the tune years later and it just felt weird calling it something else, so I kept it. However, If I were to say what significance do the lyrics have in relation to Carl Sagan, I might argue that in my song the lyric reflects a certain inner wrestling with the idea of time and how one relates to those surrounding him or herself. How one tries to relate to others with certain actions, as well as how ones familial history makes up ones character. We often change over time, but I believe there are some things you can’t change (genetics, birth dates, biological parents, innate needs such as food + water, certain desires like love, carnality, belonging, knowledge, etc.) The songs lyrics were basically an attempt to capture a sense of helplessness when it comes to wrestling with your environment and the idea that you are a very insignificant piece of life, and someday you will be gone. Basically, trying to conceive of some sort of worthy cosmic purpose amidst the fugue of it all.
DC: Are there any other non-musical influences that inspire your song-writing?
JP: Other than people who come into my world, no. It’s very much a 1st hand experience and a personal endeavour.
DC: You’re just about to embark on a 22 date tour of the US, beginning in Minneapolis on April 14 and concluding in Kansas City on May 21. How do you stay sane and keep focused on during this fast paced tours?
JP: The world has its way of keeping you sane. There are certain checks and balances that society puts in place that don’t let you get too far or too near—mostly those gas stations in small towns, also the concert goers are often not shy of letting you know what their opinions are, your body also lets you know when it’s time to slow down and take care of yourself.
DC: Where is one place in the world you would love to tour someday?
JP: The U.K. – we’ve been trying to get over there for a while now.
DC: What else can we expect from Night Moves throughout the rest of 2016?
JP: Hopefully a few more singles and another record, maybe a few more videos too!
Night Moves’ second full-length release Pennied Days will be released on April 8 via Domino and available on iTunes.