Song Writing

Haunted Summer

by Dan MacIntosh

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Haunted Summer, the duo of John Seasons and Bridgette Moody, found their musical dynamic one Halloween night when they did a set of Animal Collective cover songs. Some call their music psychedelic, while others hear more elements of dreampop. But no matter how you categorize it, Haunted Summer will haunt your musical memory bank – in all the best ways.
Dan MacIntosh (Songfacts): You've been described as a psychedelic band. How would you describe it?

Bridgette Moody: I see it more in terms of the attitude in which we approach making songs, building on textures and letting the song find its way within that wall of sound, then you kind of pinpoint focal points within the center of a sonic universe.

John Seasons: I think the word "psychedelic" has been a little misconstrued these days and associated with hard rock bands that throw on some fuzz and some delay. I think psychedelic means throwing the rule book out the window. So, it means when you're going to write a song, whether a loop or a soundscape or you're doing a guitar part, as long as you're not thinking about the rules every second, I feel like that is psychedelia and that is the psychedelic element that we take from the past bands that have done that, like Pink Floyd or Björk. That's what we take from and it's a very strong element. We have a heavy emphasis on our songwriting, so I can see that the songs shine more in the psychedelic aspect.

It's more present in the live set than in the recordings sometimes. I feel like the recordings are straight pop sometimes, and when you see us live, there are people who expect a violin and a really soft, heartfelt song, and they end up getting this crazy, abrasive, psychedelic sound that's almost in your face like rock. That's what we try to do for ourselves and our audience, which is keeping the songs fresh.

Bridgette: A lot of our songs never sound the same way twice live, so living in that world and just seeing where it goes, that's psychedelic to me.

Songfacts: What are two or three songs you've created that you'd like to talk about?

Bridgette: The first song that really solidified in our minds that we should keep making music and really expressing ourselves through that is "All Around." It's really, really simple. The music isn't anything crazy but I think lyrically it explains the motive of the band. It's our own bible, explaining what world we live in and the overarching theme of what we're trying to convey.

John: I would say "Haircut" and "Spirit Guides" are some of the most ambitious songs we've done as far as the band trying to push the envelope. You listen to them and you can get the grasp of how we're songwriters and we have a sound, but at the same time you can see that we really do try to push the envelope on what can be done, what can be comfortable, what is a song.

"Haircut" starts off as this song but then it ends like an interlude with this outro thing. People have told us that's a very interesting approach to music.

Bridgette: On our full-length album, you have this crazy rock, and you have this weird jazz standard, you can have this operatic piece, you have this crazy space-rock...

John: It's being a band that can't be pigeonholed. If I were to name a band that was so underappreciated, it would be The Velvet Underground. Those guys had so many kinds of songs and nobody really got it until way later. Lou Reed had to go live with his parents when he broke up the band before he started his solo career.

Songfacts: I read about that. There was a rule that they couldn't play blues licks. They didn't want to be pigeonholed into this old blues revival.

John: That's special when a band can sound like something that goes beyond their genre or era, where it's timeless. It means that this song that can be listened to in the past, now or in the future, and it's gonna feel the same way the whole time.

Bridgette: There are a lot of sonic things we take from artists, but just that peace within itself, of not necessarily striving for success in our time but just to create these songs that mean something to us, The Velvet Underground have been our idols in that way.

Songfacts: And you both write the songs together?

John: Yes.

Songfacts: So, what is that process?

John: It's very collaborative. There are moments when it's very Lennon-and-McCartney kind of style and there are moments when it's somebody bringing almost a whole idea and you adding a little spice to it, and that becomes the Haunted Summer sound.

I think it's great because as artists, something shouldn't mean one thing all the time, because there are songs that you can collaborate on and they may come alive together, and there are songs that you work on that are very personal and you bring it to the table, and somebody can add something and that makes you smile because the song is fleshed out, but this little moment with this person is incredible and it makes the song better and I think that's a beautiful thing.

Bridgette: Lyrically, we go very deep with what we are speaking about. I personally can't sing about something that means nothing to me. There are people who write lines that sound great but if I can't visualize it in my head with either me or somebody I know or just some situation that I can personally grasp onto then I just don't want to be a part of it. I think it's important that we have that check and balance so you can get a fresh perspective and find different ways to take yourself back out of it and not make it like your diary.

John: There's nothing wrong with writing a song about your shoes or something fun, but there's something to be said for taking something very personal and giving a lot of yourself to the song, and it takes time. We don't want to be a band that just rushes out singles and songs. We want to be a band that whether it takes one year, three months, six months, four years, every time we release something, if you're a fan or you've been into the band, you'll know that what we release or have released is very meaningful to us first and foremost.

Songfacts: How did the band get started?

John: We started Halloween 2012. We got asked to do an Animal Collective cover set where for Halloween night, every band was somebody else, so we came up with the name, we did that set and it went amazing. We had all these people approach us after where it was like, "Whatever just happened on stage, that's what you should do."

Songfacts: So you needed that perspective.

Bridgette: It's so important to have fresh ears and eyes. You need feedback because some stuff goes over your head, but you take from it what you need. I think it's important to always be open. Some people are very stuck in their ways with songs - it's just a backing track and everything's the same thing every night. We're different all the time, so I appreciate hearing what works for other people.

John: And you've got to distinguish yourself from those that only want to be artists and they forget their fans. Anything somebody says to you, whether it's a negative or positive, it's gonna make you be a better artist at the end of the day.

December 29, 2018
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