Meet Lora-Faye Ashuvud a.k.a. Arthur Moon, the musician behind the new electro-rock EP 'Our Head.' The music she makes with her band focuses on disorientation and taking its listeners to a place of pleasant discomfort.
How did you get started as a musician?
I had a year or two of ill-fated piano lessons when I was a tiny person. But I refused to learn to read music — I would just learn the songs by ear and blankly look at the dots and lines on the page. To this day I still don’t read music.
Why did you decide to use the moniker, Arthur Moon?
Marcel Duchamp’s alter ego Rrose Selavy (yes, two R’s) gave me the name in a dream.
You’ve said before that you seek to create disorientation with your music. Can you tell us a little bit more about that and how that became a driving creative force for you?
I get these odd migraines that give me a number of unusual symptoms. One of them is aphasia, where I’ll lose my facility with language despite being perfectly cognizant. So I’ll be trying to say “I’m fine, I’m just having a migraine,” but instead some random assortment of words will come out. The first few times this happened, I knew I should be alarmed—and I was, to a certain extent—but I also found myself tickled by it. There was something really pleasurable about having my grounding pulled out from under me like that. It’s a feeling I’m fascinated by, this pleasurable disorientation, and a feeling I think many of us seek out in our lives (roller coasters, drugs, the feeling of falling in love). And I think music, for whatever reason, is a particularly potent format for exploring and manipulating these perverse responses we often have to the uncanny.
Apart from disorientation, do you find yourself coming back to any other themes in your music?
I’m always trying (and pushing my band) to make “incorrect” music. I just want to find out what magic will happen if we do it wrong.
What role does making music play in your life?
I think for many creative professionals there’s this tension between making art as therapy/emotional necessity (which is the reason why many of us start doing it in the first place) and then the transitioning of that impulse into work, which ultimately doesn’t give a shit about your emotional process, and which, at the end of the day, has to pay the bills. In other words: music plays a stressful role in my life, but it’s also my Xanax.
Can you describe the process you go through from first conceptualizing an idea for a song to recording it?
Ever since I started writing songs when I was 14, the consistent part of my generative process has always involved this procedure of 1. finding a melody that goes over some changes I’ve written, 2. assigning nonsense phonetics to it that seem to suit or bolster the intonations, and then 3. building the lyrics based off of that map of syllables. It creates a kind of auto-randomness that has always appealed to me. Actually, lately I’ve been experimenting with forgoing the second half of this process altogether and making cut-up poems from newspapers and magazines as the catalysts for lyrics—a different, more direct approach to the dadaist pursuit of automatism in songwriting.
But more generally, in terms of the usual process with the band: Once I have a sense of where I’m going with a song or even a fragment of a song, I’ll bring it to the band for some heavy workshopping, many hours of which I will record on my iPhone. I then take those recordings home for a month or two and listen through to everything we did, paying particular attention to the interesting mistakes people make, or the ghost notes that come from the harmonics of the room. And then I start to build the final arrangement based off of that, with more workshops and experiments. We perform the draft live for a few months, make some tweaks considering how it feels on the stage, and then eventually take it to the studio.
You have a beautiful, pulled-apart version of the Beatles’ ‘While My Guitar Gently Weeps’ (entitled ‘Beatles’) on your EP, do you have some history with this song and/or the Beatles?
I didn’t know this when I decided to make a deconstruction of the song a few summers ago, but apparently George Harrison wrote it after reading the I Ching, as an exercise in what he described as a sort of cosmic randomness. He opened a book, looked down, and wrote a song based on the first words he saw: “gently weeps.”
Who would you say are some of your biggest musical influences?
In general: Radiohead.
For a while: Harry Smith’s Anthology of American Folk Music.
What’s next for you?
We have a few new recordings we’re obsessing over, which will be coming out as soon as I can stop making last minute changes. And then I’m headed out west to an artist’s residency for a few months this winter, to work on some new material and get a little weirder.
Check out Arthur Moon's Playlist:
Interview: Emily Saunders - @thesaunder
Photography: Colin Hughes - @colinhughesphoto