On its fourth opus, Salt, Half Moon Run drew on its inspirations from the past, brought them its current vision, and worked on the material until obtaining an album on which only the essential remains.
On the title track of Half Moon Run’s new album, Devon Portielje sings the words “you’re my salt of the earth”. The term of biblical origin describes people who are fundamentally good, who improve the lives of others. The image stems from the idea that salt is indispensable.
Salt is also, simply, the basic element that constitutes many things. “When you boil seawater, all you have left is salt”, illustrates Devon, met at La Fontaine park a few days before the release of the disc.
And that’s exactly what Half Moon Run did: having a large amount of material, recent and much older, the group “boiled” this cauldron of ideas, until so that only the essential elements remain, those that would end up on the album.
The symbolism of the title goes even further: “In the kitchen as on the biological level, salt is fundamental. That’s what music is to us. She strengthened our bond during COVID-19, when we couldn’t see anyone else [they were allowed to meet to work]”, says the leader of the group.
So there are tracks on Salt that have been simmering for years and have recently been reconsidered and reworked. Hotel in Memphis, Dodge the Rubble or the title track, for example, have all been taken from another era. Conner Molander, Dylan Phillips and Devon Portielje record all their sessions and improvisations on a small Tascam recorder. Then, when the time comes, they listen again and draw on these moments of the past to lead them forward.
“During the lockdown,” Devon said, “we had one of our most prolific times. We had an 8:00 p.m. curfew and we would meet around 2:00 p.m. to jam. And each time, around 7:30 p.m., we came across our best ideas. We all had to cycle home, but we couldn’t stop. Having this pressure and this limitation, it was very good for us, for our creativity. »
We therefore also find on this new disc of Half Moon Run very recent pieces, in addition to old tracks of revisited ideas. Gigafire or Goodbye Cali were written during the pandemic. For Crawl Back In, which closes the disc, Devon says he found inspiration during a group trip to Istanbul last year, during which he retired solo for a spiritual journey in the jungle (of which we besides hears the murmur on the track).
“As soon as I hear this song, it brings me back there. She is at the intersection of sadness and beauty, where there is melancholy, but also a lot of aspiration. It is an intersection where I often seek to go to continue to explore it. »
If this piece is very personal for Devon, who writes most of the lyrics, Conner and Dylan are far from being outdone. All are involved in the creation, each bringing their expertise, their ideas.
“The writing process is different every time,” Devon explains. But it’s very collaborative. It’s much more effective when we can all feel that the song belongs to us and that we all want to move it forward. When it’s one person’s idea, sometimes it can be harder for others to get on board. »
Prolific director Connor Seidel (Matt Holubowski, Charlotte Cardin) was also instrumental in creating Salt. For the tightly-knit band (a kind of “sexless marriage” for 10 years, Devon describes with a laugh), it can be hard to let other people and other points of view into its creation. Seidel was able to perfectly align with their ideas, notes the leader of Half Moon Run.
“We like to self-flagellate with 12-hour sessions,” he says, describing a creative process that is long and often requires a certain amount of discomfort. But with Connor, who we first met for our song on [the collective project] 1969, it was so easy. […] He works very hard, he is able to stay focused for a long time, he has a great positive attitude. »
When asked about the feeling that prevails as the release of the group’s fourth album approaches, Devon admits to being still immersed in doubt. In life as in creation, he is “a very skeptical person,” he says. Despite the enthusiastic feedback from the band’s entourage listening to Salt, despite Half Moon Run’s unfailing popularity with his admirers, he doubts.
But the need to make music necessarily prevails. “To accept this level of uncertainty and ambiguity is a kind of acceptance of who we really are,” says the musician. Then, we can tell ourselves that we will continue to create, for better or for worse. Either way, I have no choice. That’s all that matters and I have to accept it. »
In front of them, the public makes the members of Half Moon Run understand that they also need their music, that it makes them feel good – the group’s secret concert, very recently, during which they played their new titles, again proved it to him.
“Art allows human connection, allows you to be validated or understood,” Devon concludes. And if people can take that feeling out of what we do, that’s wonderful. »