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Moon Duo

A project of Wooden Ships frontman, Ripley Johnson and his partner Sanae Yamada, the duo cast a spell with their minimalist, electronic, drone-infused sound

Moon Duo’s mesmeric, minimalist, California-drenched sound has been garnering them many followers; the San Franciscan twosome, comprised of Wooden Shjips frontman, Erik ‘Ripley’ Johnson and his girlfriend, keyboardist Sanae Yamada, produce synapse-firing sounds with a stripped down set-up of synthesizer, guitar and drum machine.

With undertones of Neu!, electronic duos Silver Apples and Suicide and rock outfits Spacemen 3 and the Stooges, their sound blends Kraut and electronic and throws in the occasional psychedelic guitar freak-out for good measure. Repetition is dominant, and propulsive, motorik beats, repeated keys patterns and two chord riffs roll like waves. The chosen title for their current album ‘Mazes’ seems apt, as like their driving, droning sound, it evokes journeys and progression. We caught up with Moon Duo in London last week, on the final leg of their UK tour…

Dazed Digital: As a couple in life and now in art, have the dynamics of your relationship changed?
Moon Duo: Surprisingly the dynamics haven't really changed. It's different now that we're working together every day but if anything it has made communication better.

DD: Sanae, is Moon Duo a musical debut for you?
Moon Duo:
Yes, this is Sanae's first band.

DD: Where has been your favourite tour stop so far?
Moon Duo:
There have been a few highlights. Two legendary clubs: Vera in Groningen and Loppen in Christiania. And Berlin is always amazing.

DD: Do you have similar music tastes?
Moon Duo:
We have very similar tastes. But we both like all kinds of music so there's a lot of room for overlap. We record shop together, so we're usually in sync, turning each other onto things.

DD: What is your recent album Mazes all about, thematically speaking?
Moon Duo:
Generally it's about finding one's way in life, making decisions and where those decisions lead. We were about to move from San Francisco to the mountains of Colorado at the time of recording, so that was heavily on our minds

DD: What have you been listening to at the moment?
Moon Duo:
We listen to a lot of Zamrock. The new Kurt Vile is a recent favourite. Just picked up some Demdike Stare. And Cave is always a favourite in the van.

DD: What’s behind your name?
Moon Duo:
It's funny because I find the choosing of a band name to be such a small decision at the time, but you end up living with it for so long. The moon is something that every person and every culture has some relationship with, and we're a duo, so that part is obvious. There's a lot of symbolism attached to the moon and lunar cycles, so it can mean so many things. We like the ambiguity of that.

DD: Erik, there are inevitable aesthetic similarities between Moon Duo and Wooden Shjips, but how do you envisage both bands developing? Will they remain alongside one another or diverge?
Moon Duo
: Whenever I envision some sort of plan or development, the reality ends up being completely different, so it's hard to say. I feel like they have already diverged quite a bit, but it's better to not impose any restrictions on things. I'm curious myself about where it will all lead. We have a new Wooden Shjips album coming out on Thrill Jockey in August/September, so perhaps it will be clearer then.