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Moon King: The weirdly wound sound duo

Toronto's Moon King premiere their latest single after signing with Tough Love

Daniel Benjamin and Maddy Wilde are Moon King. Originally from Toronto, the pair began singing together as children, resulting in tightly-meshed androgynous vocal tibres amongst layered instrumentation which seems simultaneously delicate and forceful. Wilde and Benjamin’s first band was Spiral Beach, which also included Benjamin’s Airick Woodhead (aka Doldrums). It ended in 2009, and the duo went on to release two EPs (Obsession 1, 2012; Obsession 2, 2013) as Moon King with washes of scuzzy guitars, effervescent synth and occasionally near-frenetic programmed drums. Now, these early releases are collected on Obsession, released September 16 through Tough Love. Stream the first single “Only Child” and read an interview with Daniel Benjamin below.

DD: Are you comfortable mining your anxieties and fears for writing material? 

Daniel: Yeah. Negative emotions are pretty much exclusively the subject of the songs: fear, anger, guilt. There's a kind of bliss I feel from singing about these things; although it doesn't make them go away, it makes me a little better able to deal with them. Like Neil Young where he sings, "Just because my problems are meaningless, doesn't make them go away". That's how I feel about it.

DD: Daniel, you self-produce and I read that you try to look at it clinically, as if it’s someone else’s work, and then put your own stamp on it. How come?

Daniel: Absolutely, I hate the idea of bands producing themselves, but I produce everything electronically. The drums and guitars are mostly re-sampled and played directly through the mixing desk, so there's never any element of "live-ness" or guitar amps or room sound,which is the way I like it.

DD: I love how important the lyrics are to you. As you progress how much do you still see yourself as a writer first?

Daniel: When I was a kid I only ever wanted to be a writer. I only realised that modern pop music existed when I was 14. I started doing music because it was something new for me. The way I like to write kind of dictated the way the band sounds.

DD: Are the songs still very cathartic to sing or have they worn themselves a little now you’ve lived with them a while? 

Daniel: Catharsis is a pretty good way to describe how I feel about performing. The songs that stick are around are the ones I am going feel most strongly about singing over and over.

Negative emotions are pretty much exclusively the subject of the songs: fear, anger, guilt

DD: I really like the track names on Obsession, especially "Film TV Ad Exec". What inspired that one?

Daniel: I guess that song is a bit of fiction. It's about this film producer/executive guy who's a total egomaniac and treats people like shit. He sexually assaults this girl and goes to jail. When he eventually gets out he has this bullshit "epiphany" that he should have been in the music industry all along, and becomes a record company executive suit that everyone despises. 

DD: Are you striving for a perfect Moon King song? 

Daniel: I think the centre of all the Moon King songs is this moment when a certain chord hits and puts you on edge, like you're paralysed for a second. These little climaxes are written into every song – a certain change that can make your hair stand on the end and give you a shiver. Anyway, Steve Foster (of Omhouse and multi-instrumentalist for Moon King) and I call that moment the "golden spear".

DD: How are you feeling about having the record come out in Europe as one whole? 

Daniel: I've been wanting this to happen since I recorded it. All these songs were written around the same time anyway. I'm excited to be working with Tough Love too.

DD: Dream pop, fuzz pop, shoe gaze…  Do you think about your music as anything? 

Daniel: I want all the labels, all the adjectives, but I only think of it in terms of emotions when we play.

DD: Have you started writing anything further beyond Obsessions

Daniel: Yeah, I'm actually working on a proper full album now. I have no idea when it'll be done, but it's been pretty intense to work on. Last night I was recording vocals out on the fire escape here. It was really beautiful, singing into the city.