We caught up with Deerhunter drummer Moses John Archuleta to chat about his new solo project Moon Diagrams.
Interview by Leni - 29 April, 2019
To celebrate the release of our brand-new royalty advance service Fast Forward, we caught up with Deerhunter drummer Moses John Archuleta to chat about his new solo project, Moon Diagrams, and to get his advice for jumpstarting your career as an independent music maker.
With an impressive career spanning over 20 years, Archuleta has taken his experiences founding Atlanta rock band Deerhunter in the early 2000’s to start his new solo project as Moon Diagrams — a collection of pop-inspired ambient whirs and gloomy synths.
Archuleta’s debut album ‘Lifetime of Love’ was released in 2017, and we’ll soon be treated to a follow up mini LP being released this summer.
You’ve had a super interesting career over the last 20 years — from founding Deerhunter to now building your solo project Moon Diagrams. Can you tell me what inspired the move to a solo project?
It was never anything that I ever really intended, it just kind of happened naturally over time because I had built up a body of material that didn’t really fit with any other project I was working on. The material built up over time and people were starting to ask if I would do a solo show so it just felt natural.
You went from working in a band with quite a large profile to then building your own solo project — what were your strategies for building the Moon Diagrams brand from the ground up?
I really focused on building smaller but concentrated quality material and selling out small pressings. I started with some cassettes initially before moving on to the full lengths so my strategy was a little bit ‘crawl, walk, run’. I’ve managed most of the little things myself in coordination with my two labels.
How did you build fans for the Moon Diagrams project? Did you focus on bringing Deerhunter fans over with you?
I have no illusions about the most direct, easy way that people would find out about Moon Diagrams and that’s by being something Deerhunter related, but at the same time I’ve also found myself surprised, certainly not in a pleasant way, that a fair amount of the people who have listened to my music, aren’t super well-versed in Deerhunter. I’m not sure how my new listeners are coming across my music but I try to focus on getting my music featured on playlists, or on Spotify and BBC cult radio.
How have you navigated building a music career in a digital era — what are the differences you see from building a project 20 years ago versus now?
Today there’s just so much more coverage you need to be focused on to hit, in terms of outlets. But before it was just about making sure you plug the song, fly in for shows and get the song on college radio. It definitely wasn’t as diverse or complex as it is now. Today, you need to sync up your tweets with your Instagram and your Facebook. You need to make sure that a lot more things are working in unison. But it also means that you have more control over what people see and hear.
If you could access six months of your future royalties today with an offer from our royalty advance service Fast Forward, what would you spend the money on?
I’d probably use it to either fix or buy some music equipment. I really need a new case and pedalboard to protect my equipment so that what I have already actually survives touring. I’d also use part of it as a tour support, to help get me to a few shows. The Moon Diagrams project isn’t at a super profitable stage yet, it tends to break even — some people would consider it a ‘boutique vanity project’ since I do have my full time gig with Deerhunter. I’d also use some money for rehearsal time too. It’s been really hard being in New York while trying to maintain a consistent rehearsal thing without having to intermittently rent a space, so I try do as much stuff as I can in my apartment.
If you could give one piece of advice to both an up-and-coming artist and to someone who spent a long career in music and is wanting to get back into it after a break, what would you recommend they focus on to take their career to the next level?
You want to be well informed. It’s really important to be knowledgeable and reasonably well informed about basic aspects of the business and booking shows and things like that. I think that taking that knowledge and pushing yourself to do something that seems scary. Whether it’s trying to get yourself out there by performing or playing a show, it can be scary but it’s also very valuable and you can learn a lot about yourself and how you can respond in situations. I try to worry about making something that’s more of a document rather than a product, and I think people sometimes get too caught up in trying to make the perfect song or album and then they just spend forever waiting for the perfect opportunity to come along. What I’m trying to say, is that I think it’s a lot more valuable to be willing to take more risks on your own and put yourself out there early on. Don’t be overly precious about your art so that it ends up being to your detriment.
Can you give us any hints about upcoming projects you’re working on?
I’m super busy with Deerhunter this year supporting our most recent album and that’s going to take about a year of touring. Beyond that, the most exciting thing I have on the horizon for Moon Diagrams is a new release coming out this summer and it’s a mini LP with three new songs and three remixes. It’s a really nice release that I’m really proud of. It’s my first new music since the album so I’m very excited about that!
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