Spencer Krug has spent the past decade as a man of many names: Frog Eyes, Wolf Parade, Sunset Rubdown, Fifths of Seven, Swan Lake. But during the past few years, he's settled on a face and he's decided to keep it for a while.
The Canadian musician took on the Moonface moniker in 2009 after a limited, two-track Sunset Rubdown release, Introducing Moonface. Since then, he's put out two major solo albums as Moonface, both recorded in his Montreal home. 2010's Dreamland EP: Marimba and Shit-Drums took the form of one 20-minute track based on Krug's dreams and Organ Music Not Vibraphone Like I'd Hoped was released in 2011.
Moonface was strictly a solo project until this year's With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery.
Krug's various projects have a range of sounds. Wolf Parade was a fast, sometimes-chaotic indie/post-punk outfit that used mostly traditional instrumentation, while early Sunset Rubdown took on a more-experimental, almost art-rock sound. With Moonface, each new album seems to work under a specific concept or parameter: marimba and shit-drums, organ music and, now, collaboration.
Just months after the first Moonface record was released, Krug was on a European tour with Wolf Parade and supporting Finnish band Joensuu 1685.
"I remember standing backstage and watching those guys, and being really impressed with how tight the drummer and the bass player were. ... 'Tight' is the wrong word. Maybe 'relentless' would be a better word. They would lock up together and play the same heavy riff for 10 minutes straight without wavering, without getting bored, without slowing down. ... Right away, I was enamored with those guys," said Krug.
So when Joensuu 1685 broke up shortly thereafter, drummer Risto Joensuu and bass player Markus Joensuu went on to form Siinai--a Helsinki-based instrumental rock band--with Matti Ahopelto and Saku Kamarainen.
"Half a year [after the tour], I got an email from Risto with an mp3 attached of his new band's unreleased record, Siinai's Olympic Games," Krug said. "I really liked the simplicity of it. I respected the patient repetition within the songwriting and I was impressed with their willingness to take risks--notably the risk of melodrama; lush and dark and unapologetic."
Krug asked if Siinai would be interested in making a record with him.
"It suited us as a band to get into this kind of project," Risto said. "We had decided that there's no rules in Siinai, and that we can do whatever if it feels good and interesting. When Spencer approached us, it certainly felt like an interesting project."
As Krug's staggering discography suggests--his various bands combined have put out around 20 albums and EPs since 2002--the man is no stranger to collaboration. But working with Siinai brought about a different type of process.
"It was quite really random; barely organized chaos, at times," Krug said. "But one approach that we all shared was this: Trust whatever comes out naturally. We really let our combined ideas, our improvised jam sessions, form the record without ever getting overly critical or letting our egos get in the way. We all went into the project with zero expectations."
This approach allowed Krug and Siinai to create an album together, but without the struggle and conflict that often come up in more-traditional recording scenarios.
"The main idea [of working with Siinai] was that I would have less control, or no control, over the music," said Krug. "While recording, if there was some debate over which direction the music should take, I would often leave the room, trying to embrace the idea that there is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to make a song, there are only ever-subjective opinions. So I tried to let my tired old opinions take the backseat for this record and let some new heads weigh in."
The presence of new blood is apparent on With Siinai: Heartbreaking Bravery. The music is fuller and heavier than earlier solo Moonface recordings. "Yesterday's Fire," like most tracks on the record, has a driving rhythm that creates a constant pulse underneath droning layers of ethereal guitars, synths and piano. This dense sonic layering is present throughout the album, giving it an expansive, almost-cavernous quality.
On all of his projects, Krug strings words together with depth and poeticism.
On "Whale Song" off Organ Music, Krug croons, "If I were you and you were me / You could see it's more than just a whale song / More than random flowers bursting from my mouth / More than shit whispered into the crook of my arm."
And the writing on Heartbreaking Bravery is similarly poetic. While Krug's lyrics are still profound and odd, their structure and delivery feels more straightforward.
"A piece of fool's gold next to an empty vase / I'm too old for you anyway / And I know you'll disagree / Because you know that you're pretty when you lie," belts Krug on "Yesterday's Fire."
As for the future, Krug said he has ideas for both solo and collaborative projects, but whatever it is, it will be under the name Moonface.
"Working solo--for me--is a much slower, deliberate, and darker process," Krug said. "It's full of self-doubt and obsession and borderline insanity. It's the process of putting everything you can find in yourself out on the table and trying to make something pretty out of it, but often, you just find the same old apple cores and empty booze bottles and used-up toothpaste containers.
"But both, in the end, take me to some amazing place that, so far, I can only get to through music-making."[ Video is no longer available. ]