Say Goodbye to Moonface and Hello to Spencer Krug
The Wolf Parade cofounder sends off his latest side-project with his most experimental record to date—and a promise to dive back into the unknown.
Spencer Krug has just released two albums at once. It seems like Krug has been releasing two albums at once since 2005, when his band Wolf Parade dropped their seminal debut record just three months after another one of his projects, Sunset Rubdown, put out their first collection of recordings. But this year, Krug has literally released two albums at once.
“People close to me were like, ‘Are you sure you don’t want to separate these records—at least separate them onto different pieces of vinyl?’” Krug recalls in reference to his final Moonface album being released as a single eighty-minute piece interweaving two entirely separate ideas conceived at two entirely different times. But ultimately This One’s for the Dancer & This One’s for the Dancer’s Bouquet was released as un-cumbersome and unpunctuated as its title, mixing a series of marimba and vocoder songs written back in 2011 about the Minotaur forgiving everyone who wronged him (more on this later—I promise) with a variety of newer recordings.
At a distance, This One sounds like every one of Moonface’s previous—and quite disparate—releases piled on top of each other; in addition to the Minotaur songs’ marimbas are the organ, synths, and grand piano featured on each of Moonface’s previous six releases dating back to 2010, as well as the prominent inclusion of saxophone, steel drums, and vocoder vocal effects. “I think that the vocoder vocals on the Minotaur songs is really pretty, but I also found that if I listened to all of those songs in a row, I’m super tired of that sound. It sort of wears on the ear, like if there’s a wailing electric guitar solo on every song. It loses its appeal.”
Although they come as a package deal, there was a period of at least six years between the writing of both sets of songs. “The Minotaur songs—that music goes back to 2011,” explains Krug of the project he’d mapped out with percussionist Mike Bigelow. “We wrote and recorded a whole record, but then I decided I hated the lyrics—thankfully, because I think I had made something pretty bad and was ready to put it out. So I stopped and waited until I had a better idea, and that happened to take six years.”
“There’s a sense of relief to no longer be tied to the expectations that people might have for what a Moonface record is. I don’t know what those things really are, but the name is infused and imbued with meaning for people.”
Meanwhile, the album’s remaining nine tracks feature saxophonist Matana Roberts and percussion from Ches Smith, and range from a redux of Heartbreaking Bravery’s title track to a cover of “Hater,” originally by songwriter Chad Jones. “Those songs are really heavy and dense melodically. There’s a lot going on, so I thought that flip-flopping and interweaving them allowed relief for the ear, and they kind of complement each other.” From this enormous pile of content, Krug stitched together what would be an appropriately grand send-off for his eight-year stint as Moonface.
“So much has changed in the world, and you kind of want to put on a fresh face to take on new problems,” Krug reasons, explaining that he’ll continue to release solo material under his given name. “If anything, there’s a sense of relief to no longer be tied to the expectations that people might have for what a Moonface record is. I don’t know what those things really are, but the name is infused and imbued with meaning for people.”
In a lengthy self-penned press release for the record—really more of a manifesto, like a thoughtful and informative Criterion Collection essay, offering much more than mere context—Krug attributes the idea to end Moonface to his peer and former Swan Lake bandmate Carey Mercer, who also said goodbye to his long-running project Frog Eyes (for which Krug also played for a short stint) this year. Perhaps taking a cue from the nominal vagrancy of fellow Minotaur apologist John Dwyer’s prolific Oh Sees, it just didn’t make sense anymore to continue to use a name after the artist—and his environment—has undergone so much change. “I’m in my early forties now, so I think it’s about time I just go and sit down at the piano by myself and be like, ‘This is me,’ and hope that people can still get down with it.”
For now, though, Krug is still pretty easy to get down with. This One is by far Krug’s most experimental record to date, bouncing back and forth between the subaquatic synths and heavy percussion of tracks like “Last Night” and “Sad Suomenlinna” and the borderline-SoundCloud rap beats of “Minotaur Forgiving Minos” and “Daedalus.” “My side projects have always been able to be fairly wacky and free,” Krug explains. While Wolf Parade offers a sort of catharsis for Krug, Moonface allows the freedom to experiment with organ music (not vibraphone music like he’d hoped), or fine-tune a record for six years rather than release something “pretty bad.”
Despite the whole of This One being comprised of disconnected halves sewn together, both sets of tracks share intense lyrical themes of docile exoneration. In “The Cave,” for example, Krug calmly staves off the tentacles of hatred with accompaniment from Roberts’ tranquilizing saxophone, while the Minotaur songs counter with interludes of Christlike forgiveness and Herculean empathy. “It was really just me sort of playing this game where I tried to fairly sing from the point of view of the Minotaur,” Krug says, explaining that the Minotaur songs in no way represent himself. “He kind of woke up in a labyrinth—imagine if he knew about the world that put him there.
“I’m in my early forties now, so I think it’s about time I just go and sit down at the piano by myself and be like, ‘This is me,’ and hope that people can still get down with it.”
“That myth—like most Greek myths—is so fucking dark and twisted and soap opera-y,” he continues, expounding on the creature’s “shitty parents” and Theseus’s wrongful legacy as a hero. “The poor guy, they feed him children, they’re forcing him to be a murderer.” Rather than writing from his own experience, though, these songs are more an exercise in empathy. “I just don’t want people to think I’m singing songs about myself in some thinly veiled pretense. My father was not a white bull,” he jokes. “My mother did not hire an inventor to build a maze to trap me.”
As he begins writing new songs as Spencer Krug—and presumably about Spencer Krug—the songwriter feels a certain thrill he hasn’t experienced in some time. “I’m excited to go out under my own name, finally. I think it’s been a long time coming. I’ve always liked to have a moniker to kind of hide behind, a veil. I write a lot of melodramatic music, and I’m kind of a melodramatic person, anyway—but if you have a veil to hide behind, then maybe there’s an alter-ego making these decisions, singing these songs at you.”
He concludes: “I’m kind of scared again, and I think it’s good for artists to be a little bit scared—I think it helps them. It makes for good art if you’re not too comfortable in what you’re doing.” If Krug’s feature-length exegesis on mythological beasts and complex human emotions soundtracked with steel drums and marimbas isn’t his idea of “uncomfortable” songwriting, we’ll just have to wait and see what is. FL