I first came across Moss of Moonlight about a year ago. I heard a couple of tracks from their album Seed and soon fell in love with the album’s mix of black metal and folk-two styles that I normally don’t consider to go well together. However, in the case of Moss of Moonlight they make the combination taste like peanut butter and chocolate. Read on to find out about the band, their history and their future.
Curt: Congrats on Winterwheel! I thought the album was fantastic and a step-up from your last album! For those who are unfamiliar with you guys, can you please give a brief band history?
Jenn: Cavan and I met in a different band, found that our musical ideals meshed well—which led to inevitable song writing. We are very much children of the Pacific Northwest (lovers of overcast skies, soggy rainforests, and ferns), so writing about our home was inevitable, which led to our first album, SEED. It’s the story of a bunch of rogue Pacific Northwesterners rebelling against a corrupt empire during the chaos that follows the so-called Big One (that apocalypse-sized earthquake we’ve been due for, forever), and create the independent nation of Cascadia.
SEED was followed by Winterwheel, an EP that shows Moss of Moonlight’s darker, colder strains. It’s less about Cascadia, and more focused a song-ritual, and Anglo-Saxon Paganism.
Curt: You guys have been described as “Cascadian Black Metal” but in reality a lot of your music sounds similar to pagan metal with black metal influences. What style do your perceive yourselves as?
Cavan: It’s true Moss of Moonlight doesn’t sound like most Cascadian black metal bands (WITTR, Alda, Skagos, etc). Those bands tend to be more raw and atmospheric. For us, Cascadian simply refers to the region that we’re from and the lands we sing about: The Great Pacific Northwest. When considering a potential genre for the sound of our music, I tend to think of neofolk and black metal.
Curt: The description of the new album on your website states that it is “An album of Anglo-Saxon gods and primal paganism”. How important is paganism to your music and do you have an interest in it outside of your music?
Cavan: Paganism for me is a way of life and as such, should be strewn throughout the music. Certainly, it was incorporated into the music of our Pagan ancestors. There’s this serious disconnect between modern society and the Earth, as well as between modern society and the old religions. Much of our ancestors’ awareness of nature stemmed directly from Paganism. And because there is much forgotten knowledge about the old religions and ways, we feel it our responsibility to try and reconnect these aforementioned aspects. It’s not about attempting to reconstruct these things perfectly as they once were, but rather reconstruct the feelings, understanding, and appreciation for the Earth through Paganism and through modern means—and in doing so, contribute to the identity of the modern Pagan. So I would say it’s quite important outside of the music too.
And as a side note, I just want to be clear that nothing I just said is in reference to NS ideologies. I do not believe any one culture or race is above another. This is just about recognizing that we all have Pagan ancestors worth remembering.
Curt: My understanding is that you guys are married to each other correct? Whose idea was it to come up with Moss of Moonlight? Are you in any other bands or musical projects outside of Moss of Moonlight?
Jenn: The idea to form Moss of Moonlight arose organically. We discussed the idea of a Cascadian rebellion put to music, Cavan started writing music, I wrote lyrics, and then we used my studio time (from the audio recording program I was currently enrolled in at my college) to record SEED. Moss of Moonlight just sort of…happened, was (and still is, of course) very much a creature that came from both of us, simultaneously.
Our main project outside of Moss of Moonlight is Cerridwen (the band we met in), which is a symphonic metal band with a full lineup – though currently, we’re all flung across the Northwest. However, we’re getting ready to release an EP, and working on a full length, as well.
Cavan and I also have another side project (known sometimes as Gundabad, and sometimes as Bolg and the Gandalfs) that plays hobbit metal—inspired by The Hobbit, of course (though mostly it’s about goblins). This project won’t be going anywhere anytime soon, if ever, so we’ll probably release the demo that we have as a free download from bandcamp sometime in the very near future.
Curt: What do each of the song titles on Winterwheel mean?
Cavan: Each song was meant to be an offering to a different god, and so the album’s song titles are in reference to animals that bear significance to that god or goddess. The first track “Gǣt” means ‘Goat’ as Thunor (cognate of Thor) had two goats which pull his chariot.
The second track “Ēole” means ‘elk’ in Old English. This song was offered to Hretha, to whom we don’t know much about as there is a lack in remaining text describing her traits, but she is unique to the Anglo-Saxon tribes. So we had to reconstruct for ourselves how Hretha should be represented; in our minds, the elk seemed to suit her and her season very well.
The third track “Catte” refers to the two cats that pull Freya’s chariot, and the last track “Hræfne” represents Woden’s (Odin) ravens Huginn and Muninn.
A note: To be honest, the titles are in the dative form, so it would probably be more correct to say ‘of the raven’ or ‘of the elk’, etc etc…
Curt: A lot of thought appears to be put into the lyrics. Per the booklet these were done by Jenn – have you written anything professionally outside of Moss of Moonlight?
Jenn: I did, indeed, write most of the lyrics, but to be fair, I would like to note that Cavan wrote part of the chorus for Hræfne, and did all of the Old English translations. But anyway, yes, I have been professionally published—mostly poetry, but short stories soon (and hopefully a book, as well). If you like science fiction and fantasy that leans more to the weird, sexual, raw and literary end of things, I have a website and blog: http://jenngrunigen.com/ .
Curt: What bands actually got each of you into metal in the first place?
Cavan: Ahh that goes way back. I think when I was younger I listened to a lot of more popular bands like Darkthrone, Bathory, and Nightwish.
Jenn: Hm. The first metal album I ever picked up was by a stunningly annoying power metal known as Labyrinth – but that lead me to Sonata Arctica, a band many would also call stunningly annoying, but who I’ll probably love forever. Also, Therion, Nightwish and Pain of Salvation.
Curt: Do you guys have plans on trying to take the band to being a full-time career or are you content to have it just be a creative outlet that you can have when you desire?
Jenn: Playing music as a full-time career will always be the ultimate goal, but it’s not the only one: I also have hopes of being a novelist (and getting my MFA in Creative Writing), and after Cavan finishes his Masters, he wants to find work in his field, linguistics.
Curt: How do you feel about illegal downloading? Pro or con and why?
Cavan: I don’t really care so much if people download illegally. It’s only illegal if Jenn and I determine it should be, which we don’t. The nice thing about metal is that serious metal fans like to own the music officially as part of their metal collection. I used to wonder if sales would be up more without the illegal downloading, but have since determined, probably not. It’s just one more way for people to hear the name ‘Moss of Moonlight’ and ultimately as long as people enjoy the music, I don’t care how they get it. That’s not to say I don’t appreciate those who make the purchase. We appreciate any and all the support we can get.
Jenn: I would like to add that we do prefer that people pay for the music — because if we can’t feed ourselves, we can’t make music! But ultimately, the people who are going to pay for music, will pay for it. Those won’t, won’t.
Curt: Any final words you would like to say?
For the rest of August, Winterwheel is up for free download on Bandcamp.
Also, be on the lookout, as we have plans to release a full length album next year. It’s already in the works; follow us on Facebook for updates.
Thanks for the great interview!