Hello, my metal child of the night. After some hiatus, we come again with a fresh interview with one of the most refreshing bands we’ve had here: Moths. Enjoy!
Metal Addicts: First of all, guys, congrats to your album! I had some quality time listening to it! Great album with solid guitar work. Well, to get started could you give us a brief on the band. I mean who you are, when did it start, things like this. This is your debut album, right? I know it’s not easy to get things ready to record an album. So many rehearsals, line-up sometimes changes, songs get different in the studio, and other things. How was your experience? Is there a full-length on the way? One more thing I love to ask: how is your songwriting process? Is there a mastermind or masterminds?
Jonathan Miranda: Well, Moths are sorta like a conglomeration of established Puerto Rican musicians that just so happened to enjoy each others company and listen to most of the same artists. It originally started with Wes though and he soon invited me and I invited Omar and our original singer Robert Santos (from a Puerto Rican Thrash band called Fullminator) and we came to be around 2 years ago, two years of hard work and awesome moments. We went through a butt load of changes during Hurricane Maria, but overall the band has been pretty steady in its decisions and since the madness subsided things have been pretty solid. My experience recording was awesome, I had already recorded once before for an indie band, but this has been the first recording where ideas were openly pushed by each member. As far as there being a Full Length in the works well now that’s top secret, but I’ll let you know one little tidbit of info, we’ve already got enough material for it. Now songwriting and masterminds… hmm, well I always say each of one of us has output in the band, so there isn’t a clear mastermind, I will say Wes is the economic mastermind of the band, he manages us through this complicated mess that is Music Business, now Omar (Guitars) and me are regularly the guys laying down the original ideas for our songs, out of those, we just start jamming around them and build upon it and tweak ideas more and more.
Weslie Negrón: Thanks for listening the album! We’re happy that you enjoyed it! Basically the idea of Moths came out while being on my previous band, Zafakon. I used to play Death/Thrash Metal, but I wanted to look for a little bit more in the music I was making. I’m a huge fan of Progressive music, so I wanted to lean a little bit more towards that direction. That’s when I decided to call Jonathan (Guitars) and he reached out to Omar to get in the band. After a couple of lineup changes, we were able to find the right group of people to sit down and record this record. All three original songs were written during the period where the previous lineup was still formed. Like Jonathan said, we were a group of people from different bands from the Island, Rob Santos from Fullminator doing vocals, Nicko Burgos from Zafakon on drums, Omar on guitar, Jonathan also on guitar, and me on bass. After Nicko and Rob decided to go on their separate ways, we decided to speak with a close friend of mine, William Machado, who played drums with me in a Hardcore/Punk band I was in called Bicicleta, and we asked him to play drums for the album. He learned all the songs in about 3 days and he went straight to record them and they came out pretty damn cool, if you ask me. I also had asked Damaris (vocals) to see if she would like to record for the album, which she agreed upon and eventually became our official lead singer. After half of the recording we still had no official drummer and that is when Daniel (drums), who also was the guy behind the desk while recording and mixing the album, offered himself to play drums and that is how we finished the current lineup. The recording process was very smooth and we had the time and the willingness to be able to explore around the sounds that we wanted to capture for all of the songs, which in my experience, it is very hard to do, especially on your first release, where you just want to get everything done right away and release it so people can listen to you. As far as a Full-Length, we definitely have material to release one in the close future, but we still haven’t sat down and talk about it, we will probably do that after we finish the promotional run of the EP.
Metal Addicts:From where I’m standing, the name of a band is the most important thing because it’s the band’s identity which may reflect on songs and everything else. The band’s name is Moths and track 1 is “Lepidoptera,” so what’s the deal with butterflies? [Laughs] BTW, I can’t help it asking this question, but do Iron Butterfly mean anything to you?
J: Weslie has a deeper answer to the whole Moths, me though, I’m shallow so I just like the lil furry critters, Venomoth is rad in OG Pokemon and my favorite Kaiju is Mothra. I don’t really listen to Iron Butterfly that much to be honest so to me doesn’t mean so much.
W: Well, it’s funny because the name was not meant to be related with the insect at all, specially now with the whole “Moth Meme” going around (laughs). The name is an acronym for “Metaphysics of the Hangman” which is one of my favorite tracks from the band “The Ocean” of their album “Heliocentric.” The “S” at the end of the name was just added for the purpose of making it a “collective”. Our first singer, Rob, wrote the lyrics for “Lepidoptera” and I don’t really have a reason why he called it like that, because the lyrics are not completely about a group of moths (laughs), but I think he wanted to relate it more to the name of the band, rather than making it a “thing” about moths in general. I would say that we have adapted the image of the moths into our art but it is not meant to be completely about the insect. I’m actually scared of moths (laughs). As far as Iron Butterfly goes, I will admit that I’ve only heard “In a Gadda Da Vida” and I’m completely ashamed about it. I got some homework to do.
Metal Addicts:The mix of jazz and Metal isn’t usual. Back in the day, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple have flirted with jazz. Black Sabbath did most. Story goes that Ozzy left the band after “Never Say Die” due to the jazzy elements Iommi added. Moths introduced some jazz elements to their music, the way I see it, by some guitar interventions mostly. From where I’m standing it is the easier path to take, because you can’t do it with the drums due to the lack of power it’ll bring. How do you see this ‘dilemma’? As a matter of fact, is it a dilemma to Moths? Can you tell us about your influences?
J: Well the jazz thing comes from bands like Cynic and Intronaut that meld jazz and metal so well, when I joined the band those were the bands that I was listening to, just to get the feel for what I was playing and they were essentially the skeleton by which I build upon, the big heavy proggy sections and the shimmery jazz sections were what I brought along with me to the band. Aside from that I always listen to bands like Rush, Yes, King Crimson and a lot of 70’s prog rock bands, so I just dragged that style of playing with me. It also helps that literally 3/5ths of the band studied Jazz in College, so you know adding pretty chords with distortion almost felt natural to us, so yeah no dilemma to be had. Aside from the prog and obvious Jazz Metal guys, I also listen to a lot of Math Rock bands like A Minor Forest and Don Caballero, Jazz Fusion group like Allan Holdsworth and John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra and a lot of Stoner and Sludge like Mastodon and Kylesa.
Metal Addicts: Allan Holdsworth and John McLaughlin’s Mahavishnu Orchestra rule. Great stuff.
W: We’re all about exploring so there is no “dilemma” in our approach to mix some “jazz” in what we do, though we don’t really do it intentionally.
Metal Addicts: Heavy Metal is one of the musical genres that still sticks to the good old album formula and it is consistently doing pretty well. I mean, HM albums still sell, of course not as much as pop, but it does. There is an open debate among musicians and the media that bands are making very few dollars with albums due to all the existing digital services which allow fans to get music without paying a penny. What’s your view about this debate? BTW, can Moths make a living with their music or you all have other jobs?
W: I think there are ways to make your project profitable, but you have to keep up with the changes happening in the industry, the web, etc. It is really hard to be able to do this while having a “normal” job, which we all do in the band. Also, in our case, it becomes a little tougher since we’re from Puerto Rico and we have to duplicate the expenses for touring, distribution, etc. because everything has to go through the air, rather than being transported on ground. I think that we could make a living out of music, but it wouldn’t only be through Moths, artists have to be involved in many projects at the same time to be able to make some decent amount of money and be able to survive the day-to-day.
J: Well, right now I work at a soul sucking office supply retail store to get some cash, now as a musician there is a way to make a living but alas I have as of yet been able to reach that level in Puerto Rico. Now I do believe one day Moths could be a good portion of my main income, but right now it’s too young to actually make a decent penny, so for now hard work and sacrifice. Now on the subject of modern distribution and new mediums of publishing music, now I don’t wanna be writing an essay here, but I do believe the business is rather in a weird transitionary period and the technology is still kinda choppy, but I do like seeing the positive aspect of things, so at least we get to have a wider audience with streaming services and that opens markets in which we can peddle our live show and merch.
Metal Addicts: Due to all aforementioned, tours are more than ever a very important channel to get in touch with fans, to promote albums, and of course, to provide the means so he band can keep up. So, what are your plans for tours? Does the world have a plan to Moths? Could tell us where you have played around the years? What was the most unusual place you have played?
W: We do have some scheduled dates for February around the States, we will announce that in the next months. I have experience touring around the US with my previous band Zafakon, and we did play in some really sketchy places, but it was all good fun. The most unusual place? I would say it was this show we (Zafakon) did on our first tour in NY. It was a punk show, we were the only Metal band, so we were kinda lost on what was going to be the reaction of the people, but thankfully the enjoyed it and had a really good time. Though, we did have someone asked us if we drove all the way from Puerto Rico, seriously.
J: Well, we have some shows scheduled in the States for February, we’ll be sure to keep you all up to date with the… umm… dates. As for me I’ve only really played in Puerto Rico, I’ve never had the chance to play outside the island (till now) but man have I a played in some weird places. Puerto Rico is like bizarro land sometimes, so I’ve played at rich people regularly scheduled Friday shows, a mechanics shop which also housed a burger place, at a gentleman’s club, 2 or 3 whore houses here and there, but thank God that was never with Moths [Laughs].
Metal Addicts: Oh boy! Whore houses! Please, don’t tell me how you were paid. [Laughs]
Metal Addicts: One thing that called the eye in “Moths,” most notably in “Lepidoptera” was the vocals nuances. The layers of vocals you built in it. As I told in our review, I missed it in other tracks. What happened? Didn’t you like it? Or was it me? [Laughs]
W: Well, it wasn’t that we didn’t like it for the rest of the songs, but more like an issue with the fact that Damaris has a very different vocal style than Rob, our first singer, so she had to go through of all these songs and make them hers. She did a fantastic job with all of the songs, but I think we had the chance and space to work around “Lepidoptera’s” vocals more than the other songs. Now, I am sure that we will see more vocal layering on the new tracks and upcoming releases.
Metal Addicts: Metal scene today is very diverse. There are lots of bands playing music with lots of influences bringing up some excellent new material. I see that Moths are eagerly looking for bringing some new sonances to Metal. How do you feel about it? Are you a nostalgic band that praise the good old days or do you think the best is still to come? How do you feel about new bands?
J: I think we are both, we praise the old, but think that music doesn’t just stop growing as time passes. I will always heap my praises upon bands like Rush and King Crimson for molding me to be an excellent artist and opening my ears to crazy songwritting ideas, I will always go out of my way to listen to new upcoming stuff and see how the shape up in the long run.
Metal Addicts: You are from Puerto Rico. To be completely honest with you guys, you are the first Puerto Rican band I’ve ever heard of. Can you tell us about the scene there? What are your struggles in living in a place that isn’t exactly Metal loving?
J: Well the scene is active and very much alive in Puerto Rico, and you’d be amazed by the amount of people in it and the demand for it. Now of course we are a small island, so the amount of people isn’t as big as other areas and thanks to mass exodus that we had post Hurricane Maria, some people have left the scene, but it’s little by little getting back into shape and bands are flooding back into the scene with new sounds and ideas. Hell, I’d love to give a shout out to the guys from Fullminator, Zafakon, Avandra and Keytel y los Huespedes, such awesome guys with new sounds and more people deserve to know about them.
W: Man, the scene here has one of the most talented people I’ve ever seen. There are so many amazing bands and, the best part of all, is that there is everything for everyone. To add to Jonathan’s lists of bands, I would also encourage you to check Abound, Massive Destruktion, Argyle, Ritual Kannabis, Bad Choice, Calamity, Cold Times, among many others. The main struggle about living here and having a Metal band, like I mentioned before, is the fact that if you want to move around, if you want to tour, there are some expenses that people in the U.S. Mainland or people from South America don’t have to go through, because they can travel on the ground. Aside from that, people in the Metal scene over here are as passionate as you can imagine. I recommend to any touring band to come play in Puerto Rico, they won’t regret it.
Metal Addicts: We’ll do for sure.
Metal Addicts: Well, I think that’s all for now. Hope you guys get really well with “Moths.” Wish you the best of luck. Greetings from Metal Addicts.
J: Thanks for the opportunity man, we really appreciate the love.
W: Thank you!