Moontwin is the collaboration of London singer songwriter Maple Bee (Queenadreena, Huski) and Bulgaria based Zac Kuzmanov (Ultra Grand Supreme, Black Moses). They create music in a virtual space by incrementally sending audio backwards and forwards, together creating dreamlike melodies that feel like something is always lurking in the shadows. September 16th sees the release of their fifth single The Storm. We caught up with Maple Bee and Zac in their respective bases via 3-way video, to talk about how the project started, their creative process and plans for the future.
So how did Moontwin come together?
Zac: We’ve known each other for ages but we were never really that close. We moved in the same circles but on the periphery of that clique of people. Turns out, we were both flirting with the idea of doing something together for a long time. That time has come, finally.
Maple: When I first started talking to Zac, I’d liked his stuff online, from his radio station Xraydio. He’s very funny and I was in particularly bad mood on a drive between like, ughh Wembley and Harrow or something and this thing popped up that was really funny. I just liked it on Facebook and we just started talking. He said I’ve always loved this one song and you should try singing it one day. I can really imagine you doing it. So I went home, listened to the song and thought ‘Oh Yeah! I can do that’. Plugged in, sang it and sent it back to him. He was going ‘Whoa! That’s amazing!’ Then we just got really over excited, really fast. We recorded a vocal, Zac did a vocal as well and it was really, really fun. It made me feel really good to do it. So we just started doing more and more. That first one was a really old track from… What was it Zac? The Twilight Zone? 1967 or something?
Zac: Yeah, it’s about this really arrogant little dude who goes around the world to collect country and folk songs. It’s a great episode, can’t remember which episode exactly. So he steals folk numbers from these people, and then ends up being lured into the woods by a nymph. That turns out to be the last song he ever steals. It’s a great number called Come Wander With Me. It will probably come up at some point as we’ve recorded it already.
The release rate of Moontwin singles has so far been quite prolific. Do you have a bounty that you’re metering out? Or is the music released as it’s recorded?
Zac: We try to be really quick with it. Because otherwise you over think it and start thinking ‘is going in any direction?’ Because we literally haven’t conceptualized any of this. It did just come organically
Maple: One thing that is very important for us however, is that all the videos and everything that we’re doing, we’re just doing ourselves. There’s no one else really involved. It has to be so DIY and it has to be really simple. I think that’s given us the opportunity to do things in a way that’s not over thought out and subconscious. Because in the past, some of the stuff, if you’re working with a label or whatever, you’ve got a load of people chin scratching and we just really want to do just what we want to do, in the time it makes us happy to do so.
With so much physical distance between you, does that afford you the time to work at your own schedule? Or can it act as a barrier?
Zac: It could be a plus. Because we can experiment in our own time and send over the version when we think we’ve arrived at something. Sometimes, we go ‘is this going a bit too blokey or rocky? Or a bit too wet and gentle?’ so we try to find that balance between the genders.
Maple: With us there can be quite some polarity happening. Where I might take it somewhere that’s going off into too much fluff, Zac will bring it back. It’s like a building and because we’re not in the same room, there’s a lot of tennis back and forth until we’re both happy with it. We’re not bickering in a room. Often in bands, you can get that you’re in each other’s face. It’s never been like that for us. We’re both just happy in our lots.
Zac: It’s definitely the way to retire with this! This whole thing of rehearsing with a bunch of guys sweating in a room and everyone starts ‘oh my back hurts’ I’d much rather do things in this manner. It just gets mad if there’s too many people involved, not just egos
Maple: But people can have different agendas too. Often Zac will do a mix and I’ll be in my car, my listening booth is my car, and I’ll be like ‘errrm’ if he’s introduced something new. I never feel like I can’t say if I don’t like it at all. I think we’re both quite receptive to criticism. But maybe because it’s limited to just two of us and I think we both really respect each other
Zac: I haven’t really thought about that, but we’re reduced the possibility of an argument by numbers
Maple: Having a democracy with two people is easier than with six.
How do you approach the construction of the music? Do you have your individual domains that you stick to? Or is there a lot of cross over?
Zac: Maple is a shit hot writer and a really talented guitar player too. I remember seeing her playing guitar with Vertigo Angels upstairs at The Garage. I remember thinking Fuck Me! Little girl, huge guitar! Some of the songs, like Don’t Worry About Me are completely Maple. It’s her song. She came up with it. I kind of arranged it and programmed the drums. We went that country route with it. It didn’t sound like that to begin with. But some reason, I thought we needed to take it there because my garage roots were showing.
Maple: It’s split down the middle. Except I don’t do any drum programming. At all.
Zac: Maple is great with melodies whereas I’m more of a riff guy. I just hum the riff, can you do ‘dum, dum, dum’? and she does it straight away.
There’s a lot of light and dark in Moontwin’s music. Is that a reflection of your individual personalities? Does that bring something unique to the sound?
Zac: I guess we’re both equally light and dark
Maple: We can both be equally miserable. You naturally hear a swing or grove in your head and that’s your own brand of that. Actually, I’ve found that working with Zac has pushed me out of my comfort zone with that and made me think. It’s almost like a different language. Sometimes when I hear a bass line that he’s conceptualized in his head and he’s singing it, I’m like ‘but what does this mean?!’ Then suddenly when you get it, your like ‘oh’ I would never have thought of that in the first place because it’s just not what I’d naturally do. But because we’re just the two of us, it’s helping me think outside the box more on a musical picture and on a wider scale rather than just my own language.
You also create stunningly engaging videos. Are they created in the same collabrotive method as the music?
Zac: Normally Maple comes up with the crazy ideas and visuals and I’m the chop and paste guy. I’m the tech side of this. The video stuff, I’m not good at either.
Maple: You are good at it!
Zac: It’s my first effort at doing this, and doing this on software that people use to shoot a wedding or someone’s christening. I think limited tech is a good thing otherwise you get lost in the possibilities and lose the plot.
Maple: Having too much equipment and all that stuff, I mean Zac is more up to date than me, but my gear is really, really old. But I know it and I’m really comfortable with it and I can find my way around it. The system we have now, we transfer WAVs to each other and it’s quick. I remember going to Rak Studios or somewhere like that and there’s all this paraphernalia about. I’m like ‘can we just do some music?’
Zac: With the visuals, the original idea was that we were in a deco-ish room mixed with a bit of 60’s. Berger wall paints and stuff!
Maple: A lot of stuff comes out when we’re just chatting and I’ll sort of get on a bit of head-trip. I can see a car park! I’m going to run round a car park!
Zac: That was inspired though
Maple: I’ll get some balloons! Then of course the bloody balloons flew away in the first 5 seconds of video. There was a security guard there as I get out of the car with this headdress on and he’s looking at me with his walkie-talkie. I just said to him. ‘Don’t worry we’re just here to spread joy’. He just went ‘ok’ and walked off.
So are there plans for a full length album? Or any plans to take Moontwin out on the road?
Maple: We’re definitely going to do an album. Hopefully we’ll have that ready by Christmas but it might be a little bit after. Late spring. The live thing, I’m not sure. I’m just not sure.
Zac: The live thing we just haven’t thought trough yet. The album, we’re going to have to decide when we have enough songs for it. We keep writing new stuff and we have to have a cut off point sometime. It depends when we’re going to wrap for this album and start working on the next. It doesn’t look like were going to stop anytime soon. Because it doesn’t take too much time and it’s quite fun!
The Storm is out September 16th and you can connect with Moontwin via the following links