The Soft Moon's Luis Vasquez Reflects How His New Album 'Criminals' Came to Be
Drawing from a bottomless well of wickedness, The Soft Moon’s Luis Vasquez creates nine inch nail-biting murderous tracks that slay…literally. When Frank kills Lila In Shonda Rhime’s out of control drama How To Get Away With Murder, Vasquez’s strobey Gregorian chant-inspired track “Black” gives the gift of seriousness to a scene that is otherwise rendered comical by the awkward last pose of the victim of a painfully slow suffocation and Alfred Enoch snot-crying into Viola Davis’ lap.
In recent years music off of his first three albums —The Soft Moon, Zeros, and Deeper, have been instrumental in driving the plots of dark series American Horror Story, Mr. Robot. His fourth album, Criminal, is a dedication to the twisted days of his youth and the intertwinement of angst to his present.
For the purpose of shedding light on the ostensibly ray-less album, which can be streamed, downloaded, or--if one dares--purchased in physical form on February 2, Flaunt caught up the ring leader of Criminal. Skyping from “always cool” Italy for now, though he’ll soon return to his adopted home in über cool Berlin, Vasquez gets personal about his latest body of work, which includes a surprise love song (there’s falling in love and then there’s welding metal hearts together) and provides key insights on the condition his condition is in.
You’ve traveled around quite a bit. Where do you live now?
I’ve been in Europe almost five years now, and I think that’s catching up to me because I don’t have my family. All my good friends are back home in LA and San Francisco. In a strange way, I feel like I’ve almost become some sort of slave. This whole project I’ve like compromised a lot of my life. At the same time, I have no complaints because it’s a very rewarding process being able to get things off my chest or express myself artistically, so it’s got its positive trade-offs.
Why Europe all these years?
Europe is always cool. It's where we play a lot. That's why I went to Berlin. London is getting pretty big for us as well, which is interesting because it's a pretty hard market. Americans don’t get my music as much as Europeans do, that's for sure.
What are you trying to say to yourself with Criminal?
It’s more personal. With this record, I’m actually expressing emotions, but I’m being a lot more detailed and literal. I guess in the past I’ve been more broad, not so big and metaphorical. But with this record, it’s where I’m at the end of my ropes, where I'm trying anything to reach some sort of inner peace. After the live show and the touring, I needed to understand that whole process and what I was trying to say to myself.
Was it difficult to reconcile your broken childhood by way of producing Criminal?
There’s the process of writing the record and that’s cathartic and emotional. It’s torture you know. And sometimes questions need to be answered like if I’m suffering from anxiety or depression. Sometimes I’ll find answers in the music, but then that’s only half the battle.
How has your upbringing in the Mojave influenced this album?
I was actually born in East Los Angeles and then I moved into the Mojave desert around the age of nine years old. I lived up there until I was 21, which is the traditional thing to do when you’re at your parents’ house. I hated it up there at times for sure, but I think it forced me to create. I got my guitar. I used to skate and play my guitar. And that’s all I did.
You say you’re confessing your wrongdoings in this album. What did you do wrong?
That last track "Criminal" I wanted the last track to depict how I really truly still feel about myself, and I feel like I’ve got a pretty big guilty conscience. I feel that a lot of things I do are wrong. I make a lot of bad decisions. I'm almost addicted to living in turmoil. I’m always on the verge of wanting to sabotage anything that’s good for me. I wanted to blame myself and call myself a criminal, judge myself in order to try to fix what’s going on inside. At the same time, within the album there’s confident tracks as well. The track before “Criminal,” it’s a "Fuck you" to judgement. Live and let live. This is who I am.
What would you tell your fans who are struggling to carry their emotional baggage?
Be the artist that speaks on reality and also be that person that’s like saying we’re not alone. "You’re not alone," because in the beginning I thought I was alone. That’s part of the reason why I started this project and the first record was about how "I’m the only one who feels like this." Then as I gained fans, I was like, “Whoa, I’m definitely not the only person.” Now I feel like it’s my duty to talk to those people and heal myself and hopefully help them as well.
You just signed with Sacred Bones Records. Who would you like to collaborate with from the label and what's next?
John Carpenter and David Lynch. I would like to do some film scores for David Lynch, of course. And I would like to score a new Halloween movie if I could. My music has always been sort of cinematic and atmospheric and it's dark and anxious.
Could you speak to some of the imagery in “It Kills.” which also appear in your other videos: symbols of angst, fire, fury, etc?
On this record, I'm working with the same director [Brooklyn-based artist Kelsey Henderson)], which is probably why you see similarities in each of the videos. We connect a lot. Whatever imagery she wants to use I really relate to and anything brutal or weird or dark, explicit, or even elements like fire. Fire is used a lot. There's something about fire I'm connected to I think a lot of us are. It’s beautiful, but at the same time it hurts.
What's your process like?
It's different every time. I start with the synth when making more traditional songs like “It Kills” or “Burns.” I tend to start with bass, but really the lyrics come at the very end, but really it's hardest for me. Challenging. But a melody will hit me pretty early on, but then I always procrastinate with the lyrics because I'm not the best with using words. But on this record, you know I worked hard on it. That was an accomplishment for me. I work on textures. I'm always trying to add atmospheric sound. Production. Lots of production.
Criminal drops this Friday, February 2nd, just in time for Valentine's Day. Any love songs on the record?
There is one love song on the record: "Some Things." I think it’s the third track. But it's kind of sad… Not like a sad love song, but I don't know.... It's kind of fucked up. It's talking about how I can't reciprocate love.
The Soft Moon lands in Los Angeles' Teragram Ballroom on April 13th (A Friday). Criminal is available for pre-order now.
Written by Kara Powell