Interview: Above the Moon

Written by Laura Curry

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Take a trip Above the Moon for some stellar tunes that will keep you rocking to 90’s sounds and singing along with catchy indie pop melodies. This four-piece band is driven by personal experiences and their honesty shines through in each intense track. In honor of their performance tonight at Wonder Bar in Asbury Park, Pop-Break had the chance to interview Above the Moon about their origins, their self-titled EP and what’s in store for the rest of 2016.

Who is Above the Moon? (Names of the band members & the instruments you play): Above the Moon is Kate Griffin on vocals/rhythm guitar, Shawn Murphy on bass, James Harrison on lead guitar/backing vocals and John Gramuglia on drums.

What year did you guys come together as a band: We all started playing together in September of 2015.

Are you primarily based in Madison, NJ: Kate and Shawn both live in Madison, and that’s also where our rehearsal space is. James is from Nutley, and John’s from Paramus.

What’s the story behind your band name: We’d actually gone back and forth for a while on a band name trying to find one that we all agreed on and also fit our sound. While recording our EP we still didn’t know what to call ourselves, and had to come up with something. We have a song called “Moon” that we liked a lot and were thinking of ways that we might be able to incorporate that, and somehow we found our way to Above the Moon.

ATM EP Cover

Have all of you performed in bands before Above the Moon? If so, how does that previous experience influence your music: Yes, we’ve all been in bands before- different types and different genres. When we all came together in September we were pleasantly surprised with how quickly things started to develop, and the one thing we keep going back to is that it must’ve been from all of our previous experiences. We’ve all had to work with various personalities and face unique obstacles in making music, so it has helped us become better at communicating our ideas and collaborating with each other.

Who has your sound been likened to: We’ve been told that we sound like everyone from Jimmy Eat World and Gaslight Anthem to the Cranberries and Letters to Cleo.

What gives your music that 90’s rock intensity? How do you combine that sound with indie pop elements: All of us are big 90’s rock fans. It’s hard not to make music that isn’t directly influenced by the stuff you grew up on, so elements from bands like Oasis, Weezer, Pixies, The Lemonheads, Foo Fighters and others definitely find their way into our music. A lot of the indie pop sound is in our vocal melodies. When we write we work on both the music and the vocals at the same time, and we’re usually able to find a way get them to work together as opposed to sounding like two different genres.

What acts as inspiration for your music: Our songs are inspired by personal experiences, but our music as a whole – writing, collaborating, performing – it’s all inspired by the drive to create, and improve our skills. Our favorite artists, local and otherwise, push us to keep doing that.

I notice that the album art on your EP is a play on your name. What were the ideas behind the album art and what does it convey: Since the first EP is self-titled and an introduction to the band, we wanted the art to give the listener a sense of the music before even hearing the band. After looking through hundreds of photos of the moon we found this one by Enrico Ladusch, which we liked a lot. We liked the starkness of the photo and also the mix of old technology (TV antennas) merging with the night sky. We also were thinking about the name of the band and somehow came to the thought of living above the moon, which is what lead us to rotating the photo to add a different perspective.

Photos by Michael Scicolone  / M3S Photography
Photos by Michael Scicolone / M3S Photography

How would you describe your EP in just a couple of words: Honest and intense.

What themes are explored on this EP? Do you find that you revisit similar themes in the rest of your music: All of the songs are about real people, specific situations or self-realizations—they’re the most natural and interesting things to write about. Those themes definitely carry through in all of our other songs. One of our favorite things is when a person can single out a song from our set and say that it’s their favorite because the lyrics really hit home for them. Writing something other people can connect with is what makes all the work worth it.

There’s something about “Out of the Woods” that I really loved—especially the descriptions of the forest and the overall positive message of the song. Can you explain what this song is about: “Out of the Woods” was inspired by a very specific, personal, on-going situation. The overall message is about facing the fear of not having any control, and that when you’re going through something hard you don’t have to do it alone. It’s about helping someone get through a tough time, even if all you can do is walk beside them.

What’s been your proudest accomplishment overall as a band: Being able to write and record our first EP after being together as a foursome after only three months has been a great milestone.

Photos by Michael Scicolone  / M3S Photography
Photos by Michael Scicolone / M3S Photography

During your performances, what are you trying to communicate to listeners: We always try to get our live sets to resemble the tracks that have been recorded as closely as possible. Of course, there’s a way different vibe seeing a band live, so we hope that when we play out our audiences can really feel the emotion and push of every song, maybe even in a different way than they feel it when they hear the recording. We try our best to let the songs speak for themselves.

What is your favorite part about being in Above the Moon: Everything about being in Above the Moon is fun! We love playing out, but I think all of us really enjoy songwriting. We get very excited about new music and we put a lot of time into each of our parts, trying various changes and combinations until we’re all happy with the end product.

When you think about all the bands in the Asbury Park scene right now, what makes Above the Moon stand out: The cool thing about the New Jersey music scene right now is that no one is out there trying to sound like anyone else. Dentist sounds completely different from the Cold Seas who sound different from YJY. We’re just trying to write the best songs we can and coming at it from a different perspective.

If someone has never heard your music before, what song would you recommend they listen to in order to fully grasp what Above the Moon is all about, and why: “Coat” is one of the first songs that was written and probably best displays what Above the Moon is about. It showcases Kate’s vocals, strong harmonies, catchy hooks and a solid rhythm section. It’s one of songs people have told us gets stuck in their head, which we take as a huge compliment.

What are your plans for the rest of 2016: We’ve got a bunch of shows lined up through June, when we’ll be recording another EP. We’re hoping to get new music out for the fall and line up a whole bunch of shows in venues we haven’t played before. This spring we’re staring to venture into the city, but we’re definitely hoping to book more Asbury gigs soon!

ABOVE THE MOON PLAYS TONIGHT WITH MACK AND DEAL CASINO AT WONDER BAR IN ASBURY PARK AT 8 P.M.