- - Monday, September 5, 2016

Haunting. Ethereal. Beautiful. Just a few words that describe the music of Venus and The Moon, the band comprising Rain Phoenix (sister of Joaquin and River) and Frally Hynes, the Aussie songstress once married to Ben Folds. The duo even gets occasional help from collaborator and producer Chris Stills (son of Steven Stills).

The duo’s painfully personal and deeply moving songs touch upon love lost and found. I sat down with the ladies in Los Angeles to discuss how they came together and how the most painful life experiences can make the most beautiful songs.

Question: How did you two meet?

Frally Hynes: We met at a birthday party, and at that party ended up on one mic singing harmonies together.

Rain Phoenix: We really liked the tone of each other’s voice. By the end of the night, we said, “He,y we should try to write together.”

Q: Were you familiar with each other’s music?

RP: No. We hadn’t ever heard each other’s music yet. A while later when we exchanged records, we knew we should definitely work together.

Q: Is it easier to write together because you are both women?

FH: I’ve never really wrote or really collaborated with anyone.

Q: Was there any trepidation to collaboration because you’re used to working alone?

FH: There was an openness when I had never been open before. I had been approached by people before who asked, “Do you want to get toegther and write music?” I’ve always been like, “Not really.” [laughs] Or I would say, “Yeah, maybe.” But I never really wanted to.

This was the first time I was like, “Yeah! I really do want to do this.” I just liked her. Liked her vibe. I just wanted to see where it would go.

Q: How quickly did the songs come together?

RP: The first song we wrote was “Die Slow,” and we recorded it the same night [we] wrote and recorded it. Chris Stills, who we are playing with tonight, helped us out and produced the demo. Instantly we had a demo of a song that had just materialized.

FH: It was a 4 or 5 a.m. situation.

Q: Where were they written?

RP: There was this empty house that I was helping get rented. We would meet there and spend afternoons writing before it got rented. We had like a week. There was just one table in the middle. We would sit there with two guitars and a computer.

Q: Vocally, who were your influences for the blended harmonies?

FH: I remember loving Dolly [Parton] and Emmylou [Harris] when they worked with …. Who was the other one?

Q: Linda Ronstadt?

FH: I liked hearing them harmonize together when I was pretty young. Those records were so mesmerizing. And I’ve always loved the idea of female harmonies. It could have been that, but unconsciously.

RP: I think it came natural. Whoever was singing lead, the other just did harmonies. It wasn’t like, this needs to be Beach Boys or Everly Brothers. We never said it needed to be anything.

Q: Do you have freedom because this record was made for you and no one else?

FH: There was no thought of sales. [laughs]

RP: It was fun. We’re doing it for fun.

Q: Is there ever a thought of sales when you’re making music?

RP: There is a hope we can sustain ourselves.

FH: I feel like now there is.

RP: We certainly don’t want to go broke.

FH: Now that we’ve realized there is a resonance with people, hopefully we an get it out there. And that requires being able to sell something.

Q: Rain, is it true you recorded demos on an old four-track your brother River gave you?

RP: I had it for years, and it had collected dust. I told Frally we should make a four-track record, and she was really excited about it, but when I went to test it, it was broken. It didn’t work.

I called Tascam here in L.A. There is one little place out in the City of Industry in an industrial park. I drove down there, and they said, “This part may never work, and this might be dead,” I asked them to please give it a whirl. When I came back, it was all clean and sealed in plastic. They said, “It’s working.”

We brought it home. It’s just so tactile to push buttons that are hard to push down and hear hissing. All those things I remember from the ‘80s — I remember from my brother.

River would always four-track, and I would come in and sing harmonies on his stuff. It was very tactile for me. It was so cool.

FH: We put the album out on cassette because of the four-track.

Q: Are people buying the cassette to play them?

FH: Depends how old they are.

RP: The teens are buying them and playing them.

FH: They are buying the new versions of the portable tape players with the headphones.

Q: There is a new Walkman?

RP: And they are going into old stereo shops buying up all the old tape players. It’s the new youth generation saying, “OK, you guys are all about vinyl? We’re gonna be about cassettes.”

Q: What did using antiquated technology add to the record?

FH: Limitations are really helpful. Otherwise you waste so much time saying, “One more.” Before you know it, you’ve got 50 tracks to sift through. Limitations make you more accurate.

Q: You’ve both dealt with tragedy. Is there anything that is too personal to write songs about?

RP: No. I think everything finds its way into songs.

FH: That’s the beauty of art. It doesn’t have to be obvious what you’re writing about. You can still hit that emotion that everyone can feel without necessarily explaining exactly what that song is about.

For more, visit VenusAndTheMoon.net.

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