One of the greatest joys in life a true music fan can have is discovering a new band. Such was the case when a friend recently recommended the moody and beautiful music of Moon King, a Canadian duo composed of Daniel Benjamin and Maddy Wilde. What do they sound like? Think Cocteau Twins and The Sundays meet recent electro-pop darlings Ellie Goulding and Phantogram.
Mr. Benjamin touched base on how the duo creates dreamy pop, the benefits of being a twosome and the band’s stop this Saturday at DC9 in the District.
Question: How did the band come together?
Answer: Maddy and I have known each other for most of our lives. We grew up two blocks away from each other in Toronto.
The band started only two years ago, but it feels like something that will progress. We’ve known each other long enough [that] it doesn’t feel we need to learn new things about each other. We have this established way of working. The trust level is very strong.
Q: Is there more pressure as a duo act?
A: I don’t think there was more pressure, because when we started, we played a lot of fairly sketchy shows — late-night warehouse kinds of things or after-parties. They were more about a vibe and an attitude. Once we started [landing] proper clubs, we had to think about it more.
Q: When you play live now, do you have a full band?
A: There are four people. One of our members plays most of it. [laughs] He plays the bass parts with his feet. He plays keyboards and guitar as well. That allows me and Maddy to think more about performing and hopefully being entertaining to people as well.
Q: Are you two a couple as well as bandmates?
A: No. No. No. We’ve just been friends since we were little. If you look at music history, you see so many examples of musical partnerships that were also romantic that had incredible success, and it then fell apart spectacularly.
Q: What is the creative process like between the two of you?
A: I do the writing, as far as putting together the basic ideas for a song. I take it over to Maddy’s place and show her the basic idea of it. We work out all the harmonies and which one of us is going to sing the lead parts. We arrange it from there.
Q: Did you record your CD “Secret Life” live?
A: We wanted to capture the sound of a live band. There was a lot of energy. We recorded it [with] five people in a room all playing together at the same time. Vocals and everything. We added a few vocals afterward.
Q: Where does the name come from?
A: I don’t think it’s a reference to anything in particular. I just liked the way it sounded. I was on an airplane and had this image pop in my head, and I thought, “It would be nice to be king of something.”
Q: The songs are pretty sad. Why is that?
A: Just like anybody else, I feel emotions and views that are best dealt with by expressing them through something creative, like music. The songs are meant to bring somebody out of their sadness.
Q: Does sadness make for better songs?
A: My ideal piece of music is something that is sad but also uplifting at the same time. It is like when you hit the bottom and then have this epiphany that brings you out on top again.
Q: What is a Moon King live show like?
A: It can be crazy if the crowd is giving back. We just played in Brighton in the U.K. at The Great Escape festival, and the crowd carried me. I was able to levitate above them and walk on the ceiling with people holding me. Crazy.
We always adapt the show toward the energy that is in the room. If people just want to sit and listen to music, that’s cool.
Q: How will you spend your downtime in D.C.?
A: We really like to be able to see the cities that we play in. The worst feeling is going on tour, realizing you have been to the same city four times in a row and you still haven’t seen anything other than the inside of a bar.
Last time we were in D.C., our friends there took us to see the Washington Monument and White House. Coming from Canada, all we ever know about Washington, D.C., is what we learn from TV. Being able to experience it close up and realize it’s a real city with people who are interested in art and music is great.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Moon King in concert
WHERE: DC9 Nightclub, 1940 Ninth St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20001
WHEN: Saturday, 8:30 p.m.
INFO: Tickets $12 in advance and $14 on the day of the concert by calling 202/483-5000 or visiting DCnine.com