Interview – Red Moon Road

By: Jordyn Meade-Baxter

Red Moon Road is a folk trio formed by Sheena Rattai, Daniel Jordan and Daniel Peloquin-Hopfner, from Winnipeg. September 11 will be a big day for these guys as their newest album, Sorrows and Glories, will be released and they will be hitting the road on tour. Already, the video for their first single “Beauty In These Broken Bones” has been released. Sorrows and Glories is the third album from Red Moon Road and is said to be reflective of the bands journeys. We had the chance to interview Red Moon Road where we talked about their album, their tour and more.

Do you have a main concept for Sorrows and Glories?

Sheena: I don’t know that we were intentional about setting a certain tone or going in a certain direction. I think more so Sorrows and Glories is the culmination of what we’ve learned and what we’ve grown into after 4 years of touring and making music together. We’ve grown as individuals, as a group and as musicians and artists. This album is an effort to capture that and is perhaps a snapshot of where we are and how the ups and downs of the journey so far have formed us.

DJ: We were trying to push our own personal envelope with this album.  DPH learns a new instrument for every album it seems (lap steel on this one), and I’ve got a new set up on my guitar where I can also play bass,  Sheena plays keys on a couple songs, so we wanted to feature really full arrangements that we could also reproduce live, but it means we’ve had to work really hard to learn our own songs in the context of the stage show.

Can you tell us how the cancelled tour influenced the writing?

Sheena: Well we got a hilarious hospital song out of the whole experience about bed pans and morphine. Haha! But in actuality the whole experience was formative for us and I think especially for me. Having to cancel the tour was such a huge disappointment. We hated to let people down. We were so looking forward to every date on that tour. But people were lovely and understanding and supportive. So where that was absolutely very discouraging I think what influenced our writing the most was the journey that was the next 2 years of healing. And really that journey continues. The first track off the album, for example, is called Beauty in these Broken Bones and was a direct result of this experience. I wrote it after eventually coming to a place of acceptance and love for the scars that I have and for the struggle that healing from this injury has been. So I guess that the canceled tour, the time in the hospital and the period of convalescence and healing thereafter all served as inspiration for new songs and really for personal growth in a lot of ways as well.

How would you say it is a step of evolution for Red Moon Road?

DJ: Well, we had a much more hands on role in the recording/producing of the album, and I think that is reflected in the product.  The new instrumental set up is also a big part of it.  I am playing bass, guitar and bass drum simultaneously, Sheena covers the extra percussion and keyboard and DPH as usual, is playing every instrument we can fit in the car.  Plus we are all singing.  Sheena’s really made Daniel and I up our game vocally, and the writing on this album is more evenly split between us, so its richer for that and its really generally more like us than ever.

What was it like working with David Travers-Smith and Murray Pulver for the album?

DJ: Well, Murray is just a song ninja.  You bring a song to him and he chops bits off and adds little punches here and there and really takes it too the next level.  Having worked with him on previous albums, it was neat to see that this time we had already done a lot of the kinds of things Murray is so great at, so the things he added were more subtle, but in my mind all the cooler for it.  David has incredible ears.  He is a wizard at picking out the best takes and augmenting the cool little accidents in ways you would never think to do.  He added a lot of little touches that really make the songs take on a new life.

Sheena: Both guys are also just such great people. Working with Murray is always a delight and being in the studio with David was a blast! He was so great being silly with us when we were goofing off after long hours recording and then at focusing us when we needed some reigning in. We have great memories of those 2 weeks in the studio.

Who are some of your inspirations and did you incorporate them in any way into the album?

Sheena: My mom taught me to sing and has always been my primary inspiration. She one time said to me “you should always sing from a place of sorrow”. That has sort of stuck with me. I think it’s related to the same thing that makes us cry when we are happy. It’s almost the understanding that those joyful moments come and go that brings us to tears. So in this album Sorrow and Glories I’d for sure like to think that I’ve incorporated my mothers emotional inspiration into the delivery of all of the songs we’ve recorded. The glorious and the sorrowful ones, hah!

What does it take to turn a story into a song?

DJ: A friend and mentor of mine, the great James Keelaghan once told me, “you need to find your own view point within the story.”  Many stories are too big to tell in the entirety and they would just end up sounding like a history lesson if you did.  Instead we try and write from our own perspective, even if it means inserting ourselves into stories that are not “our own”.  On our first album I wrote a song about my Oma’s flight before the Red Army in WWII and choose to sing it to the horses she was riding.  On this album I wanted to write about my Opa once he arrived in Canada.  I could have never listed all the crazy things he had to do too build a life, but these days all he wants to do is plant trees.  He won’t see them grow and I thought it spoke more about my Grandfather than the houses he built, wars he fought, or even his family.  And then other times you are driving home and you hear the biography of Sophie Blanchard on CBC and it’s such a great story that you just write it down as quickly as you can and keep it simple, hit the key points.  That one was particularly fun to record because we tried to evoke the feeling of flying over Paris in a balloon.  I think we did that…

 Do you feel it’s important to tell stories in songs, or is it a personal preference?

Sheena: I always joke that the Daniels have all of these stories and I have all of these feelings. Hah! I think that the large focus on storytelling in this group has a lot to do with Daniel Jordan. He has such a natural ability to weave story and stage banter into one cohesive experience it’s quite something to hear. He comes from a long line of “smooth talkers” lol. But he’s also made a study of great story tellers. Everyone from Arlo Guthrie to Stuart Mclean. I think really both of the Daniels have a wonderful natural ability to find the “Epic” in the seemingly mundane. And without question, the feedback we most consistently receive after every show is how much people love the stories we tell before the songs. It draws people in. Every one of us is living out our own story and that’s what humanizes us and enables us to relate to and empathize with one another. So when we tell the stories that the songs are built upon it almost creates a bridge for the listeners that paves the way for a deeper experience and understanding of the material we then play. So they connect with the music on a profoundly deeper lever and can find things to relate to in their own lives or the lives of those they love. There’s such a beautiful commonality in the human experience.

DJ: What she said.

What can fans expect from this upcoming tour?

DJ: New songs. New stories. New instruments. Same Red Moon Road Handsome Dan Brand Moustache Wax for sale (seriously). Same foot-in-mouth banter.  Same 1990 volvo station wagon.

Are you excited to have touring dates both in Canada and the US?

Sheena: Yes! It’s always exciting to be on the road. It’s has it’s moments of frustration and exhaustion to be sure but whether we’re returning to play for fans who’ve become old friends or traveling to places we’ve never set foot on before it’s always a grand adventure. In Canada it’s beautiful that we more or less have places we feel at home at all across the country. For us the Trans-Canada is now dotted with friends and family. And when we did our first tour to the US last fall we went down the west coast from Seattle to San Diego. It was amazing! It’s so cool what you discover about places you haven’t ever seen before. Like, I had no idea that Oregon was so gorgeous! It’s gorgeous! It’s like an enchanted forest! Sheesh.

DJ: You hear so many horror stories about things happening in the states, but we’ve never experienced that. Only the same warmth and generosity of the human spirit we experience here at home and over seas.

Is there any hope of any last minute add-on dates?

DJ: Oh yes.  In fact, let us know if you know of something that makes sense where you see us having a day off. HA! We’ll come play for you.

What do you like to do between shows?

Sheena: Sleep in the car!

DJ: Sleep in the car.

Red Moon Road is such a pretty name for a band. Where did you come up with it?

Sheena: We like to say that the name has humble beginnings but we’ve grown into it and it’s become something richer during our time together.

DJ: DPH and I were sitting in the car with the first 5 song EP we ever recorded realizing we didn’t have a name.  We looked up and saw a sign. Literally.  It was the street we were sitting on.  But as Sheena said, we can’t tell you the amount of times we’ve been driving through the mountains or along the ocean, or through the prairies and this blood red moon just appears right above us and we all look at each other and laugh.

Most interviews focus on the band as a whole, but can you tell us a bit about each of you?

Sheena: Well….a deep dark secret of mine is that I love tiny things. Maybe it’s because I’m 5’ 11’’ but whatever it is I take great pleasure in little bity things. In fact, I’ve even inadvertently started a tiny glass collection. I have a mini beer mug, a wee wine glass and a tiny tumbler. I like them so much I display them in a little window box in my kitchen! I also LOVE Americas Funniest Home videos. One time I was laughing so hard I really actually almost fainted because I wasn’t breathing. True story.

DJ:  Daniel and I are inexcusably nerdy about Star Wars.  We subjected Sheena to roughly 108 hours of Star Wars audio books on one tour.  We have a show coming up on Dec 18th (the day the new movie comes out) and we seriously thought about cancelling.

Sheena: It was 109 hours.

The next few questions are, as per Canadian Beats tradition, a little on the fun side. It is a way for fans to get to know the artists better.

When you tour in places outside of Canada, do you feel you bring any stereotypes with you?

Sheena: Our first tour into the States was a bit of an education for me about the Canadian accent that we apparently have. A newly acquired American friend once pointed out how we say sorry with a really long “oh” sound in contrast to how most Americans say it more like “saaahry” and now I can’t unhear it! Every time I say sorry I hear “sOOOOOre-y”. lol So I guess the way we say sorry and how much we say is a bit of a stereotype that at least I for sure perpetuate.

DJ: Nobody on the US west coast takes their shoes off when they go inside.  They’re all “is wearing socks or going barefoot a part of the show?” and we’re “no its so we don’t track mud in man.”  So weird.

Do you have a favourite joke?

Sheena: A friend told me this one yesterday! It’s my new favourite. “How do you spot a blind man at a nudist colony?” ….nevermind. I shouldn’t tell that one in an interview!

DJ: It’s not hard… oops.

If you were a video game or movie/TV show character, who would you be and why?

Sheena: Once the Daniels, in a moment of kindness, said that if I was a Lord of the Rings character I would be the shield maiden of Rohan. I liked that a lot!! But I think in reality I would probably be more like Monica from FRIENDS….I like tidiness and accuracy and I for sure have an inner fat kid that I probably feed a little too much.

DJ: Han Solo… or more realistically given the frequency with which I forget to groom, Chewbacca.

Is there anything else you would like to say to the fans?

Sheena: Thanks. You make us feel cool about driving around the continent in a 25 year old Volvo with most of our belongings shoved into the roof rack haphazardly strapped on top of it.

DJ: Please feed me.

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