Magical Moon Hammer Musketeers Release Latest Single "Slackjaw"

By: Julia Talen

The magnetic, musical mash-up, Moon Hammer, releases their sixth single, “Slackjaw,” today: a rhythmic, soulful, psychedelic song that showcases every facet of these artists’ talent. This ever-evolving and self-proclaimed “ragtag supergroup of Moon Magneteers” is made up of some of Denver’s best musicians including Sean Dandurand & Dylan Johnson (Dandu/Other Black/Retrofette), Ishka Bee Phoenix (Ghost Tapes), Megan Crooks (Ancient Elk/Other Black), Jeremy Averitt (Esmé Patterson), Neil Lyons, Kevin Netz (Yonbre), & Reed Fox (déCollage/Bun Bun). 

Mixed and mastered at Moon Magnet Studios, “Slackjaw” seamlessly melds different bits of the aforementioned artists’ musical styles. From Ishka Bee Phoenix and Megan Crooks’ soulful vocals to the electric dance vibes from Reed Fox or the mellow traces of Jeremy Averitt, this track balances and mixes all sorts of influence into the delicious musical potion that is “Slackjaw.”

Moon Hammer. Photo Credit:   Julianna Photography

Moon Hammer. Photo Credit: Julianna Photography

“Slackjaw” begins with a funky, percussive melody on piano and vocals that immediately evoked Janelle Monae. Shortly after the first verse, the “magneteers,” begin to drop in and add layers of their musical style and genre-casting body into the tune. Soon Phoenix and Crooks begin harmonizing (evocative of Ibeyi), spewing impeccable lyrics that detail themes embedded in this song: inner demons, shadows of the self, and haunting pasts. At this point, listeners are wrapped up in the refrain, “I walk three steps behind you/I walk too far to measure… I walk now.”

About midway through this song a distance from the rhythmic, funky first half begins to form as the “I walks” become echoey, meandering in the distance, and the vocals begin to sound like the inner demon the song speaks to. The edges of the tune become fuzzier as psychedelic/synthy elements develop while the song continues. 

Artwork by Ishka Bee Phoenix.

Artwork by Ishka Bee Phoenix.

The track then circles back from that murky distance, but there is a residual strangeness from that section of the tune, now blending with sounds that the song started with as the song closes. 

Ishka Bee Phoenix says that the writing process of this eclectic group of artists unfolds when “we all get together and drink shitty beer and laugh and hug and give each other butterfly kisses and sometimes cry, until someone asks, ‘Hey whatcha got?’ And the ideas just tumble out.”

The track embodies such a process effortlessly, without feeling overdone or too busy. There is a feeling of exquisite alchemy in this tune: everything fits, it draws you in deep and muddles your mind with that Moon Hammer magic.

If you’re hooked on this track like I am, see Moon Hammer’s recent live performance on PBS Sound here, and keep up with the moon magneteers at this link.

-Julia

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artists featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.

Premiere: Listen to Moon Hammer's New "Unravelled" + the Band Tells Us How This Track Was Sewn Together

Moon Hammer. (Left to right: Reed Fox, Megan Crooks, Ishka Bee Phoenix, Mark Emmons) Photo Credit:   Julianna Photography

Moon Hammer. (Left to right: Reed Fox, Megan Crooks, Ishka Bee Phoenix, Mark Emmons) Photo Credit: Julianna Photography

Denver’s Moon Hammer, an ever-changing collection of Moon Magnet-affiliated artists, is playing Denver’s Underground Music Showcase on Sunday, July 28th at 3 Kings Tavern at 6PM. In anticipation of their show, they decided to premiere their new song “Unravelled” with us today before it drops on all streaming services this Friday, July 19th. The song has been created and “destroyed” several times over to near its final completion, so take a listen:

“Unravelled” was mixed by Neil Lyons and frontman Reed Fox, and mastered at Moon Magnet Studios, but prior to that, a lot went into the actual writing and recording process of this track. Says Fox, “Moon Hammer is a writing collective and most of our shows feature a lineup of different members. Everyone can bring songs to the group to play and it's usually Megan Crooks (Ancient Elk) or Ishka Bee Phoenix (Ghost Tapes) because they're genius songwriters. Megan showed us her song ‘Unravelled’ two years ago and everyone was eager to bring it to life. Usually the songs are recorded and released quicker, but this one took longer because we kept reimagining it and adding stuff to it, which is ironic because it is the most minimalist recording I've ever been a part of. The process was a lot like the quote I'd never credit because it came from Bono: ‘Making records is like making sausages, the end result is palatable but you don't want to see how it's done.’ Basically we recorded a ton of things and all agreed it was best to scrap almost all of it.”

Photo Credit:   Julianna Photography

Photo Credit: Julianna Photography

Oddly enough, “Unravelled” almost became a House track at one point in the process. “We recorded it live initially with Dylan Johnson (The Other Black/Dandu) on electronic drums. Derrick Bozich (House of Aura/Sound of Ceres) came over and was recording mellotron months later and since the drums were recorded through an SPDS and every drum pad sound was mono on one channel, Derrick re-recorded the drums on separate tracks. With this project, Neil and I email projects back and forth frequently so I sent it over to him and he remade the drums again and re-recorded some awesome 808 bass. I think it was our third reiteration of drums and bass. He made it sound incredible and chopped up Megan Crooks’ vocals and threw the samples on pads and played them like an instrument (just like you hear in the recording). Then he emailed it back and I made a House version of the song. We considered using it for the chorus when Neil and I met up again at his studio to mix it some more and ended up realizing the House version was a terrible idea.” says Fox.

So how did “Unravelled” finally become sewn together?

“We scheduled a session for Megan, Ishka, Jeremy Averitt (Esmé Patterson), and Kevin Netz (Jurassic Netz/Fever The Ghost) to come over to Moon Magnet Studios and record more stuff, because we still were unhappy with [the song], but little did we know that a version from a year prior was our favorite, and the one you hear now is pretty much that. Kevin recorded gazillions of synths and bass (again) on it. Jeremy recorded xylophone over the whole thing. Ishka recorded vocals. Months after that we listened back to the version from a year prior and realized that was the best version and that we just needed to release it. Then Neil and I met up at the Magnet and I tried to include all the people that had recorded on it which was virtually impossible because that version had scrapped everything.

What you hear now is Neil on the beat, vocal chops, and 808 bass. Neil, Jeremy Averitt, and I co-produced it. Neil did a ton of the snazzy creative things. Derrick's mellotron is on the end of it, and you can hear Kevin's synth on the chorus. Ishka's harmonies are on the chorus and Megan sang and wrote the song of course. Jeremy's Xylophone is on the intro. We kept exploring options and didn't realize the song had already been finished and ended up having to dig up an old project file to get back to how it was before we ruined it.” Fox told us. 

In the end, the complex, two-year recording process of “Unravelled” almost mirrors the lyrics Crooks wrote from the start. Adds Megan, “This song is about letting the force of change and chaos take control and gracefully bowing to its power with faith that things will fall back in place for the better. I wrote the [lyrics] on a whim two years ago, pulling the knowledge from the ether, not knowing I was preparing myself for exactly this time in my life.”

Photo Credit:   Julianna Photography

Photo Credit: Julianna Photography

After letting the force of change take control over their final product and battling their creative demons to get to the gold, Moon Hammer’s “Unravelled” is finally ready for eardrums everywhere. As for what this collective is up to next, Fox tells us, “Moon Hammer is performing on the MCA rooftop with Wes Watkins August 2nd at 7pm! We're also unleashing two more singles before the year’s over, so check out our Spotify to hear our recent releases!”

Keep up with Moon Hammer here.

All photos, videos, and embedded tracks per the artist featured and those credited. This feature was edited for brevity and clarity by BolderBeat.