The band Moonglade is pushing the limits of jazz with funk-infused danceable pop and soul-laden tunes. Members include guitarist Connor Terrones, vocalist Jonathan Ruffin, keyboardist Makayla Dooley, drummer Bobby Ferguson and bassist Julian Cary. They met through college connections and bring together a wide array of playing styles.
Westword caught up with Terrones to talk about the group's self-titled EP, which debuts August 2, and how their original vibe goes beyond music to tell deeper stories that play a role in all of our lives.
Westword: Can you talk to us about the process of putting this EP together?
Connor Terrones: It started with figuring out the tunes in our rep as a band: What are the ones we want to show people? The five that are currently on the EP are ones we decided are the most appropriate. Then we got into the recording process. We worked with engineer Jared Atol; he was a huge part of making this EP come together. He was really supportive in our vision of these songs and seeing through the intention we had and the emotions we wanted to emit through these songs. He was helpful in taking this music to greater heights through the advantages of the studio. ... All five of us in the group really brought our own experiences to the music. I think that’s what gives the collective sound.
What was it like having musically diverse individuals come together for this band?
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That’s been really fun and keeping the music fresh and having a very democratic band. We are very open to each other’s suggestions.
For songs of mine, it’s been helpful for other members to be a part of that, because they will concoct ideas I would never have thought of and shape it in beautiful ways I wouldn’t have considered.
The EP features characteristics of jazz, funk and soul. What influences your vibe?
Some of the more obvious influences in the pop, funk, R&B genres are obviously like Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, but also hip-hop producers like J. Dilla are big influences for us. But a lot of the influences span outside of music, as well. A lot of us are really passionate about nature, human rights — concepts that we all agree on that are bigger than the music itself.
I felt the song "Black to a Fault" captured the human-rights influence that shows up in your music. What's the story behind that?
That was primarily written by Julian Cary. On this tune, because he wrote it, Julian sings on there. Two of our bandmembers, Julian and Jon [Ruffin], are African-American. Julian had written the song pretty quickly. He told me he wrote it in the span of an hour, two hours.
It was a reflection of himself, of the frustrations that African-Americans face living in modern-day America. That could be from something as small as being discriminated against as, "Oh, do you play basketball?" Small-level racism to large-level racism like, "Oh, I want to murder you because you’re a black person." Just from the way Julian has talked to me about it, that song is an expression of his frustration, his anger, his sorrow in regard to that.
We were really happy to help Julian on that
What do you hope your listeners will gain from listening to this EP?
I think all of us in the band hope that people listening to the music can either relate to some of those experiences and emotions themselves. For example, "Black to a Fault" — not all of us can understand it. I can’t fully understand it — I’m white. That doesn’t mean I can’t try to understand and that it doesn’t still emit an emotion from me. That’s the bigger picture. We want people to feel emotions.
Most of you have a structured education in jazz music. How does this help your music? Do you think it hurts it in any way?
It's helpful with rehearsing on a logistical level. ... One of our singers, Jon, is not musically trained, and that’s an advantage, because we get an outsider perspective. It helps that everyone is musically experienced and that we are all trying to push each other so the music is as good as possible.
I guess disadvantages to that would be knowing exactly when the right time to use something “hip” is, or to not use it and it's overkill. There are moments we are writing, and our tunes are constantly going through drafts and evolving. Even the tunes on the album, we don’t play them the same way as they are recorded. Sometimes it can be a struggle of doing something out of like, "Oh, that would be cool." But is it really the right thing to do?
Do you have a favorite song off the EP?
Mine is probably "Black to a Fault." We already released it as a single in May; that one has been out for a couple of months. We collectively agreed, yeah, this is the strongest track on the EP.
There’s a lot of depth and personal experiences that went into each of these tunes. For the tune "I Wrote This," I had written it when I was performing on a cruise ship and had been away for five months. During that time I was away, my girlfriend made this huge box of letters for me, and the letters were designated weekly. It got me through the experience because I was homesick and I missed her. This song was about these letters she wrote for me, and it trades perspective. That’s why the first verse is male, the second is female. It came from the feelings I had realizing someone cared about me enough to do something like that.
The entrance of "I Wrote This for You" contained such modern pop forms. How do you balance the mixture of today's sound with the history of jazz?
I know personally the way I approach it is, can I write a pop song with pop songs and pop melodies but have certain elements of rhythm and harmonies containing jazz influence? Those are both genres I really love, and I don’t think they have to be exclusive.
What can the crowd expect from a Moonglade show?
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The crowd can expect to dance. Especially, a lot of the material we’ve been writing lately draws more out of our soul and hip-hop influences. They can expect not only to dance, but also a range of big moments and soft, intimate moments.
They can expect us to be grinning and smiling like idiots the whole time.
Moonglade (EP Release) / Wesley Watkins - Grumpy Uncle / Kdubbs, 8 p.m.
Corrections: The names of Jon Ruffin and Julian Cary were misspelled in an earlier version of this story.