Moodlighting Signals a Denver Indie-Pop Revival With Its Glowing Debut

Moodlighting has released its debut album, Boy Wonder.
Moodlighting has released its debut album, Boy Wonder. Courtesy of Moodlighting
Moodlighting has brought a new wave of fuzzed-out indie pop back to Denver’s music scene with the release of its debut album, Boy Wonder, on April 1. The band will play an album-release show on May 5 at the hi-dive alongside Isadora Eden and Mainland Break.

The tale of Moodlighting starts with the idea that music doesn’t just come from the right riff, melody or catchy hook — it comes from the right relationships.

Moodlighting grew out of a long-lasting relationship between guitarist/songwriter Alex Goetz and vocalist Sophie Gullet. During the heart of the 2020 pandemic lockdowns, the young couple dedicated themselves to writing and recording an album of songs over their cramped kitchen table.

“We had this teeny, tiny kitchen table. It’s like a vintage one with fold-down sides,” Gullet recalls with a laugh. “That was the only table we had, so there’d be music gear all over it, then I’d have to work from home, then we’d try to eat dinner there. It was really messy.”

Like most creative projects during lockdown, Goetz and Gullet found inspiration for Moodlighting while trying to stay connected with fellow musicians.

Out of one group chat on Twitter, a friend sent an album from Nice Try, a fuzzy twee-pop outfit from Bloomington, Indiana, that inspired Goetz to pursue his idea of forming a band that peeled influences from the dark dream-pop and new-wave sounds of years past.

“We listened to an album by Nice Try, and I immediately had this crystalized idea to do fuzzy, upbeat pop music,” Goetz recalls.

From that spark of inspiration, Goetz and Gullet hunkered down in their 437-square-foot apartment in the Baker neighborhood to hash out songs throughout lockdown. Goetz, who has played in local bands Viewfinders and Oko Tygra, took a DIY approach to recording, setting up a few simple mics and an interface.

“It was definitely not easy,” he says. “We had gear everywhere. We would even record some stuff in the bathroom to try to get some natural reverb, and we couldn’t use it until we finished.”

While some musicians felt uninspired during lockdown and many couples faced relationship issues, the opposite happened for Goetz and Gullet, who met in 2013 at Lakewood High School.

“We’ve been together nine years, and it was pretty later on that I would do parts for his songs, because I don’t like singing in front of other people,” Gullet explains. “It took me a really long time to actually write songs, but Alex was like, ‘You don’t have to be good at this; we can just give it a go.’”

With Gullet’s lyrical and melodic additions, the two felt ready to form a band and turned to social media to find musicians they could relate to.

“We weren’t just looking for people to play with. We wanted to have people our own age, who we could hang out with,” Gullet says.

Last summer, Goetz and Gullet filmed a quick performance video at home and created a post explaining their influences and vision, then began sharing it to Facebook groups for musicians. After parsing through various DMs and email responses, they began to feel out which people were the right fit for Moodlighting.

“You just got a feeling from what they wrote, how they talked about the project, and then I could see myself working with them,” Gullet remembers. “We talked to one guy, but he just didn’t have the right vibes.”

“Yeah, we met some weird people on Craigslist,” Goetz adds. “I didn’t want to do the Craigslist route at all; I was really hoping to avoid that. But then we really lucked out."

Through Facebook, they found another couple, Hawley Young and Kyle McAllister, to play bass and guitar, respectively. Drummer Stephen Riffert showed up via the Craigslist ad.

After releasing Boy Wonder, Moodlighting began taking its well-crafted material to Denver stages, signaling a revival in twee and shoegaze. “This was a departure for me. Way back, I was doing some really bad singer-songwriter stuff, then some dream-pop kind of stuff,” Goetz says. “I think the shoegaze influence crept in, and we didn’t look back from there.”

On the dark, heavy “Gopher’s Rat,” Gullet’s soft vocals careen on top of overdubs of fuzzy riffs from McAllister and a bouncing bass line from Young. And on “Ahead of Myself,” upbeat chords from Goetz and steadfast drums from Riffert carry Gullet’s dreamy, melancholic melodies.

“Certain music has a timeless sound,” Goetz notes. “I like old indie pop in the sense that I don’t have to feel like I’m jumping on trends. That’s a real strength of the Denver scene. It’s not defined by anything, so there are a lot of bands doing what they want to do.”

Moodlighting plays the hi-dive, 7 South Broadway, at 9 p.m. Thursday, May 5. Tickets are $12.
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Ian Gassman
Contact: Ian Gassman