We have a secret weapon at The Standard in the form of a French-Moroccan music maven named Annie O. After years in the music industry representing greats like Lou Reed, Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, and Peter Gabriel, we nabbed her to curate The Annie O Music Series, a regular concert series in the airy Penthouse of The Standard, East Village.
On Monday, January 30th, Annie O brings the electronic pop wunderkind Elliot Moss to the Penthouse. With praise from Vice, Spin, Nylon, and Stereogum, his sound has been compared to Thom Yorke, James Blake, Bon Iver, and Chet Faker. Annie O caught up with him before the big night to hear a bit about how his new album came together, his inspirations, and how he's growing as an artist.
Annie O Presents: Elliot Moss
Monday, January 30, 7-9PM
The Standard, East Village Penthouse
Free with an RSVP to AnnieO@StandardHotels.com
ANNIE O: Tell us about the journey of the EP. You've said it started from a bunch of lyrics you wrote on the road and later added music to back in the studio. Can you tell us a little bit about what you were going through at that time?
ELLIOT MOSS: I started the EP on our first tour, which lasted three months. Touring means a lot of lost time—it just comes with the territory. Landscapes and cities would charge across the window, and I would try to catch them through half-opened eyes. In that drowsy timelessness, I found inspiration for something new. I wrote a lot of this record in those pockets of lost time.
Before the success of your first album, you hadn't really played publicly much. What was it like to play those songs for a live audience the first time?
I had only stepped on a stage a handful of times before our first show at Rough Trade. I remember pestering Evan (who plays bass) with a stream of questions: So how dark will it be in between songs? Will we be able to see anything, or do we keep still so we don’t fall over? What if they don’t clap? He was patient, and his confidence made finding my legs a bit easier. We rehearsed a lot. On the day of the show, we loaded in for the first time. The band hit the stage around 8pm before the headliner. Inflated by my many deep breaths, we started the first tune and I told myself that if I could get through the first verse, everything would go okay. And it did. Finishing that set and hearing the crowd swell up is a sensation I’ll always remember.
What is different about you as an artist this time around?
My circumstances are different. This record comes from another chapter of my life. And the personality of the music was crystal clear before I started recording it. Some tunes felt more like connecting dots. I’ve also seen how my music affects all kinds of people and crowds now. Playing shows can make you a student of people's eyebrows, smiles, frowns, and other little expressions. Seeing how something I’m working on hits a big group of people can be helpful. Taste, bias, and peoples’ agendas are blurred away. You get real honesty.
What tracks by other artists are you currently listening to?
The new David Bowie EP. Massive Attack just put out two songs. Their stuff always makes me want to get to work. I’ve been trying to wrap my head around jazz pianists these days, too. I want to have a bit more freedom to play what I’m thinking. I’m pretty new to that world, so I’m starting with the obvious greats like Thelonious, Herbie, and Oscar Peterson. Their approach (clearly) is very different from mine. It’s fun to imagine where they might take a melody or progression. That’s sort of a writing tool in itself.
Do you work mostly alone in the studio?
Almost always. Aside from the occasional (and very welcome) guest overdub, it’s a vacuum in here.
You said you wrote this album as you would a film soundtrack. If you had written the script, what would that story look like?
The record tells a story of retreat into a place of relative safety, familiarity, and isolation. Though, working on music is very different from a shooting a movie. The timeline can fall apart and that’s perfectly alright. In a film (and there are plenty of exceptions to this rule), there is linearity. It’s just the way that many movies tell a story. Music can be less linear–it felt like writing a score, but there wasn’t necessarily a script. I had feelings and experiences to draw from, and had decided what they should sound like after I wrote the words. Producing the music, I took cues from the lyrics as a composer might take cues from the picture. One suggested the other.
If Elliot Moss had a superpower, what would it be?
Time travel. Or space travel. Or regular travel…with free upgrades to Economy Plus.
What can fans expect from your show at The Annie O Music Series at The Standard, East Village?
The new EP is some of our favorite stuff to play. And the band is always evolving. We’re constantly looking for ways to help the show transform…ways to give us more freedom to adapt to the rooms we’re in. Things are in an interesting transition at the moment; we have new sounds under our fingers. That’s refreshing.
What are your touring plans with this EP?
It’s more of a wish list at this point, but in a perfect world, we would do a couple loops around North America, and then an extended European run. From there, it’s anybody’s guess. We would love to visit Iceland.
How do you feel when people comment on what you've accomplished at your young age?
Mozart wrote his first symphony at eight! So I don’t know about young, but I appreciate it. Every now and then (and it always seems to come around at the right time), a stranger will reach out and let me know how my music helped them cope with tragedy, or that it calms them when life throws a great deal of stress their way. That is my most valued accomplishment. Music that did this for me is the reason I started to write.