SXSW: Calm and Cool with Willy Moon
No matter how cool you think you are, when you meet Willy Moon you will suddenly realize you are not that cool.
It’s well into the night when we finally meet with him. He sits down with us, letting us know that he is very tired from a long day of press. I try to make a joke about this and don’t get a laugh from him, so I instantly feel even more awkward and uncool. If that’s even possible. He is nice about it though, and in return, asks us about our day. I feel as if I’m talking to Don Draper, and I’m not just referring to his full on suit game or throwback aesthetic. The analogy is more than that – he has the calm, collected, slightly intimidating, "I just don’t care" attitude with an air of mystery and intrigue surrounding him. He pulls out some belongings from his suit jacket and lays out all the materials he needs to roll a proper cigarette on the table in front of us and starts his process as we begin our interview.
He takes time with each answer, intermittently slightly biting his bottom lip as he deliberately chooses each word; he does not raise his voice to compensate for the loud music emanating from all of the stages and food trucks that are in the vicinity. This forces me to listen closer and hang onto his every word.
When he left his home in New Zealand at the age of 18 on a one way ticket to London, he didn’t consciously plan on going somewhere to pursue a career in music, and yet some part of him still knew. "I brought a guitar that I’ve had ever since I was a little kid. I must’ve had some idea that it was going to be important to me. I couldn’t imagine life without having my guitar. It was just – it was sort of the one thing that I would salvage no matter what, that I couldn’t leave behind.."
I ask him if he still has the guitar with him now and he looks far off and barely emotes with a look in his eyes, "No, it got stolen from me when I was on tour. I was over here in America, it was in my flat, someone broke into my flat." I apologize for the loss and we move on.
I have a thing for men in suits. When I tell him that one of the reasons I wanted to feature him in Milk Made is because he’s become somewhat of a fashion icon, he seems genuinely touched, "Oh, that’s very sweet of you." He explains to me a somewhat conscious transformational process that all happened in a day, not too long ago.
"I was living in Berlin in 2008 and I listened to a lot of punk music back then, so I wore leather jackets and stuff, I had long hair. And everybody I knew looked like that and it got to a point where I just thought – I felt kind of claustrophobic. The idea of it was that everybody was supposed to be different, everybody was supposed to be individual, but it became the same. At the time I started listening to a lot of 50’s rock and roll music, so one day I thought – Fuck it. And I went and cut all my hair off and bought a really cheap suit, and cheap shoes, and I just changed just like that. It was funny to see peoples’ reactions to me – they were kind of hostile. The people that I knew and the people that I hung out with were like, "What the fuck? What are you doing? You look like you’re going to a wedding."
Shortly after this transformation, Willy began writing his own music, which has since evolved into a unique combination of throwback 50’s rock and roll with hip hop production techniques. A sound which caught the attention of Apple’s secretive and selective ad agency, Media Arts Lab, who has chosen his song "Yeah, Yeah" to be the soundtrack of their newest iPod ad campaign.
Not even an hour after the interview is completed, we catch Willy where he seems to shine the most. On stage. Backed up by two rocker chicks on the guitar and drums, each with their own unique style – any evidence of him being exhausted or worn out are nowhere to be found. He takes full advantage of any free space he has, his limbs flailing anywhere and everywhere allowed by their free range of motion. There are a couple times where he turns around with his arms out while he has the mic completely inside his mouth. He takes time to dance with his guitarist, pulls a few Elvis-esque moves rocking on his toes, and then at one point, allows himself to collapse onto his back on the floor after he’s done with a song. He lies there for a moment.
And even though he’s not moving, you can’t help but watch him.
Everything he does is pulled off with a touch of class that can only be expected from someone who doesn’t mind sounding and looking like he’s just stepped out of another era. Someone who operates his life wearing tailored suits.
Photos By: Koury Angelo