Moon Vs Sun Play Together to Stay Together

Music Features Moon Vs Sun
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Moon Vs Sun Play Together to Stay Together

Can’t get enough of Showtime’s hit reality TV series Couples Therapy? Instead, try tuning into the turbulent, but incredibly productive relationship of Canadian singer/songwriter couple Raine Maida and Chantal Kreviazuk, via their new eponymous debut disc as the duo Moon Vs Sun, and an actual feature-length documentary they shot detailing the music’s often difficult writing and recording process, I’m Going to Break Your Heart. It contains enough therapeutic wisdom for several months’ worth of confessional televised couch sessions. And the parents of three—who have been married for 21 years—believe that what they’ve learned could theoretically benefit couples from all walks of life, not just those involved in—or consumed by—demanding showbiz careers like theirs.

In their native Toronto, these two artists have been reigning celebrity royalty for years—Maida as the frontman for rock outfit Our Lady Peace, with four Juno Awards under his belt, Kreviazuk carving her own solo pop-star path, with three Junos and a Grammy to her credit. Eventually, they hung out their shingle as Song Doctors—collaborative tunesmiths who have helped tweak the material of such disparate artists as Drake, Dan Wilson, Martha Wainwright, Avril Lavigne, Kelly Clarkson, Kendrick Lamar, Josh Groban and Jennifer Lopez, among many others. Sometimes they worked apart, sometimes together, but until 2019, when they launched Moon Vs Sun, they had to compose their very own material. Listening to the gorgeous, dovetailed harmonies that flutter through the album, from the opening “Familie” and the hushed jangler “Bring That Boy” to the Eric Carmen-grand “Under the Stars,” the piano/guitar-melding “The Work” and the celebratory single “St. Josephine.” To concentrate on its composition, they decamped in the dead of winter to a French-governed island off the Newfoundland coast, St. Pierre and Miquelon; the couple’s relationship was in “a bit of a valley” at the outset, Kreviazuk admits. But left to their own undistracted devices, they powered through their problems and became better songwriters, parents and people in the process, with an actual movie that charts their progress. This Friday, April 30, at 9 p.m. EST, Moon Vs Sun will be livestreaming a performance of the album via Veeps. The bullet point of their presentation? The family that plays together, stays together.

Paste: Your song “The Work” pretty much sums up the entire project. Patti Smith recently noted that Dorothy Parker died with tons of unfinished manuscripts, and that was troubling—for any artist, the work is of paramount importance.

Raine Maida: I can really relate to what Patti Smith is saying in the sense of, we couldn’t have made this album 10 years ago, maybe even five years ago. It really couldn’t have happened for us if we hadn’t gotten this far in our relationship—I wouldn’t have been secure enough, I hadn’t done the work. We needed the experience, all the baggage, all the bullshit. So yeah, it came together, but it’s like, I get it, she gets it, we get the importance of what this is. And now that we’re there, it’s like the floodgates are opening, and this is just the tip of the iceberg. So honest to God, I’m just so enthralled with the idea that we can do this now—it’s just so incredible.

Chantal Kreviazuk: And I think it’s just really liberating, to give up space to your partner and just listen. What’s that saying? Youth is wasted on the young? It’s so amazing to be older, because you really come to realize some things. And where that puts you at an advantage, creatively is, just forget about it! Raine and I, we don’t actually need any direction, we don’t need any outside suggestions or manuals or people around saying, “Try this” or “Try that.” And it’s because we have done so much work, on ourselves and with others, as writers. So now there’s authenticity galore. All we have to do is open our mouths now and all this stuff just kind of flies out.

Maida: And we’re not saying that it’s been easy. But now it’s like, this just is what it is. And I feel that way with Patti Smith, Neil Young, Nick Cave or Leonard Cohen—what they do is what they do. So this is maybe the most authentic thing that we’ve ever done as artists.

Paste: Art should theoretically please the artist first.

Maida: Right. And we had a conversation about that, trying to nip that in the bud in the film. “Who are we writing for? Do we even need to approach that?“ But obviously, we needed to, so we got that out of the way, and it was a little bit of a tense moment. So we came from different places, but we realized early that this just needs to be about us, and it had to please us, 100%. Whereas before, we’ve always had these record deals and managers and all this shit. So this was the purest we’ve ever had it with our music. And just making sure that no one else influenced us but the two of us—that was our premium interest.

Paste: And isolating yourselves on an island was an intrinsic part of the plan?

Maida: Yeah. Like, the song “I Love You When You Make Me Beg”—that was a thing that started elsewhere. We wrote that here in our studio in L.A. a year before we went to the island. And we just said to each other at the time, “Hey, this is a really good song! We should make a record together! We need to do this, and we need to say things like what we’re saying in that song.” And that became the blueprint, or at least it set a bar for what we wanted to do. So we were like, “Okay, let’s just do this, once every few days. Come into the studio late at night when the kids are down and things are quiet, and let’s just write.” And then a year later, we didn’t do it once. So we thought, “We need to get out of here—we need to go as far away as we can.” And that island in St. Pierre? We played there one summer at a festival, and it was beautiful and we had a great time there. And there are literally only 4,000 people that live on the island, and it takes three or four flights to get there, and we thought that if we don’t do something like that, we were never going to make a record together. So that was the plan.

Kreviazuk: And you know what’s interesting now? And we’ve really been touching on it in this album—we had to go through that almost to find our footing. Because we always write our own projects and with other people, but we had never sat down and written a whole project like that together. And I think that was almost the birth—the labor, then the birth—of Moon Vs Sun, because now, it’s funny. We go back in the studio, and it’s totally easy to get that can of worms open again. We write so readily and easily, and it’s very fluid now. So that was a tough time, but I think it was for the greater good, just in terms of duration, to be able to just snap back and do that together, more and more.

Paste: And is the division as obvious as the name implies? Moon, feminine, keyboards, Chantal, and Sun, masculine, guitar, Raine?

Maida: I dunno. I think they’re interchangeable, and I think we are, too. I think we’re probably the same type of personality, pretty much. And it really depends during the week, on who’s feeling exactly what.

Kreviazuk: I’ll start at the Moon and end at the Sun, you know what I mean? Like, there was so much happening in our home yesterday—there were crazy deadlines, and crises and holy shit! I was on fire yesterday! But I started with a weird hangover. I’d been in a crazy session the night before, where they were serving whiskey and I was trying to keep up with the boys. It was awful. I don’t really drink, but I had two small glasses of whiskey, and the next day I was like, “Ugh.” So I literally started the day hiding. Just hiding. And I ended the day like some giant amaryllis flower or something—I was just rockin’. So I think a lot of couples will relate to that—we’re yin and yang, but we’re also like this … this spinning circle, always changing. And we’re hypocrites, and we’re deflecting back and forth off each other, constantly. It’s wild.

Maida: And you realize that when one person is down, the other person will pick them up. And if one person is in the dark, the sun comes in with the other one. And that’s really interchangeable, and that shows that things are really clicking.

Kreviazuk: And it all really does derive from the metaphor of our process, which is arriving at the realization—the conscious realization—that we are collaborating. We’re not working against each other—we’re working together to create something with a positive outcome. And when you can do that as a couple, the amount of trust that creates is just positivity. So the fact that Raine and I got through all that? It’s wonderful.

Paste: And there were some tough moments. Like when Chantal politely asks her husband to stop saying her ideas were bad.

Kreviazuk: I think the quote was that “They were shit.”

Maida: And you know what’s hilarious? I honestly didn’t believe that I said that. So we had to go back to the tape, and it was like, “Oh shit! I’m a bad person!”

Kreviazuk: And that’s why our marriage is good now. Now he knows that when I tell him something, I’m being true about what happened. You’ve gotta find that zone. You’ve gotta find that zone as a couple.

Paste: Speaking of your process, whose idea was it to add violins to “St. Josephine”? And was that a tough sell at first, even though it really works?

Kreviazuk: Well, Raine and I have this unspoken agreement. If someone has an idea, or someone is really passionate about a certain texture, lyric or part, it’s a bit of a fight—you’ve got to fight for it a little bit. And ultimately, it comes down to the will of the creator. Whoever wants it the most, whoever sticks to their guns, at some point, the other person is going to go, “Wow, you really want this, huh? Okay, I’m going to trust you.” It’s like jumping out of a plane with somebody who’s going, “Trust me—I’m gonna release the parachute and it’s gonna be okay.” And you’re like, “Okay. I’m gonna trust you.” And you sit with the idea and maybe it’s not so bad, so you just deal with it. So it’s a process, that’s for sure! But we have total creative freedom.

Paste: And ultimately, any time Raine might get the upper hand in an aesthetic argument, all Chantal has to say is, “Good point. But let’s just scoot these Junos apart on the mantle to make room for my Grammy!”

Maida: Ha! That’s funny! Well, that was a nice interview—we’ll talk to you later! No, you know what’s funny about that? She has a little art studio upstairs, and the Grammy is sitting up there. And I was like, “You know what? That thing should be here in our studio, front and center!” And I was actually going to bring it down here.

Kreviazuk: No, no. We have all these things all over the house, like Raine’s platinum this or my thats, and they’re either in storage somewhere or in closets, or leaning in hallways no one ever goes in. It’s fine where it is.

Maida: And that’s why, at the end of the film, when we go back to finally record at Rick Rubin’s place, Shangri-La, it’s because of that. You walk in there as an artist, and it is a blank canvas. There’s no Eminem stuff, no Chili Peppers double platinum, no picture of Hendrix. It’s literally white walls and totally minimalist, so it’s about expression and going there as a clear, open space for creativity. And that was part of the choice of St. Pierre, too—it was this little island where everyone speaks French, there were only four restaurants open, and there was literally nothing to do. Even the hotel room was minimalist, so there were no distractions. It was a complete blank slate!