With their third album, “Sunburnt,” The Moon Seven Times have yet again evolved a great deal musically.
“We haven’t intentionally pursued any of that,” says vocalist Lynn Canfield. “I think when we came together, we were doing stuff that was a lot more atmospheric. It seems like it’s shifted a lot; now it’s more about songs. That’s partly because the way that we write songs has evolved. “
The Moon Seven Times was started by Lynn, Brendan, and guitarist Henry Frayne. Because the band members are so different, they had trouble coming up with a name. Lynn decided to take the approach of randomly picking words out of a book. Using a book about ancient religions, she gave up on single words after getting things like “a” and “the”. So she decided to pick out a phrase and came up with “tip your turban to the moon seven times.” It’s part of a spell from northern Africa used for gaining control of someone’s soul.
Hailing from the Champaign, Illinois area, the three worked together in various combinations on different projects since 1985. In 1990, the trio decided to get together and form a new band. They added bassist Don Gerard in the fall of that year to turn the project into a live band.
“Don is somebody that we’d known around town for many years but never really collaborated with,” explains Lynn. “So it was kind of like fresh blood.”
The same year, The Moon Seven Times signed to Third Mind, a label known for its industrial, gothic, and ethereal acts. Third Mind was picked up by Roadrunner in 1993 and later dismantled. This left The Moon Seven Times on Roadrunner; a label primarily known for metal.
“I think that maybe there’s the concern that people don’t listen to it. They think they know what it is because it’s on Roadrunner. Or they listen to it and are like ‘this isn’t what I wanted!’,” explains Lynn. “There’s an expectation that everything on Roadrunner is going to be a certain way, and since we don’t fit that, we may have been missed or not what someone was looking for. But there have been a lot of advantages. A lot of the people who actually work at Roadrunner really like our music and it’s kind refreshing to them, though I’m sure it’s annoying to an equal number. There are some people there who have been extremely supportive because we are sort of the oddballs on the label. That’s been kind of neat; we’ve enjoyed being the stepchild! We don’t totally fit, and they know it so they treat us a little bit differently. I think it’s been a great benefit to us.”
The writing of “Sunburnt” spans over 3 years, which accounts for the varied styles, and it was recorded in 5 weeks. There was a lot of material written, but because the band was working with an outside producer, not many extra songs were recorded.
“I think it was easier for her to keep things more cohesive because it was her job,” Lynn says of producer Trina Shoemaker. “Brendan produced our second record, and it was really nice to have one person be focused on it so the rest of us could just play our parts to the best of our ability. The value of that was that we were all able to relax a lot more. Producing is a really hard to job, and it’s nice to just be sitting there next to her and be the songwriter. She was able to get our tracks more perfect and get a bigger and better sound, though the songs themselves were pretty similar to what we put down originally.”
Beyond the music, there turned out to be a connection between the band and producer that Lynn calls “the most mysterious and interesting thing that happened to me all year.”
The band had searched for nine months for a producer and found Malcolm Burn. But when Malcolm got overbooked, he recommended Trina. She liked the demos and agreed to work with the band.
“Probably one week into recording, her mother happened to be in the studio at the same time my brother happened to be in the studio, and they started talking,” explains Lynn. “They found out that not only were our families from the same hometown, but they lived on the same street, and our mothers were best friends when they were growing up. And they’d hang out together every night and watch TV, and her mother remembered the house that’s in one of these songs, the house that gets burned down. Her mother remembers that house because it was my mother’s house. It was so weird, all of this synchronicity, so I thought we were just fated to be together!”
The Moon Seven Times has played most of the material live before entering the studio, and Lynn says being in a college town with a good music scene has been very helpful.
“Everything else we sort of put to the audience test, that’s the whole value of being in a band that you get to work it out with a whole bunch of different musicians. That’s really cool because you get extra brains working on it, and then you present it to the audience and get their feedback”