Photos by Amanda Glover
Here’s the story. You grow up with these guys, start a band, toil in obscurity for years playing tiny venues for nothing, and then something starts to click. People come out to the shows. Things start to happen. Better gigs, tours, little deals that mean you can buy studio time, make the record you want to make. But just when everything starts to come together, everything unravels. You just can’t get along with your bandmates, can’t make it work. It’s like putting on your favorite jeans, but they just don’t fit anymore.
In a most unlikely twist to this story, the two people who tell it very nearly this very same way found each other. Romance lead to collaboration and a new project called Haunted Summer. Bridgette Moody left Torches about the same time John Seasons left Seasons. Together they are heading in directions they couldn’t pursue in their former bands, making an eerie psychedelic orchestral pop. Radio Free Silver Lake caught up with the two recently at Lot 1 and sat down to hear about their new music as well as their departures from their previous bands.
Kathryn Pinto (Radio Free Silver Lake): Tell me about Haunted Summer, who’s in the band, what’s the sound, how’d it start?
Johnny Seasons: The band is me and Bridgette and we’re making all the music. Our live bad I is a band, with a string quartet, a harp player and drums and a bass player. The strings are going to be composed by Kaitlin [Wolfberg] who’s still in Seasons. She’s going to compose the strings, do a string quartet and we’re going o to co-compose with her on some songs, but it’s going to be a different sound from either of the bands we were in. And Bridgette, it’s her first time singing lead.
RFSL (to Bridgette): What’s your take?
Bridgette Moody: We’re both in a similar situation, just kind of working this whole thing on our own. We’re really excited, the response so far with just our really basic demos has been really positive and it’s been really exciting.
JS: We’ve gotten a lot of things in order really quickly. We’re able to get a studio and Raymond Richards who produced Seasons and Local Natives. We were able to get a manager, the person who’s been managing Seasons for the last four months, Samantha Wilcox. Things have lined up pretty easy for us, it’s just been nice that people have had open arms and really supported us.
BM: We’ve both worked really hard in our previous bands. We had a good starting point for this—and called in some favors.
BM: Both of us.
JS: We both write all the music, we write all the lyrics together. Everything you hear, you hear the music, you hear the lyrics, that’s both of us.
RFSL: Is it a collaborative process, or does one of you take one part, and the other takes another?
JS: We do it like that, too, but it’s very collaborative.
BM: But ultimately it’s a mish mash of both.
RFSL: How does the split happen? Do you each have different ideas and you bring it together?
JS: Typically we start with the music, so we start jamming with an idea already there and then record that to our demo, the garage band thing that we record our demos on. From there we just keep layering it, finish it up and then at the end we add some lyrics and then it’s done. Sometimes she starts it off, sometimes I start it off. Sometimes she writes most of it I add a little bit, sometimes I write most of it she adds a little bit, but it’s definitely a collaborative thing.
RFSL: So getting to what everybody wants to know, Bridgette was in Torches, John was in Seasons--like forever. How long were you in Torches, Bridgette?
BM: Seven years.
RFSL: And Seasons?
RFSL: Eight years. And those were your main bands?
BM: My only one.
JS: I had multiple bands, but [Seasons] was always my main project, that I devoted the most energy and my most time on.
RFSL: So the question is, why are you breaking off on this new project, or why are you putting to bed your older projects? What happened? What’s going on? What’s the scandal?
JS: The organic answer to that is that things unraveled in each band. There was no plan to leave either band and do this at all. Me and [Bridgette] were planning to collaborate and we had started collaborating while we were in both bands. We started writing the initial first two songs on these demos that are going to be on the EP, but there was no, “Oh, we’re going to leave our bands” There was just… the organic answer was that there was a lot of turmoil in both bands.
BM: It’s like the same story…
JS: That’s what’s really weird about it…the exact same thing happened to both of us and that’s how we knew it was meant to be and this is a new road that we need to take, because literally the exact same thing happened to both of us.
RFSL: What happened?
JS: In a nutshell, without—
BM: The singers are dicks.
JS: Staying classy, in a nutshell, both our lead singers are just…we couldn’t get along any more. Things had gotten too far as far as where the line was drawn, as far as being able to work together and respect each other. That’s what happens when you work with people so long, you start off as friends and whatever you start off as and the next thing you know you’re bandmates for years and things change and I wish it wasn’t like that. I wish it wasn’t happening—at this point I’m happy where I am, but in thesende of where Seasons was. We were about to record with Scott Colburn [a producer and audio engineer whose credits include Mudhoney, Prince Rama, Animal Collective and Arcade Fire—ed.]. It’s like I didn’t necessarily want things to happen like this, I wanted to go record and that was definitely going to be my last album with them. …but things unraveled. They unraveled for a reason. I had to just walk away, and it is what it is. I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. I feel like I’m making the music I want to make.
BM: Ultimately, the same thing. Torches had a really big year this year. We had just gotten back from a month long tour, things were starting to line up, we had that Henry Clay People show for New Year’s booked, some other things, but it was just the kind of thing where [you ask yourself]: What’s it worth to you? Or what are you willing to put up? Is it just about money, or is it really about the music anymore?
RFSL: Because both of your bands are just raking in the money… [Everyone laughs loudly]
BM: At least, more than we were three years ago…
JS: Both bands were getting licensing. That’s how Seasons was able to do the Scott Colburn thing. That paid for half of that record, that’s an expensive record. They’ve [Torches] been making a chunk of cash, too.
BM: We basically were able to fund our whole tour, it paid for itself.
RFSL: Through licensing?
JS: And paid gigs…
BM: Yeah licensing and getting better shows. So there was that level of like, yeah I’ve stepped up a few steps on the ladder, but I’m fucking miserable. So I had to stop it before it became any more, before I became any more entangled, contractually or just emotionally. Cause it was hard, it was really hard. Both of them [remaining Torches members Azad and Eric] were obviously good friends for a really long time. It was a dark situation, I’m really happy to be where I am now. I think it was like the time was right.
JS: Yeah we both knew [our respective] singers for so long. I knew Nik for 14 years, we’ve been in that band for eight, and yeah, none of it matters.
RFSL: How did you first meet Nik?
JS: I met him through my brother who I don’t really talk to much these days. My brother was his best friend, that’s why—Nik’s a little older than be but we always got along through music and we collaborated for a long time. In the end it’s like, I guess things change for a reason and it’s like on with the new.
RFSL: So [Nik] was an old neighborhood friend, well, he’s your brother’s best friend.
JS: Yeah, he was kind of like almost my brother, too. Maybe not these last five years, but since the band’s been … In those eight years there was a lot of crap years where nothing was happening. The last five or four was pretty decent and that’s when the whole relationship went out the window. It’s just like, man, all this stress, but not getting into details, it’s just impossible to work with the guy. I can’t work with him any more.
RFSL: And how did you know the Torches guys?
BM: I went to school with them; I knew both of them since we were 12 years old. We just kind of grew up together. Yeah, so it was definitely hard to separate that, too. I was really close with all their families, too, and vice-versa. But yeah, times change, and I wish them the best, but I’m not going to spend any more time in life trying to pump something that they don’t have any respect for me.
RFSL: So is it also that this band [Haunted Summer] is like a growing up, coming of age, breaking out?
BM: Oh my God, completely. Given the way my previous band wrote music, this is a complete 180˚ and it just flows out of us.
JS: Five songs flowed out in three weeks
BM: There was no tension, we don’t question one another at all and that was always a hard point for me, feeling like nobody ever gave me credit, like I could actually choose what was best for me
JS: Not to mention, too, I was always a fan of her voice and Torches never really in the front. She was always harmonizing. It was like Rebecca from Avi Buffalo. Same thing with Rebecca she went and did Pageants. Not to compare us to them, but we’re in a similar boat, she was kept in the shadows. Bridgette has a really amazing voice and now it’s like that we’re working like this it’s like things are really easy for us. There’s no strain, it’s just so natural.
BM: I think we’ve been through enough of the bullshit that we know exactly what not to do.
RFSL: It’s different, too having a project where you have all these other relationships, it’s not just the music, or it’s so intertwined with growing up and all of that. When you have all that experience then when you come to a fresh band, you know, you’ve dealt with it before. But also everyone looks at the two of you as experienced on some level.
JS: That’s why we feel so good about it because it’s—those bands, as good as they’re doing now, or as good as they’ve been doing, or as good as people want to believe they’re doing or they’re not doing, it’s like. The reality is that those years didn’t go in vain. Bridget had gotten a lot of experience with touring; we got a lot of experience, made a lot of contacts. I think that’s why things are lining up for this band so fast. There are people that believe in us as people, but also as musicians because they know what we’re capable of doing. It’s been an amazing response, it’s like I never thought I’d be able to say, “Hey, my new project is a string quartet, or has this complicated setup. It’s happening, it’s great, it’s like no hassle.
RFSL: What are your plans for recording and for touring?
JS: We’re recording in February, we’re recording with the lineup I told you. We’ll have Sheridan from Avi Buffalo on drums Kaitlin [Wolfberg] with the string quartet, we’re trying to get my friend Scott who plays in Kind Hearts to play bass on the record. He’s a really good bass player. Essentially the studio band might be the live band, but I know that there might be a couple members that might have to change. One thing that we’ll always have is me and Bridgette, the string quartet and the harp player. That will always be the same band, I mean, for now.
RFSL: So, Bridgette, what about touring? Or playing out?
BM: Touring is definitely [going to happen], we’re looking to start playing in March, early or late March, around SXSW, But we’re focusing on getting the studio stuff together right now, but we’re definitely aiming for shows around then because we’ve been offered some pretty good shows, but we just don’t have the live band.
JS: We got offered some pretty big shows, one of them wasn’t that big, we got offered a show at a theater in Merced where Pass the Music was going to air and the Radar Brothers are playing and Radars to the Sky, and that could have been a good opportunity, and we got offered a show in Seattle and we’re both going to be there, we just don’t have a band ready, but it was at Barbosa with Geographer, they’re signed to a pretty big label. It’s a sold out show, already sold out.
RFSL: Then you should just play it--
JS: We want to make it special from the beginning, you know? What else did we get offered, we got offered a show at the Satellite. There’s already been offers, it just sucks that we’re not ready. We got Daytrotter…
BM: It’ll come.
JS: That’s what’s good about it, though. That’s what I told [Bridgette] As bummed as I am that we’re turning it down now with no band, it makes me excited for the future, because all we have is demos, we haven’t even played live. We did play live, but it was our first show where the name was conceived and it was at the Echo for a covers show, we covered Animal Collective. So that’s the only show, the covers show. So to just think we haven’t really like touched the tip of the iceberg yet. What about when we really have everything ready from the studio and we have a band.
BM: It’s really exciting.
JS: It’s looking good.
RFSL: So what else does everybody need to know? What are people not going to find out from facebook? That they need to read on Radio Free Silver Lake?
JS: For me this is the most important project and time in my life right now, because I feel like I’m venturing, with just one other person in the band, there’s not like eight other people in the band—people I’ve got to please, I’m not just working with a singer-songwriter who I’m playing bass for. It’s like, “this is my project, I feel good that we have support that it’s like. People need to know that it’s going to be an ambitious project. They can expect it not to be a basic band or a basic sound and it’s not going to be your normal setup on stage, either. I’m not going to give up too many secrets—
RFSL: You’re supposed to be giving up secrets—
JS: It’s going to be like this. Every time you come see us when we do play shows it’s going to be a special experience. It’s not going to just be like you went into a club and saw a band. It’s going to be like “that band transformed that stage, or there’s something different about that, something special.” You’ll see it. That’s the whole point. If you look at our facebook, what we’re presenting to you, there’s not really any clear answers about anything, and that’s good.
RFSL: What’s the idea with the string quartet and the harp? How did you come up with that? Where does that come from?
JS: It’s an orchestral thing. I’ve always wanted to do it; I just never thought it would work with Seasons. Nik’s voice—it can be soothing—but it’s never that soothing all the time. With Bridgette I think it would work really well, it’s just something I’ve always wanted to do, not your normal thing to see on stage, with the string quartet and a harp player. To me that’s special. Apart from the stage or what ever you want to look at, seeing that is special and hearing that is special. You’re going to hear that, too when you come see us live.
RFSL: In the scene, or with other bands, are these messy divorces that you’re coming away from?
BM: For me, I won’t lie, for sure.
RFSL: Is there animosity among the bands? Or is I just kind of like, yeah this came to an end?
BM: You know he’s lucky because he had more people to pull from; there are obviously different relationships between him and different people in Seasons. For me it was definitely a smaller pool so yeah, it’s just dumb. We don’t talk. But obviously, like Kaitlin from Seasons is helping us out so there’s that. The drummer from Seasons is still a good friend, it’s like, and nobody tried to make it an animosity thing.
JS: They definitely have animosity towards us. Because they felt like the things they were doing were correct and that we should have stuck with it, just because the band’s moving forward. It’s like what [Bridgette] said earlier, what makes you happy? Being in a band that’s doing modestly good, getting opportunities, but you’re miserable because the relationships in the band are falling apart? Or is it ultimately best to go make music that you love to make and be in the most positive atmosphere? I’ve come to realize that I’ve been playing music for so long that I like making music in a positive atmosphere I don’t want to be in chaos, with somebody yelling.
BM: We’re not Axel Rose [Everyone laughs]
JS: Ultimately, I wish that band the best, but I would never lift a finger for them again. On my part, for Seasons, but I wish them the best. I have nothing against them, like Bridgette said, I’m still friends with a couple of them. I would like to be friends with all of them, except for the singer, but it’s not possible when everybody is following the singer. It comes down to who your real friends are from that band and…I had a bigger pool to choose from. Bridgette only had two other people, so those two are done. For me it was eight people so for me there were some good people in that band. Kaitlin, Eric Dana, Ray... But it is what it is. I’m over it and I wish them the best, I hope they make a good album. I’m excited about what I’m doing, and I don’t doubt it one bit. It’s the most exciting thing I’ve been doing ever.
RFSL: Johnny, you’ve played in a bunch of different bands, you’ve had a zillion side projects. So both of you, if you’re in a band for a long time and relationships change and erode. Is there a time when you know it’s time to say goodbye?
JS: If we had that time?
BM: Or in general, just why you would quit anything?
JS: Oh yeah, there’s multiple things that could go wrong. I can tell you it can be a matter of something simple like time, and money, if you’re in so many projects, you’re only making so much money because you’ve got to rehearse and play. That was definitely a factor for me. If I’m going to be putting this much energy into this band, this band doesn’t necessarily need to be making money, but it needs to be moving forward because I’m losing money spending all this time. Ultimately it could be anything, for me it’s been—I’m not that jaded, usually I’ll stick with it and be broke, but it’s all about the relationship and the dynamic. Usually I think the singer determines the whole thing, because I’ve worked with a really chaotic madman and I’ve worked with a really calm singer songwriter. I’ve worked with every kind of person you can imagine, some of them monsters some of them angels. But in the end I did it for the love of music. But I’m not doing it so much any more because I came to conclusions on every thing. It is what it is. No more side projects.
RFSL: You’re not going to do any more side projects?
JS: No, no there’s a couple. There’s this one band that I might still be playing with. I’m assuming I’m still playing with, but the thing is they’re getting popular. They’re underground right now, but they’re going to blow up, just from what I’ve been hearing.
RFSL: Who’s that?
JS: Laura Laura.
RFSL: Are they playing?
JS: That’s the thing. We’ve played once or twice and all these things happened for them, and that’s even bigger than what’s happening for us because for them things happened really quick. But for them it’s the same thing, they’ve had a lot of support from the beginning, things are lining up. But they have their studio album ready, they’ve had it ready for like six months and there hasn’t even been a show.
RFSL: Do you have something booked for SXSW?
JS: No, Jack’s [Jack Gibson of Tenlons Fort] booking it now. Yeah, for now [Haunted Summer] is my main project and everybody knows that and I’ll devote time to my good friends like Jack and Jacob [Laura Laura] because I love those guys and I support their music. They know I have their backs and ultimately I think they’re really happy that they saw me venture off from Seasons because they wanted me to do this for so long. A lot of my friends wanted me to do this for so long, so it’s finally time. They would ask me to play with them, but I think ultimately they want me to do this.
RFSL: Anything you want to say to wrap it up?
JS: Listen to our demos on soundcloud. We’ll be playing a show in late March, early April.
This interview has been edited and condensed.