Montreal-based artist Michael Hansford has been making music under the moniker Molly Drag for a while now. While his work can be broadly described as dreamy, evocative bedroom-folk, each release has seen him molding his sound with a slightly different sonic palette and songwriting approach. What has remained a constant in his music, though, is its melancholic atmosphere and emotional vulnerability that immediately connects and can be deeply cathartic for the listener. On his latest album, Touchstone, however, it feels like there’s finally some light coming through the cracks. “Broken homes, that brought us up/ Can we go back now and set them on fire?” he intones on the beautiful ‘Charlotte’, capturing the central theme of moving on and leaving things behind. On the Low-esque ‘Walking Out’, he sings about leaving town, evoking the oxymoronic image of glass shattering peacefully, “its shimmering grin/ my Siamese twin”. Even when the lyrics seem to be pessimistic, as in the stunning highlight ‘Out Like a Light’, there’s a sense of comfort coming through the instrumentals, often circling around clean guitars, simple drum patterns, and serene synths. Whatever irony there might be in the idea, he suggests, perhaps peace can be found even when it feels like everything’s falling apart.
We caught up with Michael Hansford of Molly Drag for this installment of our Artist Spotlight series, where we showcase up-and-coming artists and give them a chance to talk a bit about their music.
What inspired you to start making music?
Spending a lot of time alone as an only child had me get obsessed with mimicking noises, animals and peoples voices in movies. But later on in life I got really into skateboarding and my true love for music came from the music i heard in skate videos: my bloody valentine, the cure, dinosaur jr.. .etc
Do you have a specific process when it comes to songwriting?
usually a melody comes into my head and i match it with poems or short stories i have written in my phone.
How would you compare your latest album to your previous efforts?
spiritually and emotionally lighter. i am in a such a better mental space in my life than ever before, also more reflective of growing up in a small ontario cottage town.
Could you talk to us about the story behind the cover art and title of the album?
while recording this album back last winter, i had some memories of my high school art teacher Ila Kellermann who always supported my obscure approaches to creating so I decided to email her, we reconnected. talked more, and I asked if i could use a specific painting of hers for the cover for my next record (which was untitled at the time). In replying yes she added “you were always one of my touchstone students.” – I knew then what the title would and should be.
If you could collaborate with any artist for a song, who would it be?
At the moment I am obsessed with the new Caroline Polachek album ‘Pang’ so I would definitely want to collab with her. I cannot recommend her art enough. Also, collaborating with Grimes or Arca would be dreams coming true.
You just finished touring. What was it like? Any highlights you’d like to share?
this tour was probably favourite tour i’ve been on, and also the third with Past Life as my support and backing band.
we are family at this point, i love them dearly. it was also my first with a booking agent which made things a lot less stressful.
highlights? probably being on top of mountains in virginia.
What are your plans for 2020?
releasing a new album, perhaps and EP as well, and also finish this book I recently started writing.
maybe another tour if i am mentally and physically prepared for it. tour takes alot out of me.