Artist Spotlight: Art Moore

    Art Moore is the indie-rock project of Taylor Vick, who has been making music under the moniker Boy Scouts for the past decade (and became one of our first Artist Spotlight subjects), and Ezra Furman collaborators Sam Durkes and Trevor Brooks. Durkes became a Boy Scouts fan after being introduced to her music while on an Ezra Furman tour; Brooks and Vick had known each other from working together in a coffee shop. Their collaboration initially began when Vick contributed to a song for the Sex Education soundtrack, but continued remotely through the pandemic, with Durkes and Brooks crafting instrumentals and sending them to Vick to lay vocal harmonies over. This process was refreshingly freeing for everyone involved and eventually led to the completion of their debut album, Art Moore, which is out this Friday. There’s both an overall sense of fluidity and cohesion to the record, but it’s the musical flourishes woven into each track and the nuances of Vick’s songwriting – less inward-looking but as emotionally resonant as ever – that make it such an engrossing listen. These are warm, effortlessly enchanting songs that thrum with possibility even as the tension behind them is released.

    We caught up with Art Moore’s Taylor Vick and Trevor Brooks for this edition of our Artist Spotlight interview series to talk about how the group came together, their collaborative process, and more.

    How familiar were you with each other’s work when you first met? Do you mind sharing your first impressions of each other?

    Taylor Vick: Trevor and I actually had known each other for a while at the point that we started recording. We used to work together, he was a baker and I was a barista at this café in San Francisco. We would play music together sometimes and tried recording a little bit, but we never did anything consistently. But Trevor and Sam had worked together quite a bit, Trevor doing recording for Ezra Furman, which is the project Sam drums in, and Trevor would go on tour with them. They were sharing their demos with each other – you can correct me if I’m wrong – but then presented the idea to me, if I wanted to write any kind of vocal stuff. And then eventually we all three became a triangle unit of friendship.

    Trevor Brooks: Yeah, and you sang on some Ezra stuff before that.

    TV: Yeah, for the Sex Education Netflix show.

    TB: And we never demoed anything before Taylor agreed to do it, I’m pretty sure.

    TV: I feel like you did, because I remember being in the car and you asked me if I would want to sing on a song, and then you played a clip of it.

    TB: Really?

    TV: Uh-huh. [laughs]

    A song that ended up on on this album?

    TB: Yeah, I think the first demo I did is the first song on the record, ‘Muscle Memory’.

    TV: It was that one. I remember you showed me part of it in the car, and I was like, “Yeah, maybe I could write to this.”

    TB: I remember that totally wrong, then. [laughs]

    You started laying down songs in Oakland in January of 2020. I know it seems like an eternity ago, but what are your memories of that time?

    TV: Creatively and musically, everything kind of came to a halt for me when the pandemic hit, for the first few months of it. At that point, we had already started recording together, so that forced me to continue to be creative and work on music in this other way than I was used to. It’s hard to even remember what it felt like at the time, it just felt like I was absolutely not creative at all for a while. And then there’d be bursts of – like, when Sam was up for the week and we’d be recording together for a week and meeting every day and spending every day together. It was something for me to do that I’m very grateful for, that it was something fun and creative to do at such a weird time of life.

    How many songs had you already worked on before the pandemic?

    TV: Probably only three or four, and then we ended up scratching one of that first bunch.

    TB: Oh, yeah. Deluxe edition of the record, we’ll add it. [laughs]

    How do you feel like those songs, and the project in general, changed shape in the next few months? 

    TB: I think the further along in the process we got, there seemed to be less pressure, in large part because there was no pressure to do anything once March came around. We switched to doing a lot more stuff at home as far as the demoing and stuff, so things became more electronic. The initial idea was more of a traditional band type of thing, and once it got to the point where we can’t travel as much an see each other as much, we just started slowly making electronic demos and getting together every couple months or something. There just wasn’t a lot of pressure, we weren’t on a strict timeline. So it was very just freeing. And for me, it was the first time I was able to make music that I was really proud of with other people and be a writing member. I’ve recorded people, I’ve helped people with records and producing and stuff, and I would always just make my own music alone, and it would just go into the abyss and nothing would ever happen with it. So this project was, for me personally, a very much needed funnel of creativity, to turn it into something positive instead of just dying in a Dropbox folder.

    Taylor, for you, how did this collaboration feel different from bringing in collabrators in the context of a Boy Scouts record, for example?

    TV: From the start, I was always thinking of this project differently in my head, the way that I wanted to be a part of it. Sam and Trevor would already have these really fleshed-out demos with all of the instruments played, all the chords are there, to me there would be a clear chorus and a verse melody. My favourite part of writing music or anything to do with music is coming up with vocal melodies and vocal harmonies, so I was really excited at the idea of doing only that. [laughs] That’s the part that has always come most naturally to me and is the funnest, just because it takes less mental energy, it’s more intuitive. So I was like, “This sounds really fun, I can do this. I want to do only this one thing that I know comes most easily to me.”

    I had never really written the main vocal melody to a track that wasn’t the chord progression that I came up with on my own – it was somebody else’s, so there’s already this built-in kind of distance. Writing my own songs, usually it’s very autobiographical and I’m writing about my own personal life or thoughts or experiences, so there’s kind of already this built-in distance that allowed me to play more with – still having personal things to write about, but allowing myself to be more free with it. I tried to write more fiction-based lyrics, just writing in different ways than I had ever done before. It just felt really different all around. A lot of fun, and also challenging, which I wanted out of the experience. Just a new experience – I’m generally seeking new experiences [laughs], especially at this time in my life and many people’s lives when every day feels the same. And this was a whole new opportunity to experiment and do something close to what I’ve been doing almost my whole life, but actually, when you zoom in, it’s for me personally a super different process.

    In terms of songwriting, your work has often been described as diaristic, and you mentioned this being an opportunity to shift away from that and to write from fictional perspectives. I wonder if that’s something that you felt the need to to explore before, or if it’s something that emerged naturally through this project.

    TV: I was kind of starting to write songs a different perspective other than my own, I think in late 2019 I wrote a song that was from the perspective of my grandfather. And so that song, even though it’s not from my own perspective, is still like deeply personal to me. So I was already experimenting with that, but once I was presented with this, it was like a stepping stone, I guess. I don’t know that I would say that it felt like a need or something, but I guess it subconsciously was there in my mind as something I wanted to maybe explore. I hadn’t really consciously thought of it as something I wanted to go for, it just was kind of presented to me. I feel like I’m much more like of a responder to things in life rather than an initiator, and many of the coolest creative opportunities that have come to me have been invitations where it’s all basically set up for me. And then I’m like, “Yeah, I can do that.” It sometimes feels like I don’t even ever have ideas of my own, which is not true. But sometimes it feels like that. When I go back and look at it, I guess I was kind of playing with the idea of writing from these different perspectives, but this felt very new and different for me.

    Given that the idea behind this collaboration initially was to write for films or art projects, did you find that that also affected how you then worked around other sources of inspiration? 

    TB: I mean, I think the soundtrack thing, it was more of just an initiator for the project. All three of us had worked on the the Sex Education soundtrack, so I think just having that experience and everybody being involved in their own projects in various ways, we were kind of like, this would be a really cool thing, to just start a project and try to do that more. But as the process went on, I think we all just instinctually operated as a band, because that’s the process we’re used to. For me personally, the soundtrack thing, it was there in the beginning, but I don’t think it ever actually affected my process. It was more like, we know our skills, what we each bring to the table, and we know we can make really pleasant soundscaping music, but we just ended up making a record. [laughs] It never really informed my process, but I can’t speak for everybody else.

    TV: Definitely didn’t inform mine. [laughs] I didn’t even really know that that was going on.

    TB: Sam was more – he likes to talk about imagining images and a scene. We had talked about that in the beginning, but once once I’m in the process of making a record, I’m not thinking hopefully at all.

    TV: Right.

    TB: About anything. [laughs] Just creating and following instinct.

    I know it’s different from group to group, but what do you think it is that that made it so easy for you to work together?

    TV: For me personally, to share creative ideas and be creative with other people, it has to be people that you feel comfortable to do that with and not feel fearful, just have this kind of open understanding that we’re just sharing and ideas can be vetoed. I think that the three of us had a really good dynamic. Just as people, I think we all just get along really well, and I feel like our main priority was to have fun and have a good time. It’s just very chill. And I think we did a really good job at making the recording environment and the writing environment really comfortable, and that’s huge. It’s definitely not fun when you feel like you have ideas and you don’t want share them because you’re afraid that they’re gonna think it’s bad or something. And it wasn’t at all like that. It just felt very open and welcoming and supportive. And I think we all had pretty similar ideas about what we liked, too. When the process feels really easy and effortless, the outcome is pretty great, usually.

    TB: I think it’s really as simple as – it seems like the secret ingredient in any relationship, whether it’s a creative relationship or whatever – it’s kindness, unfortunately, is the secret ingredient. [laughs] Kindness and patience. And I think all three of us together had a lot of that. And honestly, I think that is what made it so effortless, in most of the process anyway. I think I was the only one that brought a little bit of, like, fighting for certain things towards the end. You know, like, “Where’s my guitar solo?” [Taylor laughs]

    My favorite song on the LP is ‘Sixish’ – I think it’s indicative of how these specific stories can resonate on a wider scale. I love how a press release describes the songs as a whole as being about “tiny, unspoken feelings,” while at the same time quoting you saying ‘Sixish’ is about having an “infinite amount of love and energy” for someone. Is that something you often have in your mind – a song being a small vehicle for vast emotions? Do you feel like there’s a conflict there?

    TV: That’s such an interesting question. Let me think about it. That’s also my favourite song – it’s a tie, but I do love that song a lot. I mean, I would say I think there’s just an infinite amount of ways that a song can be written and an emotion can be portrayed. I’m just thinking of how somebody’s version of “tiny” is different than mine. I think with that song and with a lot of songs, lyrically, I might write in a way that feels like I’m talking about some kind of experience or unspoken feeling in a minimizing way. Because I think a lot of people tend to do that, I definitely do that in real life. It’s hard to be super vulnerable and even to be fully understood at the depth at which you’re feeling or experiencing something, so I think that might just be a tendency of mine when I’m writing because it kind of reflects how I might show up in my real life. [laughs] Where it’s like, these words I’m saying or singing, it sounds like tiny unspoken feelings, but actually, they’re really intense or bigger than I let on.

    That song in particular, when I heard the instrumental version of it, it just sounded so devastating to me. It was just this simple super simple chord progression but had such a melancholy vibe to it, and I really wanted to play with that.

    I like what you’ve kind of captured there. I also like the idea that something can seem tiny while also feeling infinite, and I thought that maybe the infinite part of the feeling can be the unspoken part of it. Trevor, when you heard the vocals and the lyrics to the song, how did they make you feel? 

    TB: That’s a funny one, because I think of all the songs on the record, I played the smallest role. I mentioned the soundtrack thing not really being a part of my process, but I think of all the songs on the record, specifically the chorus of that song sounds very cinematic and kind of old-timey, the string sound in it. It just sounds like old-timey heartbreak, is what I got from it. It’s devastating, but at the same time very sweet – like the sweetness of heartbreak.

    This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.

    Art Moore’s self-titled album is out August 5 via ANTI-.

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