Moon Boots hones in on artistic journey alongside second album, 'Bimini Road' [Interview] – Dancing Astronaut
Artists are inherently prone to longwinded creative lulls. But it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint an extended drought from the Moon Boots camp in recent memory. Moon Boots’s latest long-form showing, his Bimini Road LP, released with his habitual label housing, Anjunadeep, accents the producer’s amorphous influence palette—ultimately giving way to his chromatic stylistic color wheel.
Having enjoyed a comfortable tread in his underground origins, Pete Dougherty (Moon Boots), knows as well as anyone that musical prowess doesn’t arise overnight, but rather progresses gradually through methodical craft mastery and unique amalgamation of influences. Building from his longtime love affair with pianos, Dougherty dabbled as the keyboardist of indie band, Hey Champ, before eventually finding his solo foothold in Chicago’s house scene. In 2011, he secured his first label release, “Gopher It,” consequently signing on with the then-coveted French Express; thereby catching the attention of his current label home, Anjunadeep. It was with the auspicious Anjunabeats subsidiary platform where he delivered his 2017 debut album, First Landing, to widespread acclaim.
While First Landing may have cemented the atmospheric groove that serves as the signature Moon Boots stamp in most listeners’ minds, the construction of those sonic qualities constitutes a much grander journey. Dougherty’s learned genre-blurring productions derives from his history of floating between complementary genres of disco, R&B, soul—all of which have served as essentials to honing in his own highly stylized strain of house.
His earlier releases see him rely heavily on disco rhythms and hearty R&B-inspired vocals, as seen in 2012 single “Aretha” to 2014 French Express nu-disco number, “C.Y.S.,” Dougherty’s groundwork in the funky house space never stifled him from flirting with pop-leaning tracks. Within his pop experimentation, Dougherty drew nuance from ’90s-esque Little Boots’ “Headphones” remix to the softer-toned “Don’t Ask Why,” which preeminently foreshadowed his venture into lighter, euphoric territory on First Landing.
As a body of work that rocketed the name Moon Boots onto the radar of dance surveyors far and wide, First Landing marked a watershed touch-down in Dougherty’s career. Now, Dougherty returns to his soulful roots with the delivery of his second studio album, Bimini Road, and accompanying testimony to the reward of deliberate patience. Fine-tuning his expansive repertoire with his cornerstone, full-bodied experimentation and equipping the endeavor with scintillating live show plans, Moon Boots is fully prepped for take off.
Moon Boots spoke to Dancing Astronaut about the inner-workings of Bimini Road, his modern influences, vision for the live tour, and more.
Congratulations on releasing Bimini Road. What are your thoughts so far on how it’s being received?
I’m really happy with it. One of the things that’s really been the most rewarding to me has been seeing how people are latching onto different songs. One of the hardest things when you’re making an album is thinking like, ‘Oh God, what are the singles going to be?’ And for this album in particular, it was just, ‘I don’t know. I love them all.’ So it’s been nice to see, cause there’s quite a bit very different sounding tracks. Some people love, “Trance & Dental” and some people love “Gary’s House,” but I’ve just gotten nice messages on really every song on there. So people are listening through the whole thing.
You released an EP earlier this year, Keramas/Harpanet. You went into some darker territory there. What do you think ultimately led you to work on a project that was more stylistically similar to your First Landing?
[First Landing] was my first experience making an album and I didn’t know what to expect. I mean, everything before that had really been singles. I hadn’t even really done EPs before this one, just really one track at a time stuff. I just found the format really rewarding and I have a great partner in Anjunadeep. They were like, ‘We love this. Let’s do another.’ And I said, sure.
The visual assets for Bimini Road are incredible-looking. How did that all come together?
I put a lot of confidence in the artist. He’s actually done both albums now. His name is Markus Baga. He did such a great job on the last album. I sent him a PDF that I put together of different things about Bimini and Atlantis and colors that I like, whether it’s a painting or an ad I saw on the subway and try to distill that into basically a mood board, but a little more than like, images on Pinterest. Also just putting faith in him to execute. And then, we took our favorites and sort of molded them together to get the beautiful art that again, I don’t want to take too much credit for.
I feel like obviously the vinyl has to get some recognition here on how well-done that looks too.
Yeah, it’s great. Really beautiful. And Anjuna—they suggested the crystal clear vinyl and I was like, ‘Oh my God. I’m not so sure,’ but then when I got it I was like, ‘Oh, this is amazing. I love it.’ And it sounds great. There’s no compromise in the sound at all. It’s really well designed and heavyweight, looks and feels great.
That’s awesome. I want to talk about the tracks. I feel like each one has some sort of backstory to how it all came together. Could you tell me about one track that you’re especially happy about with the finished product on?
Well, I’m happy with the finished product on all of them. There’s one story I haven’t really had a chance to tell too much yet. That’s for “Gary’s House”, which is featuring Gary Saxby of the Harlem Gospel Choir. He’s been singing with the gospel choir for 20 or 25 years, something like that. He actually hit me up on Instagram last summer towards the end of the summer and said, ‘Hey, I really like your music.’ I can’t remember what he wrote exactly, but, he wrote that he loved the song “C.Y.S.” I looked at his profile and saw some videos of him singing, and I was like, ‘Oh my God, this is amazing…I got to come check you out. Could you put me and my then-fiancee on the guest list to come see you?’
And so we went and we saw them perform, it was amazing. Then, I had him come into the studio and just show him some soulful ’90s house things. I thought maybe it’d be up his alley and we just started writing. And it’s a very lyrically, simple song with a great message. He came to this part in the middle section, which he calls squalling—that’s the technical term for that style of gospel singing. It’s like Teddy Pendergrass, that what it reminds me of. I just remember the walls in my studio were shaking from how powerful his voice was. That was one of the most special collaborations on the album and a story that I’d like to get out there.
That’s awesome that you connected because he reached out to you. On Bimini Road, you brought back a lot of like previous collaborators, but with the new features, how do you find yourself discovering these artists or connecting with them on writing these songs?
Well with Nic [Hanson], Black Gatsby, and KONA, we’ve worked together before all those and they also sing in the live band. So we spend a lot of time on the road together and I just really loved them all. It was only natural, to work with them again. Nic, I originally met through my old studio. My studio neighbor was telling me about Nic when Nic was like a junior or senior at NYU. I felt like I couldn’t believe his voice.
Kaleena and Little Boots. I’d never met Kaleena before. I’ve known and I’ve been friends with Victoria [Little Boots] for a long time. I actually did a remix of hers; it was one of my first remixes, a track called “Headphones”. That was in like 2011 or 2012 and it’s very bright sounding. It was like on The Magician’s Magic Tape and it’s a really happy remix. With Kaleena and Little Boots, we worked together at this Mixmag studio retreat last October in upstate New York. And so that’s where both of those songs started.
Listeners and fans—they really love that you’re refreshing the dance scene right now with your disco-infused style. Who would you say you draw inspiration from in the modern day?
Eli Escobar is wonderful, especially when you’re talking about the disco soul sound. He really hits it out of the park. There’s a lot of great, without getting too into the weeds, but like a lot of great vinyl-only edit people. And so I do like to listen to a lot of edits, but generally it is re-edits of classic stuff. But for instance, Kon, the way he strips tracks down and happens to have all these multitracks, it’s pretty amazing.
On the more kind of house and club end of things, I really like and I’ve had for a while big admiration for what KiNK does. I mean, he’s just a really talented guy. Cinthie’s another artist right now who is making amazing stuff. In the more progressive world, I love what ARTBAT is doing. And Four Tet, I mean just for the range of his work, how he has his instantly identifiable sound but can play all these different styles and kind of make them his own. So he’s another artist I definitely admire a lot.
So are there things that specifically inspire you outside of music?
There’s all these kinds of subconscious or subliminal things that have come to the surface when you’re working on music. And, I think everyone should just try to be like a well-rounded person, you know, enjoy good movies and good art and good literature, good Scifi, whatever it is. That all kind of works its way in there. But for me, I’d say I in earnest started the record after I proposed to my fiancee, now wife. And so I think that was on my mind quite a lot as I was finishing it. Just getting ready to this, next step in life and living our lives together and wanting to put something positive and, and full of love out into the world.
So I mean, you did [the live show] last year. What motivated you to bring it back once again and can we expect any changes to the live setup for this coming tour?
This setup is going to be fundamentally, visually the same. Last year was almost kind of like a test run that I wasn’t sure if I was going to be ready for. And then it was like booked and it was like, ‘Oh my God, okay. Trial by fire. Here we go.’ Now of course, I mean I did know enough in advance that I spent like several months really just working on it. But, I think the goal was always to start doing full tours… we only did seven shows last year and at the end of it, it just, it went so well and everyone’s just loving each other and getting along and we’re like, Oh God, I can’t believe we have to stop now. Because the people that I perform with, they’ve spent a lot more time than I have in a tour bus and and they’re just ready for it. And so now that we’re getting ready to do like a proper tour, I think it’s really coming together and we’re adding a lot of songs from the new album. Almost all of them. I’ve added more keyboards and have gotten better at ’em.
I would say I’m not just trying to recreate the songs, but really add something new and I guess bring the most out of everyone on stage and give some variety.
*This transcript has been edited slightly for clarity and readability