5 writers, 5 questions, 1 band, hand-picked by MWA. Welcome to FIVE x FIVE. This week: rootsy rock trio, The New Red Moons.

It’s an exciting time for The New Red Moons – they began their month by releasing the follow-up to their 2011 debut, and the world is their oyster. Mesmérisme, as expected, is pretty fantastic, with Joe McIlheran’s vocals driving the album forward and supported by solid, alt-rock compositions. We caught up with the outfit in advance of their Chicago release about the new album and the influences for it this time around.

What is the most rewarding thing about being a part of Milwaukee’s music scene?

The scene is bursting with young bands right now, so it’s really exciting as a somewhat established band to see new acts develop on stage right in front of us. Also, Milwaukee is not a big city, and the scene is proportionate to that, so it’s a little easier to get some attention if you play your heart out and you play regularly. It’s not over-saturated, and the fan base isn’t over-taxed.

You ran a kickstarter to get Mesmérisme off and running, what was that experience like, and are you planning to do it again for your next release?

We had very positive experience with Kickstarter. We met and exceeded our goal thanks to our beautiful friends, fans, and family. Though another Kickstarter campaign isn’t out of the question, we wouldn’t want to push our supporters’ generosity too far, and we will hopefully be able to raise funds for the next project through album and merchandise sales from this album.

The album art for Mesmérisme feels much more developed than the art for your past albums. Any significance or special attention paid to the art this time around?

Our good friend and talented Chicago artist created this artwork with on wood with paper cutouts in response to his first listening of our album demos. The red moon motif is pretty obvious, and if you look closely, the black vine lattice-work actually evolves, Escher-like, into talons. This is a reference to a line from “Tyrrhenian Seas,” the fourth track on the album: “…as the shadows tear the light with the talons of the night.”

You guys seem to a have a ridiculously wide range of influences. For example, the track “Tyrrhenian Seas”, from Mesmérisme, sounds like The Zombies harmonizing over Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five”. How do you manage to keep your album sounding cohesive when you have so many styles of music to draw from?

There are two main reasons our songs maintain a certain cohesion, and none seem to swing too far into one style or another. The first reason is simply instrumentation. We are playing the same instruments and using our same voices on every song, and we don’t really go in for effects or overdubs, either in-studio or on stage, so the only way we can affect the overall sound is with dynamic playing and thoughtful arranging. The second reason our songs seem to hang together is that we never try to make any song in a particular style. We try not to think of genre or style at all, in fact. The only thing we try for on each song is to make it the best it can be. So a song that comes into rehearsal sounding vaguely like a country song, for instance, won’t get the “country” treatment, but rather its arrangement may go spinning in a completely different direction. None of this is conscious, in fact, we believe that sort of self-conscious song branding puts many would-be great songs into uncomfortably small boxes.

With three years between your debut LP and the new record, Mesmérisme, will we have to wait until 2017 to hear its follow-up?

Let’s hope not! We certainly didn’t plan on the 3 year gap, and we will definitely be back with something, album or EP, within a year or two.

Catch The New Red Moons this Thursday at Abbey Pub with The Van Goghs for their Chicago album release show. Peep full details here, and celebrate one hell of an album with three of Milwaukee’s best.

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