By Jack Spencer
By Jeff Gage
By Rob van Alstyne
By Jeff Gage
By Youa Vang
By Dave King
By Rob van Alstyne
By CP Staff
While many a classic album has been forged from the birth of romantic relationships, precious few appear to have been inspired by actual birth. The challenges of new parenthood—its exhilarating highs, debilitating lows, and attendant exhaustion—would seemingly leave little in the way of time or energy for musical inspiration to strike. All of which makes Roma di Luna's new album Then the Morning Came, written and recorded when the majority of its members were tackling diaper changes and sleepless nights for the first time, an impressive milestone both personally and professionally for the folk-pop sextet.
Leading with the overtly infant-inspired "Baby Hotel"—a track that features the babbles of all the members' new offspring in the background—Roma di Luna's third album finds the group's sound expanding in concert with their families. Formerly their releases were safe to file squarely in the Americana section, but Then the Morning Came finds the band flexing new melodic muscles. While still comfortable proffering loping balladry, they seem equally in their element flashing sharp blues-rock incisors ("Miss You Too") and serving up sun-dappled, horn-drenched R&B ("Hey Lover"). Frontwoman Channy Moon Caselle responds to her bandmates' upping the ante by delivering a rousing vocal performance throughout, her lightly twangy croon evoking Cat Power's Chan Marshall in its ability to simultaneously project wounded warmth and coy sophistication.
Roma di Luna's founding members/spouses/proud parents of Pelagia, Alexei and Channy Moon Casselle, recently took time out to talk with City Pages about their growing brood and band.
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City Pages: You're a little less than two years into juggling life as both parents and working musicians. How has raising a child impacted your music making?
Channy Moon Casselle: When our baby was first born, I just didn't even have it in me to pursue music and be a parent at the same time. Ultimately I came back to feeling like music is what I'm really meant to do and this is going to be my job, or one of my jobs, no matter what. We're still trying to figure it out. We live in a duplex so we were staying very quiet at home with the baby, and it was a great release to be able to go to the practice space and just make a lot of noise. The music was definitely a huge outlet. I sort of realized that if I was going to do this with a child's well-being on the line then I needed to work harder than I ever had before at music.
Alexei Moon Casselle: Having a child does change everything. We have less time in particular to play and write together. We had to take turns sneaking off to write while the other one took care of the kid.
CP: The band's sound appears to have changed as much as your lifestyle. Did you have any reservations about opening up the sound and letting it rip on occasion when your prior folkier-leaning albums had been so well received critically?
Alexei: This was the first record where the band really felt comfortable enough to just cut loose. That happened at certain moments on [2008's sophomore album] Casting the Bones maybe, but anything before that I think you can almost hear the other musicians trying not to step on our toes and purposely play really subtly. By nature that's just the way a lot of the people in our band are, personality-wise, so I'm kind of amazed we ever got to the place of a song like "Miss You Too" that has a really nasty bluesy thing going on.
Channy: It helps that we aren't famous. We don't ever have to think about outside expectations. All of the progression feels really natural to me. When I listen to our first recordings, I don't even recognize us just because I've become so much more comfortable singing and performing since then. It maybe sounds louder and more aggressive than before, but that's really just a product of me being more comfortable and open with the listener and myself. I still feel young as a singer and performer so a lot of the band changing is just me becoming comfortable in my own skin.
CP: So the added catharsis is just a matter of getting comfortable?
Channy: Songwriting is always very cathartic for me. I'm pretty honest to a fault personally, so my songwriting is similar. I'm not very good at hiding my cards. This record I wrote in such a haze of motherhood and sleep deprivation that it feels to me like a document of both a really beautiful and challenging time.
ROMA DI LUNA play their CD release show with Dark Dark Dark (see feature on p. 46), Caroline Smith & the Goodnight Sleeps, and DJ Anatomy on SATURDAY, OCTOBER 2, at FIRST AVENUE; 612.332.1775