20 Oct Suzi Moon Talks Tour Life, Punk, Love, and Finding Your Truth as a Songwriter
by Marisa Torrieri Bloom
Musician Suzi Moon is one of the most exciting punk-rock solo artists touring the world right now. Her raw, gritty voice can soar or caterwaul on command, and her fired-up performance style — enlivened by a rotating wardrobe of bodysuits, fishnets, glitter boots and chain accessories — breathes life into every song she sings. Whether she’s owning her badassery in high-velocity tracks like “I’m Not a Man” or singing sweetly to the strains of an angelic acoustic guitar, her music is urgent and cathartic, channeling a bygone era of glam punk nights at spots like CBGBs.
For all of these reasons, I had high hopes for Suzi’s first full-length solo release, Dumb & in Luv (Pirates Press Records), which dropped in late September on the heels of her first two solo EPs with the label: Call the Shots (May 2021) and the Animal (May 2022).
And to my delight, she delivered big time. The 32-minute record, written and recorded in her home state of California, is a wild sonic ride that spans multiple subgenres of rock n’ roll. Perhaps most surprising was the discovery of her softer, more vulnerable side, highlighting her versatility as a songwriter.
“It was a really emotional record for me,” says Suzi, who started recording tracks or Dumb & In Luv more than two years ago with producer Davey Warsop just before relocating to Washington, D.C., with her lead guitarist and boyfriend Drew. “I cried every day. It was just so cathartic to do this.”
The album’s title track, “Dumb & In Luv,” sets the tone for the rest of the album with cool, screeching surf-punk guitars that provide a perfect, revved-up musical segue into first verse — “Act One!” — which grips the listener with a relatable storyline about how emotionally doped up we get when we’re hooked on someone. The album’s second single, “California,” showcases Suzi’s vocal range, with a slower pop-rock tempo that reminds me of Hole’s “Malibu,” complete with sunny “la la las” woven throughout. It’s the ideal soundtrack for top-down convertible rides between Santa Monica and West Hollywood — or even the along the Connecticut coastline.
One of my other favorites, “Honey,” is the kind of melodic rock song that you’d play on prom night, with its catchy Weezer-like ’90s rock riffs and call-outs of “come on, come on, come on.” Other songs, like “Any Other Way” and “Believe in Luv” are straight up from the Bad Religion school of rock, totally West Coast vibes all the way. The record’s acoustic-and-electric closer, “Freedom,” is an anthem we can all relate too while straddling our own quarter-life or other existential crises.
We recently caught up with Suzi on the Minneapolis leg of her Fall 2022 tour with the Dead Boys, to chat about the record, traveling, songwriting, life, love, and everything else.
Rockmommy: Growing up, who were your musical inspirations? And how did they shape you and influence your artistry today?
Suzi Moon: My number one favorite songwriter of all time is Tom Petty, and he’s somebody that I always go to when I think about ‘how can I be my most authentic self as a songwriter?’ I think he really did a great job of making things universally relatable, while still personal, and that’s something I’m always chasing in my craft: How can I be the best me, but make it something that people can apply to situations they’re in? He was tapped into something so organic in that way. Prince is another big one, as far as creativity and following your guide to be yourself, but then a band like the Dead Boys that we’re on tour with right now — that’s a blueprint for great punk rock songwriting right there. The Damned and The Clash and the Dead Boys and the Ramones grew up listening to ’60s pop music, so if you trace it back and back, it’s really just these music structures, and the way they channeled it, it was more raw, more dangerous.
I’m pulling from a zillion different inspirations and it just comes out the way it comes out with me. I’m not trying to channel anyone else. I’m just trying to channel my thing authentically.
Rockmommy: That’s an interesting point. What is the true meaning of punk?
Suzi Moon: I really think punk rock is more like a feeling. You either are or you aren’t a punk at your core. But there’s so many different subgenres. What I do is really more like rock n’ roll, rather than fitting into some punk box. You shouldn’t put it in a box. It doesn’t belong in a box. It’s meant to run free! Chase the songs into what the songs were meant to be.
That’s why it took me so long to get Dumb & In Luv out. I had so many beginnings of songs, uncompleted songs. But in order to get a collection, you have to let time do its job … let those things work together to get this perfect piece that makes sense. My record is a classic punk record, though wouldn’t necessarily put it next to Minor Threat, but that doesn’t mean that Ian MacKay and I didn’t go to the same high school, in a spiritual sense. There’s a punk rock thing that runs through us, but what comes out, musically, is gonna sound different because of our unique life experiences.
Rockmommy: I listened to Dumb & In Luv three times on a recent road trip – it’s so fun! How long have you been working on this record? How did you decide which songs to include?
Suzi Moon: All the songs on Dumb & in Luv were written well before the [other EPS] Call the Shots and Animal. It’s a collection of songs I was slowly building for a couple of years. Before Suzi Moon got started, we had a three-piece punk band called Turbulent Hearts. But as Turbulent Hearts started falling apart, and I was still writing, and I was like, shoot, I’ve got these songs! And I love doo-wop, I love the waltzes … back in LA I grew up listening to KRTH 101, The Beach Boys, girl groups, classic rock n’ roll stuff. That’s definitely in my DNA. I think it was wise of us to do Dumb & in Luv after the two EPs, because by now, people had an appetizer of the band, of Suzi. I gave them the harder stuff up front, so they were more willing to commit to listening to a full record, and getting more variation, and understanding me as a songwriter, that it’s not just, like, this, one-two punch, like ‘Nuthin’ to Me.’
There’s a lot more to my songwriting. I’m not afraid to be a little bit softer. I love a good ballad, and a classic rock song. I like something anthemic. Those things are not hard for me to write. It’s harder for me to write the harder punky stuff, a lot of time. Dumb & in Luv embodies everything I am as a songwriter, the range. “Honey” and “I Go Blind’ are my two favorite songs on the record, and they’re the softest.
Rockmommy: Could you tell us the story behind the closing song, ‘Freedom?’
Suzi. Moon: ‘Freedom’ is a song I wrote almost 7, 8 years ago. I was in an all-girl band called Civet with my sister when I was a teenager, and I left when I was 22 and … didn’t pick my guitar up for two fuckin’ years. I had been touring since I was 16. I really needed to separate myself from that and be a person. [But] it’s really weird to be in conversations when you’re 22 years old, and talk to people, like, ‘I just got back from Japan on a tour with Flogging Molly!’ and they have no frame of reference. It was hard to go to a party, have a conversation with anyone because my life was weird. So I went to college for a little bit, got an apartment, did normal people shit, which was probably one of the most important growth periods of my life, stepping back.
But then my guitar called to me again and ‘Freedom’ is the first song that I wrote after that, playing again, and the lyrics came to me pretty naturally. I tried to do that song with Turbulent Hearts. We just couldn’t get it sounding the way I wanted it to, the way I heard it in my head. But that song’s just like an anthem, for me, following the path. We’re all given certain gifts in life, God’s not happy when you don’t use your gifts. And you don’t want to waste your gifts. And I was in this place where I was turning away from my gift … and I realized I am my happiest when I am doing my thing. And it’s OK to be an artist. Even though it’s really fucking weird, and I don’t know how I’m going to pull it off, I’m all in. ‘Freedom’ is my message to me.’ To put it at the end of this record, it’s almost like a lullaby. But it kind of prepares you as a palate cleanser, for playing the record again and again. The record’s something like 32 minutes.
Rockmommy: Do you believe in the timing of things? The serendipity of it? It sounds to me that the song wasn’t meant to see light of day until the other things added up.
Suzi Moon: I totally believe that. The song was always in my head … I knew I wanted to record it, I just needed the right time. It was a little bit of a wild card choice to put on this record, but I call Turbulent Hearts ‘Suzi Moon with training wheels.’ It was me just being myself, being a frontwoman, getting comfortable with that. By the time I got to Dumb & in Luv, I was like, ‘I’m just going to put out all the songs that are my favorite.’
Rockmommy: What was it like, trying to write a record, and plan a tour, when the world of concerts and such felt so uncertain in early 2022?
Suzi Moon: I figured it was gonna work itself out at some point. Thank God for guitars and recording studios and people who were brave enough to get together when we were told not to. I started recording Dumb & In Luv in August 2020, so that was like a few months into peak massive pandemic times, and my goal was to record it before I stopped living there and moved to the East Coast. I wrote all those songs in Southern California. It wouldn’t have been right to have recorded it on the Eastern Shore … It needed to be baked in the California sunshine. I grew up in Long Beach, but I haven’t lived in the city of Long Beach since I was 16. But when I paired up with Davey Warsop, who produced this record — he was an old friend of mine from back in the Civet days — we had been talking about it, and the pandemic hit, and I was like, ‘look Davey, I have all this money from unemployment and I am going to make this record, are you down?’ I was like, ‘I’ve gotta get these songs out of my head or I’m gonna die!’ I didn’t know I had any audience or market, I just knew they had to be done! None of this Suzi Moon solo stuff had really happened yet, I just knew I had to make this record.
We were recording up to the day before Drew [my lead guitar player and fiancé] and I packed up and left for the East Coast. We would go home and record for 8 hours a day, and then go home and pack this U-Haul pod. I remember being like ‘I’m so exhausted, I want to die, but we have to make this fucking record!’
Davey’s from Birmingham in the UK but he moved to the U.S. years ago and his studio is in Long Beach, California, in the back of the music studio where, when I was a teenager, I went to buy strings!
It felt really serendipitous, really magical, an end of a chapter for me. It was a really emotional record for me. I cried every day. It was just cathartic just to do this for me. It was another two months before Pirates Press Records and I got on the phone. They were like, ‘what do you got?’ Vique at Pirates Press Records was like, ‘what do you have, ready to go?’ And luckily I had the three songs for Call the Shots ready to go. I recorded these songs from [a short-term band I was in] LA Machina, and we re-recorded them. We flew back from Washington, D.C. [where we had moved] and re-recorded them for Call the Shots.
Rockmommy: What’s your advice for planning a tour that doesn’t burn you out?
Suzi Moon: I would say, as much as possible, stay at hotels versus crashing at people’s houses because it takes a lot of your energy and battery power to go to a show, load in at a show, play a show, and sell merch, and then when you have to go to somebody’s house and then [small talk] … it’s not fuckin’ worth it for a free place to stay. Bands need space to be alone and recharge their batteries, because it’s day after day after day. People come to shows one night of their week, but we’re doing it back-to-back to back … don’t feel guilty for taking a nap or a walk. We don’t drink on tour, we don’t party, and it’s still hard to get enough rest.
Rockmommy: What’s the plan for 2023? Writing? Europe? Anything you can share for us?
Suzi Moon: We’re trying to plan that now — I’m definitely taking winter off, because we’ve been on the road for a straight year. I can feel the songs inside of me, and I haven’t had time to let the channels flow and open up. There’s one song that’s marinating in my brain right now. In order to go in the next direction, I need to respect that time to do nesting for a little bit.
Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy