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Interview: Haunted Summer

27 June 2022

Photo by Nicole Rico

In Haunted Summer’s case, you can judge a band by it’s name, it’s songs by the album cover. Whole, the third album by wife-and-husband duo Bridgette Moody and John Seasons, does not contain bright and shiny beach tunes but, rather, dreamy, psychedelic-pop songs that fit a sitting-around-a-campfire-while-high vibe. Moody’s vocals, heavily inspired by female artists from the ‘50s and ‘60s, float gently atop the trippy, folk-influenced music Seasons creates for a timeless collection of tracks.

Though the album was completed in early 2020, it’s release was delayed by two years due to the pandemic which, as it turns out, was a blessing in disguise as Rain Phoenix’s LaunchLeft record label stepped in with an offer to sign the band and release Whole. Now, with something new to promote, Haunted Summer is on the road on a coast-to-coast tour after just wrapping up a handful of dates opening for The Warlocks on the West Coast.

It was on the drive between Seattle and Portland that Moody and Seasons hopped on a call to kill some time.

You’re back on the road after a two-and-a-half year hiatus due to the pandemic. In the “before times”, were you a heavily touring band?

JOHN: Yeah, pre-Covid we used to tour anywhere between 120 and 150 days a year. Once Covid happened, just like the rest of the world, our touring was shut down. We haven’t been on the road since then, so it’s been a minute.

You released the album on a Tuesday which used to be the industry standard before Friday became new release day. Was that intentional?

JOHN: Somebody from our team was triple checking with us, “Are you sure it’s a Tuesday release?” since everybody is so used to Fridays. But, it was the first day of summer so it was a choice we made, for sure.

In addition to the digital release, is there a physical release as well?

Haunted Summer is a visual band and I’m sure you’re happy that people will be able to see your cover art on something bigger than a phone where the album art is the size of a stamp. Are you responsible for the cover art for your albums?

JOHN: The first thing we released we used this very cool artists named Sarah Sitkin. She did the art for Something in the Water. We took it into our hands for our release, Birth, which was some art we created. For Spirit Guide, we had a friend shoot us out in nature so that was another collaboration with our friend, Bella Snyder. With this new one, it’s our friend, Cody Berry, who is a great artist and has done art for other bands around L.A. and elsewhere. We’re really happy with that.

What came first, the band name or the songs?

BRIDGETTE: It all sort of came about around the same time. The name was definitely was more of a reflection of how our lives were going at the time. The music came organically after that. Luckily, the name made sense for the type of music we create.

Right. If your band name was Sunshine and Rainbows, I’m not sure I would say you sounded like your name. But, before every hearing any of your songs, I pictured what you might sound like based on the name and you wound up sounding pretty close to what I was imagining.

JOHN: Band names have always been a thing where I’ve always wanted something that hasn’t been used a million times and also has some sort of meaning that could lead to what the music sounds like. It doesn’t always have to be accurate, but it’s nice to hear you say that you had an indication and it was true to that.

So many bands had music finished before Covid and then wound up delaying the release for one reason or anything. Was Whole finished before March 2020 or is it something you’ve been working on the last two years?

JOHN: Technically, we wrapped the album in late 2019, maybe even earlier. It was supposed to come out in 2020 followed by a European tour and a big national tour. Just a few weeks before we were supposed to go to Europe, everything got canceled. We then canceled the release of the album because we knew we wanted to go out and promote the record to it’s fullest, it deserved that. When that happened, we shelved everything and decided to wait it out.

I believe in fate and I think we made the right choice because ultimately we got picked up by a label that we’re both super happy with and they’ve been extremely supportive. Where we’ve always felt a purpose to go back on the road and play music for ourselves, they’ve made us feel like they’re behind that 1000%. That’s been a really good thing for us. We’re really happy with LaunchLeft.

Is that album that just came out the album that was done in 2019 or, with the delay, did you have the chance to rethink it and maybe add or remove things?

JOHN: I won’t say it’s exactly the same thing because we did have time to reconsider and figure things out and LaunchLeft was a part of certain decisions that were made with the album as far as what the first single should, what tracks should be on the album that we were unsure of. That really helped shape the album to what it is. There was a song omitted and some switching around with the track listing and I think that made a difference to make the album as cohesive as possible. For the most part, the recordings and the base of the album was there in 2019 but what you got has been reconfigured and put forward with the opportunity to put the time behind it and think everything out.

With the album basically done in 2020 and then the chance to tinker with it, did it feel strange at all to mess with a finished product?

BRIDGETTE: I think we’ve always kind of done that. You want to make sure that everything really flows as best as it can. We’ve done that with some of our previous releases, before they’ve come out, we’ve rearranged certain songs to change the flow. If it’s for the best, it’s for the best.

JOHN: We’ve had moments in the past where we’ve sent out something we thought was finished to a few trusted people and asked, “Does it sound right?” We’re always open to critique. With this album, we were open to that again, it’s for the greater good. At this point, we’re as happy with the album as we can be and I think it all worked out perfectly.

I continue to be impressed with bands like yours who make good videos without an outlet like MTV that will play them.

JOHN: We have this video, it’s a 360 degree interactive one for the title track, “Whole.” That’s a really cool thing we did. We did videos for some of the other singles that were released before the album. I believe we’re going to do one more video for this record or some other visual art for a few other singles we’re going to put out in the new year coinciding with some European tour dates. We’re just happy to get our baby out into the world.

Did you make videos for this album because you haven’t been able to tour and have the time and desire to express yourself creatively?

BRIDGETTE: We collaborate with the directors and visual artists that create them. For them, you could tell that they’ve been wanting to get these ideas out and wanting to get back to their art. It’s cool to be able to give them an outlet to get back on their horse. We’ve been really stoked by all the different styles we’ve been able to get in these videos.

JOHN: That was a new chapter for us. We’ve always done videos but we haven’t had time to sit there and plan many videos at one time. When Covid happened, we had the time to focus on things we could get done. Because we can’t go on tour, we can’t do shows, but we can work on the visual media. Maybe we haven’t had a ton of time in the past because we were always on the road.

You’re based in L.A. Was the video for “You Put My Love Out the Door” shot nearby?

BRIDGETTE: That was shot in northern California. We drove 9 hours north and basically discovered our own little private beach so we just set up shop for 3 days. It was an amazing scene and amazing weather. It was a blessing because it could have turned out very differently.

JOHN: It was very DIY. Geoff Ryan, the director, shot and edited the whole thing himself. Our bass player, and good friend, Bill Sanderson helped us build the door you see in the video. That’s actually a door from our house. We took it to that beach, we brought it back and put it in our house again. We dusted off the sand. It was quite the experience. We only had one other helper, Paul. The beach was very isolated. It was a beautiful scene, for sure.

Visually, Haunted Summer appears to be the two of you. When you tour, do you have other band members and, if so, are they always the same people or do you grab whoever is available to be away from home for months at a time?

JOHN: It’s like a core family. We do have a consistent band of people that play with us. But, we’ve never put the pressure on those people if they can’t get time off to go tour. It has been a revolving cast at times. We have had members that have been with us a majority of the time. Our bass player, for example, has been playing with us since 2014. There’s times when he can’t go out but there’s times that he can. We have a new drummer this time around. It’s a revolving cast but that’s been helpful to not put pressure on people. That’s one thing that Bridgette and I, when we started this band, didn’t want to do. We didn’t want to be held back or put people in a position where it was like, “If you can’t do it, than this can’t happen.” Instead, we’re like, “If you can’t do it, the door is open for you forever.”

BRIDGETTE: When it comes to recording, it’s mostly just John and me. But, we bring in live players as well, like a lot of the people who have toured with us because they’ve probably practiced the songs on their own a couple times. We’re very communal even though the band is technically just me and John. It takes a village.

For all the touring you do, is it typically headlining shows with local openers or have you toured with other bands?

JOHN: We’ve toured with a lot of bands. We’ve toured with bigger bands like the Polyphonic Spree and Deafheaven. That’s been the interesting thing about this band, we’ve had these opportunities to do these bigger shows with bands where the genres are all over the map. Maybe we don’t initially see it working and then we do it and it’s like, “That totally worked.” That’s been a blessing in disguise for us as it’s exposed us to many different genres and many different fans of people who would be open to our band as well.

Are you trying to say that the Polyphonic Spree and Deafheaven don’t sound the same?

JOHN: (laughs) Exactly. I had to triple check with management when we were offered the Deafheaven tour. I was like, “Did they just see the album cover and think we’re a black metal band?” They were like, “No, the singer actually really likes the band and wants you to open.” I had heard them but when I saw them, I was like, “This makes total sense.” I felt like their music was expansive, it wasn’t just metal. It was dreamscapes and shoegaze. Their fans weren’t moshing, they were just all transfixed. That was the beginning moment for me to be open to not judge a book by its cover when we do these dates with other bands.

There’s something great about going to see a headliner without any knowledge of the opener and then being blown away. Do you find that people come up to you after shows and say that about Haunted Summer?

BRIDGETTE: Yeah. We’ve been really lucky. Of course, in the broad scheme of every show we’ve done, sometimes we connect, sometimes we don’t. But, for the most part, we’ve been really lucky and seem to be well received by the fans of the different bands we’ve played with.

JOHN: That’s a good indication that it’s a good pairing and it went well. When you connect the band as well, that’s great. When the fans were accepting and the band was accepting, we’re just eternally grateful. We’ve had really good experiences.

Is there a dream artist you’ve never played with that you’d like to?

JOHN: For an artist or band that’s not around anymore, I would have loved to open for Lou Reed or the Velvet Underground. For artists that are around today, I feel like I could walk off the stage and not play again and feel fully fulfilled if we ever opened for Bjork or Animal Collective. I’ll say Joni Mitchell and David Bowie for Bridgette.

Haunted Summer 2022 tour dates

July 1 – Ojai, CA – Deer Lodge
July 11 – Dallas, TX – Three Links
July 12 – Austin, TX – Hotel Vegas
July 14 New Orleans, LA – Santos Bar
July 15 – Atlanta, GA – Smiths
July 16 – Charlotte, NC – Petra’s
July 17 – Asheville NC – Isis Music Hall
July 19 – Cincinnati, OH – MOTR
July 20 – Cleveland, OH – Beachland Tavern
July 21 – Pittsburgh, PA – Club Cafe
July 22 – New York, NY – Bowery Electric
July 24 – Philadelphia, PA – Milkboy
July 26 – Allston, MA – O’Briens Pub
July 27 – Buffalo, NY – Mohawk Place
July 28 – Toronto, ON – Monarch
July 30 – Chicago, IL – Subterranean
August 1 – Milwaukee, WI – Cactus Club
August 3 – Lincoln, NE – Duffy’s
August 4 – Lawrence, KS – Replay Lounge
August 5 – Denver, CO – Mercury Cafe
August 7 – Salt Lake City, UT – Quaters