Sound & Vision with Nightlands

Four years of work went into Dave Hartley’s new project under his Nightlands’ moniker, and the result is Moonshine. Out now on Western Vinyl, it is an album of synth dreamscapes and genre-boundary pushing pop – think Beverly Glenn Copeland’s Keyboard Fantasies – featuring a number of his fellow The War on Drugs’ band members, as well as one of his heroes, Frank Locastro.

Diving back into the influences and stories that contributed to Moonshine, these are his Sound & Vision picks:

Three albums:

Ronnie Hawkins – A Hawk in Winter

This album came into my life in a very specific way — a friend of a friend was carrying it around on his iPod (this was in 2007 or so) and said, ‘you’ve really got to hear this, I’ll put it on a CD-R for you.’ It proceeded to spread through my friend group and we all became true believers. To that point, I had always associated Ronnie Hawkins with early rock-a-billy and the raucous electrified R&B of the early Levon and the Hawks/The Band stuff. But to hear him sing ballads like Early Morning Rain and The Lady Came from Baltimore was a revelation. It occupies that sacred and rare space where folk, soul, country and psychedelia all overlap.

Frank LoCrasto – El Dorado

Anthony LaMarca said to me, years ago, ‘I have this buddy, Frank LoCrasto, you have to collaborate with him.’ When Anthony says something like this, you listen. So I found this record by Frank and was completely blown away. Soundtracks for non-existent films. There is great power in a virtuoso choosing not to use their chops and instead opting for careful melodies. That is playing from the ear and from the heart. Frank co-wrote Fear of Flying (from my last album) with me, and contributed some jaw-dropping overdubs to Down Here on this new record. He should be a household name.

Stevie Wonder – In Square Circle

This is one of the first albums I ever owned. I’m not sure how I ended up with it, as a five or six year-old boy, but I did.. and it is forever embedded in my heart. I love how sterile the production sounds. It’s a cousin to The Nightfly. Pure 80s plasticity. It sounds like the only microphone used in the recording of this album was a vocal mic. No air anywhere else, all digital synthesis. I remember the cover of the album proclaiming that it was a ‘FULL DIGITAL RECORDING’. This was something to be celebrated, then. I still celebrate it now, especially jams like Whereabouts and Spiritual Walkers.

One book:

Empire of the Summer Moon

Right now, I’m reading Empire of the Summer Moon. It is a book about the Comanche nation, the most powerful Native American tribe in history. Warriors on horseback. Few things fascinate me more than the ‘American West’. It’s truly an unspeakable tragedy. During the pandemic I started gobbling up all forms of Westerns and anti-Westerns. The Lonesome Dove series. 3:10 to Yuma. Blood Meridian. Butcher’s Crossing. Shane. Once Upon a Time in the West. El Topo. It just felt like what I wanted to consume: I’m not sure why. Now, I am pivoting to include non-fiction. I can’t quite articulate what fascinates me about it all, but I will say that I somehow have found the ability to fully recognise the absolute horror of Native American genocide and somehow still be captivated by a spirit of pioneer romanticism and prairie magic. I will be exploring this feeling for years.

A film that I keep going back to:

What can I say, I’m a Dune guy. I’ve always been known as a Dune guy, I guess, by my friends. My dad read me the novel when I was probably far too young. I remember cowering in my bed at the description of the gom-jabbar and the sand worms. I read the book once a year, or so. I was so hopeful when I heard Denis Villaneuve was going to adapt it. He professed a lifelong love of the book, and the casting (as it rolled out in the press) was tantalising. The film surpassed my expectations and hopes.

One Song I adore:

The Roches – Hammond Song

I realise that this song is special to millions of people, but it really feels so personal to me. It does not exist as part of any genre or trend. It is utterly timeless and emerged from a vacuum. The harmonies are perfect and strange and there is no one who has ever sung in this way, ever. Blood harmony, but deeper. I have grown to love Fripp’s solo, as well, though there was a time when I wished I could find a different version of the recording with no Fripp. My wife and I fell in love to this song, essentially, and days after we became engaged in Big Sur, we serendipitously found ourselves eating dinner with Suzzy Roche at Ventana, overlooking the ocean, smoking a joint. Drinking a Martini. It felt like absolutely anything was possible. It’s my favourite song and it has spurred change in my life. No one should ever be allowed to cover it because it can not be improved upon.

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