Interview: The Soft Moon’s Luis Vasquez On The Creation, Freedom, And Self-Discovery Behind ‘Exister’

The Soft Moon started as a personal project of multi-instrumentalist Luis Vasquez. It was a means of self-discovery never meant to see the light of day. Rather, it was a chance for Vasquez to learn more about himself and work through personal trauma he thought he buried long ago. Soon, he started gaining fans thanks in part to his confessional lyrics, which allowed him to connect with an audience he didn’t know was there. 12 years later The Soft Moon remains a source of relief and freedom of expression for the musician. His latest release, Exister, also represents a new phase in his life. Revisiting the pain that’s associated with The Soft Moon allowed Vasquez to finally discover who he really is. Now, he can be who he’s always wanted to be, himself.

Before the release of Exister, Vasquez sat down with GENRE IS DEAD! to talk about working with no limitations, starting a new chapter with The Soft Moon, and the joys of self-discovery.

GID: It’s been four years between Exister and Criminal, which is one of my favorites. In between that you did a separate project under your own name A Body of Errors, which you described as a break of sorts, a chance for you to walk away from The Soft Moon. So, what was it like returning to The Soft Moon after that chunk of time between both albums?

Luis Vasquez: What’s kind of interesting is that during the whole COVID thing I was so detached from everything I had done before. It almost felt like it wasn’t real. It almost felt like nothing ever happened, so coming back to The Soft Moon to write the next record was like starting from scratch as if I was trying to make it for the first time, which is an interesting feeling. When you want to be a musician your whole life it’s just kind of weird and then I’ve already been a musician for 11 years at that point, so it felt like starting over. I was lost for sure in the beginning.

GID: Was that feeling of starting over a positive or refreshing feeling or was it intimidating?

LV: Both actually. Very intimidating because I really did feel like I didn’t know how to write music anymore, but also very positive because it’s always positive for me to express myself and with every album, I feel like I’m seeking more expression. So, it’s just another opportunity to do that. But another thing is I didn’t want to write a COVID album. Everyone was writing during COVID, and I was like I’m not gonna do that (laughs). I’m just gonna try to enjoy this time. For some reason, I thought it was kind of cheesy. So, I actually started writing the album when things slowly started getting better. I don’t want to write music just because I have the time off. That’s not how it works for me.

GID: Tell me about the making of Exister. When did you start working on it? Was it after A Body of Errors or was it in the works before that?

LV: It was completed after although I think some of the leftover tracks off A Body of Errors might have influenced but not completely made Exister. I started a couple of songs using things that didn’t make the cut on A Body of Errors, but because they’re separate projects it didn’t work out; using existing elements from things I previously wrote because for one it’s not The Soft Moon and for two it wasn’t current. When I write something it’s about the now. I waited a while after that was released. I was procrastinating a lot. I think I was scared to come back into the world, so it took some time after A Body of Errors before I started working on The Soft Moon from scratch.

GID: You’ve described working on Soft Moon albums as “tortuous” because it involves a lot of digging up buried traumas and trying to work through them. That pain is definitely felt and heard on those records. But no matter how painful the process may be, it’s something you return to. What drives you to return to The Soft Moon if it is so painful?

LV: Because it’s ultimately rewarding in the end. There’s a lot of self-discoveries. In fact, with this record, I feel like I concluded a chapter and I’m ready to enter my next phase. I think The Soft Moon since the beginning has been a self-discovery thing, learning about myself, being confused about my actions and my personality, my behavior things like that. And I feel like I definitely reached a conclusion. At least now I’m gonna go forward knowing who I am rather than wondering who I am. So, all this torture along the way has helped me completely. I’m curious to see what will come out of me going forward now that I’m not wondering who I am.

GID: Is it also an opportunity for you to connect with others? Because a lot of your fans are probably experiencing their own pain and this music is helping them deal with what they’re going through or just helping them feel better.

LV: Yeah. So, the beginning of The Soft Moon is – selfish is a bad word, but it was about me, and it was only about me. For instance, I wasn’t even going to release anything. It was something I was doing after work. I was writing to learn about myself. But when I got signed and I started getting fans I was getting these deep messages [from them]. This is back in the Facebook days when I was on Messenger. I was talking to fans all the time and I learned a lot about them and started to realize I’m not alone and now they feel like they’re not alone. So, it kind of became an addiction over time to express myself completely and I’m realizing that I’m doing something important. I’m not trying to be some sort of rockstar. I’m not trying to be cool. Music is just my calling in order for me to heal. That’s just what it is. I don’t even go out often. I rarely go to shows. I did when I was a kid. So, the reward of not feeling alone for myself and also helping others make this something more important for me.

GID: When you’re working on these songs and opening up so completely, do you ever worry you’ve shared too much?

LV: Yeah, I definitely feel that with this record. I go back and forth. Sometimes I feel like oh my god I made a mistake. I fucked up. I’m way too vulnerable now. But at the same time going to the beginning of the conversation now that I feel like I’ve ended the chapter and entered a new phase has helped me for sure, but it is vulnerable. Sometimes I feel like I might have shared too much, more so in the fact that if my mom listens to the record and my relationship with her is kind of – you know, no family is perfect, but things like that kind of worry me. I might have said the word “mother” too often on the record or something. But I’ve been doing this for 12 years now, so I’ve gotten used to expressing myself and being completely transparent and saying everything, so I’m okay with that. I just know that it helps me in the end.

GID: It seems like the record was also freeing. Not only are you getting things off your chest, but you didn’t have certain constraints, so you had more freedom to really push yourself, play drums, scream and do whatever you wanted. It sounds exciting but also can be a bit nerve-racking because it means changing a process you had become so used to. Was it challenging or nerve-racking in any way going from having these restraints in place to working with no limitations?

LV: Yeah, what was hard was having every instrument I wanted because I’ve always had limitations. Always. With this record, I had everything at my disposal, and a lot of times I didn’t know how to start because I had everything. I had some drums with all the mics ready to go. I had four synthesizers. All kinds of percussion instruments. A lot of new software and plugins that I can add effects to. It was difficult having too much. But if I’m able to focus while having everything, I was able to grow and push some limits as well. So, there’s the two sides. But it was difficult. I had too much freedom, I think. I wasn’t used to it!

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Ashley Perez Hollingsworth

Ashley Perez is a freelance music journalist based in Chicago. Her work has appeared on AXS, Chicago Innerview, New City, The Millions, and Illinois Entertainer. She also runs her own music blog at Radio Not Found. Some of her favorite bands include Nirvana, The Cure, Muse, Creeper, and Green Day.

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