Daren Muti has been one of the many artists who have cropped up in our Sun 13 inbox over the past six months. We lend an ear to majority of what we are sent. Some of it is a pass. Others, not so, and – suffice to say – Daren Muti is very much in the latter.
The Parisian artist’s debut EP, Citizens Facing the Sun, is bathed in luscious jams that are akin to the sunlight peering through the curtains.
Citizens Facing the Sun oozes with ’90s experimental slowcore reverence. Whirring instrumentation and warm drones that weave in and out of dream-pop laden structures. It’s music that provides a sturdy companion to individual contemplation, sitting down and looking out the window wondering what it’s all about.
In the run up to Christmas, Muti agreed to answer some of our questions about Citizens Facing the Sun.
Sun 13: How long have you been writing music?
Daren Muti: “It goes back more twenty-five years. During my teenage years, I played in bands where I composed most of the melodies, in a punk project, then post-rock. At the same time I felt the need to sing, and wrote songs alone in my bedroom. From there I started doing things quieter, sometimes just with an acoustic guitar. With this EP, there are arrangements but everything has started with songs played alone on the guitar.”
S13: Can you tell us how these songs evolved and what the inspiration was behind them?
DM: “I detune the guitar to find easy chords to achieve the inspiration that is driven by a kind of loneliness with the instrument. After having isolated a melody, I look for the right sound of words to accompany it. The theme of the song comes gradually, it could be inspired by my personal wondering or feelings about nature, emotions. I try to make it poetic.”
S13: How did the artwork come about? I think it really creates a nice cinematic backdrop for these songs. Was that the intention?
DM: “Thank you. Yes, I was looking for a picture with a bright sky, to make up the occasional dark aspects of my music. I took this photo in the Pyrenees in France. I was alone on a hike and felt the energies of nature around me. It was both scary and beautiful, and the first track is about the beauty of the present moment in front of a powerful nature, even if the world in which you live seems darker. The universe has surprises in stock for us, that’s why I added UFOs on the photo.”
S13: It’s funny because slowcore isn’t a style of music I wouldn’t necessarily associate with this part of the world. Would you agree with this and if so, I guess you’re operating in sort of a niche area artistically.
DM: “Slowcore can be dark, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s first of all a question of interiority. The purpose of a song is to balance light and shadow, to talk about our condition and the hope that comes from it. While trying to make quality music, I also try to remain as authentic as possible. The important thing for me is not to betray the emotion that comes to me at the start of a song. But I work to make my music as accessible as possible.”
S13: The title track and Mystery Plans remind me of early Labradford. Are you a fan of theirs?
DM: “Totally! A friend lent me A Stable Reference a long time ago, I listened to this album a lot. They knew how to integrate these whispered vocals into their reverberated synth walls. They really have an atmospheric style. I’d have loved to do those kind of vocals and sounds but I’m in a more singing approach, if I may say so. And their songs are unbelievably terrifying sometimes, I don’t think I can bear to write such oppressive music, even though my songs you quote have a bit of that tragic side.”
S13: I think Sad Women is the finest cut from the EP. How did that song come about?
DM: “I wanted to talk about this attraction to girls with mysterious and sad faces, who are potential muses for writing songs or painting. They allow you to express yourself, to transcend a dull reality, while being a desire for possible completeness. It is a romantic vision of elsewhere. Something we can believe in, which can also inspire us to keep hope.”
S13: The final track is an instrumental, which is an interesting way to end this collection of songs. Were you conscious of this when deciding the track listing?
DM: “Yes, it was interesting to place the instrumental in the middle of the track listing, but it broke the dynamics a bit too much. In fact, it was very good to close. This song is also a bit more relaxing than the others, and ends on a slightly less dark note.”
S13: Obviously it’s hard to talk about scenes now with the current pandemic, but can you tell us what the scene in Paris is like?
DM: “[It’s] difficult to define a particular style for the Parisian scene. There are a lot of small concert venues where bands of all styles play. In recent years, I have noticed a cluster of small alternative places to help each other out and try to exist, as city politics seek to shut down nightlife spots. In large venues, you have to be produced to play, and singing in French can help, but it’s not my musical culture.”
S13: Any recommendations for local bands that we should be listening to?
DM: “Yes, you can listen to Acetate Zero, they’ve been around for a long time but it’s a reference here, we played with them a few times with my previous band. Alternative rock, dreamy and noisy, they’re really good.”
S13: What’s next for you? Are you working on an album for 2021?
DM: “Yes, I am working on an album centered on eight or nine tracks, mainly guitar and vocal, maybe with a little organ and percussion. A fairly stripped down record but with very strong melodies. I can’t wait to make this record a reality, I hope to finish and release it in 2021!”
Citizens Facing the Sun is out now via Araki Records/Du Haut du Sol. Purchase from Bandcamp.