Interview — Moses Sumney

I have never been in love

Californian „folk soul“ singer Moses Sumney gets cherished for an ethereal and unobtrusively shimmering style, which explores the potential to guide the listener into a sensual frenzy. We talk to him about wrong realities and the absence of love.

19. September 2017 — MYP N° 21 »Ekstase« — Interview: Katharina Weiß, Photography: Steven Lüdtke

“I sing. I write. I’m in Los Angeles. I’m gonna make it.” These words are the official description for Moses Sumney’s YouTube account. Somewhere between bedroom melodies and stoner music, the Californian singer played himself up to a loyal audience. And according to this audience, the artist is definitely going to make it – because he gives them an ecstatic experience one user recently described as “This feels like a tidal wave of pleasure beaching in the darkest depths of my soul, washing me clean.” His first complete album, “Aromanticism”, will be out September 22 on “Jagjaguwar”.

Katharina:
„If lovelessness is godlessness / Will you cast me to the wayside.“ – Like this line out of your title „Doomed“, your new songs are streaked by abstractive lyrics, asking for existential questions. Where does the artistic need for that come from?

Moses:
I studied writing in school, I got a degree in poetry, that helps me to be pretty concise with the way I approach lyricism and celebrate my music through poetry. And then I came to that phase, two years ago, where I could not tell what was real or not. And I wanted to capture that disorienting feeling in my music.

I have no idea what reality is. It could be all fake.

Katharina:
What is reality?

Moses:
I have no idea. It could be all fake. We all could be dreaming right now.

Katharina:
Would it be a good dream though?

Moses:
No, it would be a nightmare.

Katharina:
We heard you produced music in Berlin, how did that go so far?

Moses:
That’s actually not true, but a lot of people have asked me that, so it has to be somewhere on the internet.

Katharina:
Yes, you supposedly said that in an interview – but let’s have a short fake news check then. Is it right that your parents are two pastors?

Moses:
True!

Katharina:
And that from age 10 on, you lived in Ghana?

Moses:
Yes, for 6 years.

I definitely feel very alined and supportive with African or Pan-African movements and efforts of reclaiming what it means to be independent.

Katharina:
Also it’s written down, that your music is rarely influenced by that, because you have been „Americanized“ before, and you are also not in the row of people beeing active in the postcolonial discourse?

Moses:
I would not say all of that. Of course, because I was born and primarily raised in America, I was more drawn to western music. In case of postcolonial struggles I definitely feel very alined and supportive with African or Pan-African movements and efforts of reclaiming what it means to be independent. But I am not actively doing that work right now, I don’t live in Ghana.

Katharina:
Do you share the feeling of several artists of color of your generation, that it is also a form of racism, to always be politicized and asked in interviews about postcolonial or racism struggles – just like I did it to you right now?

Moses:
Definitely, we don’t ask white artists enough what they think about these issues. I am also not always thinking about it, my album is not about it – so it can be really exhausting.

Katharina:
Now let’s talk about the last cliche out of the world wide web – is the etiquette „folk soul“ the accurate description for your music?

Moses:
In the beginning I called it like that, but on my new album „Aromanticism“ I also worked with elements that fit in no genre description.

I would love to be believed that I have a PhD. Or something strange, like the rumor that I have never ever used the internet.

Katharina:
If we could invent a rumor now, a good fake news about you which everyone is believing, what would it be? Like dating Lana del Rey for example?

Moses:
Oh my god, haha I wish! But I would love to be believed that I have a PhD. Or something strange, like the rumor that I have never ever used the internet.

Probably most people have thought at some point that sex is really weird and gross.

Katharina:
To me, some of your songs sound almost spiritual, others are undeniably sexy – is this eroticism connected to feelings of ecstasy and out-of-body experiences?

Moses:
With this album, I was interested in exploring love. I think romantic love is separate from sexuality. Connected but still very different. And I think popular culture often fails to divide them, popular culture fails to aknowledge that people often don’t desire sex or don’t feel great after sex…Probably most people have thought at some point that sex is really weird and gross. With my song “Make out in the car” I was trying to explore a particular feeling that I had when I wanted to say: Hey, I like you, but I’m not trying to have sex with you, I just want to make out with you in my car. But in terms of the question how desire connects to out-of-body-experiences, I’m not sure. I think you feel most in your body when you have sex.

Katharina:
What’s the last time you’ve been in love?

Moses:
I’ve never been in love.

Katharina:
But you write so beautiful songs about it?

Moses:
I write beautiful songs about not being in love. I do have feelings about people or about our experiences together, I do have ideas about desiring people.

Pop culture makes you wait for this experience of the one – but you never now if it's ever happening to you.

Katharina:
I can connect to that feeling, I also never had this one person for a long-term commitment. But I do feel a pressure from society, which is telling you that you miss out when you’re not madly in love all the time.

Moses:
Absolutely, that’s just not everyone’s experiences, not everyone is in love or ever has been in love, but there are so many different forms of relations, and with my new songs I also tried to explore these cracks. And of course, pop culture makes you wait for this experience of the one – but you never now if it’s ever happening to you.

Katharina:
Maybe we are the lucky ones!

Moses:
Let’s see!