Love. It’s like a heatwave, it’s a many-splendored thing, it’s a battlefield, it’s all you need, it can turn a “Homewrecker” into a lunar beauty. Suzi Moon believes in the power of love and it’s the central theme of the remarkable album that’s the latest stop on her journey of self-discovery.
Moon and her supercharged band will hit the stage for the first time in Houston as a group when she opens for the legendary Dead Boys at Warehouse Live Friday, October 7. They’ll be performing songs from Moon’s new full-length, Dumb & In Luv. The album is only a week old, but it’s a play and repeat record with one thing on its mind. Love for family, love of self and romantic love, “whether it’s good or bad” Moon said, help the veteran punk artist form a concept album of sorts.
Moon was running pre-tour errands when we caught up with her by phone to ask a simple question - why love? It’s 2022 and punks everywhere have lots of social issues to rail about in song.
“I think there is a time and a place to speak up about things, injustices in the world. I don’t tend to bring that to my performances or my shows because I want it to be an escape from things that we’re dealing with, so many, all around us, every day,” Moon said. “I think that entertainment and music especially can really transport you to a happier place, you know, and love is this thing that we all experience, these various different forms of love, throughout our entire lives.
“I’m inspired by it. I see it around me every day. It motivates me. You know, I’m in a really beautiful relationship now, but I wasn’t when I started writing the album Dumb & In Luv,” she shared. “When 'Dumb & In Luv,' when that first song was being written, this would have been about 2017 when the seeds of that song got planted, I was in a really, really low place coming out of a sad situation that made me feel really bad.
“The high of love is so high – you just feel unbeatable. It’s wild. It’s like a drug, it really is. But then, at the other end of that – the low points – you feel like you wanna die. So, the record itself does tell my story over the course of about four years where I went from this really, really bad place, being completely crushed and heartbroken and mad at the world about it. But, I’ve never given up on love. I really do believe in it.”
It’s evident in Moon’s catchy new songs, delivered with conviction and strong vocals. The title track is the album opener, a pop punk rager about love gone wrong that gives way to the reliable embrace of “Family Memories.” And so it goes, track by track, and by the B-side it’s “this point where things were turning around for me and I was starting to feel like, ‘Okay, there’s hope and I’m strong and holy shit I’m falling in love again. I thought it would never happen, but here we are.’
“The album for me really does end on ‘Believe in Luv’ as far as the story goes. ‘Dumb & in Luv’ and ‘Believe in Luv’ are really those bookends to where every relationship you’ve been in led you to this next place, which led you in turn to the next one and the next one. I believe in love because of all the failed relationships, you know? If I hadn’t been through things that made me stronger I wouldn’t be the woman that I am today and I’m very proud of who I am and the growth that’s come with that. So, I think it’s something to be embraced and not fearful of. Just go for the ride with love every time because you’re absolutely going to learn something about yourself and about the world by going through it.”
How punk rock is that? As if to punctuate the sentiment, the album closes with the track “Freedom,” which speaks to the empowerment of loving one’s self.
“The song ‘Freedom’ is very special to me because it is the oldest song on the record. I wrote that song a good seven, maybe eight years ago after I had taken a break from music from my previous band Civet. I was kind of just stepping back into writing again,” Moon said. “I had gotten my own apartment in downtown L.A., it was a studio apartment, I was living alone for pretty much the first time in my life and I picked up my guitar and the song ‘Freedom’ just kind of poured out of me.”
It was a big step on her path, one lit by the light of the Moon. She’s been in bands 18 years, more than half her life, starting as “Suzi Homewrecker” in Civet, moving onto her next group Turbulent Hearts and finally finding her way to a project where she fully calls the shots.
“There’s more discovering to do, too. When I was Suzi Homewrecker – and first of all, I hated that name, I reject that name, it was not a name I chose for myself, an older girl in the band I was in basically decided to call me that, put it on the album, put it on the website and was like, ‘Tough shit, that’s your punk name,’” Moon shared. “I was only 15, 16 at the time and I did not feel comfortable. I felt like it was too sexualized for someone my age and it gave people the wrong impression about me because I don’t think it’s cool to be out homewrecking. I have strong family values, so I never felt like that name represented me or felt right for me at all. So, as soon as I kind of stepped away from Civet I was like okay, I can finally shake this off because it didn’t really feel authentic for me.
“Moon is just prettier,” she said, “and it’s softer and it looks cool.”
Moon’s got a glam visual aesthetic to match her name, though she acknowledges it might jibe with the T-shirt and jeans look expected of punk rockers. She’s allowing herself to dress as she wants, as her true self instead of the punk rock uniform.
“That is the spirit of punk rock, is individuality. We can’t all be looking like each other. It’s just boring. Nothing against anyone who feels totally comfortable and confident in T-shirts and jeans on stage. Great, you do you. I think the point is to find who you are and accept who you are and celebrate that. That is something I have only just walked into, that space.”
She said she’s had help walking into that space, particularly from her band. Her fiancé, Drew Champion, is the band’s lead guitarist. They’re joined by bassist Patti Bo and Sean Peterson on drums. She’s already planning the next album, a week after the latest’s release, saying “Now it’s finally out, it’s like lifting the drain on the bathtub. Now I’m ready to fill the tub again.”
“I know what my guys are capable of and the kind of heat we create together as a unit. Now I’m really hungry to capture that and utilize them more, they’re very talented musicians. I’m already thinking about the next one. That’s classic musician for you, we’re ready to keep the train rolling.”
The band brings to life a sound that has some roots in punk’s earliest days. Spin Dumb & In Luv and you’ll hear nods to the greats along the way. Moon is especially pleased when we suggest “99 Miles to Pasadena” sounds like the song Joey Ramone would be belting in 2022, were that possible.
“When I’m writing lyrics to things, I rewrite a lot. That’s one place where I’m pretty frickin’ neurotic. I go back and I rewrite, rewrite, rewrite because I want to keep it simple. I’m always trying to strip it down just a little bit more and I have my own personal ‘What would Joey Ramone do?’ saying when I’m in the studio because you gotta keep it simple so it makes the message that much clearer,” she said.
She considers it a responsibility to extend the legacies of bands like the Ramones, Sex Pistols, The Clash, Dead Boys, the Damned - punk’s first wave. She and her band try to build off the foundation those musicians laid. Moon said many fans tell her the music makes them feel the way they felt when they first heard these iconic groups.
“There was a lot of artistry and very simple pop melodies and ideas behind these songs that are classic songs. I think it’s that very primal, classic, simplistic thing that those guys were influenced by, ‘50s-‘60s music, that’s what they were hearing at that time. As punk went along, of course people are going to experiment and try to do more and more, but stripping it back to that original form is what I’m trying to do. Because, why fuck with it? Why fix it if it’s not broken?
“It’s smart rock and roll. It’s actually more complicated than it comes off sometimes, as far as textures and recording techniques and how you write a song,” she continued. “These guys weren’t dumb. They were good musicians who had musical knowledge and a lot of it came from pop beforehand. That is something that I am also influenced by and inspired by.”
These days, she’s mostly inspired by love. She’s followed her heart and it’s led to recent gigs with Dead Boys, The Briefs, Teenage Bottlerocket, The Damned and spots on big music fests like Punk in Drublic and Xtreme Fest.
“I am really proud of it,” she said of the album. “You know, I’ve got a bunch of other songs I wrote from that time, that era. But these ones made sense to me and they did tell a story. And that is the best feeling as an artist, to complete something that you believe in so much. Holy shit, was I afraid to release it? I was like, it’s too soft, there are too many power pop ballads, people are going to be like, ‘What happened to her?’ And then, you’ve just got to put it out there, it’s going to find its people.
“It’s just something totally universal – love in all its various forms – maybe it’s a breath of fresh air for punk rock. I hope? I just want to do a good job, do the best that I can with the tools I’ve been given and the songs that are gifted to me from the ether.
“You know, I’m 33 now. I’ve been playing music for more than half of my life. What a strange thing to be considered a veteran at 33. It’s a blessing and I’m grateful for all of the experiences very early on that I got that helped me become more of a professional. I think in your twenties you’re still figuring out exactly who you are,” she said. “Now, I’m still blossoming and it’s a really exciting time to be me right now. There are still surprises and new things and I’m evolving and becoming exactly the artist I was dreaming of being when I was 12 years old. But there are a lot of awkward years between 12 and 33. I kind of just feel like I’m only getting started just now.”
Suzi Moon with Dead Boys and the Guillotines, Friday October 7 at Warehouse Live, 813 St. Emanuel. Doors at 7 p.m. and music at 8 for this all-ages event in Warehouse Live’s Studio. $25 and up.
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Jesse’s been writing for the Houston Press since 2013. His work has appeared elsewhere, notably on the desk of the English teacher of his high school girlfriend, Tish. The teacher recognized Jesse’s writing and gave Tish a failing grade for the essay. Tish and Jesse celebrated their 33rd anniversary as a couple in October.