RGM Introducing – We Interview LA artist The Lunar District
Hiya folks! Thanks for joining us in the virtual RGM lounge today, grab a brew and take a seat.
Thanks for having me!
Introduce us all to the members and your musical history?
Well, the band is just me. My name is Todd Boepple and I record under two different monikers: Odd Opal, which is my main ‘bread and butter’ vehicle, and The Lunar District, which is basically my side project. I write, perform, and produce everything myself.
What made you decide to become an artist?
I’ve been playing and writing music since I was a kid, so I never really ‘decided’ as much as I just ‘did.’ I specifically decided to start recording under a separate pseudonym to allow myself the freedom to explore a different side of my musical personality.
As Odd Opal, I mostly write in the vein of late 60s/early 70s singer-songwriter/folk-rock, but I grew up loving (and still love) a wide variety of music. Because of that I’ve never felt particularly married to any specific genre. There is a period of music in the late 70s/early 80s where synthesizers were getting smaller and more accessible, bringing on the advent of synth-pop, post punk, and new wave. I really appreciate that era because those artists were just fearless, diving head first into this new instrument and seeing what they could do with it. Those old analog sounds have always intrigued me and there are times when I write something that lends itself to that aesthetic. Rather than trying to force those songs back into the guitar-based world, I wanted to be true to what I was hearing in my head, so The Lunar District was borne from that.
What’s one question you’re sick of being asked when interviewed?
I wouldn’t say I’m sick of it, but one question I struggle with is when I’m asked what kind of music I make. It isn’t that I’m trying to be difficult or obtuse, I really don’t get the nuances between genres at times, and when you add all the sub-genres it makes it even more confusing. I have such eclectic tastes, and draw from so many different types and eras of music, I lose track of what it’s supposed to be called. I guess ‘indie-pop’ is the catch-all here, but I don’t know if that is an accurate description of what I do.
What’s your view of the UK music scene?
Admittedly, my points of contact with the UK scene are a bit dated. Growing up on a steady diet of British Invasion-era music, I’ll always be partial to those bands from the 60s and 70s. But back to the synth-pop movement – that all originated in the UK! Okay, well maybe with a little help from Kraftwerk…but still!! There has been so much innovation in music, all starting in little pockets around your country, and it all had such an incredibly important impact on me as an artist. Even now, a lot of my favorite UK artists have ties to that era in one way or another.
What’s the scene like in LA at the minute?
I’m really excited about the future of music from LA. There are tons of insanely talented artists either from or based from around here. People like Steady Holiday, The Marias, Weyes Blood, Phoebe Bridgers, Madison Cunningham, Hand Habits, Ethan Gruska…I really could go on and on. The point is there has always been a strong music scene in LA and I’m excited for all the newer artists coming up right now.
What support is out there for new artists in LA?
I would imagine LA is similar to other big cities around the world, providing live venues for artists to play, but being so close to the entertainment industry probably doesn’t hurt. Obviously, the pandemic has hurt a lot of these smaller venues, but that isn’t specific to Los Angeles or its surrounding areas. My hope is that we can get to a point where we find our equilibrium and start living more normally again soon.
What would you like to see more of in LA?
This might be specific to me, but I would love to see more independently owned businesses supporting artists and music lovers. Everything has gotten homogenized to the point of feeling overly corporate and commercial, squeezing out smaller artists in the process.
Tell us something about each member that you think people would be surprised about?
Probably contrary to most peoples’ perception of me, I’m pretty introverted by nature.
Do you sign up to any conspiracy theories?
No. Not only do I not subscribe to them, I find them incredibly damaging and irresponsible. The way misinformation is spread across the world so easily through social media – often rubber stamped by more mainstream outlets – is extremely concerning to me.
If you had to describe your band to an alien how would you describe them?
Huh. Good question! I guess I would replace the word ‘band’ with the word ‘music.’ In that case, I would say my music is curious about the things humans have always been curious about when they look up at the night sky: what’s out there?? I find a lot of the songs that fall under The Lunar District category are often tinged with this idea of space exploration, or references to science. I have no idea why! Ultimately, the 3 qualities I strive for most (and what typically draws me into other peoples’ music) are strong melodic, harmonic, and lyrical showings. I’m not saying I hit those things on a regular basis, but I do try.
What makes you stand out as a band?
I think I have a unique perspective. I love so many bands, and I think I wear my influences on my sleeve pretty plainly, yet I don’t hear too many artists that sound quite like me. I also think growing up in Los Angeles around so many different types of people and cultures has given me a broad base to draw from. I’ve had people tell me they thought my music sounded ‘very LA.’ I used to think it was a bit of a stigma, but now I view it as a strength.
Right now, what’s pissing you of the most in the industry?
When you have the founder of Spotify – a non-musician – making an obscene amount of money off the backs of artists he pays fractions of a penny to, I can’t help but wonder if we’ve progressed at all in the music industry. It’s great that independent artists like myself have a platform to present their music on without signing everything away to a major label, but it doesn’t seem right that that disparity still exists. I guess the important thing is I still keep all my royalties and own my masters, so I shouldn’t complain too much.
What’s your favourite song to play live and why?
I guess it depends on my mood. If I want something to feed my inner child, I’ll go with something by the Beatles or Johnny Cash, or something like that. “Here Comes the Sun” and “Blackbird” are both great songs I enjoy playing. If I’m going for something more modern, I lean heavily on Jeff Tweedy’s songs. I’m a big fan of all-things Wilco, and so it isn’t uncommon for me to play something from JT’s catalogue – “Please Tell My Brother” is a favorite in my household.
We recently reviewed your last single. How did you feel the review went?
I couldn’t have been more excited about it! Although I’ve been playing music my whole life, I haven’t put anything out on my own until now, so this is all a bit surreal, but rewarding. RGM’s review was generous and fair, and I really appreciated the kind words.
Your new single is out, what can you tell us about it?
“Doomsday Dance” is loosely based on the 2nd book in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series where guests enjoy a meal as they watch the Universe explode on a nightly basis. The song is a commentary on our current society and the dangers I feel social media pose to the future of humanity. Our willingness to remain distracted and give ourselves away for the spectacle of ‘watching the universe explode’ is presented in the form of an upbeat disco tune to further illustrate that point. In the video, I wanted to juxtapose the idea of people dancing with the cold imagery of computer coding and microchips, alluding to the consent we’ve given to big tech to monopolize our time and data in exchange for constant entertainment.
Talk me through the thought process of the single?
It started out with the phrase ‘let’s make our final moments last at Mr Max’s Doomsday Dance.’ I knew I wanted to reference that scene in the book as a way of steering the song away from sounding too cynical or angry. By blending my voice with a vocoder to emphasize the technology angle, I was trying to convey a sense of danger but didn’t want it to sound immediately menacing. At first listen I wanted it to sound fun and lighthearted, but after repeating the phrase throughout the song, I hoped the words and vocoder effect would become more apparent and drive the point home.
Initially I had a lot more instrumentation, but slowly started to pare away at it when I realized having supportive harmony vocals would lend itself to the idea of it sounding more like a roomful of partiers. I like the way the bass line soars through the choruses, and by pairing it with the drums and vocals, I feel it gets the space it needs to really shine.
Would you change anything now that it’s finished?
I don’t think there’s ever been a song I’ve ever thought was truly done. I think most creative people struggle with this, and I find putting limitations and deadlines on myself can be really helpful. Mostly it’s helpful to know when I need to be done, otherwise I’d work on it for years, inevitably making it worse. There’s that over-saturation point that tends to work against me.
What are your plans for the year ahead?
As an unknown artist, my main goal is to get myself out there and hopefully grow an audience. I plan to continue releasing singles under both Odd Opal and The Lunar District monikers at a steady clip, and would like to release an EP after that. If there’s enough interest, maybe I’ll release an LP.
Is there anything else you would like to share with the world?
When people tell me my music has made its way into their daily soundtrack, I’m incredibly honored. I’m such a fan of other peoples’ music, and it really means a lot that anyone else would add my songs to their experiences. I hope I’m adding something positive to the world through art that’s made for art’s sake.
Thanks for doing us today folks, all the best and keep in touch.