Digging Deeper; An interview with Sam Cantor of Minor Moon

Minor Moon is the songwriting project of Sam Cantor, a musician based in Chicago, Illinois and his latest effort is a five-song EP titled What Our Enemies Know. Inspired in large part by the experience of uprooting from New England to the Midwest, Cantor’s newest handful of songs explore the tension between being haunted by ghosts and embattled by enemies, both real and imagined, while simultaneously affirming the lightness, playfulness and love required to overcome these universal challenges.
Across the EP, the tracks reverberate within and reflect upon one another, and Cantor’s songwriting demonstrates both increased discipline and experimentation compared to previous releases. Meanwhile, the performances captured during these recording sessions are as raw and improvisational as they are measured and intentional. In addition to Cantor on guitar and vocals, What Our Enemies Know showcases Minor Moon’s most cohesive and consistent lineup to date featuring Chicago-based musicians Nathan Bojko on drums, Michael Downing on bass and vocals, and Colin Drozdoff on keyboards.
Inspired by the rooted innovativeness of contemporary artists like Wilco, Grizzly Bear, Radiohead, Bon Iver, and Gillian Welch, as well as the sound and craft of older folk and folk rock musicians like Nick Drake, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, and Van Morrison, Minor Moon’s soulful, complex, “americana-esque” sound strikes a unique balance between a vintage and modern sound palate, mysterious and revelatory lyrics, and a contemplative and emphatic spirit.
Minor Moon’s What Our Enemies Know is the premiere release of Ruination Records, an artist-run label based in Chicago and Brooklyn, and co-founded by Cantor and his two oldest musical collaborators and friends, Dan Knishkowy and Andrew Stocker.
Ghettoblaster caught up with Cantor to discuss What Our Enemies Know, released earlier this year.
When did you first begin writing the material for What Our Enemies Know?
The writing process for WOEK happened almost entirely in the first three months of moving to Chicago. I’d begun a couple of the melodic ideas and guitar parts earlier in the winter, but this was — for me at least, I like to gestate on songs for a while —  a very condensed process that happened over a series of late nights and culminated in a set of some brutal self-imposed deadlines. Once I’d started to rehearse with Colin, Michael and Nathan and we were rolling and playing shows around Chicago, I was super eager to get us into the studio and start the process of making something new. And listening back to the record months after we first put it to tape, it has a really live and at times improvised feel to it, which is exciting, and reflective of that process. In fact, I’m kind of trying to replicate that as we record our next full length LP.
This is your second release, following 2014’s A Whisper A Shout. How do you feel this differs from AWAS?
WOEK differs from AWAS first and foremost because there’s a different band, a different set ears handling and performing the songs. And I definitely tend to write with the full band and our particular character and tendencies in mind, sometimes consciously, sometimes not. I also think lyrically I am trying to hone in on the themes and dig a little deeper.
How do you feel the Chicago music scene differs from the northeast?
Chicago is a bigger place than the Boston area, so in terms of venues and sheer numbers, there’s just more opportunity. Qualitatively, the vibe in Chicago really open. Tons of different genres thrive here. Boston, by virtue of its size, I experienced as being a little more tight knit and focussed on a few key areas of music. My experience here in Chicago has been an unexpected openness on the part of other musicians and venues to try new things. Perhaps there’s a midwestern character thing going on there as well.

The EP has a vibe that follows through and every song. It reminded me a lot of another Chicago band, The Sea & Cake. Were they an influence of your music?
I wasn’t familiar with Sea and Cake — but I just checked them out. I am really enjoying it. Thank you for the recommendation! And I’m flattered by the comparison.
You were on the road a lot last year. What’s the plan for the rest of the year? More touring or more recording?
Both! We’ve got an east coast run planned for the second half of August and September.
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