By Gabby Redding | January 9, 2023
To call the three shows that Moon Kissed hosted in December at Baby’s All Right a ‘residency’ would be a complete understatement. Over three weeks, Moon Kissed brought their audience into a new world, inspired in part by Dante’s Inferno, with a series of shows that each embodied ‘Heaven,’ ‘Purgatory,’ and ‘Hell,’ each featuring performance art, suggested attire, and live performances that highlighted the theme.
At each show, Moon Kissed sat down and chatted with the groovement, and we got the story of their band revealed to us in layers–beginning with their origin story, their present ties to the NYC art and music community, and their future plans.
Heaven: December 6th
Beginning the residency with a ‘Heaven’ themed show, Sir Chloe opened with an ethereal performance, highlighted by warm lighting on the Baby’s stage and homemade costumes (featuring, among other looks, an intricate homemade Heaven’s Gate and Noah’s Ark, and frontwoman Dana Foote as an angel.) They gave a theatrical peak into what the crowd could expect for the Moon Kissed residency, however nothing could have fully prepared concertgoers for what they would be pulled into.
On the first night, Moon Kissed featured ‘angels,’ performance artists who asked members of the audience a series of questions, including “what is heaven to you?” Those with the best responses were handed keys that symbolically unlocked the next show, ‘Purgatory.’
At the 12/6 show, Leah, Emily, and Khaya of Moon Kissed shared a little about their origin story, how they incorporate the art of their friends into their shows and answered a few questions for the groovement:
You all met at a New Years Eve party a few years ago, tell us more about that night and how you all connected and decided to start making music together?
K: Emily and I were in a band together playing some of the songs we started out with, but we were looking for a new drummer. We went to Maiya’s (one of the angels’) New Years Eve Party. I remember Emily running up to me saying “I found someone!” and we met Leah. We exchanged numbers, booked a rehearsal, and then blacked out. I woke up in Emily’s bed the next day and Emily said, “I think we booked a rehearsal?”
That night inspired the name of the first album, I Met My Band At A New Years Party, when did you decide that would be the title?
L: We were talking about album names and someone said, “What about ‘I met my band at a New Years party?’ ” It was kind of perfect.
K: The album ended up being a combination of all of our music and what we had put out there, it ended up telling our story, and the story of our band also involves a lot of our community and our friends. So that party just felt like an appropriate place to start, it was very honest.
Some of your songs off the newest album, “I’d Like to Tell You Something Important,” feel very pop-heavy, but then we move into an 80s synth undertone and some more rock and roll forward tracks. How do you balance all those influences and out of the three of you, who brings what background?
E: It’s like a journey of different artists. I’m really inspired by LCD Soundsystem, but on New Years, we were brought together over this conversation about artists like Mitski and Saint Vincent, and we really love the Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
We really love that your residency is broken up into these themes of Heaven, Purgatory and Hell. How are the shows going to change to match each of the teams, either through aesthetic or sound?
K: We’ve curated set lists, and it’s a fun way for us to categorize our music. We have a lot of songs at this point, and it’s so nice to be able to save some for specific nights and know that we don’t have to play all of them, we can just fit the mood for each show. We’ve always struggled fitting into a box, so it’s nice to be able to compartmentalize by night.
Can you give us a sneak peak about the performance art element of the show?
L: For the first time, we’re working with a group of actors who are going to interact with the crowd.
K: We have so many talented friends, and there has always been a blurred line between audience and performer. These shows aren’t about us, they’ve always been about the community around us. We have friends send us spoken word for the sets, Emily’s partner is here tattooing, our friends are here acting.
We wanted to ask about the spoken word, because your latest album features some tracks that are poetry. Do any of you write poetry yourselves, and how do you work that into the album?
K: We found some of our friends who are really talented, and they sent those poems in. We didn’t give them a subject matter.
And how do you decide where that fits in?
K: We did it originally for live, there were some shows we wanted quotes for, but then they were so good that we ended up using them in our album.
L: “Tornado Warning” is taken from one of our friends [Alexandra Farina]. I read it and was so inspired by it.
Purgatory: December 15th
A week after Heaven, we returned to Baby’s All Right for the second installment of the Moon Kissed residency, ‘Purgatory.’ When asked about what defined this theme, perhaps the most amorphous of the three, Moon Kissed told us it would be like ‘the scene in Percy Jackson where they all take the lotus drugs and forget about time and space,’ describing the spirit of the night flawlessly.
Raavi opened the night with an energizing set that mixed their own music with a cover of “Christmas Wrapping” by The Waitresses. Moon Kissed predicted that this might be the most intimate and calm show of the residency, bookmarked by more unruly Heaven and Hell sets, however the crowd was already electric by the time they took the stage.
Purgatory felt like the appropriate setting for some of Moon Kissed’s most energetic tracks: Songs like “Bubblegum” and “I’ll Never Know,” stir up memories of teenage love turned frustration, and there’s no better on-Earth equivalence to purgatory than adolescence. Khaya, donning a candy-green wig, danced across the stage and sang to a pulsating crowd.
And you’re prolly doing finе now
Moved out to some small town
Equate mе with the big bad city that broke you down
But I think I could have helped out
But I guess I’ll never know now
I guess I’ll never know now
I guess I’ll never know
Purgatory is probably the theme that is hardest to describe, so how did you prepare fans for tonight? Did you send out a vibe or dress code?
E: We advertised it as being indie sleaze / psychic DJ / if Paris Hilton was giving a psychic reading in the red room of Twin Peaks. But today while I was getting ready, I realized that purgatory is like midwest-emo? So I really channeled just like some midwest angst!
K: Frankly, I’m wearing my Halloween costume. It kind of works for purgatory–cyberpunk Matrix.
So we collected keys on Heaven night, we collected keys tonight, what do they all unlock?
K: The gates to Hell. Hell is all that’s left, and it’s very exclusive.
Hell: December 22nd
With all the energy building towards the final show, Moon Kissed had high expectations to live up to, and they did not disappoint. Khaya and Emily took the stage, illuminated by Hellish red stage lighting, but with Leah noticeably missing. The crowd was directed to turn towards the back of the room of Baby’s All Right to see Leah led by a leash, crawling forward on hands and knees, before taking the stage and being kicked down by one of the ‘angels.’’ Leah then resumed position behind the drumset, and Moon Kissed kicked off their final set of the residency.
Throughout their time at Baby’s, Moon Kissed played songs for the first time, debuting them at Heaven and then hearing the crowd sing along by Hell. They mashed their own lyrical vulnerability with a hardcore stage presence, and blurred the line between audience and performer. Even the stage itself felt undefined, at each show members of the band descended into the crowd, mingling with concertgoers and their ‘angels.’
They sat down with us one last time to reflect on their highlights of the residency, share what fans can look forward to, and list the most wholesome New Year’s Resolutions one could hear at a show themed ‘Hell.’
What has been your favorite moment of the residency?
L: Mine was definitely tonight getting walked on a leash.
E: Mine was the silent crowd surf during the purgatory show. That makes me cackle.
K: Before purgatory, we were taking photos with the actors and all of our friends, and I loved seeing the art they worked really hard to come up with.
So Leah, did you decide to open Hell this way spontaneously, or was it discussed beforehand?
L: It was probably half and half. We knew that Hell would be kink themed, and we wanted one of our ‘angel actors,’ Maiya, to walk me on a leash on stage. But tonight, we choreographed this big stage moment.
Khaya, tonight you mentioned that you’re playing in front of people you attended high school with. For many people, that sounds like a personal Hell. Did that change your headspace for the show?
K: In high school, I would say “one day I’ll show all these fuckers that I’m the best!” so it felt pretty good. I was really shy in high school, so this is pretty cool.
Some of the songs you’ve played throughout the residency have only been shared here, over these three nights, how does it feel to have people singing along already?
E: It’s wild
K: These were our gigs to try out arrangements, so it’s validating, and we know that we should record these songs and put them out there.
What are your goals for the New Year:
L: I want to practice conscience gratitude,
E: To stop reacting, and come to a more calm resolution.
K: I’m going to get better at saying no.
We love that after playing a kink themed Hell show, you give us three of the most wholesome resolutions. Have you started thinking about next year’s residency theme?
E: Maybe instead of a residency we do one night, with a theme, and really have a storyline that we can flow through. We could have more scripted theatrical elements, possibly occurring throughout various rooms simultaneously, but no set theme yet.
Heaven 📸: shot by Sierra Horne
Purgatory 📸: shot by Jori Halpern
Hell 📸: shot by Owen Labate