Damon Moon knows all too well the irony of living with a loss that inspires one to create something new. This week, Damon Moon & the Whispering Drifters released Lungs, Dirt & Dreams, a ghostly, woodsy, angry, lonely Americana-man record that will invade your blood stream upon first listen if you have a pulse. The Atlanta band's sophomore psychedelic folk album was inspired in part by the loss of Moon's brother, who he never got the chance to connect with. What complicates the darkness of the LP, however, is that it was obviously made just as the dawn was approaching. There’s a lightness to it, as if Moon woke up on dewy grass after a night of stumbling through the darkness, finally able to see the road so clearly. Time will tell for Moon and his ever-revolving cast of Whispering Drifters, but it’s a green light from us.
TRIPLE CD RELEASE: Damon Moon & the Whispering Drifters, Sleepy Genes, Cassandras. $8. Price includes all three records. 8 p.m. Sat., Feb. 25. The Basement at Graveyard Tavern, 1245 Glenwood Ave. 404-662-8686.
You like a lot of books by Jack Kerouac and Robert Pirsig. What about those books interests you?
Damon Moon: I actually have a tattoo [of Pirsig] on my arm from one of his books, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
[Moon shows his bottom left arm, which has the same green plant with a silver wrench sprouting out of it that appears on the book's cover]. Oh wow. Okay, that's really important to you.
Yeah [laughs]. Pirsig changed my life, big time. Those books are a huge part of what I am, and even the music as well.
So that explains the instrumental song on the record.
Yeah, Robert Pirsig's Blues. That was just kind of funny to me, calling it that. It's [a] really spacey [song]. Reading his stuff, you get really spacey and whatnot. So I just wanted to give a little nod to him.
So what is Lungs, Dirt & Dreams about for you?
For a little while, I noticed this theme in my life of people leaving a lot. To me, the whole thing was like, you can go through some really dark things and you can come out better than you were. There's darkness and then there's light. And even though there's darkness, you can choose light. And so it's supposed to be a really positive thing, even though everything on the record is pretty sad sounding.
I could sense both listening to it.
Good. It's kind of this double edged sword. Basically I wrote [the title song "Lungs, Dirt & Dreams"] one night and I demo'd it really quickly, and I sent it to my guitar player, Chris [Cooke]. I thought at the time the song was about being frustrated with the music industry. But then he called me the next day, and was like "You didn't have to tell me that's what the song is about. I know that song is about the death in the family that you just went through." And I thought about it, and I was like, yeah, I wrote a song about something but it was about something else. After that, [I thought] that title has to be something.
What death in the family was he referring to?
It was my brother. He was 42. It was pretty hard because I didn't know him that well, and that was what was so hard about it. I can kind of put that on my parents for the first 18 years of my life, that I was never there [with him]. But at the time, I think I was 24. So that was like six years where it was kind of all on me — and it was on him as well — that we didn't know each other.
What was his name?
So there's a song on the album titled "June 22nd, Arkansas." What's so special about that date?
That's the day he passed away, actually. I didn't have a title for that but I thought it was kind of appropriate.
How did you decide to title the album Lungs, Dirt and Dreams? Those three words go so well together. All three of them talk to each other.
My brother was a mechanic. They come home pretty dirty. My job can kind of be like that, too. Just in the sense that it's a pretty dirty life. You're in these dirty bars, you're sleeping on floors a lot of times. It's just that kind of lifestyle. And dreams, I know that he had dreams as well. He was also a professional drag racer. And then, lungs. He was a smoker, and that's pretty much what took him out. So it kind of felt like those three things brought us together in some weird way. I have lungs, and just the same amount of dirt that you have, and dreams.
One thing that you wrote that really caught my eye was when you said “Living with loss versus living in loss.”
You know, you can go through a loss and live in that loss and you can let that loss surround you and define you. Or you can surround that loss, and you can live with it and alongside it instead of living in this bubble of loss. You can wear it on your sleeve. For a long time I didn't think there was a difference.
What do you get out of making music?
There's a huge release from it. I'm the happiest that I've ever been now, and that's definitely kind of showing up in my songwriting — which is weird because I've never really written—
[Whispers:] Are they happy songs?
[Whispers back:] There's a few happy songs.
Yeah, I know.
God forbid. [laughs]
I know! [laughs] I really don't know how—
How to take it?
Yeah. I don't know how to deal with it. I've never written a song like that. It's probably the hardest thing I've done so far.
What makes you happy?
I'm kind of a homebody. I don't really go out a whole lot. Making music. I think what makes any of us happy: love and friendship. I love to cook.
What do you like to cook?
Oh, everything. I'm really good at cooking breakfast I think. I'd like to someday have a breakfast restaurant. I'd love to have a breakfast taco restaurant, ’cause it's my favorite thing.
Have you had them in Southern California?
It's the only way to go.
Yeah. Oh yeah. It's the thing I love most about Austin, Tex. We're going there for SXSW. But the food out there is what I love the most: Mexican food. I love Mexican food.
What's the best Mexican place to eat at in Atlanta?
That's tough. [Starts whispering] There's just so much better Mexican everywhere else in the country.
I know that's bad for me to say.
If you say a place I promise I'll go to it the next time I want Mexican.
Elmyr in Little Five is great. It's not really traditional. Blue Frog was really good. But they just closed down kind of unexpectedly. But it was good because it was cheap. There were dollar tacos.
Well who doesn't like dollar tacos? What do you believe about yourself Damon?
I believe that I'm a good person. And I think that we're all capable of doing really bad things to one another. I think that's something that everybody's capable of. I think we're all capable of love. I feel like I'm like most people.
No one's like most people.