It’s not often we get to put together two artists from outside the US, but today’s artists are both Canadian, and both just unveiled incredible releases. Saskatoon natives, Autopilot (RIYL: War on Drugs, Broken Social Scene) just released two new singles “Hurricane” and “Crooked Lines” and are currently on a major US tour through late November. Meanwhile, Toronto singer-songwriter Frank Moyo (RIYL: John Mayer, Coldplay), just dropped his debut EP Waves. The two got together for a chat about the art of songwriting, the perils of food poisoning right before a gig, and more.
Frank Moyo: What was the first song you ever wrote, and what was it about?
Autopilot: The first song I wrote I think I was 12. I had an amp with a lot of reverb and an old analog 4 track recorder. I’m not sure what the topic was, but I know I still have the tape in a box somewhere. This was just the start of a lot of songs I’ve written in the past.
Frank Moyo: What was the latest song you wrote, and what was that about? Has your songwriting drastically changed since your first song?
Autopilot: The latest songs we have been working on have been a lot different than most of the early songs. From tones to the vocals and lyrics, I think writing is a process that you change and progress at.
Autopilot: What’s your writing process like? What influences you besides music, and how do you think that affects the outcome of your songs?
Frank Moyo: My writing process usually starts with a lick on the guitar or piano and then lyrics will follow. My lyrics are sometimes already written and I will try to incorporate them into the notes I am playing, but sometimes the music actually commands the lyrics that I write, therefor forcing me to write lyrics that make sense with the music being played. I find a lot of influence for my writing in books and movies that I watch. I read frequently and love to draw influences from my books. I love Italian cinema as well, and as of recently, I have used many films by Fellini, Antonini, De Sica, and other neorealist directors as influences on my writing.
Frank Moyo: What are the major reasons why you began to pursue music? What influenced you most to pursue it as a career?
Autopilot: A big influence was when I read a book called On A Cold Road. I was playing music already, but after reading this book, I knew that music full time was what I was going to do. Written by Dave Bidini of the Rheostatics, the book is full of stories about bands on the road and crazy tours. It’s definitely a great read and made me think of music as something I could do out in the world and not just in my basement.
Autopilot: What’s your biggest musical influence that’s not immediately obvious when listening to your music?
Frank Moyo: I would say Daft Punk and Phoenix. I love their music, but a majority of my music is down tempo with an acoustic jazz twist. Daft Punk have always been a great influence, just because of their song structure and how well it can play with my emotions. Phoenix has always been a band that I aspired to be like, but my music seems to be going in a direction a bit outside of the Phoenix alternative synth pop/rock genre.
Frank Moyo: Before a show, or before a practice, do you have any rituals or things you do to zone in and concentrate on your music?
Autopilot: When on tour, the best part of any down time we get before a show is checking out the city, as we’ve had the opportunity to play in a lot of interesting places. When it comes down to right before a show, we pretty much just dive right in. It’s pretty natural when we start to play,; we just forget about everything and get lost in the songs.
Autopilot: What’s the craziest experience you have had on the road or before a show?
Frank Moyo: The craziest experience I had before a show was when my band was performing at the Opera House. We were backstage and another band we were playing with had brought cheesecake for everyone to enjoy. Apparently, the cheesecake was expired and we ended up having to play the show with a mild case of food poisoning, which was not very fun.
Frank Moyo: Explain what would be considered a dream show for yourself. Where would it be? And what band would you dream to open for?
Autopilot: We would like to play with a lot of bands, but I think a dream tour would be with a band like War on Drugs, Modest Mouse, or Grouplove. Doing a few months on the road with one of our favorite bands would be awesome.
Autopilot: What is your favorite venue/show you have played?
Frank Moyo: Toronto is full of great venues, some big and some tiny. The biggest venue played was most likely the Opera House and Lula Lounge. Some of the more intimate shows at smaller venues were some of the most memorable. Places like the El Mocambo and The Painted Lady were the more emotional and fun to play.
Frank Moyo: Lastly, what does music as a whole mean to you? Are there any specific reasons why you chose to pursue it? Does music represent a different side of you?
Autopilot: To me, music is an outlet to express everything from what I think to how I feel. I live and breathe music, so I guess you could say that’s what it means to me. Without music, I’m not sure what I would do all day – I think I’d be lost. I don’t think that it represents a different side of me, it’s just who I am.
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Bands Interviewing Bands: Autopilot and Frank Moyo. Photo credit: Autopilot (top) by Nicole Romanoff and Frank Moyo (bottom) by Takahiro Sakamoto