Cliché: Austen, you’re a former college football player, but you’ve had a passion for music from a very young age. What made you decide to pursue sports first and what motivates you to pursue your love for music now?
Austen Moret: Funny thing is that I actually did pursue music first. I just got away from it, but I’ve found my way back. I started doing musicals as a kid when I lived in Switzerland (10-14 years old) and loved it. I played cello for years. Then I moved back to North America (Canada first, then the US at 16) and football took over. I was a super sensitive kid, was bullied a lot and I think I liked football so much because it made me feel stronger, more “masculine”, “tougher” and helped me gain more respect from people. It matched my body and I found I was good at it, so that became a big focal point. But always, music was there. I remember being in college and the best part of my week wasn’t games. It was Sunday afternoons sitting in my apartment scouring the internet for new music, or writing songs in my room. I was always that dude that busted out a guitar when he was drunk at a party…dunno if that’s a good or bad thing ha.
Typically, athleticism and the arts are viewed as opposing interests. Was it difficult to juggle the two?
It was definitely difficult to juggle both, mostly because of how people feel those interests are at odds with one another, which is bullshit. My first year of high school I went to an arts school for cello, but I was also on the varsity football team…balancing both of those was brutal not only from a time standpoint, but also from a social standpoint. People don’t know what to think of you when you can’t easily be categorized and so there were a lot of times that I felt out of place doing either. It was lonely. So I ended up leaning more heavily into sports (and actually transferring and dropping cello) because, being a bigger guy, it seemed like a more natural fit, in society’s eye. When you’re a big kid who looks like a football player, but is super sensitive and artistic…people look at you like you’re confused, when in reality, you just happen to have varied interests. There’s nothing wrong with that.
You’re a big, burly guy! To look at you, people might not assume you have a tender side. Would you say that people underestimate your musical talents because of your appearance?
Absolutely. Don’t think I’ve met anyone who wasn’t surprised when I open my mouth to sing. They don’t expect the voice I have. Even I didn’t even expect the voice I have. I never planned on being a singer, just a guitarist and songwriter, but there was a fateful drunken night in my first band where my cousin and I were singing some song together after a night out, and he turns to me and says “damn dude…you’ve got a good howler.” From that point on, I wanted to sing. I think the desire was always there, but no one had ever given me a compliment to open the lock it was hiding behind. It brought back memories of when I was in musicals as a kid and how much I loved it. Weird how one comment can change your whole course.
What inspired you to want to start a band?
I think I needed to create a band because it was my way of exploring the different sides of myself. I wanted to be able to tell stories and create different palettes of emotion, as a catharsis for my own inner conflict. I moved so much as a kid that connecting with people at times could be hard. Music and the arts were my ways of maintaining some semblance of human connection, even if it was just me creating alone in my room.
You had quite an unusual method of recruiting or finding your bandmates! Why use craigslist?
Honestly I didn’t know what else to do! I moved to California knowing just my cousin. After he asked me to leave the band and we went our separate ways 2 months into the move, I didn’t know anyone else, and I refused to let that stop me from creating a band to perform with. So Craigslist seemed like the best solution, and it totally worked. Dan, Jace and Bryan are all some of my closest friends now.
Talk about your new EP, Weapons Grade Amnesia.
I think this is by far the best record we’ve done. I was trying to find both the right lyrical voice, and the right sonic elements to support it. Because of how many styles and genres I like, it hasn’t been easy to decide what Midnight Divide is. I kinda hate even having to decide that to begin with, but with this EP, it feels like it’s the first time we were able to create a group of songs that felt different but still captured it so it felt like the same voice. It’s our brand of cinematic rock at it’s finest (so far).
One of the tracks, “Who Do You Think That You Are?” has deep personal meaning to you. You’ve said your past poor decisions informed the song. Did this song allow you to gain closure regarding those decisions?
I think I’ve probably had the closure on the particular decisions that lent themselves to this song for a while now, but this song was, in a lot of ways, a summary of that time period. You always think of the best comebacks way after the fact…so this sort of served that purpose too, like a delayed “fuck you”…but with a grain of salt, because I know as mad as I was for things that’ve happened, I had a piece to play in it as well.
What would you say is the overall theme or message of the EP?
Taking responsibility and ownership of who you are, good or bad, and hoping for a better future.
How do you want your listeners to feel after listening to the EP?
That’s tough. I think music has so many different meanings to different people. A song an artist wrote may mean something to them, that means something totally different to someone else. That’s kind of the beauty of it. So I guess, as long as they feel something, I’m happy.
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Midnight Divide Celebrates Cinematic Rock with Their New EP, Weapons Grade Amnesia. Photo Credit: Firehouse Creative.