Ten Things to Know About Denai Moore’s Modern Dread
Denai Moore is back, this time serving us her new album, Modern Dread, a contemplative collection of electronic sounds and poetry exploring the nature of our collective present and future.
Interview by Natalie Alleyne
Since featuring in our 2018 print issue, Journeys, Denai Moore has travelled both literally and metaphorically. With a move to the seaside, which she likens to a sweet reminder of her island roots in Jamaica, she’s also voyaged through new sounds and inspirations to bring us her brand new album. During these revolutionary times of Black Live Matter and the Covid-19 pandemic, Modern Dread is an album that in name alone reflects many of our feelings about our present time. Features Editor, Natalie Alleyne, caught up with Denai and asked ten questions in search of a deeper insight into the subtleties of this brilliant body of work.
Natalie Alleyne: What does “Modern Dread” mean?
Denai Moore: Modern Dread contextualises what it’s like to be alive in a time of excess information and shock culture, trying to find a balance between being active and vocal about everything happening and your own mental health. I knew what I felt when I wrote To The Brink was quite universally felt, so that’s why I named the album Modern Dread.
NA: What primary emotions went into the creation of Modern Dread?
DM: A lot of personal anxieties, dealing with my relationship with myself. I also fell in love [while] making this album, so that played a part in the themes. I wanted the album to feel like a whirlwind sonically, to have this whiplash where you didn’t know what to expect next.
“During this cycle seeing black women see themselves in my music means a lot to me, because I understand what visibility can mean in a world where ‘blackness’ is represented in such a narrow way.”
NA: Share a memory with us. While making the album describe a powerful moment that sticks out in your mind.
DM: A moment I remember is when we made Honour, it was a magical moment because we still weren’t quite sure what it was going to be. We stayed up really late and Alex played the chords through a self-playing piano. Suddenly it had some legs and I knew it was meant to be around that instrument.
NA: What are the muses for Modern Dread, what have been your inspirations?
DM: The big inspiration for this album was literature, especially when I wrote songs like Wishin’ You Better. I listened to a lot of electronic music, like Steve Hauschildt and Aphex Twin whilst making this record too, which I think comes through in the production. Elliott Smith is a massive influence lyrically, I think he is such an unsung hero in songwriting.
NA: 2020 has been… transformative. Which song on the album do you dedicate to this year, and why?
DM: Maybe Turn Off The Radio. It’s a song that I feel fits this year the best, as it’s so relentlessly heartbreaking and destructive. The song is about not being able to escape the noise. I feel like 2020 is about that.
NA: And 2021?
DM: I’m ready to make something new, I’ve been writing, trying to find my feet in new sonical worlds. Hopefully I’ll be able to tour this album, I love performing and putting together a show. I love the element of danger, that everything could go wrong, slightly hanging on a tightrope of emotions, the challenge of it all.
NA: Cascades, what’s the concept behind the music video?
DM: The concept was to make something that felt really surreal, that reflects the times we’re in now. I’ve really enjoyed making this music video, as it was a real collaboration with Sam (Samuel Douek) who directed it. He cast my face and we worked a lot on small details on the video.
NA: And the Motherless Child video?
DM: Motherless Child was a video I was originally going to direct and wrote a whole treatment for it. We had to change the plans with everything and I knew I wanted to do something animated. I’d been following George Jasper, [who made and animated the 3D music video], for a while and always had him in the back of my mind for a future collab.
NA: Fake Sorry is on loop in my mind. Which tracks/hooks from the album have this affect on you?
DM: For me right now I find Grapefruit quite hypnotic. It’s very ethereal and the sound stay with me.
NA: Who have you made this album for?
DM: I make music for myself first than anyone else. This album was a battle because sonically this is very different from anything I’ve ever done. There’s always an element of doubt when making something, you have external voices that try to sneak in. I have to make what feels moving to me first, that way I know I’ve done the right thing.
During this cycle seeing black women see themselves in my music means a lot to me, because I understand what visibility can mean in a world where ‘blackness’ is represented in such a narrow way. I fought for this album for that reason too. I felt so left out when I was younger and seeing Lauryn Hill and Corinne Bailey Rae play guitar and sing these folk-esque music validated me.
Pictures’ credits: Nadira Amrani