Header image and studio photos by Talia
Other image by Mark Khan
Interview by Alli Lindsey
In a different life, Moise would be a farmer tucked away in the Rwandan countryside working alongside a paternal lineage of tillers and cultivators. But instead of raising fertile fields amid the misunderstood beauty of Rwanda, Moise sows stories and songs rather than seeds. The son of Rwandan immigrants who came to The U.S. in pursuit of a better life, Moise is the pinnacle of the Black American Dream and its revolutionary ethos. By combining elements of contemporary R&B with the spirit of indie-rock and an anti-pop edge, Moise’s music is a balancing act between the past and future. His narrative is painted gold with a soulful nostalgia marked equally by a vision for a more musically innovative future.
Following his 70s-funk-inspired cut “Burn You Out,” Moise returns to spin yarn about substance abuse and the figures in our lives who provide salvation to those battling addiction. Sonically, “Cellphone Receiver” is packed with a grainy, lo-fi punch, teeming with uncoiled western-inspired guitars and a catchy vocal ebb and flow. Yet behind a veil of rustic rhythms and melodic passages, “Cellphone Receiver” is a short fiction that confronts a troubling, deep-rooted issue with drug culture in America. At the heels of its release, Moise talks storytelling, sad truths, what ifs, and common misconceptions about Rwandan culture.
Alli: Amy Winehouse is a huge influence of yours. If you could have had her feature on “Cellphone Receiver” where would she fit in and what do you think she would say?
Moise: After getting the chord arrangement and adding some drums, the next task was writing the lyrics for me. The chorus came rather quickly but it was the story within the verses that I wanted to really take my time with. For whatever reason, as I listened back to the demo of the song I found myself putting on some Amy Winehouse, specifically her album Frank. Everything from the tone of her voice to the wittiness of the storytelling in her verses were things that served as inspiration to figure it out. It would have been a dream to do a little call and response thing in the chorus with her, she would have absolutely added another layer of pure soul to take it over the top.
A: “Cellphone Receiver” is more of a story than a song. If you could have the story adapted to the big screen, who would play the characters?
M: From a character perspective, this is going to sound kind of sad but I do see this being from the eyes of two people in a broken household relationship. Things haven’t been going well between them for a while. They fight more than they hug, they cry more than they smile. Deep in their hearts they want to be together and reflect on the times when this relationship was working, but at this moment it seems like nothing can salvage what has been broken. Both the characters are equally stubborn and speak with emotion often. If I had to give a direct point of reference maybe a movie like Red Rocket which was recently nominated for an Oscar would be a good motif as far as dialogue and filming technique.
A: “Cellphone Receiver” deals with themes of addiction and illuminates those who stand by addicts during their darkest moments. Why is this an important story to tell? Is there a villain or a hero in this story?
M: This is an important story to tell as many Americans either know someone or are personally struggling with addiction to substances. I think this is a sad truth of American culture, from the crack epidemic to the current opioid crisis, it’s a real issue that many don’t know how to have an open discussion about. Through this song I was able to give my point of view and put myself in the shoes of someone being directly affected by it. In this story there is no true villain, and there is no hero. I think that is up for interpretation. Maybe if I had a fourth verse we would get a good answer to that.
image by Talia
“The future of music is so fast paced. I think we are at another point of innovation as far as how we release and consume music.”
A: It seems like you have a penchant for vintage music and art. And you translate it flawlessly. But what excites you about the future of music?
M: The future of music is so fast paced. I think we are at another point of innovation as far as how we release and consume music. Spotify and Soundcloud were pivotal turning points to lift the voices of many new artists and give them new ways to reach an audience – we will continue to see new platforms emerge that will allow for more artists to break through. The next step though, is fixing the wrongs of how we support artists financially, as many that I know are scrapping tirelessly to keep up while working day jobs or taking care of families. There needs to be a better way for artists to reach their full worth. That’s why I am very bullish on NFTs as this is now introducing a way for artists to reach their maximum earning potential at a faster rate, versus the traditional routes of earning pennies for each stream. In addition, we are seeing “content” being considered more important than the actual music, this I am not a huge fan of, but I think there will be artists that continue to make both great music and content – those will be the ones that will breakthrough to superstar level over the next decade.
A: Is the future of music just the culmination of past genres and styles?
M: If you think about it, every chord progression, drum beat, and vocal melody has been done before. That’s just based on the fact that there are only so many notes on a musical scale and there have been literally millions of artists that have recorded music since the inception of mankind. In the future, artists will continue to leverage the influences of the past to tell stories that are current and to experiment more sonically. For example, hyper-pop is really a bunch of producers saying “how can we make this simple progression go crazy.” The plug-ins and software many producers and artists are using today are way more advanced and that will bleed into the music and we will hear more stuff that makes you say “how did they do that?” rather than “wow this sounds great.”
“Maybe after I’m done with music I will move out there and build a house and farm on the rolling hills of the countryside.”
A: As the son of two Rwandan immigrants, how do you think your life would have been different if they didn’t travel to America?
M: I probably wouldn’t be making music. That’s the short answer. I probably would have become a farmer – my dad’s side of the family are all farmers. Rwanda is a beautiful country and I would have loved this experience. Maybe after I’m done with music I will move out there and build a house and farm on the rolling hills of the countryside.
A: If you could have given your parents advice before they immigrated to America, what would you tell them? How do you think that advice would have changed your life today?
M: To be honest they did a great job with me and my brother. The only advice I would have given them is telling them that Minnesota is a very cold state, you are not prepared for such extreme weather, consider moving out west or down south where the climate is closer to what they have experienced in Rwanda.
A: How does your Rwandan heritage and culture fit into your music?
M: The people of Rwanda are great storytellers, I would like to think my writing over the years has only gotten better as I am able to carry a melody while also telling a story that carries over the life of a song. Rwandan’s also love to dance, if you come to a live show you will see me hit more than just a two step, I might give you a spin or a little sauce.
“There needs to be a better way for artists to reach their full worth.”
A: What is something about Rwandan culture that you want other people to know?
M: To a lot of people from the western world you think of hardship and violence when you mention Rwanda. I don’t think that is true at this present moment. The culture is the essence of beauty, from the people to the architecture and the food. I would highly suggest that if anyone wants to visit the continent of Africa your first stop should be to experience Rwanada for all it has to offer.
A: How do you think “Cellphone Receiver” compares to contemporary Rwandan music?
M: It’s so different. Besides the guitar my song is rather slow whereas a lot of Rwandan music today is upbeat from beginning to end.