From Moscow with Noir
Interview: Moscow Noir Lesther Gutierrez
With Song River
Song River: Hello Lesther, thank you for spending a few minutes talking to me today. Canadian newcomers eh? So, what is it like being the new kid on the block? Or are you really that new?
Lesther Gutierrez: Thanks, not a problem, more than happy to chat. It’s still all really new, I haven’t quite felt any major adjustments yet but it is definitely an exciting feeling. I have played around with writing and composing much longer but to the driven extent of Moscow Noir, it has really only been three and a half years or so.
SR: Listening to your self-titled EP, the elements made me as the listener comfortable, easy, able to just emerge myself into what was transpiring. Is this the crux of Moscow Noir’s sound-scape?
LG: I think for most artists, that’s something we all strive for depending on who our audience is and which ears we are trying to pull in. I would say it’s an important part of the crux. If you feel comfortable and can emerge yourself into the sound, that is definitely a checkmark in my books.
SR: Opening your self-titled work, the intro “Odisea” sets the stage. Why did you feel it necessary to open with an intro?
LG: There are so many sounds and influences that I am trying to bring together. I felt it was necessary and the most effective way to introduce the listeners to the world of Moscow Noir. Set the tone for the journey and introduce the variance of sounds. Make it feel immersive and expansive almost like your entering this sort of portal, and embarking on this odyssey.
SR: Moving to the next number, “Fault Lines” imagery illuminates in your works. As a storyteller where do you draw from Lesther?
LG: From my personal experiences. They are my most vivid imagery and feelings, which makes it easy for me to visualize and describe them. Visualizing is a large part of my process. After having worked for a television network as a designer/animator for years, I try to interpret moods, feelings and even words through a visual composition as if I’m about to animate or design something intangible. The story then begins to take form and unravel from that point onwards.
SR: Immediately when “Fault Lines” began the chord of the Bourne Films began.
LG: That’s amazing. The Bourne saga is epic. More than happy you felt an association to it with Faultlines. I would say its second almost anthemic track next to stars on the EP. I wanted to show our sound can be as big sounding as it can be quiet.
SR: The album sound is a soul-scape that sets a tone of noir. Something I believe David Bowie would have taken a keen interest in. Do you feel that possibly Lesther you have created a new electronic sound?
LG: That’s a tough question. I think creating a new sound is one of the hardest things to do and do well. Bringing a different perspective to electronic and rock is definitely something I am trying to accomplish. I do hope the blend of various sounds with a noir undertone bring something fresh to the table. If Bowie would have been keen on it then I would say I’m on the right track and could die a happy man (laughed).
SR: The up-tempo of “Stars” grabs some of the early dance/beats of The Bravery. At times you can pick up the power of Muse and yet the ropes of The Smiths and Joy Division. What have been some of your influences?
LG: You just named a few of them. There are so many bands who I admire and who have played a role in influencing the Moscow sound, so it is really hard to narrow down a handful. If I had to name a few, I would say – M83, Joy Division, The Cure, The Smiths, David Bowie, Radiohead, Pink Floyd, Moderat, Muse… and so many more.
SR: Melding the European electronic sound with your own unique creativity Lesther can be felt throughout the whole EP. Danceable tracks “Night Rider” and a Smith’esque feel to the tone of your voice is present in the song “Control.” How much have the European electronic developments influenced your own structure.
LG: I would say greatly. Before festivals popped up everywhere, I used to travel to Berlin, Ibiza, Amsterdam and many other European subcontinents, chasing new sounds that I rarely heard in Toronto. Trying to find a balance between electronic and rock is pretty tricky, especially when each genre has their own structure. Trying not to compromise what makes each genre special and not have one overpower the other were among my most challenging tasks as an artist.
SR: “Changes” certainly developed its proclamation into the sanctum of the 90’s, New Radicals came to mind. Your own yearning can be felt vocally. And once again another strong visual track.
LG: I thought it was a nice way to break up the flow, by bringing in something a little smoother and vulnerable to the style of vocals. The yearning brings warmth and humanity into the visual world I am trying to sonically paint. I think in terms of the Moscow Noir experience as a whole, it fits into the plot quite nicely.
SR: Where did the name Moscow Noir originate?
LG: I was trying to find a name that could describe the mood and sound of the music I was writing. It took over two months of different names until I came across this article about interior design taking place in Russia. This particular interior design was specifically designed for the night. The shapes created by the lighting and shadows brought out the beauty in its artistry. That’s what Moscow Noir is about; the hidden beauty in the quieter, shadowed places. The article was titled “Moscow Noir”. And that was that.
SR: What was the connection you felt you had to make Lesther from a broadcast designer to a writer, composer, producer, singer and lead guitarist?
LG: The visual thread. Being able to tell a story through abstraction, whether it happens to be visually or sonically. Similar to broadcast design, in order to have the final moving visual story, there are the processes you have to go through. Writing, composing, and producing were all necessary tools for me to tell the story exactly how I wanted to. Otherwise the story would come across disjointed. It was an organic connection and one that I felt was eerily familiar. If I can visualize the narrative, I can give it sound.
SR: Do you feel your background was in some way a catalyst that lead you to the branding of Moscow Noir?
LG: Definitely. I had a pretty clear idea of what the brand was going to look like from the start. If you saw the artwork, even without hearing a song, you would have an idea of what you might hear. To me, they go hand-in-hand. In my background, the visual message is just as important, if not more important than the audio message. I think that is one thing I would like listeners to take with them. Moscow Noir is a sort of entity that encapsulates music, art, design, ideas and concepts; interweaving them all to create a unique listening experience.
SR: In a nutshell… brand Moscow Noir in words.
LG: Noir, rock, dance and electronica with expansive moods and quiet contemplation.
SR: “Constellations” is the final loop that ties an Avant garde work of dance/noir/magic into a beautifully composed electronica breath of melancholy, wanton, lust of imagination. It is the final song in the collection that makes you want to light up a cig in the dark as dawn makes itself known through the closed shudders of your mind. The listener knowns they’ve just breathed in.
LG: That is an incredible visual. I could not have described it any better myself. It is the final ride to the odyssey. light away I would say.
SR: Why did you feel it necessary to create Moscow Noir and then bring in your band lineup?
LG: I have plenty of inspiration from genres that I draw ideas from. These are genres that not every musician is into or knowledgeable about. At least that I could find. I find most are more into one side of music than the other. When I started creating, I grew a better grasp of the instrumentation I was trying to get across in terms of which sounds and vibes complimented each other, as well as what to stay away from. So at the start there was a lot of experimentation. The Frankenstein I had built became easier to comprehend once it was fleshed out. And once the band came on board it was easier for them to understand my vision of Moscow. From there were able to go into detail and expand on my initial ideas with their help and create that unique visceral experience that any musician longs for – especially when live.
SR: Working with your brother Sylvain Gutierrez (bass/backing vocals) and Steve Rice (drums) made up the central unit that is now Moscow Noir, correct? How was it working with your brother, Sylvain, and your long time friend Steve?
LG: That is correct. It’s really an amazing opportunity. Knowing my brother is right beside me as the bassist, and my longtime friend is the drummer; it’s a blessing that I am thankful for. There is a relieving feeling of comfort, family and brotherhood. We always feed off of each other and workflow is always smooth. It’s awesome, really.
SR: Touring you decided to round out the edges with Richard Gillespie (keyboards), and Mike Formusa (guitars)… what was it they both brought to make what you felt was complete?
LG: They each brought something unique that gives our sound a little more edge. Richard’s amazing on the keys and having picked up the electronics portion pretty quickly, he has been able to expand on those ideas for live performances. He always has new challenges and ideas that I find have really made our live sound more sophisticated. Mike is badass on the guitar and he brings this sort of gritty, raw sound that Moscow was searching for. It is a nice contrast to the perfect electronic sounds when you hear raw guitar riffs cutting through. Similar to Richard, he brings fresh ideas that continuously lift the listening experience,
SR: In the EP’s suit a really solid complexity formed. Do you see what you’ve composed as being rather obvious?
LG: I hope it’s not so obvious. Familiar is fine, but I strive for unique. My goal is to create depth through complexity in hopes of providing listeners with a memorable journey.
SR: Reflective narratives are spun on each track with words and sounds. Is Moscow Noir in truth Lesther your souls voice?
LG: Yes. It is my channel out – taking shape in music, art, design, ideas, and narratives that I hope in time will be the voice of the few or the many to come.
Odisea Album Tracks:
1) Odisea (Intro)
2) Fault Lines
4) Night Rider
More Information Moscow Noir:
Moscow Noir- Single “Stars”
By: Song River