Released back in late September, Island Moons’ fourth and latest single “Jupiter on a Key Ring” blends elements of psychedelic, folk, indie pop, and rock from a different planet interpreted through the view of being on Earth. The project of Brandon Harwood, Island Moons takes on the influences of Lennon, Dylan, Marley, Radiohead, Bowie, and Cat Stevens as the foundation for Harwood’s own individuality and identity as a songwriter.
The latest single is acoustically-driven with beautiful textures from Harwood’s vocals and additional instrumentation. “Jupiter on a Key Ring” is light on its feet while delivering introspective lyrics straight from the cosmos. As Harwood puts it, “The main premise of the song, as the title suggests, considers the hypothetical situation that the speaker is able to have the entire solar system within their grasp and view. Like a distant cousin to Bowie’s ‘Space Oddity,’ it drives at how one would view the world from afar. It hums with playfulness amidst flashes of optimism, especially as gentle arpeggios tickle the ears and the bridge culminates with an innate perspective of connection.”
“Jupiter on a Key Ring” is available for streaming now. Stick around for Jammerzine’s exclusive interview with Brandon Harwood of Island Moons!
What’s the inspiration behind the project name “Island Moons? You mentioned it came to you after reading a William Blake manuscript, but why does it resonate with you?
The inspiration behind my artist’s name “Island Moons” was my producer who gave me a strict deadline to find one. I arrived at our first recording session unsure if I wanted to release my songs under my birth name or follow my instinct to use an incognito persona similar to the relationship between Batman and Bruce Wayne. That night, I retired to the guest room in his house and thumbed through a collection of poems by William Blake which happened to be on the shelf. When I stumbled upon the title, it hit me instantly. For years I had been toying with other names, but I experienced a mystical moment and found the words that gave birth to “Island Moons.” I wrote it down, and the pencil moved with such grace. I spoke them aloud, and the words felt pleasant and crisp coming off my tongue.
“Island Moons” speaks to me on a profoundly deep level because I connect with the imagery and its sensation of sound – from my own life’s experiences and with those that live in my soul. How evocative is it to stare at the silver plate of a beaming moon? It’s like seeing the “Bat signal” for us humans, and getting a sense you’re in line with where you must be. (Let alone contemplating many! They are all around our universe). Not to mention, who can describe the effect of seeing the turquoise ripples of an island’s sea? It gives color to the world in a way that only a canvas can imitate. Or to see the cobalt-infused waters in the Greek isles. The natural beauty of our planet is all around us. The romantics felt this and it fueled their art and writing. Get in touch with nature, and let it imbibe your journey. I identify with their approach and passion.
Space seems to be a constant metaphor in your music. What’s the significance to you?
I suppose the significance is summed up in the phrase “all one under the sun.” I believe in that. It’s too easy to take our places for granted and forget the universality of our conditions. Additionally, I am moved by the sense of wonder we may feel when gazing at the night sky and its infinite stars. In other words, in pondering the expanse of the planet and our place in the universe, we develop a child-like awe and a shortage of answers. As Picasso said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.” Thus, in thinking about space and the planet as a whole, I am thrust back into the innocence of childhood and appreciate the creativity it generates.
“Jupiter on a Key Ring” exemplifies part of your feelings towards societal issues. Compared to other “protest songs” or the artists who composed them throughout time, what angle do you think you add to the equation?
I must say I don’t have an answer at this time. I suppose that will be for someone else to determine. I am stumped there, and probably need a little more runway for my art to grow. However if I’m to take a stab at it, I’ll draw a contrast in a few examples. Dylan admired the beatniks and of course his legend will be forever unmatched. Lennon lived in the gravitational center and spawned the flower-power movement. Marley was a prophet in his time. Springsteen (“Born in the USA” – an often misinterpreted protest song) is a poet of the blue-collar ilk that only he can do so well as true to himself. Tom Petty sang in such a frank parlance that is effortless and beautiful in its message (I’m thinking of “Shadow People” and “Power Drunk” as protest songs). Cobain (“Rape Me” – another protest song) lived on the edge of darkness yet burned so fucking bright.
For me, I lean into the spirit of the Romantics and apply a light touch of nature similar to the thousands of brush strokes it takes to paint with an impressionist’s hand. Maybe I should take a page out of these inspiring and towering figures above and be more direct. Yet that may distort the page. We’ll see.
What’s in store for the rest of 2023 and going into 2024?
For the rest of 2023 I have my first headlining show coming up in NYC, and plan to release a music video. Also I will roll out my website that I have been working on since the summer. For 2024, I will play more shows in NYC and release a handful of acoustic songs in the early winter. A lot of people like to listen to cozy acoustic tracks and sip coffee and tea, or serve themselves soup. Gotta’ love sweater weather. Come springtime 2024, I am ecstatic to release my first debut LP. It is entitled “Dreambell.” It will be a mix of fully arranged songs and strictly acoustic ones. They all live in the same artistic chapter of my life and deserve to be played on one vinyl.