Los Angeles has been reconnecting with its hippie past a lot in recent months with the revival of a mystically tinged folk sound that’s as much a part of the city’s sonic identity as glam metal and g-funk. Frally Hynes and Rain Phoenix (who is, yes, Joaquin’s sister) have added their voices to the movement with their new project Venus and the Moon, playing something they call “galactic country” that blends delicate Laurel Canyon melodies and gentle psychedelia infused with crystalline cosmic energy.
Before setting out on a string of European dates with Cat Power, the pair gave EW some insight into what they’re about (and a playlist too).
EW: Fill me in on how you guys first started playing music together.
FRALLY HYNES: We met at a friend’s birthday party and there were a few people getting up and singing songs, and I saw Rain do a Lou Reed cover and I thought she was the coolest performer in the room. And then we made a date to kind of write together, and it was pretty magical.
RAIN PHOENIX: I agree with everything she said.
What made you decide to turn this into a serious project?
HYNES: We booked a show at Sundance at the beginning of the year after writing just a couple songs together, and that propelled us to write a couple more. And name what we were doing.
Tell me about the name. It fits in with what I guess you could call your witchy vibe.
HYNES: Actually I took a photograph of Venus and the moon when they were really visible in the night sky and I Instagrammed it, and then a few minutes later I saw that Rain, she was in Arizona somewhere and she had taken pretty much the same picture and had Instagrammed it. Within minutes of each other. And I suddenly though, oh, Venus and the Moon. It just felt right and sounded right. We identify with those planets, so I think it just made sense.
What in particular do you identify with?
HYNES: Well, Venus is the planet of love and beauty. The moon… they’re both very feminine planets, and very powerful celestial bodies, and I think we liked that idea. That we can embody that energy in our creative work. In fact as soon as we named the band it felt like the songs started to come out differently.
What’s your songwriting process like?
PHOENIX: Like Frally said, once we named it we’d get together for writing sessions and we’d kind of channel songs together. It was like we opened up to the planets. We just try to create the most beautiful thing we can together. We really like to enjoy playing music. That’s really why we have this band, to create more joy in the world. Our songs are a bit somber and melancholy but I don’t’ think that necessarily negates our ultimate aspiration.
I get the feeling that the music is just one aspect of kind of a larger project.
HYNES: I think we don’t really want it to be necessarily about us. I feel like we’re conduits. Something happens when we’re together that doesn’t happen when we’re alone. The power of that is hopefully something healing. We’d both love to make stuff that actually heals or inspires or makes people cry or opens hearts a little bit.
PHOENIX: We’re really interested in the community that artistic activity can create. As artists we have a microphone, and we feel like we have a responsibility with that microphone to bring people together.
HYNES: And sing together!
PHOENIX: We’re all about harmonies. As many as possible.
HYNES: I was saying to Rain that we’ve lost in our culture where people come together and sing together. There’s something so beautiful and healing in that. I guess people used to go to church for that. When voices join together it’s very spiritual.
Venus and the Moon play New York City’s Rockwood Music Hall on Nov. 21.