For Sandra Davalos, who goes by the stage name Moth Face, writing a good song comes naturally. First, she lays down the drum track, throws in the melody and comes up with the words to go along with the music on the spot. Overall, the average time it takes for her to write and record is about 20 minutes. The result is a slew of catchy tunes that are overall gritty yet soothing to the ears.
And while anyone could lay down a drum track and make it sound good, the talent really lies in her voice, an echoey warble with angelic quality. When asked about her inspiration, she shyly replies that it comes from within. "I just really want to connect to nature and my light inside," says Davalos.
Her songs bring to mind the experimental sound of Boards of Canada, the lounge of Bonobo and dark wave beats of Denton's Vulgar Fashion in a blender. Mixed up, her songs take on an ethereal dark pop sound that is truly heartwarming. The lyrics have that subtle humor and passion reflective of her youthful spirit. The music capitulates an alluring sonic aesthetic that is reminiscent of a minimalist lo-fi four-track demo unearthed from the early 90's. And yet, she's a relatively fresh face in the local music community.
"Frustrated Loser" is a perfect example of her style. Short and sweet, its calming vocals and grainy backtrack make for a cool formula. In it, she chants "The future is now/There is no yesterday" amidst a dulling tone and pounding drums as she goes, "And we're the losers with the biggest price to pay."
Sometimes, like on "I Would Wait for You," her chiming beats and chilling vocal delivery can absolutely tug at the heartstrings of a lonely soul. At other times, like on "Daisy," she's all about being and letting be, and being conscious of the smallest expressions and never taking things for granted. It's a simple yet graceful outlook that informs much of Moth Face's music.
Davalos said it all started when she could afford her first drum set two years ago. Now 21, she's playing shows and impressing crowds like the one at the New Years Even Party at Crown & Harp. For her, the hobby of creating songs and performing is something she thinks about from sun up.
"Some days I'll just feel like making music. I'll just wake up and I'll just go to my drums and I'll just mess around," she explains.
For a singer-songwriter without any previous experience playing instruments, she makes it seem easy. Over the past few months, Moth Face has churned out almost two dozen tracks for her upcoming debut release. It mostly stems from her motivational ethos, which drives her to create throughout her day. She said she spends much of her time writing, drawing and making music, surrounding herself with her own expressions, spending her hours working on her crafts.
The name Moth Face comes from her childhood experience growing up and her fascination with the Lepidopteras (the order of moths in the animal kingdom). "Ever since I was a little kid my mom called me butterfly. I guess that's not a moth," she says jokingly. "But I really like little winged creatures. There's something elegant and mystical about them."
Davalos has songs in both English and Spanish, something that she said she's doing to prove to herself that she can write songs in both languages -- a sort of creative dualism that comes with being a bilingual artist. She even recycles the music from songs she's written in English to give a new feel to the beat. For her, it's also a way to show that she can make more than one song using the same material.
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And, just like many local artists, Davalo's one of many talents with plenty of avenues at her disposal. She's a designer who handcrafts fliers for her shows and is constantly making art. As an aspiring businesswoman, she partly runs a record label with her sister called Cemetery Sisters that doubles as a publishing house for poetry. Davalos also works closely with Evan Henry of Dallas Distortion Music, a driving force for the local music community.
With all her successes, Moth Face goes to show that even in 2015, you don't need to be a professional to make great music. Davalos said her plans for the new year are to release her debut LP on her own Cemetary Sisters label in February and then possibly go on a mini-tour. Her next show is at Crown & Harp this Friday, January 8 with Def Rain, Lily Taylor and jakkkechan.
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