Moon Kissed Is Bringing Intense (Sometimes Topless) Energy to Sundown at Granada

The members of Moon Kissed are girls, but don't call them a "girl band."
The members of Moon Kissed are girls, but don't call them a "girl band." Bob Grecco
Moon Kissed, an NYC-based synth-pop trio, is coming to Dallas, and if all goes well, things are going to get wild at Sundown at Granada on Wednesday and probably a little weird. That’s the band's thing: creating a safe space to celebrate being your whole weird self.

Although being wild and weird isn’t required, it is encouraged. The important thing is to be yourself. All the feminist, not-a-girl-band asks is that you do so in a way that’s respectful and safe for others.

It might seem strange for a band to make demands on the behavior of its audience, but this kind of give-and-take between the band and the audience is a huge part of what makes Moon Kissed what it is, which is an all-encompassing experience for your mind, body and soul.

While some bands try to distance themselves from the culture they create, Moon Kissed does the opposite. They embrace their influence and see the Moon Kissed experience as bigger than just music.

“We’ve been talking more and more about the responsibility we’re starting to feel, in a good way and in a way we want to take on,” the band’s singer Khaya Cohen says. “We are interpreters for our communities and our friends. We don’t exist in a vacuum.”

If you go to Sundown at Granada on Wednesday, drummer Leah Scarpati says, you can expect “a raucous dance party,” and maybe even “a life-changing euphoric realization about your innermost self, possibly, probably your third eye will open. It tends to just happen. We can’t really help it. Also, you will likely win the lottery the next day.”

“And meet the love of your life!” Cohen adds.

Although they were all laughing by the end of the conversation, the band does promise to give their best “joy-generating” performance, which is a pretty big promise, even if it doesn’t come with winning the lottery or finding true love.

It’s clear they trust themselves and each other to be able to deliver a dynamic, high-energy performance. The band is known, at times, to even perform topless. This confidence comes from knowing that all the band members are heavy hitters in their own right, each with an impressive musical background that shows a deep understanding and long-term devotion to their art. Together, they are a force to be reckoned with.

That’s why Moon Kissed insists they don’t want to be called a “girl band.” Most of their written material online refers to them as a “not-a-girl-band synth-pop trio.” They explain that their aversion to the “girl band” title isn’t an anti-girl thing, or even an anti-girl-band thing; it’s an anti-label thing. They don’t want to be pigeonholed.

“We don’t want to ignore the fact that we’ve all studied music and we’re all good at what we do,” Cohen says. “Every girl band is reluctant of this, and it’s hard because I’m so proud of who we are, but I also want to make sure that we’re not being boxed in, ever, because that goes against everything we stand for.”

“I’ve heard a lot of writers also talk about this,” Scarpati says, jumping in. “If you’re a woman writer and you’re writing about anything, it’s automatically put into ‘Chick Lit.’ If you’re a Black writer, you’re put into 'Civil Rights,' no matter what you’re talking about. So by saying we’re ‘not-a-girl-band,’ we’re saying we want to allow people to be people and not be put into a box.”

At the same time that Moon Kissed's members don’t want to be put in the “girl band” box, they are also intensely proud that their band was built upon — and in many ways for — the female and non-binary experience.

“I remember at our first show, I had this very distinct feeling that there are no men here who are essential to this art that we’ve created and to the community standing the way that it is,” Scarpati recalls. “That, to me, is huge because all of my musical experience before that was dependent upon men. The only people I had to play with and deal with were men.

"It’s not an anti-men thing, but I had never experienced an environment like this that was like, here’s another kind of people who can just be themselves and not depend on someone else. It was very liberating, and that has fed my ideology with this whole thing. That’s what we want to put out to people, is that freedom.”

“Men aren’t the only ones who get to be multidimensional,” Cohen adds. “That’s what we want to say. You don’t have to fit into stereotypes, and you also don’t have to be anti-stereotypes. Women and non-binary people can be do whatever they want. You can be all of it and everything in between.”

Moon Kissed’s music is a perfect illustration of that point, and they take joy in the fact that people have a hard time pinning down what other bands they sound like.

“We used to have a running list of comparisons that people would give to us after shows,” Cohen says. “People love doing that, telling us who we sound like or remind them of, so we had a list and it was all over the map. There was everything from Evanescence to The Lady Killers to ‘If Mariah Carey started the band The Killers.’ People don’t know where to nail us, and I love it!”

Although their live shows are where they thrive,  Moon Kissed's recorded music is extremely earworm-worthy as well. Fair warning, their tunes “Bubblegum” and “Strange Satisfaction” will get stuck in your head for days.

This is their third tour since the band was created in 2019. Cohen and Emily Sgouros, the  band's synth player, already knew each other, and they met Scarpati at a New Year’s Eve party on the first day of 2019. The meeting was the inspiration behind their first album title, I Met My Band at a New Years Party, which they released later that year.

“We played so many fucking shows in 2019,” Cohen says. “We didn’t turn down anything. We did three or four gigs a week. Sometimes we’d do two gigs in a day, so we got really tight through that and really built a lot of momentum.”

But just as Moon Kissed was picking up steam, the pandemic forced them to pause. At the beginning, they used the time to reflect, but they kept working, too. They released music, including some pandemic-inspired beats that were meant to lift the spirits of their followers. Their infectious song, “Clubbing In Your Bedroom,” which they posted on YouTube earlier this year, encourages people to get dressed up, put on makeup and rock out in their bedrooms.

“Emily and I wrote that song on a day when we were feeling particularly down and bad,” Cohen says. “There was one day when I went over to Emily’s and we got trashed and danced in her bedroom. It was so healing because moving your body just heals things in ways that other things can’t. We missed going out clubbing with friends, which was something we used to do a lot, so we wanted to give people a reason to dress up and dance again.”

This year they’ve been playing live shows when they can, both in the New York area and out of the state, but it wasn’t until July that things really picked back up. Now the band is on tour following the release of their sophomore album, I’d Like To Tell You Something Important. Naturally, they’re trilled about it.

“Live music and performing feels like the heart and soul of what Moon Kissed is as a project,” Scarpati says. “The live shows, the energy, the crowd, our friends, the whole thing is the form of what the recorded music is actually saying. There’s a lot of subtext in the recorded music that the live show brings to life.”

If you’re ready to be Moon Kissed and want to catch their Dallas show, they’ll be playing at Sundown at Granada on Wednesday night. All you have to do is show up ready to let loose, and the band will do the rest. And don’t forget to buy a lottery ticket the next day. With all the good vibes flowing, you never know.
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