When the members of indie-folk band Half Moon Run formed in Montreal in 2009, the group chose a somewhat unconventional approach to their career. Although they were never certain they would be successful in eking out a career in the increasingly crowded music marketplace, multi-instrumentalists Devon Portielje, Conner Molander and Dylan Phillips threw caution to the wind and subsequently abandoned all backup plans as they weren’t prepared to sacrifice their uncommon chemistry.
That unique musical bond shone in spades on the group’s 2012 debut effort Dark Eyes. In addition to securing near universal acclaim, the album placed rather respectably on music charts in Canada, the United States, Belgium and France.
It was approximately one month into the touring cycle of Dark Eyes that Half Moon Run’s newest member, Isaac Symonds, got an email gauging his interest at joining the group. Symonds had performed on Dark Eyes, but had actually met the other members of the band through various mutual friends while still high school students.
“The guys were looking to fill out their live sound a little more, and so they reached out to me,” Symonds recalls, speaking in advance of Half Moon Run’s show at Moncton’s Capitol Theatre on Friday night.
“The email was very succinct in the respect that they said nothing was guaranteed, which was their way of ensuring I knew that I wasn’t walking into a plush situation or anything like that.”
With just two weeks to tie up loose ends in Cumberland, B.C., a community of less than 4,000 people situated on Vancouver Island, Symonds left a job and girlfriend behind to take Half Moon Run up on their offer, packing up his life to make Montreal his new home.
Symonds was no stranger to the stage when he joined his friends in Half Moon Run, but admits that playing before more than 8,000 people at a festival in Quebec in what was only his second or third show with the group made the experience all the more surreal.
Over the following two to three years, Symonds and his bandmates would become well acquainted with the concert stage, performing upwards of 300 shows before the band would recuse themselves from the touring grind.
“Everything with this band has been a steady progression. There hasn’t been that big turning point or anything like that where our fortunes just suddenly improved. It’s been a lot of hard work, but it has also been so gratifying on so many levels.”
One would think that after having spent so much time in close quarters on the road, Half Moon Run would choose to take a breath before diving headfirst into the writing process for what would become the group’s sophomore record, Sun Leads Me On.
It didn’t take long for the quartet to begin getting itchy to get the process rolling, however, deciding to mount a road trip to California together in order to find inspiration for their second record.
“We went to California, both as a means to regroup, but also to try our hand in writing new material. We were lucky enough to be surrounded by the beach, but also lucked into a great Airbnb rental that was located on a large property, which allowed us to play music loudly at almost anytime of day,” Symonds says.
Released in October 2015, Half Moon Run’s Sun Leads Me On, reflects the dynamic nature of the few years leading up to the making of the album. While songs like “Everybody Wants,” “Warmest Regards” and “Narrow Margins” have a specific earthiness at their respective hearts, tracks like “ I Can’t Figure Out What’s Going On” and “Consider Yourself” are reflective of a bolder approach to song craft that fits the equally well.
“I don’t think we really felt anything in the way of pressure when it came to making Sun Leads Me On,” Symonds says, “because at the end of the day, we wouldn’t release something we aren’t proud of. We’re proud of this record and how far we’ve come as a band.”
What: Half Moon Run
When: Friday March 10, 8 p.m.
Where: Capitol Theatre, 811 Main St., Moncton
Tickets are $39.50. Advance tickets are available at the Capitol Theatre Box Office, by phone (506) 856-4379 and online at capitol.nb.ca