NORTH SMITHFIELD – Stefan Couture’s upcoming release, A Brief and Binding Light, is a new record that’s been over 20 years in the making. We spoke with Couture and his long time musical partner, the Moondog – AKA Matt Nolan – about music, longevity, and what it takes to keep the faith in a techno worshipping world.
First – how did you get the name Moondog?
Nolan: It’s way to separate my personal life from the music life. I named myself after our rescue dog. I’m creating a comic book around this Moondog character now that goes in tandem with everything else we’re doing to create a buzz. As you get to know Stefan, there’s this whole universe that surrounds the music – merchandise, art and design for the album – he creates it all himself.
Tell us about these songs. There’s a real transformation from start to finish.
Couture: Some of these songs stretch back over 26 years – that’s how long Matt and I have been playing together. We went back to where we started, and recovered a handful of them that have never seen the light of day; they just never got a chance.
Nolan– We’ve been fans of albums like Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon, the Counting Crows August and Everything After…collections that work together as a complete unit. One thing we wanted to do before we even got into the studio was to make sure there was a cohesive flow.
We recorded all six of those tracks in the studio in one day, then took the next six months to color and fine tune them, to convey a feeling, an emotion, and a progression through the whole album.
How do the two of you work this collaboration together?
Couture: Matt’s the one who brings the magic – the guitar is all him. I write the songs, and then we collaborate on the music but he gives the songs the extra sparkle.
Whenever despair creeps into the lyrics, the guitar keeps lifting it up.
Nolan: This is our personal healing too. There’s a lot of emotional fortitude that comes from playing together as long as we have. We don’t focus on small details, we do what works in the moment, as a unit.
One of the real tests of a musician is longevity in hard times – no-pay gigs, the empty clubs…How did you get through that?
Nolan: Stefan is the driving force, he has such an overwhelming passion for the words and the songs – he believes in what he’s doing and there’s an absolute truth in the delivery. He goes and goes hard, whether there’s two people or two hundred.
Couture: When we were younger, we were reaching for fame, glory, but at this point in our lives, we put our friendship first and the music does its thing from there. There’s a certain magic that comes from playing with your best friend.
So, this is the album that you’re putting out with the wisdom of age?
Nolan: The benefit of a round trip ticket, right? Like it’s no longer a one way trip, now we get to go somewhere and come back and tell everyone about the journey; starting all over again.
What happens on the release date?
Couture: It’s dropping on all platforms on June 10, and we’re going to be doing our release party at Chan’s on the same day.
Who is your audience at this point?
MD: It is a really broad range, I’d say our listeners like anything from jazz to blues to folk. There’s also people who fit into the jam band scene. They’re anywhere from late 20’s to late 60’s. No matter what you listen to, you can find a little piece of yourself in it.There’s not a lot of flash and snake oil going on. It’s just the two of us, trying to play a bigger room than you bought a ticket for. It’s always going to be honest and it’s always going to be fun.
So you guys don’t use autotune?
Couture: No! Although maybe some of my vocals could use it.
Where did you record this?
Couture: We recorded at Red Dog Studios in Blackstone, Mass., with Chuck Ladeucer. He’s been a long time friend and collaborator. He worked on my previous two albums as well. My first was a solo, 22 years ago, so we have a long relationship. It seemed natural to bring him to the table.
What do you want people to know about this album?
MD: We want people to see themselves in it. There’s a lot of music out there that’s mostly facade. What we do is honest and personal and when people hear it, it’s catchy, but they can see themselves in it too. That’s the goal. Relatable songs that people can see themselves in.
It’s all about our human experiences with each other. Stefan says at the end of every show: “Be kind to each other and treat each other with a little more respect.” That’s what the album’s all about – the brief and binding light of those moments you share with the people you interact with in life that help you carry forward, maybe be a better person.
Couture: Yeah, making that connection. I feel like that’s something that’s been lost in music for a while, I remember listening to August and Everything After, when I was 17 years old and it really touched me. As years go by, my goal as a writer, as a performer, is to make records that do that – touch upon simple human emotions that we all feel. I want to connect with an audience and have them connect with the music. Creating that connection makes the world a little bit smaller.
Nolan: It’s like letting someone know that they’re not alone, we’re all floating on this rock together.
Are you planning on adding any band members?
Nolan: We’ve been around that horn before and it seems like when we bring people in, it muddies the transmission. We’re going to try to keep it pure, just the two of us for as long as people are willing to listen to it, and because it’s just the two of us, it’s manageable to put on a respectable show in any environment we get offered to play at.
Can you actually make money on this?
Couture: We’ve been securing some pretty good guarantees and people give tips…we both still have full-time jobs but we don’t do badly. Honestly, it’s a great side hustle. Of course, I’d love to be doing it full time at this point. I’m 46 and I wish I’d had this ambition and drive back when I was in my 20’s, but better late than never.
You have a whole store full of merchandise on your website, don’t you?
Couture: Yeah – t-shirts, stickers, key chains, hats…I try to use art as a vehicle to spread the word of the songs and the music. We’ll have CDs for sale that night and going to get a QR code made so people can download the album right there from the event.
If people want to follow you, this is all available online?
Couture: Just go to stefancouture.com. In the next week or so, we’ll be putting up links for the album along with a whole new face look to the website. I’ll be sharing it all over. And on June 10, you’ll be able to find the album on Spotify, Apple Music – pretty much anywhere you download music.
We wish you guys the best.
A Brief and Biding Light was produced by Chuck Ladoucer, Stefan Couture and Matt Nolan.