Moonfruits are quickly finding a place among Ottawa’s standout performers. The married couple, Alex Millaire and Kaitlin Milroy, have thrown themselves into touring our small city, playing venues large and small. This fall they were among the acts featured at CityFolk’s Marvest. Their energy, their attitude, and their smiles are irresistible. And then, of course, there is their music.
If Moonfruits’ music brings one word to mind, it is honesty. Their revitalized take on folk music is earnest and engaged. It is a kind of music that takes its power from the moment of performance. The songs themselves are simple, pure. They are almost a blank canvas upon which the performers can paint emotions.
This is something that Moonfruits do exceptionally well. Live, their sets are focused and present—they own the room they play. They have great chemistry on the stage, revealing so much of themselves and their relationship. When I first listened to their album Début, I was sceptical as to whether the spontaneous, engaged quality of their performances would translate into recorded form.
And while it is a far cry from having Millaire and Milroy play a live set in your living room, it replicates the experience in miniature. The intimacy is there. This is likely due to the way in which the album was recorded. Everything was recorded live off the floor. Nothing was added in post production, giving the recording a very connected feeling. You can sense that everything is happening at the same time.
When I asked Millaire about the way in which it was recorded, he noted that this simplicity was one of the main goals.
“It’s just the two of us,” he said. “It’s really boiled down to the essentials.”
Milroy added that the idea was to get an honest picture of them as a couple and as a band at a specific moment in time.
“It captured honestly where we were at the time,” she said.
This honest, immediate quality is especially present on what I feel is the album’s strongest song, “Amalfi.” This song is a slow build, performed beautifully by Milroy and Millaire, and one that absolutely requires live off the floor recording. It’s not something that could be laid down over many takes. The power of the song comes from the way in which voices play off each other in real time. You can almost see the two performers watching each other for the cues as the song builds to its impressive crescendo.
Interestingly, one of the album’s main themes seems to be maintaining that sense of presence in one’s own life. With songs like “Enjoy Yourself” and “Rotterdam,” the lyrics seem to ask the listener to examine their life, and to truly experience it. A fitting theme for an album that demands attention the way Début does. While all of the tracks feature only one guitar and two vocals, it is in the intricacies of the performances that the beauty of the album is found.
If the album has a flaw it is that it features far too little Moonfruits. On the one hand it is quite short. On the other, four of the songs are covers. They are great covers, and interesting interpretations of old folk and children’s songs, but the stronger parts of the album are their original offerings.
For a debut, Début is at the very least a harbinger of more great Moonfruits music to come. It is a great listen, and one that that makes me pretty excited to hear more from them. The album was released in 2014, and has carried the band pretty far. But I eagerly anticipate their next album, which, if the rumours I’ve heard are true, is soon to be on its way.
You can listen to and buy Moonfruits’ Début below.