By Melanie Ritchot
Ottawa folk-pop duo Moonfruits are a husband-and-wife pair. With their next show set for Jan. 17, and an online fundraising drive for the second album going on, the pair sat down with The Charlatan to talk about the origin of their name, their music, being bilingual, and being both a working and romantic partnership.
The Charlatan (TC): How did you get the name Moonfruits? Is there a story behind it?
Kaitlin Milroy (KC): When I was a little kid I used to call mushrooms “moonfruits” because I thought that they were little fruits that grew by the light of the moon, and I told Alex about it.
Alex Millaire (AM): One day we were making pasta sauce and we both kind of said “You know what would be good in the pasta sauce?” and then we said at the same time, “Moonfruits”.
KC: We decided to try it out. We realized that it was memorable and it encapsulated the way that we don’t take ourselves too seriously, we’re okay with being a little bit goofy.
TC: How would you describe your music and your live shows to new listeners?
KC: The best compliment we’ve gotten is that we transport people somewhere—that they felt something. I think that if we’re trying to do anything it’s really to create an atmosphere.
AM: It’s harmonies and message first. We really try to thoughtfully craft the songs into commentaries on everyday life. A comment that we get is that it’s very intimate. Intimacy has all kinds of different forms and I think it’s really neat to—as a couple writing mostly not love songs—to go and perform for people, because there is obviously a connection between us and there’s a spark there. To be able to share that with people is really neat.
KC: We’re in a world where we’re constantly bombarded with hyper-compressed music and hyper-sexualized images, that it’s nice to feel intimacy that isn’t from those things. You get some breathing room.
TC: You sing in both French and English. Are there any challenges in trying to appeal to both the Francophone and Anglophone communities?
KC: I think the honest answer is that we naturally like singing in both languages. We’re always learning how to perform in the context where you’re delivering music to someone hoping to transport them musically, and it’s a bonus if they can understand the text.
AM: If the performers on stage are feeling it, generally the audience can feel it. To us, the overall emotional effect of the performance is greater than the languages that we put out.
TC: What’s it like to work with your spouse and combine your work and personal lives like that?
AM: I’ve never been happier either musically or romantically. Because I love my work and I love Kait, it’s all just really invigorating. I wake up in the morning feeling deeply inspired by the music that we’re writing, it’s been really wonderful.
KC: I think you learn early on that you have to wear different hats and be able to take off your work hats sometimes—which is hard to do but it forces good and open communication which are good in any workplace, so in some ways it’s no different and in other ways it’s completely different. So far it’s working.
TC: Do you always write together when working on original music?
AM: It’s a joint effort every time. I’m more of a raw materials kind of person and Kait really is the one who puts it all together in a way that’s clear.
KC: Musically, Alex hears a lot more than I do because of his composing background. I grew up in choir so my focus was always on voice. We work on the poetry together but Alex does bring a lot of the raw material.
TC: You’re now working on your second album, correct?
AM: Yeah! It will be an entirely French release. We decided to craft an imaginary village that resembles a lot of the ones in Ontario, Quebec, and all over. The village isn’t doing so hot, there’s some big businesses coming in and opening up one store, and the small businesses start closing. Every song on the album will take the voice of a few characters in the village, so you start to get an idea of what’s going on by hearing a bunch of people’s perspectives.
TC: How did you come up with the idea to create this imaginary village and use characters in your songs?
AM: It was on our honeymoon!
KC: We went to Portugal and on a road trip there we met a lot of people and saw a lot of economically suffering small towns where a lot of jobs have been lost to big corporations buying out small businesses. We come to the album with all that baggage and the intention of inviting our audience to talk politics kitchen table-style, where it’s all everyday language.
AM: We feel these subjects aren’t being broached musically, there’s music that can make you feel something, but not necessarily like you can affect your own life and make change.
TC: Did you do any busking while you were in Europe?
AM: Yeah, we did. There’s also a romance story there. I got to Europe about five weeks before Kait, and I think that both of us knew that we wanted to get married, we sort of had a talk, but then I thought, “You know, I’m here for a couple weeks before she is, I wonder if I could busk and raise enough money for an engagement ring.” So I put a sign on the inside of my guitar case, I had a little white board, and I wrote about my plan in French, English, German, Italian, and Polish. The people of Europe were super generous.
KC: He’s a really romantic dude . . . it’s incredibly touching to have someone go out on a limb like that for you. He caught me by surprise to say the least.
TC: Do you have any advice for students who want to get into the music industry?
KC: Yeah, play shows. Play shows and then play more shows.
AM: I would say stay naïve. Don’t get jaded, it’s easy to feel badly about the industry but if your aim is “I want to make some really good music, and I’d love for people to hear it”, that’s all that’s necessary. A few good key ingredients and the love to nourish them will go really far, rather than trying to follow what’s “trending.”
This Q+A has been edited for clarity and length.