Jan 10, 2023
By Caleb Campbell
Photography by Kate Dockeray
Later this month, Ontario-based psych punk singer/songwriter Graham Caldwell, who previously debuted under the moniker Billy Moon, is back with his new project, Tearing Up. Following years of burnout, grief, and a series of personal losses, in the aftermath of 2020, Caldwell found himself ready for a fresh start. After returning last year with a trio of new singles, he is now continuing his reinvention with his first full-length record as Tearing Up, Heavy, arriving January 27th.
When writing his debut, Caldwell set out intentionally to make an emotionally heavy record, pouring years of reflections on loss, meaning, and heartache into the album in the wake of his father’s death from cancer. As he explains, he drew inspiration from “Billy Bragg’s ‘Sexuality,’ Dixie Chicks ‘Wide Open Spaces,’ Andy Shauf’s ‘My Dear Helen,’ Cindy Lauper’s cover of Joni Mitchell’s ‘Carey’… Even writing this list makes me misty. At the real root of it, I think I just wanted to write music that could make someone cry. Just something that would make a person feel something, realize something, or remember something they thought they’d forgotten. I hope I’ve done that with this record.
Ahead of the full album’s release, Caldwell is back today with his first new single of the year, “Moonbeams,” premiering early with Under the Radar.
“Moonbeams” takes Caldwell’s songwriting skyward, carried by overlapping spacey guitars, otherworldly synth work, and an emphatic vocal performance. Caldwell crafts the song like a soaring indie rock space odyssey, yet he also anchors it back to earth with layers of distortion and propulsive drumming, balancing out the spacefaring ambition with raw grounded emotion. The resulting track is at once cathartic and heartfelt, with lyrics that reimagine loss as an alien abduction.
As Caldwell explains, “I was at Hillside festival in like 2012 and I remember watching Richard Reed Perry (Arcade Fire) play a solo set where he introduced a song saying it was about ‘a woman who lives on a farm and is waiting for the aliens who gave birth to her to come and take her away… if you know what I mean.’ So, I suppose I stole that from him. I think I also saw Grimes play that year which is still funny for me to think about. Some random Montreal art-kid in a gigantic Slayer T-shirt would end up carrying the spawn of one of the richest dickheads on the planet.
‘Moonbeams’ are what my Dad called his radiation treatments, which he’d always come home tired from, then act surprised as to why. The thing about a person mentally declining (he also had Parkinson’s) is that others like to say how their personality was changed by their condition. Sometimes, people will say things like: ‘they became a different person.’ While that can be true, sometimes, that person you always knew to be there starts becoming more and more difficult to hide.
Recording the song it took some time to get the harmonies working, although we did end up scrapping a few in order to make the vocals sound a little more raw. I was really happy that we had Josh Korody in the studio on this one, who helped give the song a bit of sci-fi edge with the synths at the end. Aliens, man; they scare the shit out of me.”
Check out the song and accompanying lyric video below. Tearing Up’s debut LP, Heavy, is due out on January 27th.