Indie-pop musician processes the end of a decade-long relationship on new album 'A Change in Diet'
Throughout A Change in Diet, the new album from electro-pop artist Elliot Moss, the songs paint a picture of someone prostrate in the dark, wrestling with insomnia. “I count down sheep to sleep,” Moss repeats on “Off by One.” “I lay awake with my eyes closed,” he sings on “Barricade.”
The theme permeates the record for good reason. Those late-night periods of wakefulness have become part of Moss’ songwriting process. “I have a 15-minute rule where, if I'm laying there, staring at the wall, or just trying to get to sleep and can't, I've got to least try to write some lyrics or something,” Moss said recently by phone. “It usually tires me out.”
Moss also had a lot weighing on him while writing and recording A Change in Diet (Grand Jury). The multi-instrumentalist and producer had just emerged from a 10-year relationship, and the detritus from the breakup made its way into the songs — an experience that forced Moss into the vulnerable position of being uncompromisingly honest about all the raw emotions swirling inside of him.
“It was a lot of doing something and then analyzing it and realizing I did something I shouldn't do, and then overriding it, particularly in trying to place a veil over something that should be said more obviously,” said Moss, who performs at the Basement on Tuesday, Feb. 11. “Sometimes you have to realize that you want to hide it to know how loud you want to say it.”Insomnia never affects Joel. He rests easy knowing the journalism industry is increasingly stable, all thanks to our daily newsletter
On multiple songs, Moss sings various iterations of the line, “I twist my body into shapes,” a concept that became the record’s connective tissue. “It’s when you mold yourself and change yourself for someone else, and lose sight of what it means to have your own aspirations and definition of happiness,” he said. “Each song touches on that theme in a different way.”
While synths and electronic beats dominate most of A Change in Diet, the songs usually began on guitar, the instrument Moss has played the longest. (“The guitar was like the typewriter to get it out,” he said.) From there, Moss tinkered in his home studio, isolated from outside opinions in order to stay true to his initial vision for the music. Leadoff track “July 4” came first, and the song’s frenzied, shape-shifting mood set the tone for the rest of the record.
“It felt like electricity was pulsating through the track, and the rhythm is not as identifiable as other stuff that I've done. That was the method of writing that I kept coming back to, where I wanted things to feel almost like there's an error in it, and you have to use your brain to identify where the feel of something is,” he said. “And then there are those moments where you can relax, and it’s a more simple composition. … It’s like when a lighting designer flashes you with red light and then blue light, and your eyes have to adjust. It's the same kind of sensation.”
“I built up barricades to block my heart,” Moss sings on “Barricade,” though now, in retrospect, Moss said that writing, recording and performing “Barricade,” along with other songs from A Change in Diet, have helped to tear down the emotional walls he’d unknowingly been building — a concept he addresses on closing track “A Change in Diner,” which ends with the words, “Close your eyes, close your eyes/Close the doors, close the doors.”
“It was definitely a method of obtaining closure. ‘Close the doors’ is just saying, 'After everything that's happened, I'm finally leaving that room. … I'm no longer going to look at this as the state of how I'm feeling and the direction that my life is going. I'm going to close my eyes about it and leave the place that all this happened,'” Moss said. “It was sort of a goodbye to everything, which feels really good.”