Music that feeds the soul and empowers female artists: We chat to US band Moonchild in Japan

todayJuly 31, 2023 1

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Moonchild at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards.

Photo: Michael Buckner/Variety via Getty Images

  • US band Moonchild was one of more than 20 artists that took to the stage at the Japanese leg of the Corona Sunsets Festival World Tour.
  • The trio, made up of Amber Navran, Max Bryk and Andris Mattson, sat down with me ahead of their performance at the two-day festival in Okinawa, Japan.
  • We spoke about female empowerment, career growth, and their favourite thing to do in Japan.

Imagine laying in a field of daisies, your hands tucked beneath your head, the glow of the summer sun bouncing off your skin, a gentle breeze causing the grass around you to sway, and the sound of a nearby stream drawing you in. That’s where I’m at when I close my eyes and listen to Moonchild.

Amber Navran’s voice is silky smooth, and at times, it almost feels like she’s whispering to me. Her sound is perfectly enhanced by talented members Max Bryk and Andris Mattson, who play multiple instruments. 

The trio is one of more than 20 artists that performed at the Japanese leg of the Corona Sunset Festival World Tour. 

READ MORE | I travelled to Japan for the Corona Sunsets Festival: Here’s how it compared to the SA leg

“I’m excited to play with everyone again,” says Andris when I ask about their performance at the festival. “It’s been just a little bit of time since we’ve all seen each other, let alone played together.”

Moonchild has been together for more than a decade, forming in 2011 after meeting at university. Like a puzzle, they fit together perfectly, creating magic when their talents collide. I’m interested to know if it’s always been that way or if their connection is one that grew slowly over time. Andris tells me it was a little bit of both. 

“We were all attending the University of Southern California for jazz studies, but when all three of us got there, we just connected over the same music, which is sort of 2000s-era soul music. And, in that sense, it was an instant connection musically.”

The trio toured together before Moonchild was formed – part of a solo project Amber was working on – and it was on that tour that they penned their first song. “That came together really quickly,” says Andris. 

They spent the rest of the summer in constant communication and quickly realised their “styles synced up”. Just like that, Moonchild was formed. 

“Over the years, our musical connection and language has also changed and grown in a different way. A beautiful way,” Andris adds. 

Early on, the band’s star quality caught the attention of big industry players, including Stevie Wonder. Soon, they were part of the Superstition hitmaker’s benefit concert. 

“We put out our first album, and somehow he (Stevie) heard it,” Max explains. “One of his DJs at the radio station he owns in LA played it for him when he was in studio, and he was like, let’s get this band at my House Full of Toys Benefit Concert.”

The annual concert is presented through Stevie Wonder’s non-profit We Are You Foundation. All attendees are asked to bring an unwrapped toy, which is donated to a child in need.

“We stayed after. We made sure we met Stevie and he had some amazing words for us; words of encouragement,” says Max. 

In 2022, Moonchild released their fifth studio album, Starfruit. Reflecting on their time together, Amber says the group has grown a lot since their debut offering. 

“It’s been like a documentation of our growing.” The band’s debut album saw them tackle a lot of musical firsts together, and as they’ve progressed with each offering, Amber says they learnt more about how to do things.

“We’ve picked up new instruments, and we’ve also found new music that we love. I feel like our musical influences have grown bigger and bigger, and that kind of seeped into the music as well and made it better.”


Moonchild’s Amber Navran at the Japanese leg of the Corona Sunsets Festival World Tour.

Another wonderful aspect of the band is their continued efforts to work with and uplift female artists.

“It’s always been something I’ve felt strongly about,” Amber tells me. “And in order to kind of shift the gender gap, or whatever you call it, you have to be intentional about who you’re working with, because there’s so many incredible women. 

“Honestly, we just made a list of some of our favourite artists, and it was not limiting at all, of course. It was just like, oh, these guys are our favourite singers, our favourite rappers, let’s see if they would be down, you know?”

While Moonchild have visited Japan before, this was their first time in Okinawa.

Before wrapping up my chat, I ask them to share some advice for anyone visiting the country for the first time. What should they definitely try or do?

Top of the list for the trio is the local cuisine. “You can’t strike out, everything is so good here,” says Max, and the rest of the group agrees. “Eat everything,” Amber adds with a laugh. 

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Written by: Soft FM Radio Staff

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