Psych rock and black jeans with Sanae Yamada of Moon Duo

Sanae Yamada and Ripley Johnson’s band Moon Duo has been described as psych-rock, drone-rock, chemically-treated krautrock, but no matter how you categorize it, their rhythmic blend of guitar and synth is sure to make your Most Played list. It’s the kind of music you want to listen to while locked in your bedroom with the incense burning. We caught up with Sanae to find out their story and why you can never go wrong with black jeans.

HOW DID YOU GUYS END UP MAKING MUSIC TOGETHER? We’re a couple, and we’d been together for a few years when Ripley suggested that we form a band. He was already playing in Wooden Shjips, and I was teaching English and trying to write fiction at the time. I hadn’t played anything in quite a while, but I missed it, and us playing together seemed like an interesting idea. Once we started making music and recorded a few songs, we realized we liked what we were doing and got serious about trying to pursue it further.

WHERE DID THE NAME MOON DUO COME FROM? Well, we wanted a band name that had to do with space or the cosmos. We picked the moon because it’s an object of such enduring fascination. It’s a celestial body that is close enough to be seen but not known, that exerts an influence on the Earth but is necessarily apart from it. It’s also associated with night and the alternate mental state that darkness brings, and that was really appealing. The duo part was a sort of mission statement at first – our initial concept was to see what kind of noise we could generate with just two people. Keeping it to just the two of us also made for greater flexibility in terms of touring. We could fit all our gear in our own car and hit the road whenever we wanted. Of course, now we have a drummer, so we get a lot of “Moon Trio” jokes.

TELL US ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL STYLE. DO YOU HAVE A UNIFORM ON STAGE AND OFF? I would describe my style as pretty minimal. I tend to wear a lot of black and white – the stark simplicity of it feels kind of elemental, which really appeals to me. I also usually have on some article that involves denim or leather or both. The onstage uniform is usually black leather pants or black jeans, oversize white t-shirt, silver necklaces, and some kind of black boots. We project visuals on ourselves during our shows, so the white shirt is like wearing a screen. Offstage it depends on the season. Generally, black jeans are my life uniform, and I have an ever-growing collection of odd souvenir t-shirts (band and otherwise) that I mix with leather jackets, flannel and denim shirts, button downs, etc. We’re based in Portland, Oregon, and the weather has just turned cold, so right now I’m basically living in a humongous black sweater I just bought in Berlin.

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