The path leading to Rick Moon’s apartment is lush and green. It’s 1 p.m., the sun is high, the temperature is full-on summer, and the flat horizon of Biscayne Bay glitters behind an equally tranquil community swimming pool shaded with palm trees.
It’s an idyllic if somewhat oppressive setting that becomes pregnant with symbolism the longer Moon chats with New Times.
“Welcome to my cave,” he says, letting a reporter inside from the heat and leading the way to a cool front room that serves as his studio. The visit is to discuss his new EP, Electric Lunch, set to drop July 23 via the local indie label Public Works.
More than that, though, it's a chance to peek inside the mind of one of Miami’s most promising young musicians — a sensitive, multilayered rocker cocooned in a land of unrelenting parties and incessant, thumping bass — and catch up on the four years that have passed since New Times last spoke with him at length.
Moon, whose given name is Ricardo Muñoz, is 30 years old and was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico, the second most populous city after San Juan. His father, who's an engineer, and his mother, a judge, gave him a good life, he says. He was an only child until he was 18, when his sister was born.
Growing up, he occupied himself with the typical boyish pastimes and earned good marks in school. His father, a music lover, introduced Moon to the guitar and many of the Brit-pop classics that would eventually shape his writing. It wasn’t until adolescence hit that the depression and anxiety began to creep in.
Throughout high school, his interest in music grew from a casual hobby into the epicenter of his existence. He enrolled in college and studied classical music. He formed a band, Scores, with his childhood best friend, Luis Del Valle. Meanwhile, though, drugs and alcohol were their own therapy, and they eventually turned against him.
He began flunking out of classes and unloading his personal possessions to fund his habits. He moved back home, but things still didn't improve. He describes that time as "a series of rock bottoms" during which he brought loved ones to tears and became consumed with thoughts that his life was a lie.
He had to get out, so with the support of his family, he left for rehab — in Miami of all places. "It's ironic," he agrees with a laugh. But it was the closest city with good treatment centers, he says, and those early months here always recall feelings of accomplishment: "I was doing well — moving forward, not moving backwards."
Fast-forward ten years, and Rick Moon is standing on his own two feet, even if a bit wobbly. In treatment, he learned how to articulate and confront his emotions — shame, guilt, and inadequacy among them. He enrolled at the Art Institute and studied audio engineering, the result of which was Tired of Sleeping, his 2012 debut, filled with shiny pop gems recorded after-hours with one of his professors.
In 2015, Moon released Cottage Scenes, a more melancholic departure, layered with harrowing harmonies and containing what he still considers the best thing he's ever done: "Overtown." The single describes the historic Miami neighborhood where he would go to buy drugs, and it was the first time Moon believed he had let his himself be vulnerable and write with total honesty. "It showed me that you could find beauty in those things," he says. "Admitting that, well, yeah, it might be really bad, but you love it. No one wants to talk about that."
Since then, Moon has lain relatively low — playing shows around the city, writing and recording new music, producing for his friends' bands, and working various non-music-related gigs to get by. He's also had a few more stints in rehab. He admits, somewhat regretfully, he could have put more work into promoting Cottage Scenes, an EP that earned praise locally and across the indie blogosphere but never fully took off.
He mentions his best friend, Del Valle, who went on to form the band Buscabulla, garnering writeups in Vogue and big gigs such as Coachella. "Every time I see them, I can't help but think, like, Well, he did it with something else. He would have done it with us."
But Moon can't dwell on the past. He can only continue moving forward, and that's just what he's done with Electric Lunch, the new seven-track release that represents a big leap in that it's the first time he's partnered with a label. At the end of 2018, he dropped the first single, "Cracker Jack," accompanied by a hypersurreal video directed by friend and label mate Nick County.
The psychedelic intro track to Lunch is a careening ride through the eyes of its title character, and it's the persona through which Moon unpacks his most personal material to date. From there, the self-produced concept album unfolds to create a narrative arc that ultimately addresses both the hope of post-addiction and the existential ennui of waking up to see a doomed world through clear eyes. Like the tropical pseudo-dystopia of Miami, it's bright and cynical — driving power pop balanced with tender ballads and manic confessionals.
Tracks such as "In It" show an entirely new direction for Moon, one that completely breaks from his earlier sound, rooted in more traditional pop and rock. Previously unreleased recordings are chopped up, reversed, slowed down, and layered with repetitive typing, ticking, and clicking sounds to create a trippy, dissociative effect that mirrors Moon's state of mind during parts of the songwriting process.
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"Magic Pity," the album's second single, released June 19, shows off Moon's big, lush falsettos and was prominently featured in Billy Corben’s documentary Magic City Hustle, which premiered at the Miami Film Festival.
With a release party at Gramps at the end of the month and plans in the works to begin touring the album, Moon is picking up momentum. But he also assures he's by no means a poster boy for sobriety. He's made his share of mistakes, and he's still figuring out the balance. "I hate Cracker Jack! I want to kill that guy," he jokes of his alter ego before walking himself back. "No, that’s mean."
Cracker Jack and his Electric Lunch saga have helped Moon come to terms with the idea he's not a "bad guy." It's a story and a message, he hopes, anyone can relate to regardless of their situation. "I don't deserve to be in constant suffering or constant despair. I also deserve love and everything good that anybody else deserves. I don't think that was that obvious for me before."
Public Works Presents: Rick Moon's Electric Lunch Album Release. 9 p.m. Friday, July 26, at Gramps, 176 NW 24th St., Miami; gramps.com. Admission is free.