Listen to Neo R&B Trio Moonchild's Spacey & Soul-Stirring #TBT Mixtape

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Taryn Dudley
Moonchild

Welcome to #TBT Mixtape, Billboard's series that showcases artists' very own throwback-themed playlists exclusive to Billboard's Spotify account. The curated set features the artists' favorite tracks from their youth and childhood.

This week’s spin comes from Moonchild. The Los Angeles-based neo-R&B triad — comprised of multi-instrumentalists Amber Navran, Max Bryk and Andris Mattson — are set to release their fourth full-length LP, Little Ghost, tomorrow (9/6) via Entertainment One. The set -- described as a “sweltering reflection on desire" -- follows early singles like "Too Much To Ask" and the self-doubt anthem "Money." 

“There’s a facade that everyone who is releasing music knows exactly what they are doing, did it all by themselves, is a master at every instrument they play on the album and is 100% happy with every piece of music they’ve released," says Navran. "None of that is true."

First coming together at USC’s prestigious Jazz program, the group launched with 2012’s Be Free, followed by 2015’s Please Rewind and 2017’s Voyager, the latter which peaked at No. 13 on Billboard's Heatseekers Albums chart in the week ending June, 17, 2017, accoding to Nielsen Music. The trio's cutting discography has since earned praise from Jill Scott, DJ Jazzy Jeff, Saint Heron, Robert Glasper, Maroon 5’s PJ Morton and others, with the band further becoming a true live force via their own headlining treks through North America, Asia and Europe, as well as support slots on tours alongside The Internet and Kamasi Washington.

For the new LP, Moonchild began the recording process while still on the road — tracking beats and production ideas from the tour bus. “Eventually we were able to spend time solely on the album, going to Lake Arrowhead for writing retreats and meeting up at each other’s houses back in LA” says Bryk. “Moonchild has been a project between the three of us where we work to achieve sound we all have in our heads, but can’t articulate into words.”

It’s that sharpness in sonic vision that has aligned the group since their start, eliciting a fondness for both experimentation and collaboration as a pre-requisite in their work. Their wide-ranging fusion of genres has earned further support from DJs Gilles Peterson, Don Letts and Huey Morgan (BBC 6Music), Jamie Cullum (BBC Radio 2), Jamz Supernova (BBC 1XTRA) and Anthony Valadez (KCRW) alongside Jazz FM, who honored the band as its Soul Act Of The Year in 2018.

To help ring in their Little Ghost era, the trio curated this week’s #TBT Mixtape as a window into the tracks that helped shape their spacey, groove-heavy sound. “A lot of these songs were recorded decades ago but feel just as hip and relevant today as they did back then," says Byrk. “We were hugely influenced by them, and they've been on repeat in the van at some point or another during our travels. When we are looking to music for inspiration, these are the tracks that always seem to get our creative juices flowing.”

The eclectic set includes cuts by Erykah Badu, Jill Scott, Chaka Khana, Sly & The Family Stone, The Spinners, Bonnie Raitt, The Roots, SWV and more. “These songs all mean so much to us, and were and are a part of our creative energy at so many different junctures," he adds. "We hope you enjoy!”

Give the playlist a spin and check out reflections from the trio on the mix’s standout cuts and throwback photos from their archives below.

The Time, “777-9311”

“The drums are programmed by Prince with a drum machine called The Linn Drum, and the sounds on that particular machine are so good that we wanted to use it for the closing track off of Little Ghost, 'Still Wonder,’” says Mattson. “So that's where the drums in Still Wonder come from!”

The Gap Band, “Outstanding”

“‘Outstanding' inspired parts of the melody to our song 'Come Over,’” says Byrk. “It's just instantly catchy and gets stuck in your head.” 

Erykah Badu, “Time's A Wastin’"

“I chose ‘Time’s A Wastin’” by Erykah not only because it's the song that made me fall in love with Badu’s style and voice, but because the first time I saw her live she performed it and I started crying,” says Navran. “She's just incredible." 

Chaka Khan, “What Cha’ Gonna Do for Me" 

“As an homage to TBT, a few of these songs flash us back to when we were just starting Moonchild in college,” says Navran. “We would throw dance parties in our apartment and play covers of a single artist. One night we did a Chaka Khan tribute and the apartment was packed wall to wall with students. It ended up going until around 3am and was a foundational moment for Moonchild.”

 
 

Grab Moonchild’s "Little Ghost" here, and catch the band on tour through the end of the year here.

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