If you’ve caught Thurston Moore’s name in the headlines of late, it probably wasn’t in the most positive light. First, there was his split from longtime wife, bandmate, and all around rock ’n’ roll goddess Kim Gordon. Then the news broke that he had been cheating on her for years prior to the breakup. After that, there was some casual mudslinging about “gender fascism” thrown in the direction of pop-feminist website Jezebel. Then Moore called all black metal bands “pussies.” Ooops.
Clearly, it hasn’t been the easiest couple of years for Moore, who returns to solo-project territory this October. His new album is called The Best Day, and it’s the first to be released under Moore’s own name since the swaying acoustics of Demolished Thoughts in 2011. For Sonic Youth (SY) fans, the record has the potential to fill a number of voids. For one, it features SY drummer Steve Shelley on the kit. It also marks a welcome return to Moore’s electric-guitar-heavy roots. Then there’s the added bonus of the fully stacked lineup, which includes bona-fide shredder James Sedwards on rhythm and My Bloody Valentine’s Debbie Googe on bass.
“As soon I heard [the recordings], I knew — it was like a gift from heaven for me,” said Moore when we chatted last week. “I mean, Steve Shelley and Deb Googe playing together? It was like people were saying it’s My Sonic Valentine,” he laughed.
Star-studded as Moore’s new band may be, its origin story reads as pretty naturalistic. After moving from New York to London in 2013, Moore linked up with Sedwards, and the pair started dabbling around in clubs as a duo. “He had an innate take on my playing, which can be pretty unorthodox,” Moore recalled, acknowledging that it was Sedwards’s idea to later bring Googe into the fold. “I didn’t really know Deb, except from playing with My Bloody Valentine over the years, and she always seemed to kind of keep to herself. But I’ve gotten to know her pretty well through recording and these gigs, and she’s an absolute delight,” Moore gushed.
As for the songs, he cites a handful of inspirational outlets that contributed to The Best Day’s making, not the least of which was his leap from Manhattan to England. “It’s a big jump, to jump over an ocean like that,” he said of the move. “I’d never had that; I’d lived in New York since I was a teenager and I’m in my mid-50s, so to completely relocate was pretty radical. I wanted to let that process itself however it would.”
Another catalyst to the record’s making was the artwork that would become its cover: a photo of Moore’s swimsuited mother at age 20, clutching a pet beagle and standing in an expanse of nearly still water. “There was something about that beauty of somebody at this place of grace and serenity and trust and love,” Moore said of the snapshot. “With all that’s going on in the world right now, I felt like that was what I should be commenting on — this common feeling of what everybody desires in their world anyway.”
While Moore injects the word “happiness” into much of our discussion of The Best Day’s making, it’s not to say the album is all soaring melodies and hooks. In fact, it’s far from it. The album’s original jumping-off point, he explains, came by way of “Detonation,” a song released earlier this year that was “punkier; it had more fight to it.” While the mood eventually took a more positive turn, the initial groundwork was still there: The guitars on the title track kick in with a jarring blare before transitioning into a propulsive blues-rock riff. By the time the solo shakes down, the song is awash in Moore’s unmistakably distorted psychedelia.
“I think that when I started writing these songs, I knew that I really was allowing my state of mind to embrace all of the happiness that I had going on, without discounting everything else that was going on in my life and contemplating that, as well,” he explained.
In the coming month, Moore’s pursuit of happiness will extend to the open road for the first string of stateside dates in support of The Best Day. The tour brings him back to the West Coast — and to Santa Barbara proper — for the first time in years, which is cause for celebration all by itself.
“I think the last time I was in Santa Barbara must have been with Sonic Youth. We were out West when Demolished Thoughts came out, but I don’t think we did Santa Barbara,” he recalled, laughing. “I would have remembered because you guys have my favorite taco place,” he continued, nodding to La Super-Rica, whose happy-place legacy apparently still conjures gushing from across the pond. “I think it’s everyone’s favorite taco place, though.”
The Thurston Moore Band plays SOhO Restaurant & Music Club (1221 State St.) on Thursday, October 9, at 9 p.m. with Sebadoh. For tickets and info, call (805) 962-7776 or visit sohosb.com.