Moonchild brings California R&B vibes to Pittsburgh

Joey Mueser | Staff Contributor


From its old-tinged sound to its new jazzy flare, Moonchild is bound to impress and provide a great show. Having seen them live twice now and watched far too many videos on Moonchild’s live performances, I can confidently say that their talents certainly don’t stop in the studio.

High musical acclaim shouldn’t come as a surprise to Moonchild since it’s been making great music since its origin.

Its previous albums have been successful in evolving the way many groups strive to. Even listening to their first album, Be Free, parts of their sound that are still very much alive were harnessed in their first releases. But, while keeping their music fairly consistent, Moonchild has still managed to grow and mature in their own style, while staying true to their roots. Voyager, released five years after their debut in 2012, has bits of what their original sound started as, but ventures further into the neo-soul sound Moonchild so effortlessly seems to fold into.

It’s been over a year since I saw Moonchild play at Mr. Smalls with Kamasi Washington, but in the meantime, they’ve been busy to say the least. They’ve played a full European tour, landed gigs in Asia, had two full American tours and played in a variety of music festivals. And it hasn’t been with bad company either. Moonchild played with the likes of musical groups The Internet, Elise Trouw, Oddisee and many others over a vast year of touring.

While the groove is fairly laid back, the energy on stage is quite the opposite. Lead vocalist, flautist and saxophonist, Amber Navran led the charge with her smooth voice, yet had the discipline to pull on the reigns a little to let each song fit right into its pocket.

Something that sets Moonchild apart as an interesting group is its members’ multi-instrumental ability. Andris Mattson, (keyboard (bass), trumpet) and Max Byrk (keyboard (lead), tenor saxophone, clarinet), had much to add to the atmospheric sound that filled the space. Mattson held the group down with a mighty left hand with steady accompaniment from the likes of Efa Etoroma on drums.

Breaking a group down into their band members is my way of paying homage or respect to the individual musicians, but really what Moonchild does best, and what can’t truly be captured analytically, is groove. Moonchild had everyone moving on a gloomy Friday night in Pittsburgh, and apparently this isn’t new to them.

In its native city of Los Angeles, Moonchild will play sets to a crowd of head-nodders. In other cities, the band’s sound is destined to inspire dance. But, according to an interview I had with the trio of multi-instrumentalists, “at times during the European tour, it felt like people were moshing to Moonchild.”

One of the biggest takeaways from talking with the band before their show was their continual search for the next best thing. Whether it’s Navran knowing she needs to warm up a little bit more before the next show or finding new artists to draw inspiration from, Moonchild seems to be heading in the right direction.

Recently, with its latest release of “Get to Know It,” Moonchild has been getting its audience excited for its fourth full length album release, which is still in production and expected to drop by the end of 2019