Listen to Half Moon Run’s lushly hypnotic “Full Circle,” and you’ll know why the Montreal-based trio has become the go-to opening act for some of the biggest bands in music this year.
Over the phone from his family home in Comox, B.C., Conner Molander says that he and his bandmates Devon Portielje and Dylan Phillips have been basically touring non-stop for “as long as I can remember.” In fact, this interview is interrupting Molander’s brief bit of downtime, coming off a stretch in Europe opening for Mumford & Sons, before kicking off the next tour on May 12 in Vancouver opening for Of Monsters and Men (both bands will also be performing at CBC Music’s inaugural festival on May 25 in Toronto).
Molander told CBC Music about the band's heady string of successes, its relationship with Mumford & Sons, and avoiding “rock star BS."
Did you ever imagine this would be your life?
[Laughs] No, [I never imagined it]. Music is a hard industry to do anything as a career in, because it’s so hard financially. You kind of dream about it, but always have a backup plan.
What was your backup plan?
I was at McGill studying psychology when the band started, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to do at all. I only spent three semesters. I didn’t gain too much psychological expertise.
It seems like you’re the cool kids for everyone’s favourite bands. Do you feel the momentum?
[Laughs] I don’t know. We’re playing internationally and all that, it’s hard to gauge those kinds of things. That’s nice though!
How did it come about that you went on the road with Mumford & Sons?
We went to England last July and we were playing some shows there. Ben Lovett, the keyboard player, was at the show and I guess he liked it. He partially owns the record label, Communion, which we’re now signed to, so we became involved with Mumford & Sons before we went on tour with them a month ago.
The fervour around them has been kind of insane. Had you played for those kinds of crowds before?
No, not even close. We played a couple large-ish outdoor festival kind of shows, but as soon as we started playing with Mumford, we were playing in front of much, much larger crowds.
Was it nerve-wracking?
Right before we went on we were jumping around a little bit, but we settled into it. The differences are — a lot of it had to do with how it sounds in a big space like that. We’re not using any reverberation or anything, so we had to adjust to that. And we were worried about little technical things, hoping our guitars didn’t break a string or whatever, but in terms of the size of the crowd, that was just very exciting.
What are some of the things you learned from touring with Mumford?
In spite of how massive they are as a band, they really know how to treat their crew and their fans in a human way. There’s no rock star bullshit. They’re just really, really nice people and create a nice environment backstage. Often in this industry you can get caught up with a lot of egos involved, but none of that with them. It’s just a reminder that no matter what happens with us as a band, you just gotta remember to treat people well.
Have you encountered the rock star bullshit?
[Laughs] Here and there, yeah. The techs and everything — if people have a bad rock star attitude, they’re treating them as if, you know, just looking down on people, not treating them like we’re all here to accomplish the same goal, which is putting on a great show and you’re part of it. People need to treat each other equally.
How has it been, seeing more fans coming to see you and singing along with you?
It’s one of the best parts of it, no matter how tired we get, it’s always a huge pick-me-up when there’s a great show and people know the songs. One of the key energizing factors of this whole thing.
I get a little bit teary when people give standing ovations. [Laughs]
I know, I’m susceptible to those kinds of things, too! [Laughs] Especially in our hometown, when we play in Montreal, it’s nice because that’s where we started and where we got going.
Do you feel like for a while, you were Montreal’s best-kept secret?
I don’t know about that. Those kinds of titles are things media people discuss among themselves. It’s really hard to sense being inside the band. We travel, go to the shows; if we were anybody’s secret, it’s news to me.
Follow Andrea Warner on Twitter: @_AndreaWarner
CBC Music’s inaugural festival: Sam Roberts, Of Monsters and Men, Kathleen Edwards
on May 13, 2013