In her band’s 2019 Tiny Desk concert, Amber Navran, vocalist in LA neo-soul trio Moonchild, encouraged people to “spend their privilege” and support charities helping Black and brown communities. “True solidarity means showing up respectfully, spiritually, and financially,” she tells Apple Music. Moonchild’s fifth album, Starfruit is dedicated to the Black women who inspire them. “There’s a lot of privilege that comes with being a white woman, so you have to focus on empowering Black women in the music industry,” Navran says.
As the coronavirus pandemic took hold in April 2020, the group—Navran, plus bandmates Andris Mattson and Max Bryk— introduced a month-long “song a day” initiative. Its success can be heard on much of Starfruit, including the mesmerizing “Too Good” and the heartfelt “Little Things.” “When producing a song a day, you can’t do it the same way every time or you’d run out of ideas,” Bryk says. “You’re forced to look for inspiration.” Read on for the band’s thoughts on each track.
“Tell Him” (feat. Lalah Hathaway) Andris Mattson: “That was one of the first beats I made during our ‘song a day’ month. It was originally called ‘Next Door Painter,’ because the drum groove is really propelled by the sound of brushes.” Amber Navran: “Every time we’ve crossed paths with Lalah, we’ve talked about collaborating. When I reached out, it was the pandemic and musicians were not working. So, she had the time and sent us her vocals. We got all giddy when we got it back.”
“Takes Two” Max Bryk: “This track came about very organically and uses an interesting technique. I sampled some of Amber’s vocals that were sitting on my desktop, and I dragged them into the session and pitched it up. And when you sample each other, you don’t have to clear the sample!”
“Little Things” MB: “This one is a beat I made, and it starts with a clarinet melody. We were coming off the road and I was playing clarinet on tour with us. One of the warmups I would do was just playing fifths on the clarinet—D, A, E, B.” AM: “I love the cool effects Amber used on the flute. I remember asking her what synth patch she used during the outro of the track, and when she told me it was her flute with effects, my mind was blown.”
“You Got One” (feat. Alex Isley) AN: “This song is about showing up for the ones you love. Reminding them you’re there whenever they need you—one call away. Often, people disappear when they’re going through something and reappear after to tell you the story. I wanted to tell my loved ones I’m here for all of it. I tried to put a lot of phone sounds in the track because it’s about being there when you need me.”
“Too Good” AN: “This song is for my fiancé. It’s about being wrapped up in the high of love and fighting off that sneaking suspicion that something terrible is waiting around the corner to take it all away. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe it can be so good. It’s about letting yourself sink into love without fear.”
“Need That” (feat. Ill Camille) AN: “This track was inspired by our drummer’s samples. I got his first sample pack and had such a blast playing around with all his sounds. This is the first beat I made with them. We were all sitting in the same room, just throwing out ideas. It’s a moment that I look back on really fondly because it felt really playful and fun. And I think some cool moments happened because of it.”
“I’ll Be Here” AM: “This was another track that started during the ‘song a day’ challenge. I’ve been very into combining drum machine sounds with acoustic instruments, like guitar and piano, so this track definitely reflects that.”
“Get By” (feat. Tank and the Bangas) AM: “When Amber first sent us her groovy track, we were initially planning on putting it out on [2019 album] Little Ghost, but I’m so glad we waited because Tank really took this song to the next level.”
“What You Wanted” AN: “This song was inspired by the phrase ‘be careful what you wish for.’ Often, on the grind of tour, when we’re exhausted, sick of each other, and stuck in the van for the 200th hour, I think to myself, ‘This is what I wanted.’ It’s a reminder that, regardless of the grind and the tough moments, I’m living the dream I had for myself.”
“Love I Need” (feat. Rapsody) AM: “Musically, I’d say this track is a love letter to Sly Stone and D’Angelo. Just the rawness of how they make their tracks.” MB: “The orchestra hit at the end makes me smile every time I hear it.”
“By Now” AM: “It started out with this drum groove—then turned into this thing where the vocals got larger and then you have the horns come in. It’s like a playful dialogue between these instruments, whether it’s the guitar or the flugelhorns or the vocals—they’re all just playing off each other.”
“Don’t Hurry Home” (feat. Mumu Fresh) AN: “This song is about being a creative woman on her grind. Telling your partner, ‘Stay out as long as you like. I’m in the zone. I’m not waiting for you to come home. I’m busy following my dreams, grinding, creating.’ All coming from a place of love.”
“Last Time” MB: “I was going for an Erykah Badu vibe, and I just wanted to do something that had a different tempo to the rest of the album. It’s a really downtempo, double-pan feel, and we added tons of drums and percussion to fill out the track.”
“The Long Way” (feat. Chantae Cann & John Johnson) AN: “I wrote this when I was home at my parents’ house, just playing the piano. I always play piano when I’m home. It’s about worrying about your loved one when they’re gone. When you have something good, you always worry that you’re going to lose it.”