“Look what I’ve made with my tears” MOTHICA poignantly sings during the final song on her sophomore studio album ‘Nocturnal’. It’s a track that reflects on the pain and hardships she’s been through, and how it’s led her to releasing songs that comfort others in their dark moments, and empower them to keep fighting. She’s now there for people the same way some of her idols have been there for her during her own personal battles, and that’s the absolute power of music.
Following the release of her 2020 confessional debut album ‘Blue Hour’, and the heavy yet freeing following 2021 EP ‘forever fifteen’, she has steered into the visual, theatrical, and conceptual side of her artistry that has been waiting in the wings for her to create the dark and freeing world she was always destined to make. ‘Nocturnal’ explores her insomnia and attraction to darkness through a reflection of her past, and uses the characterisation of the “Moth Man” character to narrate the story. It’s honest and quintessential MOTHICA whilst also being so theatrical and endearing. It’s a captivating and visually charged listen from start to finish, and will have you reveling in playful moments, whilst also reflecting during some of the darker and more vulnerable ones.
I chatted with MOTHICA about the visual identity behind her sophomore album ‘Nocturnal’, explored how the heaviness of ‘Blue Hour’ and ‘forever fifteen’ has allowed her to dive into a more playful side of her artistry, and discussed the creative processes behind songs like ‘Tears’ and ‘Absinthe’. Check out the full chat BELOW;
THOMAS BLEACH: Your sophomore studio album ‘Nocturnal’ is a very visual record, from the lyrics, to the soundscapes, to the accompanying videos and images. Looking back at your previous EP’S and debut album, I would say you’ve always been very visual, but this album truly created a world within itself. Where in the journey of making this record did you decide that was what you wanted to do within this body of work?
MOTHICA: Totally! I think my previous releases like ‘Blue Hour’ and ‘forever fifteen’ were a lot more autobiographical. So the visuals were a little bit more abstract as it was all very diary-like, and was about what I’d been through, growing up, and Oklahoma. But I had always loved the visual world-building of music. I think I had to share all of that personal music to get to this more concept album that has Moth Man and moons and stars. It’s less me – McKenzie – growing up and more-so, “what a fantastical world I can create”, as I’ve never really been able to explore that side as everything had been so extremely personal up to that point.
TB: Do you feel like you had to get that personal stuff out first so you could actually focus on doing something super conceptual?
M: I think so, yeah! I got a lot of the more emotional sides out of what I’d been through with the previous releases. And even with the pandemic, I was getting a little angry, so some of these new songs ended up bringing out my anger about what I had been through. When you write songs that are really personal like ‘Forever Fifteen’ and ‘Buzzkill’, it can be really exhausting to talk about that over and over again. So I wanted to play more with production and visuals. I mean, I am always going to write about what I’ve been through, and I’m sure after this it’s going to get really sad again *laughs*.
TB: ‘Absinthe’ is one of the songs that immediately stands out on the album, specifically with its 90’s inspired guitars. Can you explain the creative story behind this track?
M: ‘Absinthe’ is about comparing myself to a girl who I have always been envious of. Especially in the alt-pop scene you get grouped with lots of different kinds of girls, and usually it’s super supportive, but sometimes it gets competitive. So that song is really about how much I’ve compared myself to her, and how it was literally like poison to me. There is that quote that goes “jealousy is like drinking poison, expecting the other person to die”, so that was the basis of it. It’s almost an admiration of someone.
TB: ‘Tears’ is one of my favourite tracks you’ve ever done, and it perfectly closes the album and this chapter. It has a real cathartic sentiment that captures that you’ve been able to turn your pain into art and have so many people relate to it. From seeing songs like ‘forever fifteen’, ‘Buzzkill’ and ‘VICES’ connect so deeply globally with listeners, how has that helped your own personal journey?
M: Oh thank you! Growing up in Oklahoma, a lot of my connection to the world outside of that was a lot of the internet and other musicians. Hearing songs that talked about depression or mental health, it made me realise that I wasn’t the only person experiencing this. So having other people find that in my music is the biggest validation. With ‘Tears’ specifically, it really closes the album with that vision of little birds chirping in the morning, and the light is peeking through, and resembles how everything I’ve been through has led up to what I’m making now. The process of making music is all that I look forward to. So it was a moment of looking at what I’ve made with all the tears I’ve shed, and the hardships I’ve been through. I’ve been in the music industry for 7-8 years, and for so long I felt like I would never connect with people. So ending it with that song was super powerful.
TB: Sonically this album is a lot heavier than your debut album with tracks like ‘Casualty’ and title track ‘Nocturnal’ bringing two contrasting tones to that. Sonically what were some of the references that were on your mood board and inspiring you as you further explored your sound on this album?
M: I definitely wanted to incorporate some inspiration around the music I was listening to. I am a Hayley Williams stan, I love My Chemical Romance, and Bring Me The Horizon were obviously a huge inspiration. I had never done anything like my cover of Bring Me The Horizon before that I put up on TikTok, and people really liked that from me, so it was encouraging to know that I could lean into that side.
Because I’m not in a band I never got to play with hard guitar riffs, so I kinda fell into electronic and pop music. So I wanted this album to have influence from music that I went to concerts for, but I always thought I couldn’t do it as I wasn’t in a band. But then I realised, there are no rules, so let’s go for it. So this whole album I wanted to keep contained as a package, and try my hand at being a little rockstar.
TB: A song I loved was ‘Bedtime Stories’ because it was a MOTHICA take on a love song. Super self-deprecating but with a romantic twist, and I am obsessed with it.
M: It’s a really self-deprecating love song for sure. It’s funny because I wrote that about my current relationship and I was like to them “I’m sorry this doesn’t sound very sweet, but that’s how I do things” *laughs*.
TB: What was a bedtime story you were obsessed with growing up?
M: That is a great question. I don’t think anyone actually read me any bedtime stories *laughs*. Okay, this is not a great bedtime story, but I will tell you something that scared me as a kid. It’s very dumb, but there is this photo that went viral called ‘Bat Boy’ and he had fangs, and it was probably photo shopped. But how spooky and creepy it is, is what I want my aesthetic to be now as an artist *laughs*.
TB: The album has three stunning and cinematic scoped interludes that introduces the moth as this main character. What does this character represent to you in the scheme of the album?
M: A lot of people in the past have wanted me to dress up as a moth, have moth visuals, and wear wings, and I really rebelled against that for the longest time. There is so much pressure going by Mothica and being dressed like a moth. I would really have to do it well. So when I was doing these interludes I wanted this comforting sleep-tape type voice, and I thought of a British gentleman like David Attenborough. And then I thought, what if Moth Man was the narrator. It’s going to be left up to interpretation of his involvement, but in the ‘Nocturnal’ music video, it will all kinda come to a moment. We don’t know if he’s good or not yet.
TB: The first four tracks on the album come in before the first chapter as such. Why did you feel like these songs didn’t slot into one of the three parts of the story and were a standalone intro to the whole record?
M: Each interlude separates each section, and each section kinda represents something different to me. In the beginning that’s the introduction to why I’m nocturnal. ‘Highlights’ is all my insecurities, and who I am. The second section is all my anger, and bad habits. And then there is my new relationship in the third section, and then it ends with the self acceptance of ‘Tears’ where I just look back at myself and not being perfect, but being glad with what I’ve done with everything I’ve been through. But yeah, the interludes definitely help separate the “acts”.
TB: When you look back at ‘Blue Hour’, do you see any songs on ‘Nocturnal’ as a direct response or new perspective on any of those songs?
M: ‘Blue Hour’ was written in such a weird time. I started writing it while I was still drinking, and I was trying to figure out myself. But I would say ‘Tears’ would be the biggest continuation of that emotion. I look back at that album with such empathy for what I was going through, and how chaotic and messy I felt like my life was. I love that album so much as it was made in a really lost place, and now I hope ‘Nocturnal’ is coming from a more confident place.
TB: Have you thought about how the album is going to intertwine particularly with ‘Blue Hour’ and ‘forever fifteen’ in the live show as it has such a visual identity?
M: I have been figuring out this new setlist, and for the tour I am about to go out on I only get to play for 30 minutes, so I’ve had to cut down a lot of my babies. ‘Blue Hour’ was this sunset transitional thing where I was inspired by dusk, and that leans into ‘Nocturnal’ and owning the night and being the queen of darkness. It’s really hard to figure out how to play them together, but it will definitely be a genre switching journey when you see it.
TB: Let’s play a quick game of rapid fire questions about the album ‘Nocturnal’. Are you ready?
M: Okay! I will try *laughs*.
TB: The emoji that best describes my new album ‘Nocturnal’ is…
M: The crescent moon.
TB: The song that nearly didn’t make the album was…
M: Probably ‘Back Of My Mind’. I wrote it for ‘Blue Hour’ but it was too rock for ‘Blue Hour’. There are so many songs that didn’t make this album that you will hear soon.
TB: The song that went through the most versions to get it to where it is now on the album was…
M: ‘Nocturnal’ had a tempo change, a chorus change, a key change. It went through so many versions that we nearly gave up on it.
TB: The song I’m most looking forward to performing live would be…
M: ‘Blood’ is my favourite song to play live. We put it out and no one has loved it as much as I do *laughs*, but I hope it will have its moment.
TB: The first song from the album I’d want you to play to your friends if they hadn’t heard my new music yet would be…
M: To introduce me, I would probably say ‘Highlights’.
‘Nocturnal’ is out now!