It's a hot summer Saturday afternoon in Laurel Canyon, and good friends Rain Phoenix and Frally Hynes are seated on an outdoor restaurant patio drinking cranberry iced tea and discussing their folk-driven musical collaboration Venus and the Moon, and their soon-to-be-released first record, Brother, Son.
The duo, both singer-songwriters, met three years ago at a birthday party where they found themselves gathered around a microphone singing Neil Young songs with fellow musicians Rufus Wainwright and Chris Stills (the latter of whom Phoenix describes as “a permanent member of Venus and the Moon whenever he's available”). When they decided to try writing together, they discovered that they were in sync.
“As soon as we talked and wrote together and realized we could trust each other's musical aesthetic, it made collaborating a lot easier,” says Phoenix. “It's difficult if you feel you have to gently police someone. That makes it hard. But we are enough alike and enough different that it was interesting for both of us to work together.”
Their seemingly fated partnership appeared to be truly written in the stars when, before they had even considered choosing a band name, they found that they had each posted photos of the planet Venus and the moon to their social media accounts within minutes of each other, from different cities, on the same night.
“At that time,” says Hynes, “we hadn't named our band. So we were like, 'What about Venus and the Moon?'”
“I said, 'I love it. Done,'” says Phoenix.
“Once we had named it that, we suddenly had Venus and the moon in our consciousness and they were part of us at that time,” says Hynes.
“It was expansive, too,” adds Phoenix. “It changed our own perception of the band and songwriting. Just thinking about planets and calling it something that has to do with the universe made for a vaster application of music for us. Instead of, 'We're making a song for a record,' it became universal. It became about something else.”
Despite the feminine essence reflected in their band name (“Our whole band is about feminine power,” says Phoenix, whose middle name is Joan of Arc), their forthcoming record is called Brother, Son. “That was a conscious choice,” says Hynes. “We wanted to dedicate this album to male energy and to the males in our lives … to pay homage to them and their contribution.”
“We've been really lucky to have the kind of men in our lives that we have had,” adds Phoenix. “They’ve helped us a lot and helped mold us — as much as our mothers and sisters, of course — but we’re creating a balance by bringing in the male energy so that it doesn't feel lopsided.”
It’s not surprising that making the record took just six days from start to finish. The ease with which the pair relates to each other is more than apparent throughout the afternoon. They often finish each other's sentences and make each other laugh a lot. They worked on music earlier in the day and have plans to hike and return to making music later in the evening. With contributions from musicians Chris Stills and Kirk Hellie, Venus and the Moon recorded Brother, Son in Phoenix's living room on a four-track cassette recorder that was given to her by her late brother, River.
In our increasingly violent society, the release of Brother, Son seems especially timely, with its warm and organic production, sweet melodies, gentle backing harmonies and lyrics reflecting universal love, transcendence and acceptance — evoking a '60s, Greenwich Village-esque vibe. As artists, Venus and the Moon feel they have a duty to contribute to and be helpful to society.
“I have strong beliefs about not harming in general,” says Phoenix. “There's so much suffering and pain in the world and we're trying to create little moments of healing salve with music. Music has a healing energy. Sometimes, as artists, the only help you can do is your work. And it might not help, but at least you're making an effort to get it out.”