Track by Track: Flying Fish Cove

Dena Zilber is an incredibly visual songwriter. The Flying Fish Cove singer often sits alone in the evening, images and vivid memories floating through her mind, often acting as a cue for her to pick up the guitar. The amazing fruit and flowers that bloomed everywhere while Zilber fell for Flying Fish Cove guitarist Jake inspired her to write ‘Dangerous Words’, while “pictures of palm trees on the beach at night underneath a full moon” compelled Dena to pen ‘Lunar Tropical’.

‘At Moonset’, the band’s debut album, is a vibrant patchwork of Dena’s daydreaming. The cover depicts a tiger cub hugging the branch of a tree with palm trees dancing beautifully in the deep blue sky behind. It was a group effort – guitarist Jake did the collage, Dena edited it and drew doodles underneath, and bassist Sean drew the text – and it’s flush colours and serene beauty perfectly illustrate the magical world ‘At Moonset’ draws you into. 

Packed with jangling guitars and ‘oohs and ‘aah’s, the songs are quirky, colourful and breezy. A student of ‘magical escapism’, Dena uses music to create a world that’s absent of her mother’s death and the abuse she received as a child. It’s a wonderful place to idle, I’ve found myself visiting it more and more, submerging myself in it’s never-ending quirks. You can’t escape reality forever though but just knowing ‘At Moonset’ exists is a huge comfort.   

Zilber wrote all but one of the songs and guides us through them below, allowing bassist Sean Canfield to talk us through the song he wrote ‘Cammy The Camry’.

Johnny Paper:

Johnny Paper is a reference to “Jackie Paper” from Puff The Magic Dragon. Growing up, I was obsessed with the 70’s cartoon movie I had, about a boy who travels with a magic dragon to find himself and his imagination, and that is the inspiration for this song. This song is also about reveling in the magic and comfort of nostalgic feeling. The lyrics travel through many themes and emotions connected by non-linear thinking. It also touches upon the darker side of not being able to fully connect to others- or open up your heart yet. I wrote this song with “call and response” style singing in mind for playfulness, and I was particularly inspired by The Go-Betweens and The Lucksmiths with the melodies. The track features vocals by Greta Kline, flute by Jena Pyle, and vocals by my dear friend Lydia Brambila (who sings back up on every song). 

Sleight of Hand:

Sleight of Hand is a song about overcoming a toxic romantic relationship and reflecting on it. It’s about discovering you are stronger now because of it, have found yourself exactly where you need to be in your life, but still holding onto some bitterness for letting someone take advantage of your love and kindness for much too long. I used some fantastical metaphors in the song, an on-going theme for At Moonset. When I first wrote the song, it actually had entirely different chords and vibe to it- it was more mellow and sad. I knew that I wanted to make pop songs you could dance and sing out to and make you feel alive- so I reworked it with different chords and a poppier melody. Jake wrote his lead guitar lines- it all really came together with the band and kind of blew me away to see that we were capable of making a song that sounded like this. 

Blow a Candle:

I wrote this one about mourning the end of a friendship/a break up between two friends. It’s vague poetry, and mostly speaks in magical themed metaphor. This is one of our favorite songs to perform live. Something about it just rolls off the tips of our fingers, and the lyrics feel like a floating dream sequence. 

I use the same guitar capo placement for this song and “Manticore” so it’s kind of funny to me how completely different the two songs feel in vibe and format. The track features flute by Jena Pyle, and it’s completely eerie and inspiring to me how the vocals and flute blend together on the chorus’s. This might also be the only song I’ve ever written with a wordless chorus, and I just love that because it’s an approach I rarely attempt.  

Photograph by Dan Bracaglia.

Manticore: 

This is one of the first songs I wrote for Flying Fish Cove, which reveled a theme I was wanting to bring into the lyrics of the songs for this project. When I sat down to write it, I was determined to write a song about abuse I had suffered as a child growing up- from family members and peers (being bullied). I also wanted to write about the anxiety/guilt of dealing with my mother’s death and moving away from my sisters. I reckoned with fantasy always being my escape from this pain in reality. Magical escapism as survival became the undercurrent for what I wrote. I was very inspired by the book Anne of Green Gables because the character Anne in that book also uses fantasy in this way to make her world more loving, beautiful, and hospitable. 

Bob & Sylvie: 

I love telling the audience at shows what inspired this tune. A huge chunk of the lyrics were inspired by the cartoon Muzzy- the learning language cartoon movie from the 90’s. I never saw it as a kid but always wanted to, so one day as an adult I found it and fell in love. I love the old school animation, the imagery, and the plot.  I was in a tragic relationship at the time too, and I think that also really influenced my lyrics here- a heart that’s perpetually broken singing lonesome into the night. Muzzy features a Gardener (Bob) in love with a roller skating princess (Sylvie), but she has to run away to be with him. There’s a monster from outer space named Muzzy who eats clocks and hangs around. There’s an evil advisor to the king with a cloning machine and he wants to ruin everything. Another aspect of the song is that I love Cyndi Lauper/80’s pop music. I didn’t realize I had used such similar chords to “Time After Time” but my lead guitarist picked up on it and really amped up that quality of the song. 

Cammy the Camry: 

This song is written by our bass player Sean. We swap instruments and roles for this track. “It’s about St. Augustine, Florida. I spent a lot of time there several years ago, going to DIY punk shows and sitting with friends on their front porches. The weather there is super unpredictable, especially in the Summer. That’s hurricane season. It’s also about a friends car, which she named Cammy. Cammy the Camry” Sean explains.

Dangerous Words:

It’s not a secret that Jake and I in the band are in a relationship, and we started this band together with our friends. I wanted to write a cheesey song about falling in love in Seattle because our story is pretty special. I wouldn’t even say this covers everything or all of it, but it’s definitely a piece of it. It happened during the summer I moved here- and a big thing I discovered was all the amazing fruit and flowers blooming everywhere, and he was with me showing me all the fruit you could just pick and eat as you walked down the street. This song just details some of the best memories from that first summer together, and falling in love with Seattle too. I also really love singing the first line “My dear friend, hold me closer in the hot basement, I’m ready to dance” because it feels like an anthem for DIY music community appreciation.

Photograph by Dan Bracaglia.

Pony Bracelet:

This is a song on the album that was somewhat inspired by Cub and has a bit of a pop punk lining to it in vibe. The lyrics of the verses are mostly goofy poetry that remind me of daydreaming in the springtime while riding my bike around town, thinking about life. The pre-choruses are about someone in my life who reminds me all the time how to meditate and take care of my brain when anxiety is crippling. The chorus is about questioning why we hold back on sharing our truest feelings and emotions when it comes to romantic (or non) love sometimes. I truly hate the way societal pressure can affect the way we express love to each other and I’m demanding to know why that has to hold us back. The last chorus of the song holds some Moomin inspired content. 

Home Sweet Home:

Home Sweet Home is a song I wrote about the looming feeling of impermanence in the lives of everyone we know here in Seattle. It’s about how difficult is is to put the necessary amount of dedicated energy into art/everything while continuing to feed and house yourself in a city that’s becoming less hospitable every day to low income hard working artists. Our friends are regularly being evicted from their homes because the landlord wants to take a large payout. Check out the Vanishing Seattle blog for stories. This song’s lyrics starts off as a vague poetic metaphor, but moves fast into what it truly is: a song that reminds us all to hang on as much as we can while we are able to. We know we could maybe just individually move to a smaller city, maybe somewhere far from here, but that might be the end of many of our dreams of thriving in an artistic/musical community together, and we really don’t want to leave- but they’re pushing us out. 

Lunar Tropical:

Lunar Tropical is a funny song. It’s sort of inspired by pictures of palm trees on the beach at night underneath a full moon. I sing about my worries about being a productive artist, and the stress of living under capitialism. I also mostly sing about the swirling cosmos above. After I wrote it I just kept imagining it was a song written by Vince and Howard in The Mighty Boosh. When I wrote my parts it had a very natural surf rock vibe- which my band mates picked up on and amplified. I never throught a song this surfy or strange could come from my writing so it’s really awesome to see how we sculpted it into what it became. 

So Slowly

So Slowly is another fun experiment in song writing with similar themes to Lunar Tropical. I wrote this song purely about the frustration of feeling like you’re never really doing enough with your life: creating enough, following your biggest dreams or goals, and always feeling tired- or like important things keep falling to the back burner. When I wrote it, I was struggling with a few of the chord choices so I made a demo for Jake to collaborate on. Then Jake altered it and made a demo for me. In his demo he added electronic drums, which I think he mostly intended to be a sub for real drums. I was head over heels for his electronic drums though and knew they would be integral to the song from there on. I’m proud of this electronic song we semi accidentally concocted and it’s something I want to do more of in the future. 

Belladonna:

This song is a little ballad I wrote for myself, mostly about being alone in my room. I like to spend a lot of time sitting alone and thinking or working by myself. It’s about introspection and memories swirling together, looking back with remorse and understanding the melancholies of life that shape who we are- because that’s often where my head roams during this alone time. I glimmer on my childhood bedroom and past, and mostly dance into poetic versing on anything that happens to strike me in the moment I was writing. I’m a Gemeni Moon and I think this all makes perfect sense when you think about that. I knew after I wrote the verses I wanted to sing one simple thing in the choruses but I wasn’t sure what at first. I thought about Belladonna flowers then, and I thought about the movie Belladonna of Sadness (which is incredible though I wish the plot wasn’t so sexually disturbing), and how the main character Jeanne gives out Belladonna flowers to cure The Plague to her village. Another note about this song is that I wrote it on my Omnichord- if you’re not familiar that’s an electronic autoharp keyboard from the 80’s/90’s. I love the sparkly sounding instrument, and it’s played on every track of the album. This track also features vocals by Greta Kline and Lydia Brambila. 

At Moonset is out now on Help Yourself Records

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