Do you live in Oklahoma City? Did you grow up in Oklahoma?
I actually currently live in Norman, but my main friend base and social world is in Oklahoma City. And yes, I grew up in Oklahoma. Oklahoma (the land, not the state) is very special to me and I have a great amount of love for this place. I think I love it partially because my experience here contradicts most people’s expectations of red states and then largely because of open spaces, firefly nights, creekbeds, geodes, watercolor sunsets, pecans, mulberry trees, and red dirt. It’s my home. Red dirt for life.
I’ve only been through Oklahoma City a few times, but it seems like there’s a lot of overlap between the punk scene and the folk scene. Just in general, there seems to be an openness and an acceptance between groups working on projects outside of mainstream culture.
Yeah, for sure. The music scene in Oklahoma City is really interesting. There is a pretty supportive network of music making folks that appreciate a wide variety of musical projects.
What are the origins of the name Sun Riah? Is this a continuation of King Mary or a different project?
So my first name is Moriah and my middle name is Bailey. I’ve always gone by my middle name. It’s an Irish tradition or something, but when I was a kid I hated Bailey and I thought Moriah was too pretty. Moriah never made sense for me. I wanted my name to be Sun Riah. I remember thinking that it sounded like a combination of sunrise and Moriah. So, for me, Sun Riah is about the person that I wanted to be as a child and my imagined self. King Mary had a similar meaning for me. It was sort of about power and realizing the things that I couldn’t be, lost dreams, disappointment. Also, some happy things– childhood imagination and hope, refusal to give in, and stubbornness. The projects are really similar. I re-imagined a lot of the same songs and expressed them more personally for the Sun Riah project. So yes, for now I think Sun Riah is a continuation of King Mary. For me, it takes a lot of the same feelings and thoughts that were felt and expressed externally as a band in King Mary and focuses them more internally through Sun Riah. I’ve considered going back to the name King Mary, but something about it doesn’t feel right. We’ll see.
Your main musical instrument in Sun Riah is the harp. Do you write mostly on harp?
At this point in my life, yes. I write mostly on harp, but my process varies a lot. Several of my songs were written on guitar, piano, or ukulele. The harp is loud, and I work best at night. Often I write on instruments that I can strum quietly without disturbing others. I guess it really just depends. Sometimes I start with words and a vocal melody and use multiple instruments over a long period of time to construct the accompaniment. Sometimes the basis is harp noise, the nontraditional sounds and tones that I can get the harp to make both acoustically and electronically, and sometimes the basis is something else entirely. For instance, the track “For Dorian” on the EP …the musical started out as just rain. I recorded the rain and then I tried to play along with it. I wrote a few different songs on top of the rain sample, but eventually “For Dorian” happened, and it resonated and seemed to sink in with the rain sounds. But I would say the majority of my songs are written on harp. I definitely feel best and most expressive playing the harp.
Your music seems to straddle both the dark folk realm and that of experimental music. Is there one scene that seems more accepting than the other?
Great question. It is really hard for me to tell. Sometimes it feels like my music is too folk to be experimental and then too experimental to be folk. Considering all of the songs I’ve ever written, I really struggle to fit into a genre and I find myself altering my set depending on the bands or musicians that I am playing with. I think in Oklahoma, at least, the experimental music scene is more accepting, but it varies.
Do you mostly self-release your music? I noticed that PSI LAB TAPES released something of yours last year.
So far, yes. Recording is honestly really new for me. I always viewed King Mary as a live act, something that couldn’t be captured in an audio recording. Sun Riah, as I said, is more intimate and personal. I imagine I’ll do a lot more recording with this project. I’m not sure where it will take me in terms of releasing music. The first Sun Riah set that I played in Oklahoma was at an event called Loop Fest. My set was recorded live and the folks from PSI LAB TAPES asked if they could release it. I said sure. But …the musical is my first ever attempt at sharing music that wasn’t recorded live.
You’ve toured pretty extensively in the US. What are some of your favorite parts about touring? What are some unique challenges to touring with a harp?
I love almost everything about touring. I love meeting new folks and being in new places. I love hearing the music that people are making, seeing regional differences in music appreciation, and just exploring. There are so many amazing musicians traveling around and releasing music. It’s awesome! I think it’s really cool that there is a sort of community of folks across the US that travel around and know each other from booking, touring, and playing shows. For me, it’s grown into a really inspiring and expansive group of musicians, artists, and friends that I really admire. I also love changing landscapes, bodies of water, mountains, and desert. The constant changing of things and spaces, sleeping outside in warm places, getting lost, all beautiful parts of traveling and playing music.
However, traveling with the harp can be an epic pain. I drive an Astro Van named Carla. The harp lays down flat in the back of Carla and nothing can go on top of the harp. When I was in Austin last, my travel buddies and I picked up a friend. The harp was covered with a blanket and when he got in the van all that he saw was a blanket spread out in the back of the van, so he just immediately sat on the harp. I had a small panic attack. But the harp is stronger than it seems. The most frustrating thing is that extreme temperature changes or changes in humidity make the harp hard to tune, but again, it seems to work out and I’ve gotten used to it. I love the harp enough that it doesn’t seem that bad.
Thai food or pizza?
Nirvana or Metallica?
Nirvana, my heart.