Indie Pop duo Jonray and Barbara Higginbotham may be living the ultimate millennial dream: they live in Austin, Texas and are making sweet, synth-infused music together. Their latest EP Honeymoon is mellifluous without being saccharine, tonally reminiscent of early Matt & Kim or Mates Of State. The album was partially funded by their honeymoon money (their wedding included a cake shaped like a synth, glow sticks, and a vinyl guestbook). With that first sacrifice as a wedded couple, the Higginbothams stepped firmly into the music scene.
“Heartbreak Hotel” starts the album off with a kind of 1980s poolside scene, two single people meeting for the first time, tangoing on the dance floor. From its opening beats, “Cotton Candy Disco Pie” brings us fully into Moonray’s multicolored, Memphis-design sound; you can almost picture graphic shapes swirling on the ceiling above crimped hair and bouffant skirts. “I can’t get myself together / I can’t let you go / In the night, in the night, in the night / We’re no strangers to love,” Jonray croons in unison with Barbara on “No Strangers To Love;” with its Spanish break, catchy lyrics, and playful back-and-forth, the single is a stand-out on the album. In a Top 40 EDM world, it’s pleasant to hear guitar solos breaks and the funky robot voice vocals on “When You’re Around.” The album rounds things out with “Come Away,” a trippy waltz for young lovers who are totally down to grow old together. It’s a love letter to couples who happen to be creative partners, written with self-awareness and humor, memorializing long nights spent talking and writing music – a perfectly splendid way to spend a honeymoon.
Read our interview with Jonray and Barb and listen to Audiofemme’s exclusive stream of Honeymoon below.
AF: Alright ya’ll. Tell us about your courtship… Jonray, you’ve said that it was a bit of a cat and mouse game at first?
JH: Yes, it was. When she gave me her number, it took around three weeks and five attempts to get her to hang out. When she finally said yes, we hung out for a whole week every day. Then she got scared and ran away a few times and I had to chase her around. It never lasted long – we couldn’t get enough of each other and still can’t.
AF: What was the first thing you noticed about the other person that was a turn on?
JH: I was at Baker Street after getting off work, watching a friend’s band play. I saw Barb up at the bar ordering, and I immediately stopped what I was doing and had to go up to her. She was just so beautiful, I didn’t care if I looked like a fool. I had to take a chance. Best choice I made.
BH: His friendliness and smile. He came up to me and said he had just moved to town. He asked if I could show him around. I love Austin and couldn’t resist not showing him around. He had a sweetness to him and somehow didn’t come off as a creepy guy at the bar.
AF: Barbara – your folks didn’t want you to major in theatre or the arts, so you graduated college with a degree in business. Since you’re now a professional musician, do you find that degree has come in handy in terms of managing the band?
BH: Oh, absolutely, 100%! I am so grateful they were against me majoring in Theatre Arts, [though] at the time I did hate it. My mom said to get a business degree and after I can do whatever I want. Although I did manage to sneak in a minor in Theatre Arts, taking piano and photography as electives. It wasn’t just the degree but also the experience I had while attending St. Edward’s University in Austin – I went from running organizations as VP, Chair and sitting on event committees. I believe all of that has prepared me for managing our band, branding, creating budgets and thinking outside the box.
AF: Are your parents cool with your life on the road?
JH: Yes, we are very lucky! Our parents are very encouraging of us performing and traveling.
AF: Jonray, your great grandmother was Marie Two Moon, a Native American from the Oglala Sioux Tribe. Moonray’s name came from a camping trip you both took to Inks Lake, but was also partially inspired by Marie. Did you know her very well?
JH: I had it wrong, it turns out my great great grandmother was Cherokee not Oglala Sioux like I thought. She died well before I was born and there were no official documents but notations were passed down and written in the family bible as documents. She was an extremely strong woman; her tribe settled in southern Tennessee in the 1700s where she eventually married a Mexican cowboy (surname Garcia). She did pass down traditions to my grandma including the art of preserving fruits and vegetables, making their own lye soap, farming, being completely self sufficient and wasting nothing. They even made preserves out of the leftover watermelon rind. She was born on a night where the moon had two rings. That’s how she got her name and Two Moons also inspired a song for us to be released in the future.
AF: If you could create a moodboard with images of the artists / animals / general vibes that inspired Moonray the band, what would it look like?
BH: We have one! I guess we have more of a vision board. Although we do create moodboards on pinterest related to songs. Some inspirations include Madonna, Abba, Eurythmics, Yaz, Tame Impala, Prince , Pink Floyd, 100% CHVRCHES, Some of the vibe words on our board include: Nostalgic Explorations, Time Traveler, Wild by Design, Feeling Young, Here Now, Become your most empowered self, come to life, Hidden Treasures, empowerment, sparking joy, Turn your passion into purpose.
JH: Cats, definitely cats. And Synthesizers.
AF: Moonray’s Instagram is fire. Who is in charge of the band’s branding?
JH: Wow! Thank you so much. That would be Barb.
BH: Yes, Thank you for saying that – sometimes we wonder if we are on track with it. We both do it! Sometimes, I create a Pinterest board with ideas on where we want to go with our brand depending on the release, other times I like to pull out watercolors and see what colors come to mind when listening to a song, other times I look for clippings. Jonray helps me to bounce ideas and finalize what we are going to post and he’ll sometimes take over the insta stories.
AF: Tell us about your new EP Honeymoon. What was the impetus of the album? A tune? A feeling? A story?
BH: Well, we did use our Honeymoon money to fund this EP. We still do plan on going on a Honeymoon but soon after we got engaged songs started pouring out and we wanted to make it an EP to encapsulate our love and journey as a couple.
JH: Each song depicts a phase in our relationship from the beginning of when we first met up to our marriage. Each song is dedicated to love in all its forms. The feeling we wanted to go for was one of a nostalgic journey filled with peaks, valleys and starry nights.
AF: What’s your favorite track on the EP and why?
JH: They’re all really special to me. I can’t pick a favorite!
BH: If only choosing one, “No Stranger to Love” is my favorite. Initially we hadn’t thought of adding Spanish, my native language. But we felt it needed a little shift and decided to switch part of the bridge to Spanish. It also encapsulates a special time during our relationship where things were a bit more hectic (facing alcoholism) yet love held it all together. But they’re all special in their own way.
AF: How do you prepare for a live performance? Do you have any pre-show rituals together or apart?
BH: We like to say a prayer before a performance, spend some quiet time together even if it’s five minutes.
JH: We like to do vocal warm-ups in the car. Barb likes to make essential oil roll-ons to lift our spirits as well as a cup of tea.
BH: Some yoga stretches when we arrive and shake our bodies all around.
AF: As artists, what do you hope to convey with your music? Is there a message you’re hoping to get out there into the universe?
We are so grateful to be able to create music and be able to share it with other beautiful souls. We hope our music sends a message of love and light into the universe. A beacon of light during dark times. And well, we hope to make people dance or even a head bop.
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