The Label Makers: Moondrip Collective

Ian Livingstone of Moondrip Collective artist Artifiseer (photo: Emily Shakespeare; art: Jim Di Gioia)

The Label Makers is a monthly feature that puts the spotlight on independent record labels from across so-called Canada. This month’s featured label is Saint John, NB’s Moondrip Collective.

Moondrip Collective, a queer artist-run label and organization based in Saint John, New Brunswick, has a distinct aesthetic. The artwork for Moondrip’s releases (available digitally, but cassettes are often made) is glitchy with layers of indistinct imagery. If the sound of dial-up internet connecting had a look, it would probably be similar to Moondrip’s visuals.

The label’s graphic style is largely shaped by Gabe Williams, who is described by another Moondrip co-founder, Ian Livingstone, as an “aesthetic mastermind,” and pairs perfectly with the multitudinous glitchiness of the electronic-rooted sounds emerging from the label. As Artifiseer, Livingstone makes music they characterize as “anxiety-wave” (an anxious blend of jagged synth-pop and electronica) and as electro-pop act Stellaleona, co-founder Lindsay Hazen describes themselves as a “high soprano crafting cultural artifacts of nonbinary significance.” Williams and Whitney Benjamin have a warped bubblegum-pop and rap project (currently on hiatus) called Fishstixx, and most recently, Moondrip teamed up with Detroit-based ambient/electronic artist FEYXUAN to re-release a remastered version of Liar, Lioness, the accompanying soundtrack of a visual novel. And while cohesive brand identity is important to Moondrip, as Livingstone notes, what binds the label runs deeper.

“I view Moondrip as being united by a DIY ethos and putting a high value on experimentalism and strong emotional honesty,” says Livingstone over Zoom from their home in Saint John. “Whether that’s joy, like a lot of the best Fishstixx songs, whether that’s deep, traumatic sadness like Stellaleona’s releases, whether that’s dizzying anxiety like some of my songs or dense, mystifying enigma like FEYXUAN’s stuff.”

In mid-to-late 2016, Livingstone and Hazen spent a lot of their shifts at Teavana talking about music and hatching creative plans. They met Williams through another co-worker, and the trio became interested in starting a collective and wanted to be more involved in the Saint John music scene. As Artifiseer x Stellaleona, Livingstone and Hazen released a collaborative single in March 2017 and another track in June — the first Moondrip Collective releases. Still, they struggled to connect with the scene and decided to refocus their energies on their solo projects, building relationships, and solidifying their vision for Moondrip.

“When the pandemic hit, I felt like, ‘why don’t we just make Moondrip a label?’” Livingstone explains. “Lindsay had two albums in the works, I had just dropped my last album, Syncretist, and though I didn’t get to play as many shows as I wanted to and even though things were shutting down, I still wanted to do merch, I still wanted to have some sort of aesthetic and brand identity. I still wanted to give it the treatment that I felt the music deserved. So I was like, ‘why don’t we bring Moondrip back? Why don’t we make tapes and make posters? Why don’t we just do those things? The things that we already had been planning anyway individually, let’s just unite it under this collective for real this time.’”

Bolstered by connections that Livingstone, Hazen, and Williams made since the initial launch, Moondrip round II was a success, and the enthusiastic response to the label was the heartening push forward they needed. “It was a matter of getting over my fear of meeting people and getting to know who all was doing stuff around town and seeing the scene for the vibrant and, in some ways, somewhat underrepresented community that it is here in Saint John,” says Livingstone about what helped Moondrip gain attention. “I feel like we have a reputation as a city for having one band and that’s it, but actually, there’s so much going on.”

Each Moondrip release is a team effort with everybody bringing something to the table — whether it’s production, visuals, or community outreach skills. Through social media, Moondrip has met and collaborated with artists outside of the Saint John scene like FEYXUAN and Germany’s I Divorced Life, the latter of whom released a split single with Livingstone in 2021 and they have another one in the works. As the collective continues to care for each other and new collaborators and encourage artistic experimentation, Moondrip’s catalogue will grow this year as well, as Livingstone shares that they have a concept album in the works and another Artifiseer x Stellaleona split release will come out soon.

“From day one, the goal has always been to promote queer, do-it-yourself-ers like us who we see a kinship with or similar values in,” Livingstone says. “Initially, we didn’t really know how to express that other than saying ‘we seek to uplift experimental queer art on the east coast of Canada,’ but we didn’t know how to expound on that, and we didn’t know how to explain to people that yes, obviously as queer people we want to prioritize working with our fellow queer friends we’ve made who also do art, but at the same time, at the end of the day, the art itself is still our main priority.”

“[Moondrip Collective] is for anyone who likes the music but especially queer people,” they add. “It’s also for artists who want to push boundaries and do different things and share their ideas and their narratives in ways that, on some level, defy convention.”

Jakob Rehlinger 
Ten Sorrows