In the Moon Moths' video for "The Explorer," rapper, singer, and songwriter Rupert Hudson (a.k.a. Prince Rupert) begins by begging the crowd to come closer to the stage. There's a flower in his longish blonde hair, and as he exhorts the audience, waving for them to move in so the band can "feel their energy, and you can feel our energy," he seems less like a typical frontman and more like a spiritual figure, preaching to his flock.
That impression becomes even stronger as he leads an engagingly catchy "la la la" refrain and then launches into a sung-and-spoken spiel about trying to find peace of mind, but "a puzzle ain't a puzzle if it's easy every time." What the band and Hudson have come up with is a blurry blend of psychedelic rock, spoken-word poetry, hip-hop, and rap — all with a serious spiritual side.
The Moon Moths are an outgrowth of the Columbia arts group known as the Scenario Collective. "It's a group of artists of all different types from musicians to filmmakers to dancers who live in Columbia," Hudson says. "About eight months ago, we got together because we wanted to do something with our art collectively. So it started out as us making this event that featured bands and live animation. We had dancers, we had spoken word, and it was a combination of a bunch of different types of art."
The aim of the Scenario Collective is a simple but ambitious one. "We're trying to reach out to the community a lot more," Hudson says. "We're trying to get involved, because Columbia is growing pretty strongly right now, and we believe by infusing art into that growth, it could create a really beautiful city. It's gotten pretty crazy since we started, because we've had a lot of support, which is amazing."
Inside that outreach, though, there was a frustrated songwriter and performer trying to get out, and that's where the Moon Moths enter the picture. "The band was a very natural outgrowth for me," Hudson says. "I've been making music for a year and a half now. I lived in New York for about a year, and I worked in the music industry, but I wanted to leave to make my own music. I started doing that, but I didn't perform it much, because I didn't have a band; I wasn't very confident about it. But being in Scenario, we're all kind of confidence-boosters for each other, so I got the opportunity to play a few Scenario shows, and as I did I started meeting more people who wanted to play music together."
Hudson had some musicians to play with, but he still couldn't quite work up the courage to perform with them onstage. In the end, he gave himself no choice. "There was a show that Scenario put together that was a hip-hop show, and I put myself on the bill even though we didn't have a band. I wanted to push myself to get a band. That night we decided on the name the Moon Moths."
The influence of spoken-word poetry is just as important as hip-hop in the group, especially in the interplay between Hudson and his co-emcee, Sixx. "Myself and Sixx, we're the rappers in the group," he says. "Sixx comes from a spoken-word background. He used to be in a band with a violinist that was just spoken word, and he tells a lot of stories during the set."
But how on earth do you get an 11-piece band — whose lineup also features two guitars, several singers, a violin, a ukulele, and a trumpet — to cut out the clutter and chaos and form something cohesive? Hudson says they're still working on it, but the idea is to be as communal as possible.
"Everyone is so incredibly talented in a multitude of ways," he says. "The goal now is to try to figure out how to make something that captures the essence of every single person and use all of their talents. It's been interesting, because in the beginning it was all of my own music. I used to write these hip-hop songs on the piano and take it to the guys and say, 'Let's make this together.' But recently it's been really cool, because we've grown together as a band and as friends, so we're a lot more comfortable and it's more of a collaborative process. We have all of these vocalists, it's very theatrical, and I'm excited about it."
And what about that spiritual message and Hudson's persona onstage? He says it's part-performance and part-personal. "It all bleeds in together," he says. "I'm a very spiritual person, and I've been meditating for the last year and digging deeper into myself and finding a lot of peace within my mind. There's a lot of shit going on in the world, but we have the opportunity to find peace within ourselves, and maybe talking about that will help."