The psychedelic dream pop of Haunted Summer came into the world at Halloween, masked as another band.
For a special covers show in 2012 at the The Echo in Los Angeles, John Seasons put together a band to play a set of Animal Collective songs. Joining the new band, among others, was Bridgette Moody, a longtime friend of Seasons with similar musical taste and style.
"At the end of that set, we knew we should make music together and do things our other bands couldn't, so Haunted Summer was born," Seasons says. "We called the rest of the band off the stage and Bridgette and I did a song together and the reaction was overwhelming. After that, the rest was history."
At the time, both were frustrated with the bands they'd been playing in, so the enjoyable performance arrived as a signal: discard the old and embrace the new.
"We were going through the same things at the same time. We weren't happy with the way the projects were going. Music wasn't feeling that great on stage any more and that moment music felt great again and we knew were capable of doing it on our own," Moody says. "We'd been through a lot and played for so long and we couldn't remember the last time music felt that good and we knew it was something worth pursuing and it's been positive ever since."
Moody (keyboards) and Seasons (guitar) say they initially took a lot of influence for Haunted Summer from Animal Collective, drawn by the thrill of making music that's both accessible and experimental. But Animal Collective was simply the jumping off point, as they veered toward more psychedelic sounds, blending in the lush space-rock of The Flaming Lips, the entrancing, ethereal style of Björk and later the bright kaleidoscopic pop of tourmates Polyphonic Spree.
"When we played Animal Collective, they're kind of a left field band and hard to cover, but we're jut those kinds of people," Seasons says. "We were both the psychedelic elements of those other projects (we were in). When we came together it happened organically. The psychedelic aspects that we'd been using for years just blended really well together."
Over the first couple months as Haunted Summer, Seasons and Moody wrote a flurry of songs, recording at home and then enlisting friends to play the music live, first around LA and then on tour in support of Polyphonic Spree, Islands and Taken By Trees.
"John and I write all the songs and everything is still very low-key and collaborative between us," Moody says. "Once we bring it to everybody else for touring it adds that whole other element to our band."
The chemistry between the pair extended beyond music. Seasons and Moody have since married, describing themselves in the Haunted Summer biography as "two souls that had lost each other in past lives and found each other again in this life."
The result, Moody says, is a perfect 50/50 collaboration for the band, with a shared sense of how they want to approach writing, recording and performing music.
"For us, we're just psychedelic people and it just bleeds through," Seasons says. "The influence that comes through that is the beginning of when we found music. My dad was a jazz drummer and she did theater for a while and we're both just influenced by a lot of bands."
Those influences show a bit on Haunted Summer's 2013 EP "Something in The Water," but the band is more than just the sum of its strings-meets-electronic parts. The songwriting is inventive across the EP, something Seasons says is a result of their open-minded approach.
"The rules are out the window, it's about how will this song piece itself together and become it's fullest without trying to follow every rule," Seasons says.
After "Something in The Water," the pair re-recorded some of their first songs and combined them with alternate versions of the EP's songs for "Birth," presenting a more complex picture of Haunted Summer as the band has evolved.
"We look at it like our music and songs are like paintings and when you take it to a different producer, they're going to finish that painting in a different way," Seasons says. "The live element is our stage to be the full painter, so we like that. Our live sound is definitely different than our studio sound and we pride ourselves in that."
A new record is in the works for a release next year, one that is being shaped more like the Haunted Summer live experience than the initial bedroom recordings.
"This upcoming project we want to capture more of the psychedelic aspect of our live sound," Moody says. "We really enjoy playing live because we feel like that's more of who we are musically. It definitely helps taking it to the studio after we've taken time with the song playing it live and have a good solid idea of the sound."