Moon and Pollution gets trip-hoppy

“Are You Local?” finalist combines hip-hop and acoustic for a whole new flavor.

by Mary Reller

Electronic pop duo Moon and Pollution are possessed by their music.

“We don’t have control over it. It’s an allowing, it’s an intuitive process,” vocalist Molly Dean said. “When you collaborate truly with somebody you each bring it together.”

Dean is a singer-songwriter in the acoustic world, and Graham O’Brien is a drummer and producer in the hip-hop world. When their worlds collided, it created Moon and Pollution.

“It’s fun, it’s easy. I think we’re both comfortable with our creative expression and can articulate it well to each other,” Dean said.

After performing solo for the last 15 years, Dean decided she wanted to try something new and started looking for a producing partner with a similar vision.

The genre switch was a big change for both musicians. Aside from a track O’Brien made with singer-songwriter Alicia Wiley — the track that resonated with Dean and first inspired the collaboration — O’Brien had worked exclusively with hip-hop artists.

“There was a lot more space and sort of a softer touch to it,” O’Brien said. “It’s a little bit more dreamy than it was post-apocalyptic and scary like some of the [rap] stuff.”

Despite their musical differences, Dean and O’Brien approach the project with the same sense of playfulness and curiosity.

“I like working with people that have an open mind that don’t assume they know the answer yet,” O’Brien said. “I’m going to learn more from [making] a song than [from telling] that song what to be. It’s almost like you’re letting the music lead you. That’s something Molly and I had in common without ever expressing it to each other.”

The chemistry between Dean and O’Brien strikes a musical balance, too. O’Brien creates a harmonic, rhythmic world that needs Dean’s melody, he said. The haunting vocals and hypnotic loops construct an ethereal atmosphere.

“[It’s] like if you took life and completely slowed it down by a thousand percent and got to experience every moment as much longer than it really is,” O’Brien said. “It’s like taking a microscope to a small snapshot of a musical idea and exploring that.”

The act of creating is the music’s purpose, but the sound stood out from the start. Moon and Pollution’s first show was opening for Atmosphere and Trampled by Turtles at Bayfront Festival Park two years ago.

“We were not expecting that,” Dean said. “We had given Slug a couple tracks, and he asked if we were ready, and we said yes. It was awesome because he is such a tastemaker, and to [have him] recognize the potential in this [band] that was completely unknown at the time was really cool.”

The group got even hotter this year. Moon and Pollution is one of the four finalists performing in’s sixth annual “Are You Local?” contest at First Avenue on Friday. The contest winner is named this year’s best local band and will head to Austin, Texas, to play in the South by Southwest festival on March 20.

Dean and O’Brien were both excited and surprised by the news.

“When you sign up for stuff like that, you can’t attach yourself to the outcome. There’s so much that you do that cannot work out and doesn’t a lot of the time,” Dean said. “I was really excited about it just because it’s going to be a fun show.”

O’Brien agreed.

“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “If she doesn’t stage dive, we’ve got some issues.”


What: “Are You Local?” featuring Brother Ali and The Blind Shake

When: 6 p.m., Friday

Where: First Avenue, 701 N. First Ave., Minneapolis

Cost: $15

Ages: 18+