Coral Moons
Photo: Tatiana Ariola / Courtesy of 1888 Media

Carly Kraft Is Off and Running As Coral Moons Shine on ‘Fieldcrest’ (premiere + interview)

As the frontwoman of Boston’s Coral Moons, Carly Kraft fires an opening salvo on the indie-rock quartet’s LP debut with “I Feel Alive”, a rock-hard statement for the pandemic era.

Coral Moons
6 August 2021

She probably didn’t know it 17 months ago, but Coral Moons frontwoman-lead singer Carly Kraft emerged from 2020 with a celebratory song to signify the joyous and liberating feeling of a breakthrough move — whether it involved escaping the confining chains of haunting memories or a global pandemic.

Now Kraft, with her uninhibited, powerhouse delivery, is able to unleash the words to “I Feel Alive” as Boston-based Coral Moons present the music video premiere of the soaring rock track today at PopMatters. It comes about a week away from the 6 August release of Fieldcrest, their full-length album debut.

The song, co-written with Coral Moons lead guitarist-vocalist-songwriter Justin Bartlett (who began a personal relationship with Kraft before the indie band’s formation in 2018), took on new meaning during the Year of COVID-19.

In an email interview for this article accompanying the premiere, Kraft reveals, “We were just leaving Boston at the start of the pandemic [in March 2020] and I started writing this song as a farewell tune, in a way. But we were so scared to leave our city for something different and that’s when the song turned into a personal anthem for me. It was like a bad-ass way to just go do the thing you want to do.”

It’s 4am and I feel alive / Been coming on for a long time / Driving around to say goodbye to the empty streets in my past life

Opening verse to “I Feel Alive”

The departure divided the quartet geographically as Kraft and Bartlett headed initially to the mountains in West Virginia for six months before quarantining in a log cabin in upstate New York, near her hometown of Rochester.

Manuel Camacho (bass, synth), in lockdown with his wife Ani, worked from their home base in Boston, the city where Kevin O’Connell (drums, percussion, synths, and keys) and his partner also continued to reside.

“It gets me so amped thinking about how that song came to life,” continues Kraft, who also plays rhythm guitar. “When we were arranging it, I really felt like the band understood the vision of the song. Justin came in and totally rewrote all the original chords I had for the song, and that’s where it really became a driving rock song, which I think speaks more to the lyrical content than it was before.”

Now check out “I Feel Alive”, produced, edited, and filmed by Hill and Valley Creative of Rochester. Then read more about the video, the album Fieldcrest, what brought Kraft to Boston, and how a company operating more than 400 stores along the East Coast helped give birth to a multi-genre band that refuses to be pigeonholed.

On-the-Job Training

In the music video shot over two days, this May with all four band members, a footloose, shoeless and fancy-free Kraft takes off running through a forest in Canandaigua, New York, the location of the log cabin where Coral Moons occasionally have rehearsed and worked on demos.

Regarding her dash through the woods, Kraft offers, “I can say that my college soccer career [at Division III Rochester Institute of Technology] helped me build up that endurance for my adulthood for this exact purpose!!”

Holding a 9-to-5 job with the title of Software Engineer II at Stop & Shop’s corporate office in Quincy, Massachusetts (while also serving as the chair and co-founder of the Women in Tech group there), Kraft is setting a furious pace. Admittedly, though, she has “pretty much overworked myself over the past three years” while trying to keep the band running smoothly. 

“My heart screams Coral Moons, but my bills do not, haha,” Kraft replies when asked where her priorities lie. “We are probably a couple of years away from all going full-time music, but it’s definitely a goal of ours as a group. If I wasn’t making music, my dream would be to teach young girls programming. … I feel very passionately about education on the gender gap in technology.” 

Though music reduces much of her bandmates’ free time, their outside interests are fairly normal. Becoming “pretty big gamers,” Bartlett and Camacho “are getting quite good at long car rides for shows by playing their Game Boys,” discloses Kraft. She points out that “the best chef in the band” is O’Connell, who “makes the best fried chicken and all sorts of breads — bagels, sourdough, and fresh pasta.”

Desiring to eventually live “anywhere there are mountains nearby (we all love to ski) and a warm enough summer to grow veggies,” Kraft likes to tend to her garden, growing “tomatoes, peas, all fun kinds of squash, beets, and even wine grapes,” she proclaims. “I’ve particularly gotten good with starting my plants from seed, and it’s been extremely rewarding!”

Caring for animals is another fulfilling experience among the group. A rescue pup owned by Kraft and Bartlett, “Mags” makes a cameo appearance in the video and has been designated “the official cabin dog in the band,” according to Kraft. “Everyone in the band has a dog [since the start of the pandemic] and we try to get them involved however we can!”

Though it took only three years for Coral Moons to turn from a pet project into a hardworking woman’s super-side hustle, Kraft has made an effort since childhood to turn this gig into a 24/7 obsession.

Photo: Anindita Chakraborti / Courtesy of 1888 Media

Anatomy of a Band

While Kraft and her bandmates “make jokes that my mom is our sponsored hype woman because she truly believes in me and our project,” she believes an early music fix was sustained by playing oboe in orchestra and wind ensemble instead of singing.

“Growing up, I always wanted to sing but it never really made any sense for me to pursue it,” shares Kraft, who shows appreciation for her “extremely supportive” parents, Ronald and Monica. “I loved soccer [she was a four-year varsity player at Webster Thomas High School outside Rochester] and knew I wanted to play in college, so we would always agree getting into singing wasn’t really practical.

“I used to have regrets that I never did singing growing up, but now as a young adult, it makes me more curious and hungry for growth. Something some people lose at my age. The grass is always greener!”

Kraft accepted an internship at the Stop & Shop office just south of Boston “before I’d even ever seen the city, just knowing that I would love it.”

A few days after moving, she met Camacho at the company, and the idea to start a band began percolating in 2018. Hired “as an intern into the lab where they were working on prototyping fun techy things for the stores,” she adds, “Manuel was leading the coding team then and had always been into music, and luckily so was his boss. Together they started an open mic program where Manuel would play guitar and I would sing.”

Performing covers of songs such as Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”, and soul-searching tunes made popular by Gloria Gaynor (“I Will Survive”) and Etta James (“Damn Your Eyes”), Kraft got hooked and wanted to improve her musical skills.

Camacho taught her to play some basic chords on the guitar and “that’s pretty much when I wrote my first handful of songs and we picked the best ones for our first EP.”

Bartlett, who hails from Oneida, a town in central New York, began dating Kraft two years after starting an “indie rock/ambient folk project” called Hope & Things in 2016. He soon invited her to sing and tour with his band that also included O’Connell on drums. 

Their only EP — the five-song Illusionary — that was released in March 2018 featured what the group bio called “ethereal synths, melancholic lyrics, and thoughtful guitar work.” It wasn’t long after that, though, when Coral Moons appeared. 

Photo: Tatiana Ariola / Courtesy of 1888 Media