Moses Sumney isn’t taking interviews right now. But his manager is happy to put this writer and a photographer on the list for Sumney’s Monday performance at the Sinclair. Her message - or maybe it’s Sumney’s - seems pretty clear. Meet the musician through his music. Questions can come later. (Another possibility is that the Harvard Advocate isn’t exactly the sort of media outlet that Sumney, fresh from collaborations with Solange and Beck, and recent mastermind behind the genre-defying soul/folk/synth/choral creation that is Aromanticism, is going to entertain. But you can decide for yourself.)
Anyway, we go. They are, after all, free tickets to a Moses Sumney concert.
Live, Sumney embodies the same certainty that an interview refusal kind of implies. He jokes with the crowd, he heckles, he splits the audience of mostly-college students to self select into a two-part harmony by asking us whether or not we were rejected by Harvard College. Apologetic silence, is the answer. Moses must devise another way to create his chorus.
“Under 22, you sing this note—“ he sings it, pretty low, “And the real adults, you sing this one.” It is somewhat higher. He shoots a joke off in Spanish; from behind me comes a shouted, “claro que si!” and Sumney adjusts his mike, picks up the lyric again.
There’s incredible humility and intimacy required for someone to lyrically admit, as Moses Sumney does, that, “I don’t know if I am worth it.” But he admits, and admits again, and it suddenly seems that the performative humor, flirtation, the bravado, is a way to step back from the incredible permission that songs like, “Lonely World;” “Self-Help Tape;” and “Worth It” afford the listener. Swaying under the blue-purple light of the Sinclair’s flickering stage, Sumney raises his arms in a sort of invitation like the pastor’s son he actually is, and the whole house breaks into song.
Here are some more nice pictures, taken in the hope that maybe this brief article will pop up on Sumney’s Google Alerts. Although, if one concert is enough to go on, Sumney seems like the kind of person who doesn’t need the internet to remind him that he might be worth it. Which if you don’t think about it much at all, is still sort of splendid.