Don't Fear the Reaper | Music | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly

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Don't Fear the Reaper

The birth of SLC trip-pop group Tarot Death Card.

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Any horror movie that involves a spooky-ass fortune-teller inevitably has that scene where said soothsayer forebodingly flips over a card, revealing the malicious rictus of death—the Grim Reaper. Because of its goth-friendly branding, we tend to associate that particular tarot card with doom, gloom and possibly a scythe to the neck. The actual significance of the tarot death card is much more positive. Any seer worth their crystal ball will tell you it represents transition and evolution—out with the old, in with the new. This aspect of the major arcana guides my lunchtime conversation with Chloe Muse, Christian Austin, Aaron Moura and McCormack Thompson, who spend their nights conjuring dreamy trip-pop elegies as Tarot Death Card.

When these four locals originally met in the summer of 2015, their mutual passion for music was little more than experimental fun. "I had only known Aaron for a day," lead vocalist Muse says. The group started from scratch, with little in the way of concept or structure. After a few independent jam sessions, rhythm guitarist Austin and keyboardist Moura established a songwriting system that set the groundwork for their current creative process. Once Moura and Austin have the skeleton of a song, Muse and Thompson flesh it out with full-bodied vocals and bass, respectively.

Moura says an intangible element is what really finishes the songs: "A lot of it has to do with chemistry. Once you have the foundation, it becomes about collaborating in a way that keeps you open to others' ideas." This is Tarot Death Card's secret weapon.

Based on the endearing way the bandmates finish each other's sentences and share inside jokes, it's clear they possess that rare bond most bands never unearth. They really sensed its presence at an impromptu recording session on a derelict stage on Park City's Main Street at 1 a.m. "It was the first time we ever played together, and everything just clicked," Moura says. With a handheld recorder, they tracked a few ideas that Moura and Austin had been "messing around with." The nocturnal chill of mountain air still exists on songs like the post-apocalyptic "Earth Rebirth," which features on the band's upcoming EP, Moon (facebook.com/tarotdeathcard).

"That was when we all decided that we wanted to play music for other people instead of just ourselves," Muse says.

Thompson recalls the evening with misty-eyed reverence. "I was hanging out with these three every day, and I naturally just fell in love with the music. I loved them as people already, but the music they created was so powerful that I wanted to make sure the world heard it."

Thompson continued to promote the band from within, securing Tarot Death Card's first gig at Kilby Court in December 2015, and helping them expand into venues like Urban Lounge and Provo's Muse Music—which have all been very supportive, Muse says: "Urban Lounge and Kilby Court have definitely helped propel us, and we're extremely grateful."

With time and gigs under their belt, Tarot Death Card rented out an isolated cabin in the middle of Duchesne County to record Moon, which they're releasing at Kilby on Saturday night. In between their rapidly filling gig schedule, TDC eyes their next project. It'll be a monthly singles project lasting until they have enough material to record an all-new LP (tentatively slated for release in late 2017/early 2018). The band's trajectory is now full-speed ahead, without regard for what cards the future holds. As for now, the band doesn't need a gypsy seer to tell them what they've already divined for themselves: "It's all about having positive energy," Muse says.

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