Exclusive Interview: Mike Sabath On “Sexy!” And The Origins Of The Moongirls

February 24, 2023

Text: Jeremy Whitaker

February 24 is a big day for Mike Sabath. Not only is it the release of his long-anticipated follow-up single, “Sexy!,” it's his birthday and the anniversary of the forming of his band The Moongirls.

Comprised of friends both old and new, Mike Sabath and The Moongirls are here to spread a message of complete authenticity and raw humanity. “This is not a gimmick… this shit is real.” 

On “Sexy!,” The Moongirls encourage us to embrace individual sexiness and self-expression. On their upcoming debut album, they dare to embrace the full range of human emotion. “Some days you feel like a God and some days you feel like you wanna die."

Ahead of the release, I caught up with the hitmaker over Zoom where we chatted love, delirium, delusion, and fear. He shared with me the origins of the band, the process of making fashion decisions without a stylist, and the transition from going solo to working with a “family.”

"Sexy!" is out now. Watch the music video here.

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Read the full interview below:

Jeremy Whitaker: Mike! Mike!

Mike Sabath: Hello! I'm just taking a little walk. I figured I'd get a little move on while we're talking.

JW: That's a fantastic idea. Are you in L.A.?

MS: Yeah, I'm in L.A.

JW: Nice. I'm in New York, in SoHo at the moment.

MS: Awesome. We got our roots on the east coast for this. This is good.

JW: I’ve been reading you're from Westchester. That's so exciting. Were you a city kid at all? 

MS: Yeah, I mean, I would go into the city often, but I can't say I'm from the city. No chance.

JW: No. Well, Westchester's definitely not the city, but I like Tarrytown.

MS: Yeah. I'm from Katonah. You know, Katonah?

JW: I've never been, but I know where it’s situated.

MS: Katonah gets a bad rap, but it’s a cute little town. It's relatively artsy, which is nice. At the time when I was growing up a lot of my friends and family did some type of art or farm or things like that. Now, it's of course gentrifying more, but it can never really get there because the textures and the landscape there are just so much more than that.

JW: You can't change the inherent texture of a place as much as people will try.

MS: Yeah. You can only change the people that walk through it and the cars that drive through it. I do love where I grew up. It was really beautiful and small and pretty quiet and I loved going to the city as well.

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JW: I read that you moved to L.A. to pursue music. Aside from getting your start in your hometown, did you ever pursue music in New York? 

MS: I would go into the city and this is something funny that, wait, did you know your camera is off? I need to see your beautiful face.

JW: Turning it on now! Mike, I'm embarrassed. The WiFi gave out in my apartment, so I'm in the basement of a shoe store right now, as you can tell. 

MS: That’s what I need to see! Anyway, something that's kind of funny in general is I've been thinking a lot about delusion lately. In life, there's such a thin line between delusion and dreaming and delusion in reality.

JW: Tell me more.

MS: It's such a thin line because, for example, to answer your question, when I was young, like 12 or 13, I would go into the city with my flip phone, and I would open the phone and sit across from someone and start talking into it and there would be no one on the phone. I'd be like, “Where? Yeah, I’ll be there. Where's the studio?” I would imagine that I'm taking the train to go meet someone to go to a studio. I would create this narrative.

JW: You were creating a scenario. That’s manifesting! It sounds like you manifested it.

MS: For sure. I mean it's all I've ever wanted to do. It's never really been a choice. Music is so deeply ingrained in my body from baby, baby. It’s interesting that when something is so true in yourself, it's oftentimes one of the last things that you fully embrace. When you are such an artist or such a creator, oftentimes it's hard to give yourself that acknowledgment.

JW: I read somewhere that what makes an artist is fighting the urge to hide to become who they’re meant to be. I think that's very real. 

MS: Yeah. I think that's very true. 

JW: And you’re someone who is following their dreams and carving their path, it’s admirable. I wanted to ask, you have so much good energy. How do you manage that, and keep it intact?

MS: I'm just being myself. I'm just trying, and it’s work that everyone does for themselves, on themselves. What I'm capturing in my art, who I'm being right now, and when I'm on TV, it's me in my form, it’s just a version of myself. I'm just so lucky that I get to do what I do because it fills me, it keeps my core intact. What people feel is my soul.

JW: And it translates. It seems like you surround yourself with some pretty amazing people too.

MS: Yes. I mean, look, there's only so much credit any individual can take in my opinion. Everyone’s initial environment is completely out of our control. And really, our responsibility is to choose the truth. All it is, and what I've simplified it down to, is there is love and fear, and our responsibility is to choose love. As cheesy as it sounds, whatever, I don't give a fuck. 

JW: So true.

MS: That is the truth. There is fear and there's love and love is correct and fear is incorrect. Fear can be helpful [as] it helps you identify exactly where you need to go. To me, it's a very important conversation to have as a culture, how to navigate fear, because we all are afraid. It's not that I don't have fear, it's that I've been starting to learn how to use it. When I'm afraid I know that's exactly what I need to do. 

JW: I feel like we got an intimate look at that side of you in the song you released in December, Being Human. It has such a different vibe than the direction you're going now. I think people responded to it because it was a peek inside your world. It isn't rosy all the time. 

MS: The general situation is that I'm releasing an album. And this album is an experiment with the experience of being human. We’ve been in a place where an artist will create a record that is one vibe and one energy, but the reality is that being human requires many different energies.

JW: Right, it's everything.

MS: Some days you feel like a God and some days you feel like you wanna die. That to me is the truest experience. So this music is sometimes when I'm low and sometimes when I'm high. I'd been wanting to experiment with that. Also to go back to your original question, when you [choose love], it just attracts people who do the same.

JW: You put out the right energy and it'll be returned to you.

MS: Yeah, and I'm very lucky to be surrounded by those people.

JW: I see that in your collaborations too. I know you worked with Lizzo, and her Grammy speech was so your vibe. “I don’t care if my positivity bothers you, what’s wrong with you!”

MS: Yes! Hundred percent, I loved that.

JW: Let’s talk more about this album and your new single that's coming out. I’m excited it's coming out on your birthday.

MS: The timing just kind of worked out. It's the best birthday present ever. There have been moments when I've been wanting to release on my birthday and it just happened to work out that we could finally do it. This period of my life is just so different and so beautiful for me because I collaborate, but I've been relatively on my own for a long time. Entering this world with The Moongirls, which is composed of some of my friends from when I was five years old to some newer friends, it's like a family. 

JW: What inspired you to create the album?

MS: The album is an experiment of duality. It's half the low feelings of life and half the highs. To me, the shape of being is that sine wave of life, up and down. I feel like I've learned so much by observing duality. The process was started by me before really ripping with The Moongirls, and then it was continued and finished with The Moongirls. 

It is an honest duality because it's half lonesome and half with a family. 

JW: What is the story behind the single coming out on the 24th, it's titled "Sexy!" right? 

MS: "Sexy!" was a moment when I was traveling. We were in Mexico and we were partying and there was just real human energy happening and there were songs that made people move. Songs from history that were just making people move. 

JW: Permanently.

MS: I flew back [to L.A] and that day we had rehearsal and I just had that energy and I had those tempos in me. I gave a rhythm to John Sterling on the drums and we started moving. Austin who plays the bass, and is also the creative director, had just gotten his bass, the Rick. The first line played [on the Rick] was the bass line for "Sexy!", and it's fucking iconic. The way we write is we often just have a feeling and it quickly erupts. It's such a magical, magical experience.

JW: Why “Sexy!”? I love the name. 

MS: [It’s] essentially just embracing your sexiness, embracing everyone’s sexiness. We are all sexy in our own ways and in the Moongirls universe, that is what we’re about. Embracing your sexiness and embracing what makes you shine. 

Photo by Oliver Pearson

JW: Because this is your first solo project, do you think the sound and vibe are directly impacted by The Moongirls? Did I mention I’m in love with The Moongirls?

MS: Yes. The Moongirls are one, we are all The Moongirls. Everything that's occurred before this has impacted my writing and my production. I would not be able to produce this level of record had I not been producing for essentially 20 years. Producing a band, producing live sonics, and producing classic sounding shit, that's a whole different level. That's real, real production. It's a process of building that world.

Years and years of finally listening and really absorbing the greats started training my ear to enable me to work with [artists like] Lizzo, Raye, and Shawn [Mendes]. I learned everything in those sessions. There's Mike Sabath the producer, Mike Sabath the human, and Mike Sabath the artist. The art is being able to jump between those things in the studio. 

JW: Right, right.

MS: Artists get very sensitive about everything. I have to produce Mike Sabath to make sure that I'm not letting him run the show. 

JW: That’s some serious compartmentalization.

MS: Yeah. And I'm like, no, no, no Mike, redo that shit. 

JW: When did the band come together? It's now Mike Sabath AND The Moongirls, when was that official?

MS: I mean, we became The Moongirls for real exactly a year ago on my birthday.

JW: Wow. Your golden birthday.

MS: What's that?

JW: It was your golden birthday! We’re in your golden year!

MS: Wow. I actually didn't even know, that’s crazy. With "Sexy!" coming out, that is gonna be our anniversary as The Moongirls. We were in Vegas for my birthday seeing Silk Sonic when we became The Moongirls for real. 

JW: That's crazy. It's gonna cap off a golden year for you, and you're turning 25. We’ve been bingeing "Who You Are" at my house and someone made a funny comment like, “do you have to have cool hair to be in The Moongirls?” And I said, “yeah I think so.”

MS: Yeah, it's actually a requirement. 

JW: It is a requirement! 

MS: Also my brother’s name is Jeremy, so that’s awesome. Very comforting.

JW: That’s so awesome. I hope that makes you feel safer. And tell me how you met Pete and the other girls.

Photo by Oliver Pearson

MS: Pete [Miller], we grew up together. We've known each other since we were five years old. We've been playing together for 20 years, which is crazy. Pete is a prodigy piano player, he’s brilliant. We've been playing together and jamming together, writing together, and producing together. You know, pre-pandemic, I had an entire album ready to go. I was on Ellen and all that shit was occurring, and sometimes you can climb and get on top of a mountain that you didn't mean to climb.

JW: Especially during that time.

MS: Then you're up there and you're like, what the fuck is happening? Learning that from artists that I work with has been powerful for me. Not only learning the craft and the sounds, but it's also learning from them the difficulties and emotional side of being an artist. I've learned a lot from Shawn [Mendes]. We're extremely close and he's been so supportive of me and so helpful in guiding me. 

JW: The pandemic was a shift for me too, it was hard to escape. 

MS: It was almost like the Gods were saying, all right, sit down and go through some shit. I went through what I needed to go through, felt pain, and had some time to think and be and grow. I was in extremely formative years. I was 20, maybe 21. How old are you?

JW: I'm 21 now, so I know that would be hard for me. And you've been working for so long, that must have been a difficult transition too.

MS: Wow. That's crazy. What's so funny is I feel like I was such a young version of that age as well as such an old one. I had both because I grew up in the suburbs and wasn't surrounded by a lot of culture. 

JW: I’m from Utah, so I know exactly what you’re saying.

MS: I was more just growing internally. That's why my mind and perspective are way ahead in other ways. I feel like I'm a child of culture, which is beautiful because once I started absorbing a lot of culture, it was so powerful. I was listening to records at a time when I was starting to be able to make that level of record. 

JW: That’s so formative.

MS: Yeah. There's still so much greatness to learn. I was 21ish and challenged mentally more in decision-making. So then it’s the summer of 2021, and I’m like coming out of a shell, and kind of having another rebirth in a way. And my friend is throwing a little festival, a small one, like in a backyard.

JW: The best.

MS: He was like, “Yo, do you want to play?” The feeling in me was like, “this is extremely important. I don’t know why, but it’s important that I play at this thing.” So I was like, “Yes, I'll do it.” I had that whole album and I made another album during the pandemic, so I had all this music. I was like, “Alright, I need a band.”

JW: That was the moment you were like, okay, let’s get down to business.

MS: Turns out it was so impactful because then I was like, “Pete, I need you, We need to form a band.” So then I hosted a jam at my house, and we invited everyone we could to come through and play.

JW: It was like auditions, but they didn't know.

MS: Yeah. It was “let’s just hang and jam and catch some vibes” with all different players. It was a beautiful, beautiful time and no one from that jam is in The Moongirls.

JW: You're kidding. That's so funny.

MS: Pete was there and after that jam, I knew who to call for drums. I called John [Sterling]. I've known him for eight years, and he's just amazing. We were friends, but like, we weren't close.

JW: One of your closer acquaintances.

MS: Yeah, we were always friendly. He came to the studio and he brought Baby Blue, which is his drum kit that is on all our records and in all the videos, and that was the first time that that drum kit had ever been recorded. 

JW: That's so crazy. Baby Blue is such a standout In your latest music video, wasn’t it even given a credit?

MS: Yeah, Baby Blue! So that was really cool. It was John, then I found Austin [on bass] through my friend Sandra. She also introduced me to Noah [Viklund, on guitar]. We were auditioning guitar players, and we had one person audition and it was Noah. After the audition, we were like, “No that wasn’t it.” Six months went by and we didn’t audition anyone else. It took six months to digest because it had been an explosive jam. Six months later I texted Noah and he was the final piece of The Moongirls. 

JW: The final piece of the puzzle. Did you say Austin is your creative director too? Is he the man in charge of the styling and the looks?

MS: We have such a magical relationship. It is so much more than a bass player. He's like my best friend now and I mean, we're all so close, but me and him, we had no idea what would happen between us. We have one of the craziest creative relationships I've ever experienced. I'm very much the sun… I just got this sun tattoo,

JW: I was gonna ask, I haven't seen that before and it looks fresh. I love it. 

MS: Me and Shawn [Mendes] actually both got suns.

JW: Twins!

MS: I've always felt very connected to the sun, but it's The Moongirls. Between me and [Austin], in a lot of ways, it's like the sun and the moon. Our relationship is so perfectly balanced in a way that just wherever my ideas go, we finish

JW: Each other's

MS: Sentences.

JW: It sounds like a perfect partnership. I’ve loved the looks and the vision for the album so far. Is that more you or Austin? 

MS: It's very much both of us. We're both very honest in our expression of ourselves. For the "Who You Are" video, for example, we were about to work with a stylist, and then we were just like, “This costs a lot of money, and the best styling is honest.” 

JW: I’ve loved the styling in the videos and I especially loved your little fuzzy pink coat. It was so much fun. 

MS: What is happening is extremely real. This is not a gimmick, this is not a band put together on a show. This era that we're entering in art in general, especially in music, this shit is real. These are real stars again.

JW: Its honesty and its individuality too; authenticity. 

MS: It's a generation of some rare people. Raye is one of one in this generation.

JW: We're big Raye fans.

MS: And that's real. She's a fucking goddess and she's a legend. With The Moongirls, this is real. This is us being the most potent versions of ourselves. When we enter the world of The Moongirls, all we want for you is to be free to be yourself. That's what the album is representing. Sometimes I feel like a sex god, and sometimes I feel like a fucking little hermit, it just depends. That to me is real, everything that we're doing is real. 

JW: The chemistry is out of this world and it feels so authentic when I’m watching you and The Moongirls work.

MS: With the styling, me and Austin flew to London in May of last year. We were walking around with jet lag and I'm like, “please let me try to find a vintage store,” and we were in some weird restaurant eating french fries and having a beer and there was a vintage store 300 feet away. Perfect. So we walk out, and it's fucking closed. We’re both delirious and we're like, “how do we get it in?” I rang the bell and we realized there was a studio right below it. This isn’t new to me. When I was coming up, my manager and I would do that. We would press intercoms and just try to get in the studio. 

JW: You're not afraid to make an entrance. 

MS: That was our whole thing! Anyway, they answered and we were like, “how do we get upstairs?” And then the owners opened the door for us and got us into the building and it turns out the store was just closing. The owner Clemmy was in there and we were like, “Hey, could we just come in to check out the stuff?” And she just liked the vibe so she said, “yeah, let's do it.” So then we just had like the best time ever, like delirium. Her collection of clothing was outrageous.

JW: Did you pull pieces from that store for the music video?

MS: It was mainly women's clothes, and this was a time when all of a sudden I realized that women's cuts fit me really well. I was trying something on, like, “this is really working…what is this?” And that's where I got the pink jacket. That's where Austin got the floral jacket. The two jackets we got in that store, then the fits that you're gonna see in the next video.

JW: Oh my God so there is gonna be a video for "Sexy!"?

MS: Oh my God.

JW: Don’t look at me like that! Okay, so I'm not ready. 

MS: No, the "Sexy!" video is out of control.

JW: Did you have any fashion references for the upcoming video or for the album in general?

MS: In our early fashion reference book essentially we had Jeanie Shrimpton for Vogue, Bert Stern circa 1965, Serge Gainsbourg, and Jane Birkin. Also Versace Fall ‘91 and Kenzo Spring ‘98. 

Photo by Oliver Pearson

JW: I'm not prepared. In the "Who You Are" video you were very much giving Mick Jagger. Is he a style reference for you? 

MS: I was so late to my exposure to a lot of these guys. A lot of it is just me being like, “I like this jacket.” 

JW: This is Mike Sabath, it's not anybody else. It's Mike Sabath.

MS: It really is. It's me and Austin in London, delirious, being like, I love this fuzzy jacket. Then the cowhide jacket I'm wearing in the video is Austin's dad's jacket that he wore when he got married on horseback.

JW: What? That's so random. 

MS: When we were styling ourselves for the "Who You Are" video we were in Austin's apartment. We all brought all of our clothes and we'd just put stuff on and stand together, and be like, that's terrible. All these pieces and all these decisions are very honest. Austin is much more studied than I am. Whenever I’m gravitating to something he'll elevate it. 

JW: That’s amazing.

MS: When you see this, "Sexy!" is about to be a moment, okay? If "Who You Are" is a vibe, "Sexy!" is a supernova. 

JW: It feels like you're being very intentional with the visuals for the album. Are they all a story? Is "Sexy!" gonna be a continuation of "Who You Are”?

MS: I don't wanna give everything away, but I feel like in general, it’s all an evolution. It's us, and it's the order we've been making them. We're becoming more and more potent. 

JW: In real-time.

MS: This video, it's just powerful. I'm watching the characters develop. 

JW:  Are there any collaborations on the album? 

MS: We shall have to see.

JW: I read somewhere online that you write a song every single day, can you confirm or deny?

MS: There have certainly been times. I still have this whiteboard in my basement at home in New York that says 24 songs in a week. 

JW: That is an insane amount. These days it seems more quality over quantity.

MS: Yeah. It's more art now. Rather than making a song every single day, we're grinding. My standard is extremely high and it's gotten higher over the years. And me and Austin together, there's, it's pretty…

JW: It's been elevated.

MS: My parents have been extremely supportive. When I was in first grade I would drum on the desks all day long and my teacher would call my parents like, “Michael is super disruptive.” My mom was reading this book at the time that was like, “if your kid is digging in the dirt, don't tell them to stop.”

JW: Like maybe they’re gonna be the next paleontologist.

MS: She was on that wave. So when my teacher called her, my mom was like, “don't stop, do it on your lap.”

JW: Thank God she was reading that book.

MS: No, no, legit. That was their approach always, which was really, really important. And again, out of my control. That was just luckily the cards I was dealt. I think with choosing love or fear, it's people's responsibility to then use their time to enable the world.

JW: Right. Let's stop repressing creativity and positivity.

MS: For example, when I was five, I started taking drum lessons. I had a baby drum set and my Mom was like, “You can have a big boy drum set if you take 24 drum lessons in a row.”

JW: They nurtured your skills. Good for them.

MS: Yeah and I always had to put in the work to go to the next level. I think that was very formative for my work ethic. I'm not just gonna go to the next thing without doing the work.

JW: It set the tone for your career.

MS: I think that is important. It was always building blocks and it just never stopped. Eventually, I could upgrade those things on my own and that's when it, and then it was

JW: Serious. 

MS: And it was. It's never-ending, it's still going now. Trying to push myself all the time. Trying to be better. Luckily whatever energy I've been given, this light, whatever this is, this magic does attract people who help me grow and build something powerful. With The Moongirls we're spreading family. We're all doing this together, putting love into it. It's real, it's honest. It's us making the fashion decisions. It's me and Austin directing the music video. This is us having an amazing time and really striving to be something impactful and inspiring and good.