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Pittsburgh Artist of the Week: Paging Doctor Moon

Paging Doctor Moon is a project from singer and guitarist Kirsten Heibert that has expanded over the last couple years, culminating in a full sound that takes elements from each of the members’ musical backgrounds. The new song “Scars” is all about self-examination and learning to forgive, love, become vulnerable once again.

Kirsten Heibert recently spoke with WYEP’s Joey Spehar.

Paging Doctor Moon are:
Kirsten Heibert – vocals, guitar
Christian Hoffman – lead guitar
Derek Martin – bass
Spencer Rakoczy – drums
Reed Worth – vocals, guitar, keys

This conversation may be lightly edited for content, clarity, or length.

What’s your musical history up to this point?

We have a pretty eclectic collection of experiences – jam bands, punk bands, jazz & funk, hip-hop studio recordings, self produced albums, musical theater and opera…between the five of us, we can cover a lot of ground.

Christian, Derek and I are all Pittsburgh born & raised. Reed is from very close by in Ohio and Spencer is from outside of Philly. Music has been a huge part of all of our lives forever. Individually, we’ve been involved in a bunch of bands throughout the years (Sweet Earth, Kiwano Sour) and have performed in regional theaters throughout the country, as well as locally with the CLO and Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Paging Doctor Moon came together piece by piece. Before PDM, I recorded under a few different artist names, releasing 3 EPs and a number of singles with as many collaborators as I could find while living in NYC.

I relocated to Pittsburgh for a short stint in 2021 to release Paging Doctor Moon’s debut album, Lost My Body. The remainder of that year was spent playing shows with the original bandmates in NYC and recording our follow-up EP, Bug. The next year I returned to Pittsburgh to stay.

The guys all joined the project within the last year and some change. We write, practice and perform constantly. It has been such a wild and rewarding year – performing at the Three Rivers Arts Festival, hosting a monthly open stage at Thunderbird, opening for some excellent touring bands. Our differing backgrounds and experiences allow for a lot of experimentation and creativity and it’s been so much fun to craft our live shows. Sometimes we play for 3-4 hours at a time and I’m always a little overwhelmed that we’ve learned so much music in such a short amount of time. We have a ton of songs in the works, with one more set to be released this year. Bright and early next year we’ll be back in the studio! We just want to make music that we love to play.

Ben Prisbylla

How do you describe your sound?

We have been working this sentence out for a few weeks now – “Paging Doctor Moon is an indie band with an alternative soul and sound, mixing neo-psychedelia, the heart of a jam band and a touch of post rock.”

Tell us more about the song “Scars.” What inspired you to write it and what does it mean to you?  

“Scars” is a naïve, optimistic and genuine self-examination. We lead with questions – why do I make things harder than they have to be? Is opening up worth the risk? Could I forgive myself if I repeat the same mistakes again? These are left unanswered. The hook is really saying, hey – I’ve been hurt before. Sometimes I’m going to operate from that headspace. Sometimes I’m going to be difficult. Can we get past that?

As a person with a full lifetime of experiences (as we all are), it can be triggering to enter into an intimate, vulnerable space. You want to be able to be sure that the person you are engaging with is safe. You want to believe that they’re telling you the truth. Please, just be good to me. It could be so simple.

Sonically, we really explored the driving pulse of that anxiety, padded with a melodic bass line and steady fingerpicking. The lead guitar line is hauntingly out of place. The bridge and outro really let the band tell the story as it’s meant to be felt. It’s groovy and spacey; it’s fun and we’re jamming…but underneath that my heart is pounding and my teeth are clenched and I’m just begging you to see me.

What was the first album that really changed your life?

Kirsten: Regina Spektor 11:11
Derek: Tool Lateralus
Christian: Jimi Hendrix Are You Experienced
Spencer: The Who Quadrophenia
Reed: The Beatles Abbey Road

Who are some other Pittsburgh artists you think more people should listen to?  

Kirsten: Brahctopus, Orange Music
Derek: Feralcat and the Wild, The Sun Champs
Christian: Guitar Zack, Chalk Dinosaur, Norside Organ Trio
Spencer: Giants Causeway
Reed: Tory Silver

Any other super interesting things we should know about you?

We make all of our merch by hand! We upcycle clothes, partner with artists for handmade hats and pillows. Each piece is unique. Happy to take commissions too! We are hoping to add birdhouses to the mix in 2024.

Learn more about Paging Doctor Moon here.

Check out previous Pittsburgh Artists of the Week.

Joey Spehar is a Pittsburgh native who started as a volunteer D.J. at WYEP, fresh out of college in 2006. He took on any job they’d let him do like editing audio, engineering remote broadcasts, and shoveling snow.