Featured Image: Pooneh Ghaha
The Big Moon have consistently rewritten the rules on what it means to be a modern indie band, since their formation in 2014. The London-based four-piece is led by lead singer and guitarist Juliette Jackson, bassist Celia Archer, drummer Fern Ford and guitarist Soph Nathan. Founded through a Facebook callout, their chemistry was obvious from the first time they played together, where Jackson is noted to have cried. Fate truly works in mysterious ways.
They’ve extensively toured, playing at numerous festivals and headline shows. Their successful debut album Love In The 4th Dimension was released in 2017 and was centred around grungy instrumentals and a lo-fi sound. Their efforts were rewarded with a prestigious Mercury Music Prize nomination and provided a strong foundation for their next release.
Their latest album Walking Like We Do, was released earlier this year and showed the band go in a more polished pop direction, as well as incorporating a new range of instrumentals. Following in the successful steps of their debut, it became an acclaimed Top 20 album, and The Sunday Times Culture cited it “oozes confidence, attitude and class…what a great album”.
Ironically named after the display of ‘mooning’, this tongue-in-cheek wit is easily heard in their tracks penned by Jackson. Particularly, in their sophomore album, which tackles the growing pains of life with clear perception and maturity. Their music videos are as cinematic and well-thought-out as their music. Despite paying homage to 90s boy bands for their ‘Take A Piece’ music video, their social commentary on fame and life, in general, is enthrallingly modern.
They’ve kept up the grind during lockdown, and have released a podcast on Spotify, discussing each track on their latest album. Furthermore, as part of a reaction to the pandemic, they recorded a track for the sold-out compilation vinyl album Songs For The National Health Service, alongside a few other big names, including The Wombats and Foals. All proceeds made were given for PPE for hospitals and NHS key workers. Also, Jackson and Archer have each given 1-1 music lessons to raise money for music charity, Girls Rock London.
aAh! catches up with Celia Archer over the phone, to find out more about making the music video for ‘Why’, favourite festival memories and doing bass lessons for Girls Rock London.
Your first album was Mercury Prize nominated. Was there any pressure going into creating your second album?
“I think that there is always pressure on a second album but Jules as the songwriter had the most pressure. She kind of took it all on for us, and she sort of managed to work through it quite well. I think she wrote a bunch like we toured for ages, and went back to writing songs straight after. She’s really good at just keeping that writing muscle going. When we have a bit of time off in between tours, she’ll try and write.
“We finished the album one cycle, and then she had like a month or so off before writing again. All of those songs felt a bit like album one songs, live-based songs, and it wasn’t feeling quite right. But, then she had this sort of breakthrough I guess. She was like, ‘Actually I can write whatever I want to write, it can be anything and I don’t have to think about you know, The Big Moon as a thing, I don’t have to copy anything, I don’t have to limit myself to the set up of all the live set up we’ve had previously. I can do anything I want’. This idea freed her up quite a bit to go in a different direction, and follow what she was feeling at the time. I think that shows on the second album, that sort of, ‘I’m going to do something else now’. It feels right to do that right now.”
You recorded your second album in Atlanta, how you end up recording there?
“We tried out a few different producers for this album because we wanted a cleaner sound. Catherine Marks, who we recorded our first album with, is a really amazing rock producer. She really helped us to get that live, fuzzy, indie-rock sound, that we were making at the time. She really helped us bottle it, she’s just incredible. But, this one was a bit cleaner, so we wanted to go with somebody different. Ben Allen, is someone who our label introduced us to. But, we were already big fans of his work. He’s worked with like Deerhunter, Animal Collective but started out in hip hop. So, you’ve got that he’s worked with hip hop artists and also with guitar bands, so he could help us with this cleaner sound that we were going for. So yeah, he is originally from Athens, GA but now he records and has a studio in Atlanta. It’s cheaper for us to go there and live in an Air BnB than to fly him out and treat him as nicely as he should be treated. So, we did it like that. We stayed in the Air BnB and made the record there.”
Also, when you were making the record you incorporated a new range of instruments played by the band. Whose idea was it to add more of these instruments, such as the flute, trumpet and piano?
“The instrument idea was Jules’. It was that idea of, ‘I don’t have to just do guitar-based and drums, I can think wider.’ Fern started learning the trumpet when we were touring the first album or maybe even before. Her brother got her it as a present for her birthday or Christmas, or something. So, she had a few lessons and when it came to it, we were like Fern can actually play that on the trumpet! Fern and I especially, are like if there’s something we can do, then we’ll try and do it. Fern is really amazing at that because she’s a drummer, so she thinks with each limb independently. She likes that challenge of ‘Can I physically play all of these parts at the same time?’. Often she can. So, that’s how she ended up playing the trumpet on that bit. Also, Jules has always played the flute, and it was just an instrument she had lying around from when she was younger. So, she picked it up one day when she was writing again, trying to not just start these songs on guitar, and kind of end up making the same song because you get in a pattern. You get used to certain shapes and stuff, so I think it was just her thinking, ‘What if I started this one on a flute, or the piano?’ So, that was that.”
You created the music video for ‘Why’ from your latest album in lockdown. What was the process and inspiration behind it?
“So, we didn’t want to do a Zoom video. We just put out an open call for people because there are so many creative people sitting around. We kind of decided in maybe April I think, when we started talking about it. We know there are lots of creative people sitting out there, looking at computers being like, ‘Why is no one doing this cool thing, that could be possible?’. So, we decided to ask them, and lots of people responded to it, and the idea by Jonjo Lowe was the one which we liked the most. It was before we were allowed to start filming, that we had the idea.”
“Originally we were going to try and shoot it in our flats, kind of send a green screen around, and film it ourselves. But, a combination of none of us having rooms in our flats that were big enough to film it properly, not trusting our camera skills, and the restrictions being eased a little bit meant that we could each use the studio. But, we filmed it by doing half a day separately, so we didn’t see each other when we filmed it. It was all done with a green screen. The director and DOP (Director of Photography) were there in hazmat suits and were cleaning everything every two seconds. So, everything was super. Then, an amazing team of graphic designers and visual artists kind of made that background and made it all look amazing. So, it was cool to do something, and it was nice to see what can be done within the restrictions. Nice to try and make a good video, not just a good lockdown video.”
You should’ve been in Glastonbury for the fourth time this year, which would’ve been your first time on the main stage. I did read about you bringing a bowling pin to Glastonbury one year. What has been your favourite festival memory so far?
“Ahh the bowling pin to Glastonbury, that was… I didn’t handle it well at the time. It’s also because I’d just dragged my boyfriend along, and I really wanted it to be nice. I was like, ‘Come on, I’ll sort it all out and I’ve got the tent blah blah blah’. Then, I was like, ‘Go and set up because we need to go and play a show, and can you carry all my stuff to camp’. Then, we were like, ‘What is this?’ I was like ‘Oh sh**, it’s a bowling pin, not a tent. We don’t have anywhere to sleep,’ but we can all laugh about it now. Well, everyone else laughed about it at the time, so that’s fine.”
“Favourite festival memory of all time… I mean the Glastonbury shows have always been amazing. There isn’t really anything like playing that festival, and yeah like I don’t know if it’s just because I’m trying to protect myself, I can’t think about the pain. It’s like I’ve sort of blocked it out from my memory. But, oh yeah, Mad Cool festival in Spain a couple of years ago was really nice. Latitude last year was lovely. Yeah, it’s really nice too. Playing festivals is really nice as there are other people there too. A lot of the time when you make friends in the industry, like other friends, you’re all on tour, so you never see each other. Festivals is the time when you can be like, ‘Aw we’re playing on the same day, let’s hang out and I’ll go see you.’ You can go and see other bands too, and discover new people. It’s really fun. Not getting to do it is a real… you know. But, a million worse things are happening right now, so it really doesn’t make it on the list.”
During lockdown you’ve been teaching bass for Girls Rock London. How did that happen?
“Ah well, Jules was doing guitar lessons from the beginning but I… it’s really funny, like again, funny now. We were on tour in Europe and we had a day off in Berlin, you could kind of feel it getting closer. It was getting more and more serious. We had our day off in Berlin, and we just got a text off our manager being like, ‘you have to come home, your shows have been cancelled, like come home now’. We were like, ‘okay I guess’. So, we just drove home from Berlin, and we put all of our stuff back in the lock-up at stupid’ o’clock in the morning. I was like, ‘should I take my bass and my keyboard, no it’s fine. I’m not going to need them as I’ll just have to carry them it’s totally fine’. I had this conversation out loud. Then, I was sat at my house for months without my gear, which was a shame. So yeah, but then when restrictions were eased a little bit I was able to go back to our lock-up, and pick up my stuff. I bought an interface, and then I was like, ‘Oh I can do lessons too.’ I’d heard about Girls Rock London about a year ago through a guy who fixes our pedals and had said they were doing a summer camp and did we wanna play? We couldn’t because we had festivals. But, then they were fundraising for what they were doing to make up for not having a Summer camp this year. One of the women who works there is friends with Fern, and they played in a band together. So, she put me in touch, and it went from there. It was great and I really enjoyed it. I hope the other people did. It’s just so nice to be playing music and talking to people. It’s is my favourite part of the band, like talking to people after shows and you know, playing music.”
Since we’re getting closer to the end of our interview, what is your favourite song on the new album?
“My favourite song on the album… normally it’s waves. I do love it a lot, but I think it’s ‘Your Light’. I think it’s because I miss playing it live, as that’s a good one to play live. So, I think it’s ‘Your Light’.”
Lastly, you each got matching moon tattoos after the second album to mark the end of it. What would you like others to remember from your music?
“Oh I don’t know, I just, partly because it’s very much Jules’ words and feelings it’s a difficult question to answer as not the songwriter, but maybe I could answer as a band we just want to make people feel better. Just feel a bit better, because things are really hard and if you can feel a bit stronger and do what you need to do things better for other people as well.”
The Big Moon’s latest album Walking Like We Do is available on all major streaming services. You can buy tickets to their Spring 2021 tour here. You can all also find out more about Girls Rock London here.
The dates are as follows:
Rescheduled The Big Moon Live Dates March 2021
1st – Glasgow, The Garage
2nd – Newcastle, Riverside
3rd – Manchester, Academy 2
5th – Sheffield, The Leadmill
6th – Birmingham, O2 Academy 2
7th – Cardiff, The Tramshed
8th – Brighton, Concorde 2
10th – London, The O2 Forum
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