This article was first published by The National Student on 7th July 2017
A few weeks after their show at Radio 1’s Big Weekend, The Big Moon are taking a break. Glastonbury is ahead (though now behind), and in the middle of the summer is a U.S. tour with Marika Hackman. So how do the four girls take a break?
“I like to do normal stuff, since being in a band isn’t really normal, it’s a bubble life. When I’m back I just like do DIY, lots of projects, being outside, gardening, building shit. So, to just do normal stuff, because I feel like I’m cheating life sometimes. If I build a shed I feel better about it.”
This sincere and plain desire of drummer Fern to do something useful and quietly impressive out of very little isn’t a surprise when it’s coming from anyone involved with The Big Moon – a band whose entire musical catalogue and live reputation is about taking sincere lyrics high energy performances and producing something we’ll always need: great pop/rock jams. This London 4-piece are part of a slowly resurgent mainstream rock scene, and for these girls, whilst it appears from the outside to have caught fire very quickly, there’s been more waiting around behind-the-scenes.
“We did lock ourselves away for a good six months before we did anything. We changed members as well, as people left to focus on other bands and stuff, so we had to replace [them], the usual bandy stuff. We didn’t want to show anyone until we were ready, and it felt right. And then when we did we just had all our ducks in a row, if you will… So it was me first [to join Juliette, vocals and guitar], and we kind of chipped away, and we were going to have another guitarist and then she couldn’t do it. And then we found Soph [Lead guitar] … by the time we found Celia we were just ready to crack on. I think it was two weeks after that we recorded our first demos and played our first gig.”
That slow work was present in the run up to releasing their debut Love In The 4th Dimension. Not only was its April release postponed from February (for ‘just cuz’ reasons, says Fern), the whole thing was actually recorded in August of 2016, and mastered by the end of October. A solid 6 month wait to unveil what is, in its way, a mission statement for the band – to bottle their live show magic and share it with the world. And the woman to bring this to the public was Catherine Marks, the Grammy nominated (for Wolf Alice’s ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’) producer. Having worked with The Killers, Foals, and The Amazons, Marks clicked with them after seeing a gig.
“Catherine came to a show, saw what we sound like live, and was one of the only ones who was very keen on not really messing with us. [She said] “This is what [you] sound like live, we should make your record sound like it… because we don’t want to dress it up to make you guys sound like something you aren’t.” Everything we just played together in the room, except for like extra guitars on top, and the vocals. Everything else was just in the room, and she stuck to that.”
Keeping that energy through live playing, rather than through tracking the individual instruments one at a time, has the advantage of generating the band’s vibe – it’s the same process that they took for playing their parts on their friend Marika Hackman’s recent sophomore album I’m Not Your Man. But there are mistakes and changes to their album’s tracks, hard as they may be to notice, which have now become the new parts:
“We kept [the mistakes] because it just sounds like you’re in a room and you’re playing, and the feeling’s right so just fuck it, leave the[m]… We almost stuck with the recording of Sucker that was like 3bpm slower, which sounds like nothing. 3bpm slower, and 3bpm faster. And it’s mad how one feels completely rushed like “Fuck! Slow down!”, and the other just feels like it’s dragging. So we just sat on that for like ages, and we re-recorded just as Catherine was leaving to do another session, just “Fuck it, this is the tempo”.
From the mixing up of tempos, to the long band gestation process, The Big Moon both throw themselves at challenges until they get them right, but don’t like getting stressed over mistakes. This extended to the slightly fraught band naming process: Fern abandoned the effort near the end, leaving Soph, “Crossword Queen” Celia, and lead singer Juliette to figure it out.
“Jules is one of those people that doesn’t write a sentence, she writes a few words in a text, and then writes a few more words in another text… She’d be like “toaster”… “micro“ “-wave”. I’m like “Jules get out of your kitchen”, and she’d ask “what do you mean?” and I’d have to say “These are not band names, you’re just in your kitchen and you don’t know what to say so you’re just looking around… So, we had “The Moon” and then we had to add a word, so I was just like “Right, come back to me when you’ve got a list, because I’m out. I can’t deal with this it’s so stressful”.
Meanwhile, Soph was part of her own figurative near disaster during Big Weekend. Playing guitar in another band (named Our Girl), also scheduled for the same day that weekend, meant the girls had their first real scheduling issue before a show – Soph’s other group didn’t finish until five minutes before she, Fern, Celia, and Jules were all due onstage themselves
“They were on two bands before us, and we left an hour after they did, and we still got in before them, and they managed to end it like five minutes before [we] were due onstage She was pretty stressed… she’s just always busy, she doesn’t take time off well, so she just completely stacked her diary. If she has a spare half hour and somebody asks her “Hey d’you mind being in my band for ½ an hour”, she’ll be like “Yeah!”.
It’s rather ironic that the band’s creation process, arrival on-scene, album release, and recent live shows can be characterised by near-misses, lucky encounters, and almost haphazard decisions; their debut couldn’t sound more alive, nor as crisp and ready-for-release as the latest pop sensation from chart favourites like Dua Lipa, or Ed Sheeran even, but with rock-star personality in lyrics and performance that has been underappreciated in recent years. That personality even appears on the band’s own website – on June 7th, a stunningly youthful photo of a half-naked Jeremy Corbyn was posted, with the band making a clear plea to optimism for his side. So before I left the band, I wanted to know if a) that really was Corbyn and b) how they reacted to the results.
“I never thought he was going to win, but I’m really glad that it caused the upset that it did. And y’know, I just think it was a really successful campaign. Just galvanised the youth like we haven’t seen in such a long time. Our future has kind of been dictated and determined by people who are, at the moment, just so fucking out of touch with everyone else’s reality. So yeah it’s good that people are seeing that they completely do get a say if they choose to… For the first time in ages, a little bit of hope.”
Which, is funnily enough, exactly what The Big Moon are offering the British Pop/Rock genre – that you don’t need to get moody to play successful guitar rock music, or even be a white guy. You just need your mates; above all, that’s who they are.