Ainhoa chats to one of her faves.
If you know Slow Motion Panic Masters, you know moa moa. We've been obsessed with this alt-pop band since the debut of their first single, 'Yellow Jacket', back in February. Now, a new single and whole pandemic later, Ainhoa is here to chat with the band about their unique sound, the best albums of the year, and establishing yourself as a small artist in times of covid.
First things first: who are moa moa, and how did they come to be?
We’re five pals from various threads of friendship/previous bands. James [Ratcliffe] (singer) produced a load of our separate work, and was in bands with Con [Connor Foweraker] and Dan [Byrne]. Add university, and Sophie [Parkes] meeting Dan in the same office and you have your moa moa concoction. Tasty.
Us here at SMPM love your unique, ever-evolving sound. Are there any artists you take inspiration from?
We love lots of different things that help inform (consciously or not) our stylistic choices in writing, production and live performance. I’d like to think we’re pretty open-minded, though, and are keen to ensure we’re listening with open ears to most stuff. But to answer the question, there are clear lines drawn from people like Radiohead and Blake.
Take us through your songwriting process. How does a moa moa banger become a reality?
James is the main driving force behind moa, which started from fleshed out ideas that he had.
Dan and I were in love with the songs, and so it was a case of applying them in a live context and then forming our world around it. Up until now, a moa moa banger has become a reality via the hemisphere of James’ weird brain alongside a bit of guidance from the wider moa clan. Now that some of these long-standing ideas are out in the world, we’re working together to flesh out the next releases. We’re really excited about something new that James and Connor have been working on, which we’re heading into the studio soon to record.
Importantly, James has such a unique and wonderful way with writing that his identity will always be placed at the heart of what we do.
2020 has not been kind to the arts, and smaller musicians have often been the most affected. How have you faced trying to establish yourselves in the underground music world during a pandemic?
We just tried to lean on what we’re best at, which is making (hopefully) good music. With our animation series, it was about taking old moa outtakes/demos and doing something fun and creative with it. We then released 'Spinning' which was a big step for us… It’s been received really well, and has helped introduce us to as many new people as possible during a lockdown, which has been nice.
It’s also been a good opportunity to plan, more so than anything, and work on how we see moa moa moving forward creatively. We have some really exciting live plans for 2021 (all things permitting), and have added some really amazing people to our moa family that are opening up some brilliant stuff for us in 2021.
It’s also been important for us to, at points (I’m less good at it!), collectively accept what’s been going on around us and chill a bit on things. We all really believe in what we’re doing and where we’re trying to take things, so patience has been key; even if it’s seemed like the pandemic is never ending… Who cares about taking over the world when you can’t even find a toilet roll in Tesco?
Your projects seem to touch on the topic of mental health quite often. The idea of isolation is ever-present in 'Please, Slow Me Down', while 'Spinning' deals with self-love and self-acceptance. What drives the band to tackle these kinds of subjects?
It’s not a thing that we’ve talked about as some kind of mission statement. I just feel that the way the conversation has changed around mental health over the last five years or so means that today, you’ll probably see more songs than you might think discussing mental health, whether abstractly or directly. It’s become part of everyone’s day-to-day vocabulary and lived experiences, so it’s only natural this should seep into the writing. Like the way you hear so many love songs, for example.
On a lighter note, the year is almost over! So tell us: what have the best albums of the year been?
I’m not a massive listener of albums on streaming sites. Not in an annoying way, I just find that phones etc have destroyed my ability to concentrate in general, so bigger bodies of work are a bit of a non-starter when I’m on the go. It’s fucking infuriating actually! That said, I’ll usually listen to stuff we’ve bought on vinyl.
The Moses Sumney record is fantastic. A cinematic, beautiful piece of work that is perfect in the cold, dark winter months.
Sophie: Backing my saxy gal pals I would go for Nubya Garcia’s Source - utterly obsessed with the amazing things she’s doing. And Christine and the Queens’ EP - solidifying her as the most perfect and joyful auteur.
And finally, what’s next from moa moa?
I hope that finally, after all this waiting, we’ll be playing lots of live shows! We popped our head above water in February with Yellow Jacket and had one show planned to celebrate it, which got cancelled… So, all the exciting things like playing festivals and shows just hasn’t happened for obvious reasons. It’ll be a big thing for us next year, and we’re all so excited to bring things to new people all over the UK. We’ll also definitely, definitely have more music coming your way soon, but that’s all top secret MI5 info.
Ask again at the beginning of next year tho ;)
Ainhoa Santos Goicoechea (pronounced "I-know-ah") is a culturally confused Creative Writing postgraduate student from the Basque Country, Spain. She is passionate about film, music and politics, and she should probably know more than she does about all three.
Thanks for reading! Slow Motion Panic Masters is a music, arts and culture blog created and edited by Ben Wheadon, a literature student and musician based at the University of Oxford. He is also a Fleet Foxes shill.
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