The Big Moon have been a staple in the indie music scene after signing with Fiction Records, and longtime fan Charlotte Staunton Gill got to chat to Celia Archer about the process of writing Walking Like We Do, and the social responsibility of being a band in the social media era.
How have you guys stayed in touch during lockdown and have you done anything special to keep in touch with your fans? I saw you did The Big Moon Track by Track Podcast?
We have kept mostly in touch on Whatsapp and in the beginning we were doing a weekly podcast. With the podcast we were already planning on doing it, as part of what we wanted to do with this album, like a track by track episode.
We got our friend Jenny to interview us, who’s a radio producer, and we were talking through it all from early demos to the final project.
It was really cool to have Jenny in it; she’s a really great presenter and producer. To have someone who when we sent her all the tracks prior, she would be like “What’s this sound?” and it would be a weird flute bubble that we did on a bar, so it’s quite nice to have someone point these things out.
For Jools, song writing can be quite “I just do it” so it’s quite nice for someone to be like “That’s really interesting that you did that, why did you do that?”. It makes you think about your process differently and that it is work as well. We spent a lot of time pouring a whole box of percussion instruments onto the floor and putting them back in again and recording it.
Walking Like We Do is such an important album. I’ve been working in music and doing interviews for a while, but this interview for me was particularly exciting because I feel like I’m very much part of The Big Moon sisterhood – I remember seeing you guys play Communion Festival a good 5 years ago. When this album came out following the huge success you had from the first one it felt different; it felt a lot more personal and experimental. What was the writing process like behind this album?
It’s always a bit scary when you’re making things. Anything you’re doing that requires tonnes of decisions, and in the real world for example even when looking for a rucksack you shop around and think of what happens if you don’t pick the right one. So when you’re making an album it’s more “Are we going to put the keyboard in or save it for later?” and that decision on an album track feels like if we don’t get it right, is the song not going to work?
Will someone listening to the album get to this point and not listen to the rest of it, because we didn’t do x soon enough or make them wait for it? You get into circular thinking.
We will try to do everything we can but at some point remember to let it be what it is and not worry about it too much. Alex, our producer, is good at letting us know that minor changes don’t change the song and that it’s more than that.
I want to talk about “Your Light” because that track to me is a really defining one to you as a band. I think it’s one of your God Tier tracks. The lyrics are so painfully true. A lot of us have been in positions where we’re are promised so many great things and for some reason they don’t manifest in the way you think they will. And a lyric that sticks out to me so much “We were promised the world; so was everyone else”. What was it like finishing that song? Did you know it would have such an effect on people?
That track is interesting because it had different lyrics to begin with, and Jools re-wrote them whilst we were recording and the song changed a lot because of that.
The basis of it was always good, but the thing about Your Light is the lyrics.
It wasn’t until we got that “Oh wow” feeling that you described, later on in the process.
Songs usually come quite fully formed and as someone who’s part of making it, to have the same feeling as a fan of “Wow! This song” was nice. I like it because it’s not “Don’t worry everything is going to be fine”, It’s “Things are shit and you’ve just got to keep on keeping on because some things are really amazing.”
The Big Moon has used your platform to educate people on the BLM movement and I like to ask people about it when interviewing because it’s important to keep conversations going. How do you think the music industry will change now that people are being more vocal?
Social media is good and bad. The brilliant thing is that it’s given so many people a platform and allowed them to break through and get messages out. It’s quicker than traditional media that can sometimes be built to keep certain people and messages out and democratises it in a way.
Realistically, it’s made and run by people whose main care is about making money off people. They profit every time there is outrage and a swell of activity on it and don’t care about the end result; they just care about the engagement of it.
There is, however, power in community and finding community. If you feel like there’s no one in your world who you can talk to or looks like you etc there’s ways to find shared communities and organising things together. A huge amount of things that have happened in the past decade would not have happened if it wasn’t for social media and connections.
As a band, we are four white women. Our role in The Black Lives Matter movement has no one sitting thinking “I wonder what The Big Moon are going to do about it.” but anything we did, we wanted to do, and did it to help, but the real work is being done by people who dedicate their life to organising.
It’s a skill to know how to get people together and work with political systems that are in place and community organisations that understand how to get society to move forward.
I need to ask, you guys have played some iconic Leeds venues including The Brudenell – do you have any favourite spots in Leeds and what do you enjoy about playing here?
I love playing in Leeds. Leeds is one of my favourite places to play. When we talk about our favourite independent venues, Brudenell is always on there. We’ve played some of our best gigs there. We’ve always had really great crowds in Leeds since the beginning – always really up for it, and always a solid great time.
Photographs were taken at the Crash Records at Leeds Headrow House gig in January 2020, by Erin Cooper-Jones, working with Mark Wheelwright.