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Moa Moa interview: "Almost anything seems to be on the table"

The Speedy Wundergound affiliates took five minutes out of their increasingly busy schedule to chat with us about writing songs, performing live in 2021 and what it was like to work with Dan Carey

Skiddle Staff

Date published: 24th Aug 2021

Right from the off, it's easy to see why Moa Moa aren't just your average run-of-the-mill band...

Citing influences ranging from producer extraordinaire, James Blake and New Zealand psych-rockers, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, to Tame Impala, Mark Ronson and even Ariana Grande - it's almost impossible to comprehend what such a concoction of musical inspiration might sound like when performed or recorded onto a physical or digital format.

Luckily for us, the London-based quintet have already done the hard part, forging a brand new, ambitious and original concept. The resulting product of the collection of talents that are Dan Byrne, Connor Foweraker, Sophie Parkes, Matt Taylor, and songwriter/producer, James Ratcliffe is one of much intrigue and joy. It's sensationally upbeat, wonky and trippy. A mastered blend of noise with a head-bopping pop element to boot.

With only three released singles to the bands' name, Moa Moa have already seen support from some of the biggest and most respected champions of the alternative music scene. Last years releases 'Yellow Jacket' and ‘Spinning’ both received widespread acclaim from a host of selectors, radio presenters and tastemakers, including BBC 6 Music's Lauren Laverne and publications such as DIY and Clash. 

Their most recent effort, however - 'Coltan Candy' - went one better, catching the attention of enigmatic producer and label boss, Dan Carey of Speedy Wunderground (Black Midi, The Lounge Society, Squid). 

We recently got the chance to catch up with the band to talk about working alongside the cult studio whiz. We also touched base on performing in a post-COVID world and dug a little deeper into the backstory of the band. Continue reading to find out what Matt and James from the band had to say...

 

(Click or tap on the artist and venue names below for tickets and more)

 

 

First things first - Give us some background. Tell us who Moa Moa really are, how and where you all met, etc...

Matt: "Hello hello, we’re Moa Moa and there’s five of us: Soph, Con, Dan, James and me. We all met on various different paths, whether it be school, being in bands, work, university etc. We started the band at the end of summer 2019 with some completed tracks and ideas James had and went from there. At the time we were all living together, so it made sense to cram into one big Moa cocktail."

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We’re actually pretty keen fans of Moa Moa here at Skiddle -  we’ve been tuned in since the release of ‘Yellow Jacket’ back in 2020 - and we’ve been overjoyed to see some new releases trickling through. Can we expect an album or maybe an EP anytime soon?

Matt and James: "Thanks for lending your ears. We’re working on new material now actually, which we’re all really excited about. Album feels a bit too soon, but maybe you’ll hear an EP soon."

 


 


 

Talking of new singles, your most recent track ‘Coltan Candy’ was released as part of Speedy Wunderground’s latest single series just a couple of weeks back! It’s one of the most jubilant sounding head boppers we’ve heard in a while! Congratulations!

How did getting on the Speedy Wunderground roster come about? 

Matt and James: "Thanks again. It was such a great experience and we’re really pleased with how it came out. In terms of becoming part of the Speedy roster, it was just a case of sending some music over to Pierre and Dan and seeing if they liked it… Which they did! It ended up being super simple because everyone was keen to work together."

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How was the experience of working in the studio with Dan Carey (Speedy Wunderground head honcho)? What wisdom has he bestowed upon you, if any? Working with Dan was one of the best things we’ve done to date. 

Matt and James: "To be honest, the Speedy process is kind of the antithesis of how we’ve worked so far and unlearning some of our neuroticism in the run-up to going into the room with Dan was always going to be challenging. He was actually really sensitive to us as a band and got what we’re trying to do intuitively. The whole day was so exciting, it pushed us pretty hard, and it all went by in a bit of a blur.

"The main thing he's passed on, which I think will be something that will stick, is to drop some of our over-thinking and perfectionism. For example, when it comes to getting a take, sometimes something might not be technically perfect, but there'll be an energy or feel to something which sets it apart and adds something special. I’d like to think we’re now way more in tune with that idea - both in a studio setting, and live as well."

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Back to ‘Coltan Candy’, let’s talk about lyrical content...

On the first listen, we had to stop, take it back a little, and press play again just to make sure we’d heard right. I think it would be fair of us to say that some of the lines are a little... out there. At the same time, we also recently learnt that there’s a very serious theme that runs throughout, highlighting ethical issues around mining in Africa? Is that right? And what’s the thinking behind blending these different ideas?

Matt: "Hahaha. Yer, that’s something that when James first presented the main lyric, we had to have a bit of a discussion. It’s not something that’s particularly talked about. As a general rule - though I don’t want to take anything off the table - I think any more politically charged moa lyrics will always be juxtaposed by a more sardonic, or playful angle. With specific reference to Coltan Candy, being overly serious only to then pair it with what’s going on musically would be jarring, I think. Some of the weirder lines are an acknowledgement of that."

 


 


  

What exactly would you say you’re trying to achieve through your music as a whole? Is there a specific goal as such, or are you all quite open to writing about whatever it is that’s important to you at the time? What’s the process both lyrically and musically?

Matt and James: "The main goal has to be to create things that we love, first and foremost, with the secondary hope that others will too. There’s always been a bit of an unwritten blueprint to try and create things that are a bit weird and wonky, but also that doesn’t prioritise ‘weird’ as the end goal. That seems too abstract and aimless, especially for a group of people containing five people that sometimes think very differently. We’ll often talk in practices or when we’re listening back to mixes about the immediacy of things, and I think that subconsciously comes into quite a lot of what we’ve done to date. 

Matt: "James is the main songwriter in moa and will present ideas to us in various forms of completion, which we’ll then get stuck into. He has a really clear idea of what he wants to create, and most of the time, we’re really on board with that. Thematically, James has a really broad palette with his lyrics, which keeps things interesting for me. He’s an honest writer, who often plays with being a bit silly - perhaps in reaction to the traditional convention with lyrics? - and almost anything seems to be on the table! That’s probably where some of the weirder stuff comes from…"

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All three of your singles - ‘Yellow Jacket’, ‘Spinning’ and ‘Coltan Candy’ - feature strong psych-pop characteristics that have been likened to those of Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra. We think we can hear some Metronomy in there and maybe even some WOOZE?

Are there any influences, either as a band or individually, that we might be surprised to learn of? 

James: "Metronomy is a good shout! More usual suspects like Radiohead, James Blake, Hiatus Kaiyote. Connor and I, having gone to music school, would say Messiaen, Grisey, Phillip Glass and other 20th century composers for the harmony. I also think a lot about pop/songwriting that I hold in high regard or 'pop goals' = Sia, Ariana Grande, most things Mark Ronson touches...something to strive for and ultimately semi-intentionally miss the mark in my own unique way haha."

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Now some quick-fire questions… You can collaborate with one and only one other artist on Speedy Wunderground. Who would it be and Why?

Matt and James: "We've been long-time fans of Melt Yourself Down, and all the tangential projects that Pete Wareham/Shabakah Hutchins and Tom Skinner have been involved with (Polar Bear, Acoustic Ladyland, Sons of Kemet etc.) Their stuff is everything you want from world-infused grooves and aggressive percussive sax riffs. The combination of four-plus saxophones, guitar riffs, two drummers and wonky harmony is dizzying. 

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Which event are you most looking forward to performing at this year? 

Matt and James: "To be honest, live is the one thing that we’ve been starved of as a band so far. We’ve been a band longer in lockdown than we have out of it… So, we’re genuinely looking forward to everything - there’s a load of stuff we haven’t announced yet, and it’s so exciting looking at the shows we’ve got booked in and seeing how busy we’re going to be."

 


 


 

Finally, are there any upcoming bands, local artists, indie music venues or businesses you’d especially like to give a shout out to? Maybe someone that’s helped you guys get where you are?

Matt and James: "We played a couple of really special shows at the 100 Club a few months ago, which were our first in about a year. They felt like a real moment for us, and we were really grateful to the venue for that. But on a broader level, anyone giving chances to untried and untested bands are heroes! The whole ecosystem of underground music relies on people giving a band its first gig, its first radio play, its first review etc. All these small milestones help to shape how you develop.

"Perhaps here is also a good place to shout out our friend Charlie Andrew, who released our track 'Spinning' and has been working with us on new material. He's a good egg."

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Catch the off-kilter fivesome doing their thing at Manchester's YES this October. Tickets are now on sale and selling fast. Get yours below... 

 

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