Tom Raine interviews

The Edinburgh Interview Series - The Moonlands

In this third edition of the Edinburgh interview series, Tom spoke with The Moonlands about their new single 'Welcome to the Day', gig highlights and questionable morning routines.

How did you guys begin? How did you form?

Nick  - I’ve known Tenzin since we were teenagers, we met in high school and we’ve played songs together since we were about 14. Matt and Mischa met in Edinburgh.

Matt – I feel like I’ve known Mischa a while, we met in university.

Mischa – In DrumSoc!

Tenzin –  Me and Nick have played music for years, Matt and Mischa have done stuff together so we’d all played music together in different combinations and forms, it was about 2 years ago when we came together.

Mischa – A few years ago I was travelling so there was a period when the other 3 were doing stuff together. Then I joined and Nick asked if I wanted to do an album, (to Nick) you said very definitely ‘just that one song!’.

Matthew – I remember we all sort of convened in a garden and were jamming and thought yeah, we could play some music.

Tom – So you’ve all had different combos and kind of mixed them all together?

Matt – Yeah, and we’ve had to work out what the hell we were doing with all of our different projects and meld them together!

On your Instagram you say your genre is 'alt-folk/blues/soul/funk', so of course, a lot of different influences. Who would you say are your biggest influences as a band? I imagine you all listen to similar and different things but where is it that you all converge? Like a Venn diagram!

Matt – I was always influenced by heavy bands and also local community stuff, growing up I went to a lot of gigs and local shows. The community spirit of it was nice, grassroots stuff has always been pretty inspirational for me.

Tenzin – Me and Nick were always influenced by a lot of 60s and 70s music – Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Joni Mitchell, all that good stuff. Also lots of folky, harmony stuff. That’s definitely come over into the Moonlands. Although a lot of us have been influenced by things like jazz we’re definitely more over a ‘song’ band.

Nick – Tenzin mentioned songs, I very much like songs! I’m mainly into song-writing stuff and nicely written songs, I maybe don’t have a diverse of a palate as the other guys, but yeah, I really get into songs. I’ve listened to Wuthering Heights about 50 times this week!

Mischa – I hate that song. I really dislike it, it just feels like I’m in this wet marsh of depression when I listen to that song, no offence to Kate Bush. I like a lot of 60s and 70s music, my dad is like an old hippy and went to Woodstock so I listened to a lot of Jimmy Hendrix, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell. Jimi’s blues and jamming then led me into jazz stuff which me and Matt were then doing. I love groove and textures, James Blake is quite an inspiration. In that Venn diagram all of our outside bits with all the interesting differences then go into our songs, which is quite nice.

Now it seems like you’ve been gigging a good amount over the past last 12 months, you’ve played quite a few times at Henry’s Cellar Bar in particular for your single launch, and as well you’ve played some nice intimate things – I saw you played pretty much every day at the meadows during Fringe in August which was always the most beautiful place late evening. What would you say has been your gigging highlight so far?

Tenzin – We played Knockengorrach Festival in 2019 which was great, we played 3 sets and the whole experience was a big highlight, we all love the festival and it’s such a good crowd. We did one big electric set and a more intimate acoustic set in a longhouse. Then on the Sunday night we got asked to do another big dancey set and we were all a bit worse for wear shall we say… I had a really good time!

Matt – For me the meadows stuff has been really nice, I’m maybe not so used to playing outside and doing sit down gentle stuff. It was nice being a space that didn’t feel as ‘gig-y’ and playing outwards more – it was quite an interesting thing to do.

Tom – It must feel a lot bigger, more vast, people walking by doing their own thing.

Matt – We had loads of stuff set up like jenga set up.

Mischa – And shisha.

Matt – It could be a good idea during this, maybe minus the shisha.

Do you have anything planned during the rest of lock down? Online gigs, events?

Mischa – Oooh maybe!

Matt – Last night we were experimenting with this drum and recording different things.

Tenzin – Basically we’re doing a lot of recording. I guess we’re quite set on doing things as a 4 so doing online gigs is a bit tricky with Mischa in a different place.

Nick – We’re working on our next single which we’re thinking will come out around July time.

Mischa – Can we say what the title is?

Tenzin – Yeah why not, it’s called Don’t Bring Me Down.

Mischa – It’s nice that we can record across the internet but it can be tricky because often the guys will send me something to record and I’ll take like 3 weeks to do it. It’s easier when we’re all in one place.

Talking about new singles you released Welcome to the Day earlier in the year – first of all well done, it’s an absolutely beautiful track,  how did the song come about? Did it take a while to write and record?

Mischa – Yeah we recorded it in a day!

(all laugh)

Tenzin – I reckon it took about a year and a half, it took a long time to record. It was our first foray into recording and we were working with a lovely man called Adrian Sawyer. We recorded the drums, bass, keys and guitar as a live take and then built on top of that, which took a while.

Mischa – It was a really nice process because it took a long time to add all the vocals together, but even once we got all the tracks together there was a lot of fine tuning. We kept on adding these different little textures, quite fun but a long time.

I really liked the video to this which basically videos all your morning routines – how important do you think it is to have a good morning routine? As philosophy students I’m expecting some good answers!

Mischa – Yeah, ‘a person is defined by their morning routine’.

Nick – I’m a convert to breakfast, for a long time I was a coffee and cigarette man.

Mischa – I’m definitely guilty of waking up really late, like the longer I can sleep the better. But then I wake up at 11 or 12 to have my breakfast and everyone else is having their lunch. So often I’ll have breakfast then lunch straight away and end up feeling really sick.

Matt – I’ve manage to condense all of my water drinking into one session early in the morning.

Would be your favourite song that you play as a band?

Matt – I’m enjoying one we’re doing at the moment which is called Holy Moly, puts a lump in my throat when we’re singing it. There’s lots of vocal harmonies, I probably can’t do it justice lyrically but it talks about climate change and how that affects people’s actions. It can be difficult to sing because it’s very heavy but it’s quite cathartic and nice to sing.

Nick – I really like Blue, one Mischa wrote. It’s just a straight up blues song but he does this radge guitar solo, it’s so fun to play.

Tenzin – It’s so hard to pick, we’ve got too many songs. I like this song that Matt wrote called River. I’m really excited to record it because it never quite feels like we’re doing it justice when we play it live.

Mischa – The one that came to mind first was The Future is a Garden.

Nick – (laughs) No, *The* Future is a Garden! How many times!

Mischa – I’m so bad with remembering lyrics. But yeah it’s beautiful, Nick wrote the main bit and we were in Nick’s house in the borders, we had some whiskey and we were playing songs we hadn’t really finished. Over the next few weeks the song got momentum and sped ahead. It’s very poetic.

This situation has obviously been particularly difficult for some bands and musicians just starting out etc – how are you feeling about the future post-lockdown for yourselves?

Nick – We’re looking forward to big gigs but realistically that will be more gradual. So maybe more things like Moonlands in the meadows. Our last gig was in March at Henry’s Cellar Bar for the single launch and it’s crazy to think of everyone all together, not safe at all.

Tenzin – Hopefully we’ll just get lots of recording done and see what happens.

Tom – It can be a blessing and a curse really, no gigs but lots of time to record and think about your music.

Mischa – That’s true, I really miss playing with the others. There’s one thing hearing what they’ve recorded but it’s a whole other thing being in a room and harmonising. Hopefully we’ll be able to play as a band together when the measures are loosened. I’m looking to more outside and DIY gigs, there won’t be big events so it’ll be good to take things into our own hands, find fields and find two metre spaced hula hoops to dance with. Things like that are possible.

How has lockdown been for you all? What sort of things have you been up to?

Nick – I’ve been listening to some cracking podcasts. I’d recommend Conflicted, it’s this guy who’s a double agent between Al-Qaeda and MI6 and he talks all about his experiences.

Mischa – I’ve been working a lot at a residential care home, which is good cos I can still work  but it can be very tiring. Otherwise I’ve been doing some music stuff, trying to learn some jazz. Been listening to some audio books, and climbing trees! That’s been a real good thing for me. It stretches your limbs, you feel a lot of accomplishment, reconnects you with our primordial ancestors.

Matt – I’ve been doing some musical coding and making some instruments that you can interact with using hardware, kind of like an accessibility focused musical project.

Tenzin – I’ve been running and cycling a lot. Lots of exercise, and loads of random YouTube videos. Maybe not the best use of time, although I’ve been listening to a lot of NPR tiny desks.

Tom – That’s definitely a good use of time! What’s been your favourite so far?

Tenzin – I feel like I’ve already seen a lot of the classics so mostly re-watching them but there was one by Lizzo that was really good. I’d never heard of her but she has a really nice gospel voice and a good energy.

To finish off, I’ve seen you’re gonna be releasing an EP!

Nick – It’s kind of gonna be an album now!

Tenzin – We’ve gone back on forth, but we’re doing an album now.

What should we expect from it?

Nick –  Hopefully we can line the releases up with the coronavirus pandemic! Start with Welcome To The Day just as it’s all kicking off, then potentially have an arch, and then the last song is a really positive outward looking track.

Matt – We’re thinking of releasing the singles slowly because it’s difficult to self-produce and it’ll take us a while to do an album.

Tenzin – And once they’re ready we kinda just wanna put stuff out.

Thanks so much guys!

(all) - Thanks so much for having us!

The Moonlands new single ‘Welcome To The Day’ is out now.