Interview taken from HEROINE 6, out now.
A double entendre and girl power at its realest, The Big Moon began as an idea two years ago when lyricist Juliette Jackson wanted to start a group. The London-based outfit completed by Celia Archer (vocals, bass), Soph Nathan (vocals, guitar), and Fern Ford (drums) has impressively played Brixton Academy five times, sold out venues, played major festivals around the UK and already toured the US. And they’re just getting started.
Following the release early last year of their debut EP – The Road – there’s been no slowing down, but that suits this naturally enthusiastic foursome just fine. Right now they’re itching for the approaching release of their debut album, Love in the 4th Dimension. With production by Catherine Marks and co-production by frontwoman Juliette (lead vocals and guitar), the record is bold and vast, teeming with honesty, heart and humour. The Big Moon say they don’t take themselves too seriously, and that’s exactly why sincerity runs through their songs, all raw and honest without any over-thinking. Speaking from LA, Celia apologises for her lucidity (courtesy of jetlag) and dryly recalls how their recent tour was a real “pinch yourself” moment for the band. It’s that upfront ease, and a strong sense of self that comes through in their music. And what a great message that is to share.
Clementine Zawadzki: I understand that you all met after Juliette posted on Facebook and asked friends about starting a band?
Celia Archer: When I turned up to play with them for the first time, we were kind of sussing each other out. Jules came out of the place we used to rehearse and was like, “Hi, are you Celia? Oh my god I love you already!” and I was just like, “Great! Cool! Same!” and I played with them and it just felt really nice and was really fun. I got a text about playing with them the next day, but it wasn’t really a firm, “You’re in the band” so I was thinking this could go either way. On my way there, the strap of my bass case snapped and fell on the head of a small child. I was like, “That’s it, bad omen, it’s not going to happen, and they’re just going to let me down gently.” But I knew it was right when we all met. It’s a different level of friendship. It’s specific and unique, but it has to work or nothing works. I think it’s crazy we found that so easily.
Clementine: How did the album come together in the studio?
Celia: We did it over twelve days straight, twelve-hour days. It was a glorious summer and we spent it all in this box. It was good though, because where we recorded you could go out in this really nice courtyard and enjoy the sunshine so you didn’t go too crazy. We had loads of tropical inflatables all around and were wearing leis. I think there was a production note in one song, a Hawaiian bit, and that became the whole vibe for the album. We do everything live and then add stuff over the top, so we just knocked the songs out in the first couple of days because we all knew what we wanted it to sound like. Then we spent the rest of the time playing around with synths, hitting boxes and various parts of our bodies.
“We had loads of tropical inflatables all around and were wearing leis. I think there was a production note in one song, a Hawaiian bit, and that became the whole vibe for the album.”
Clementine: I think every track sounds like it could stand alone as a single. Was that intentional?
Celia: I’m really glad you said that, because that’s how I feel about them as well. I think Jules is such an incredible songwriter and she won’t do something unless it’s really good – none of the songs are half-assed, everything comes out a complete idea with this kind of force.
Clementine: Speaking of lyrics, I think your songs are quite emotionally empowering.
Celia: I feel exactly that. It’s that kind of thing though, like when I’m singing Sucker or Nothing Without You, I don’t ever feel weak. I think it’s partly because there’s power in taking those feelings and turning them into a really fucking awesome song that you get to perform in front of hundreds of people every night with your friends.
“There’s power in taking those feelings and turning them into a really fucking awesome song that you get to perform in front of hundreds of people every night with your friends.”
Clementine: You’ve supported some pretty incredible artists. Is there a moment that’s really stood out for you?
Celia: Oh my god, so many. Playing with The Maccabees was great. They’re such lovely boys. It’s always wonderful getting to watch Ezra Furman every night. He’s messianic, like everyone’s transfixed. Our tour with The Japanese House in the US was incredible. Amber’s one of our really good friends, so it was quite fun to run around America with her and see all the places you’ve always wanted to see. We played this show in San Francisco, which is maybe the best show we’ve ever played, and then afterwards we watched Amber’s set. I’ve seen her play so many times, but she was unbelievable. Soph just lost her shit. She was at the front screaming, putting her hands up to try and like touch her because she was being such a fucking rock star, and she was taking shit blurry photos on her phone. Headline shows are always particularly special because everyone’s there for you.
Clementine: Can you take certain liberties with your own shows?
Celia: We talk every time about how we should get a sign or a big light, stuff like that, but then we never have enough money, so I’m looking forward to that for the album tour. Not that I don’t love the backdrop made out of tape, I think it’s very good. I think it’s more about how you act on stage, you know everyone’s bought tickets to see you. It’s really fun playing sweaty venues to people who sing the words to your songs. Our show at Scala, we got back stage and were like, “Are we a real band now?” and Fern just couldn’t really speak for a bit. She’s keeping the time and the rhythm, so she says when it’s happening she has to pretend it’s not otherwise she’ll lose it.
Clementine: So what is the 4th Dimension for The Big Moon?
Celia: It’s about when you’re so in love with someone you feel like you’ve transcended a little bit, like you’re in this new plane of being because your feelings are so intense. The lyrics are amazing in terms of how much research Jules did into higher planes and intricacies. So when we were coming to name the album we thought one it sort of just fits, and the music can sometimes transport you into this weird other realm.
Clementine: If any of your songs had a personality, what would they be?
Celia: Oh this is so difficult. Pull The Other One would probably be bratty. Silent Movie Susie, she’s quite cheeky, and The Road is strong and resolved. My favourite is The End and Zeds is really sexy.
Clementine: And what’s the story behind your latest release Formidable?
Celia: We all loved it instantly. It’s about being there for someone and helping them through something, and it’s really serious about that. It’s probably the most earnest of the songs so far, that’s why the video for this one was quite hard because we couldn’t just make ourselves look stupid. We also didn’t want to look like douchebags. You know, sometimes after a long night’s drive, you’ve just got to get in the back of a van with your mates and jam out a song.
Clementine: Just another day on the road.
Celia: The number of times we’ve done that, I can’t tell you, I just remember being very cold and cramped and Louis Bhose [the director] being like, “I bloody love this stuff! It keeps me alive.” He’s a wonderful guy.
Clementine: Some of your videos are equal parts fun and terrifying. I can’t imagine having things thrown at you would be much fun, like in the video for Cupid!
Celia: With Cupid, we didn’t want to throw a load of food around because that’s a total waste, but then you have to think of things you can throw at people that look good on camera, but aren’t painful. So we had Monopoly money and weird frothy balls, plastic forks and loads of shit like that. The first bit was just pain, like super soakers and paint balloons that my friend spent all morning filling up. The first hit is just on Jules and we had to do that like three times, because it wouldn’t explode, it’d just bounce off her. We were getting pelted, couldn’t breathe properly and it was getting in our eyes and the whole time you’re trying to look good playing the song and not look fucking terrified.
Clementine: And dancing around with ribbons…
Celia: Kind of difficult, but also really easy to make look impressive. You just swivel about and everyone’s like, “Ooooooh.” When you’re twelve and start playing guitar in your bedroom, even if you daydream about playing massive gigs to people, you never think there might be a whole team of people who will work for nothing in order to make this kind of thing into reality.
The Big Moon‘s debut album Love In The 4th Dimension is out 7th April via Fiction Records.
Buy the new issue of HEROINE here.