The Big Moon
Live @ O2 Academy 2 Oxford
March 3, 2020
Interview & Photography: Steve Bateman

On first hearing the sparkling, uplifting and melodic pop-rock perfection of The Big Moon, listeners will unequivocally be left moonstruck! And, although there isn't a particular meaning behind the London four-piece's moniker (they were originally called Riff Randell, then The Moon, but had to change this), Juliette 'Jules' Jackson (vocals/guitar), Soph Nathan (guitar/vocals), Celia Archer (bass/vocals) and Fern Ford (drums/organ), have been going from strength to strength! Formed in August 2014, by Jules - the group's primary songwriter and singer - she explained in one interview how there was "a lot of chance involved in the very beginnings of The Big Moon, but it’s a bit like if you go out searching for anything, you might find it."

The very first person to join The Big Moon, was Fern: "Jules was creating her own music and really wanted a band. So she set about making one! Through friends of friends and Facebook, she scraped around and auditioned musicians. Once we’d all been assembled, we locked ourselves away for the first 6-months. Just creating and playing." Jules elaborated in a different interview: "Well, there were lots of different people that I met to play music with, but then the four of us were finally together. At first it was just me and Fern, and then Soph joined, and when Celia came along it felt immediately like she was the last piece of the puzzle. I cried a little bit." With Jules having already written a batch of songs - which enabled The Big Moon to skip the jamming stage, as they knew exactly what kind of band they wanted to be. In another Q&A, she added: "It's like any good relationship, we all fell in love with each other fairly quickly but the time we spend working together, has strengthened that and we've learnt how to support and bring out the best in each other." When discussing her personal / societal lyrics, which are "always based on real situations and real feelings," Jules revealed: "I have a constant notepad on the go to write down things I think of for lyrics and stuff. But usually, I just noodle on the guitar in my bedroom until something sounds kind of okay, then make a rubbish demo and show the girls."

A deep dive into The Big Moon's history and achievements so far, shows that in 2015, they issued their debut EP, The Road (Handsome Dad Records), quickly followed by a self-released early version of Sucker. Then, after generating a lot of buzz through the online music platform, SoundCloud, and in music publications, the girls signed to Fiction Records in March 2016, as the label fully backed The Big Moon's vision and wanted them to make the kind of music that they wanted to make. Also of note, is how the group were supported early on by BBC Introducing, have been playlisted on Radio 1, performed at countless international gigs / festivals (also opening for the likes of Bombay Bicycle Club, Ezra Furman, The Maccabees, Mystery Jets, Pixies and The Vaccines). As well as putting out a slew of infectious singles, each accompanied by a unique and memorable promo video (Sucker won NME's 'Best Music Video' Award in 2018). In 2020, the girls were even nominated in the NME Awards 'Best British Band' and 'Best Band In The World' categories. Albums-wise, in April 2017, The Big Moon dropped their debut LP, Love In The 4th Dimension, which received widespread critical acclaim and a prestigious Mercury Prize nomination to boot!

Releasing their sophomore long player, Walking Like We Do, in January 2020 - which was recorded collaboratively over a month in the USA (Atlanta, Georgia), with Grammy-winning producer Ben Allen III and has a far less grungy and much poppier, streamlined sound. Speaking to Dork, Jules recounted: "I think we've really pushed ourselves to make something that sounds different. We really challenged ourselves. We wanted to work with a different producer and play different instruments. There are a lot of songs on the album that aren't guitar-based. We play the piano a lot, and the trumpet and the flute. We just used all of our other skills and learnt some new things as well... After a few months of writing these songs. I just had this revelation. 'Hey, we could just do anything'. The first album, it's all kind of a bit of a struggle, trying to get it all together and get the band together but with your second album, you finally have a platform, you have fans, and you have the space where you can finally create the thing you really wanted to make... Also, I realised it doesn't really matter what instruments we're playing. It doesn't even matter what genre of music it is because it's still us playing. It's our voices, and our lyrics so it's still our song. We found that we had a lot of faith in the strength of our own character and decided to just explode it. We wanted to be bold. It's good to be bold."

In their rave review of Walking Like We Do (which entered the Official Albums Chart at #19), CLASH Magazine rhapsodised: "Walking Like We Do presents a sense of musical fearlessness from The Big Moon. Lyrically defined and musically characteristic, it is an emotionally provocative, empowering listening experience... If Love In The 4th Dimension was a collection of joyous love songs, then their second outing is far more of an emotive passage... In thirty years time we will look back at Walking Like We Do as a true reflection of youth in the 2020s. By considering themes such as love, social injustice and all round perseverance, it is both mature and engaging. The Big Moon are constantly breathing new life into a genre which sometimes runs stale. For that we should be eternally grateful."

"We don't know where we're going, but we're walking like we do," sings Jules on A Hundred Ways To Land. And, before their effervescent sold out show in Oxford, after catching up with the lovely Jules, Fern and Soph for a quick 15-minute chat - having made an 'Album Of The Year' contender - I learnt how The Big Moon are a band who very much march to their own beat...

Lucy: Your band have been quite quiet for the last few months. Are you looking forward to playing gigs again?
Katie Jane Garside: I think I give very obtuse ans

1. If you had to put together a record sleeve in homage to The Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper, showing a selection of your heroes and influences (musical and otherwise), who are some of the people that you would include?
Jules: "That's a really good question..."
Soph: "Our Tour Manager was just singing Sgt. Pepper downstairs. That's so weird!"
Jules: (laughing)
Soph: "Who are some of our heroes (looking at Jules and Fern)?"
Jules: "Pixies, The White Stripes, Spice Girls, Patti Smith, Yeah Yeah Yeahs..."
Soph: "Amy Winehouse, David Byrne, Aretha Franklin..."
Fern: "Boyzone - I've just got to throw that in there."
Jules: "Ooh, yes (laughing). That'll do right?"
Fern: "That's quite a lot of people to put on there!"

2. For you personally, what have been some of the most important albums from the last 60 years, and if you had to pick a favourite Decade for music, which one would it be?

Jules: "Ooh..."
Soph: "The '60s and '70s."
Fern: "I'm an '80s and '90s girl. Like, give me some pop songs!"
Soph: "I guess The '60s and '70s is more guitar music, like The Doors."
Jules: "Yeah."
Fern: "Whereas I'm all about cheesy pop (laughing)."
Soph: "Yeah, I'm into that too."
Fern: "I really feel it though!"
All: (laughing)
Soph: "It really resonates with Fern!"
Fern: "Yeah!"
Jules: "Ahh. I don't think I could pick a favourite Decade, because I don't think of music like that."

3. I recently watched some fascinating music theory videos on YouTube, which dissect the technical aspects of making music and discuss bridges, key changes, middle 8s, modes, polyrhythms, tempos, time-signatures, word painting etc. I also learnt how a large percentage of popular music has a 4/4 beat, and how very few songs are solely written using only minor chords all the way through. Are these factors that you take into consideration when writing and recording?

Jules: "It's based on instinct, really."
Fern & Soph: "Yeah."
Jules: "You kind of just go where the song takes you. Whatever feels right."

4. After completing work on Walking Like We Do, you commemorated this moment by all getting matching moon tattoos at the 'Only You Tattoo' parlour in Atlanta, GA. But, studio-wise, do you have any rituals or guidelines that you adhere to?
Jules: "I mean, it's weird, because we've only made two albums, but we do have rituals!"
All: (laughing)
Jules: "We always have a big thing on the wall which is called 'The Scroll Of Destiny', where we write all of the song names and with a pen, you can write all of your ideas - whenever you have them - on the song names. Then, at the end, we rip it off the wall and burn it!"
Fern & Soph: "Yeah."
Jules: "So, that's nice... We make a lot of packed lunches together, that's like a daily ritual (laughing)."
Fern: "We drink a lot of tea."
Jules: "Yeah, endless tea! We made this album in Atlanta in America, so we had to take tea bags with us."
Fern: "They don't do tea very well over there."
Jules: "No, they don't do tea."

5. Jules recently mentioned in an interview: "I've always felt like all of our songs have a connection to pop music. All the music I listen to is pop music - I listen to the radio all day - and I like songs with choruses and verses. That is what I want in a song; that's all I've ever needed. So, I'm sure it'll keep happening, it's all just about the way it's recorded I guess that emphasises how poppy a song is or not. We have pop hooks but they're not recorded in a poppy way, so it's sort of like pop in disguise." But, which song hooks have most stuck in your head?
Jules: "Oh (excitedly)! Like (singing the hook from Annie Lennox's No More 'I Love You's', with Fern & Soph joining in). I also always want to sing Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus - that's always there!"
All: (laugh heartily after Jules does an uncanny impersonation of Miley Cyrus singing Wrecking Ball)
Fern: "It's so good!"

6. One of my absolute favourite elements of The Big Moon's sound, are your vocal harmonies. So, can you tell us more about how your 'gang harmonies' developed?

Jules: "Ahh, thanks. Again, it's an instinctive thing - you kind of just mumble along with stuff that feels right. It's quite hard to explain."

7. Growing up, did you mimic other singers or did you discover your own vocal style more naturally?

Soph: "I used to sing a lot of Dido as a kid."
Jules: "Oh my God (surprised), I was going to say Dido too!"
Soph: "Really!?"
Jules: "Well, I didn't sing Dido, but I remember when I was playing a guitar in my room, I would always do a voice that sounded like Dido."
Soph: "Oh, really (surprised + laughing)?"
Jules: "Yeah (excitedly)! That's so weird (laughing). Dido - she's the one! Put her on our Sgt. Pepper album cover as well."
Soph: "Yeah, we need her on there!"
All: (laughing)

8. Of all your songs, which is the most challenging to sing or play live?

Jules: "Sometimes, Take A Piece is a bit of a challenge, because it's really low in the verses and then really high in the chorus. But these days, it's good, because we can kind of just get the crowd to sing some of it (laughing)."
Soph: "Yeah, it's been nice!"
Jules: "And it's working really well. I don't know really..."
Soph: "When you start a new song, it always takes a bit of getting used to. The newest one at the minute is Holy Roller, but we'll get to the point where you don't have to think about it anymore - it just comes out. But right now - for me anyway - I'm still sort of thinking about what comes next on Holy Roller."
Jules: "Yeah."

9. Having covered artists as diverse as Fatboy Slim, Madonna, Oasis, Bonnie Tyler and Usher, have you ever had any feedback from the original songwriters on your cover versions + how do you choose which tracks to cover?

Soph: "Someone who works for Madonna - or someone who works for someone who works for Madonna, gave us the A-okay on it."
Fern & Jules: (laughing)
Soph: "They said that we could play it at gigs."
Jules: "We also got feedback from William Orbit. Was that the guy who produced Beautiful Stranger (looking at Fern & Soph)? We used to play Beautiful Stranger and I think he co-wrote it or something, so we had to get permission from him and he was like: 'I really like it, they've made a new version' blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. So, that was cool!"
Soph: "That was cool!"
Jules: "We got a nice e-mail. Obviously, we cover songs that we all like as a band, but if you want to record and release something, you do have to get clearance from the original songwriters."


10. Placebo's Brian Molko once said: "I think every band is trying to write a song that transcends their identity and exists completely in its own context, without any knowledge whatsoever of what they represent." Would you agree with this statement?

Jules: "Yeah, but you're never trying to write songs because you want everyone to know about the band, do you know what I mean? You're just trying to write a song that everyone likes (laughing). I can't see how it would work the other way round, really."
Soph: "I guess there's a difference between making a conscious effort to write a 'hit' that anybody would like, or whether you're just writing a song. Do you know what I mean?"
Fern: "Yeah."
Jules: "Yeah, but I guess they're kind of together aren't they?"
Soph: "Because you want people to like the songs that you write."
Jules: "Yeah."

11. Do you feel the way in which you have been perceived by the music press is accurate?
Fern: "The longer we've been doing it, yeah. I think in the beginning, we were compared to any band with women in it, pretty much (sounding frustrated) and the genre didn't matter. That's how it started out - it was lazy journalism at the start. But, the more we've been around and the more gigs we've played and the more people have actually listened..."
Jules: (laughing)
Fern: "The music press has stopped comparing us to any old female act. So yeah, I feel the longer we've been doing it, people have kind of 'got' it a bit more."
Jules & Soph: "Yeah."

12. Do you think 'Independent Venues Week' (which calls for the protection of the UK's indie music venues) is of vital importance to ensure the survival of grassroots music. Plus, after Brexit, how do you all feel about the Musicians’ Union petition calling for a new passport, which will allow acts and crew to travel freely between EU member states, so that they can tour without extra expenses incurred and added paperwork relating to Visas, taxation and transporting equipment and merchandise etc?
Fern: "Both of those things are really important, absolutely! In terms of Europe, it's really, really hard to tour there because it's expensive and anything that makes that more difficult (pausing), it really restricts you, I think. Because it's a business you know? I think sometimes people forget and still think of music as like a hobby, where it's like our job and it's loads of people's jobs. So, restricting movement and everything that comes with that (pausing), if it takes longer for you to get from one country to another, that's like another hotel bill and that's another wage."
Jules & Soph: "Yeah."
Fern: "Also, I would imagine that if you're being booked, all of this has to be taken into consideration. So, they might just stop booking British bands."
Jules: "Yeah."
Soph: "I mean, small bands - like unsigned bands - can't really get to America generally. So for that reason, it would be quite disheartening for that to also happen in Europe and bands were stuck touring the UK."
Fern & Jules: "Yeah."
Soph: "Unless you get to a point where..."
Jules: "You can afford it."
Soph: "You can afford it, yeah."

13. When you were first starting out as a group, how did you find securing a manager / booking gigs through a live agent?
Jules: "Well, we were extremely lucky and fortunate, because one of my best friends is a Music Manager. I was like joking: 'Are you going to manage my band?' and she was like: 'Yeah!' It turns out she's amazing and she still is our manager (Louise Latimer). So, I haven't really got any good advice, because we were just really lucky!"

14. As a band, what has been your biggest challenge to date?
Jules: "Hmmm (thinking)... I feel like everything's just been pretty alright."
Soph: "Yeah, I don't think there's been one specific thing. I mean, there's the whole getting used to the lifestyle of touring."
Fern: "Yeah."
Soph: "I love touring, but it's quite a weird way to live and that can be really challenging."
Jules: "Yeah."
Soph: "But that's sort of like an ongoing thing, you sort of learn to manage."
Jules: "Yeah."
Soph: "I don't think we've had any specific hurdles we've had to figure out."
Jules: "No."
Soph: "We sort of take everything as it comes."
Fern: "Yeah, I agree."

15. I read on the BBC News website how "The Big Moon pay themselves a small weekly wage to get by. This is taken out of 'the pot' - aka the advance from their label, Fiction Records, and their publishers." With Fern adding: "Maybe we should come up with more interesting newer merch designs, because that's how you pay for things. That's just the reality." So, with this in mind, if you were to ever open a 'Pop-Up Shop' for The Big Moon, what one-off merchandise would you like to sell?

Soph: "We'd love to have flasks made and also water bottles (laughing)!"
Fern & Jules: "Yeah!"
Soph: "Socks."
Jules: "Mooncups..."
Soph: "Yeah, Mooncups."
Fern: "We've been talking about that for a few years."
Jules: "Yeah, we need to just send them an e-mail don't we: 'Your name's Moon, my name's Moon, we all have periods - Hey!'"
All: (laugh heartily)
Soph: "Well, that's a little selection for you."
All: (laughing)

16. On a similar note, as people's record buying habits have changed so much, a number of artists and groups have talked of how there is now less pressure on them from record companies, in terms of sales and chart positions. However, with the vinyl resurgence and as you are this year's 'Record Store Day' ambassadors, do you have a say in what colours are used for your limited edition coloured LPs?
All: "Yeah (excitedly)!"
Soph: "It's really nice."

*BREAKING NEWS from the Official RSD Website: The Big Moon will be recording 3 tracks live to vinyl at Metropolis Studios on 5th March, to an audience of fans and media. The recording will be released exclusively for Record Store Day UK 2020*

17. Whilst researching, I saw that you've had many memorable fan encounters and social media messages, and nowadays, a lot of artists have a collective name for their fanbases. Is this the same for The Big Moon?
Fern: "We call them 'Mooners'."
Jules & Soph: "Yeah."
Fern: "It just sort of happened - there wasn't a lot of thought."
All: (laughing)

18. Lastly, have you had any personal highlights / spine-tingling moments during your career so far?
Soph: "The Mercury Awards."
Fern: "I think the Mercury Awards are up there."
Jules: "Yeah."
Fern: "KOKO was amazing!"
Soph: "Yeah, it was our biggest headline show!"
Jules: "Yeah, and just releasing a second album - that feels like an achievement."
Fern: "Coming out at the start of this year, it's been pretty great, because you never know if you're going to get to make another record again. We got to make a first album, but you don't always know what the life-span of a band is going to be..."
Soph: "Just being able to continue as a band."
Jules: "Yeah."
Fern: "Yeah, totally! And then also, this time round with the second album, we know each other better and we know our job better. So, it's nice to go into that with more confidence!"

A very special thanks to Jules, Fern, Soph and Celia, to The Big Moon's Tour Manager Antoine and to Warren @ Chuff Media, for all of their time and help.

"And remember your light"

wers to questions...It's never about looking forward to it. Actually maybe I should change the
script, maybe we are looeir musicm the 3rd album?