"Life felt easy for a long time, and now it feels harder and more complicated," starts Jules. It's that uneasy shift that The Big Moon soundtrack with their brilliant second record 'Walking Like We Do'. A different beast to the dazzling wide-eyed excitement of 'Love In The 4th Dimension', album two sees the band step outside the confines of being an indie-guitar gang while they try to make sense of the world.
That first Big Moon record "feels far away" for Jules, Soph, Fern and Cee. Recorded in 2016 after a couple of years honing the songs on the road, they refused to do sad songs, "too easy", instead singing dreamy anthems about falling in love that were grounded in everyday romance. Over the course of that record, they become the gang you wanted to be a part of. Funny, relatable and welcoming, The Big Moon were a party everyone was invited to. Everything they did felt like a celebration. It was all joy, from getting a Mercury Prize nomination to selling out London's KOKO.
So when their comeback track and album opener starts with Jules singing, "I'm so bored of being capable. I need somewhere to be vulnerable," the light flickered. 'It's Easy Then' is lush, direct but delicate. It's a full step away from the brash assured swagger that drove 'Sucker' or 'Silent Movie Susie', but that's to be expected. With their hearts always on their sleeves, The Big Moon are in tune with the world around them and the past few years haven't been pleasant for a gang that value kindness, compassion and empathy. As 'Your Light' cradles, "So maybe it's an end 'cause this don't feel like a start. But every generation probably thought they were the last."
Yes, a lot has changed since The Big Moon bundled into our lives but fear not, this isn't us easing you into the idea that they've gone Second Album Serious. The band have always been the antidote to boring, and some things will never change.
"We do get a lot of 'Oh, The Big Moon? They're so cute and funny', which we are," starts Cee. "We are so adorable. And hilarious. But it's not from a place where we're saying, 'don't worry about anything, everything is fine'. We know what's going on. We're not idiots. We're very present in this world."
"But we can still enjoy our time together," grins Soph. And that's where the magic of 'Walking Like We Do' sparks from. The joy isn't always easy to find, but the hope is undeniable.
"Someone said that the first album was more inward-looking and this one is more outward-looking, which makes perfect sense to me," offers Jules. "The lyrics definitely make more sense on this album, and that just comes from experience and having a bit more confidence in myself. A lot of the songs on the first album were the first songs I'd ever written. I was just like, 'this rhymes, that's fun!'" This time around, though, Jules put a lot more thought and time into them. "Now it's like, this rhymes and that's fun, but what does it mean?"
"Sometimes when we're playing, I do wonder why I'm singing about my love life to a thousand people I don't know," continues Jules. "I guess they have their own connection with that emotion, but it's just nice to write songs about other things, you know?"
That said, the band are still head over heels with the idea of love on 'Walking Like We Do'. "Love songs aren't trivial or any less important than talking about politics or the state of the world," adds Cee. "Love is really important and falling in love is a nice story to tell and for people to hear and to connect with. It's just that Jules knows the specific relationship, whereas other people are like 'awh! That must be nice' or 'awh it felt like that for me that time'!"
The Big Moon have achieved a lot for a band who weren't really expecting much more than a good time. "It gets really stressful when it feels like music becomes everything," explains Cee. "It's important to take a step back from it and realise, firstly we're just making music, we're not curing cancer, and secondly, we've actually done quite a lot of cool things already. The fact that we signed a record deal is incredible, let alone the places we've gone and the people we've met. And now we get to go and do it all again, and I can't wait, but even if everything stopped tomorrow, I've already done it all."
"We're happy with the place we've got to," grins Soph. But while The Big Moon are humble and thankful, 'Walking Like We Do' doesn't sound like a band treading water or being comfortable with where they are. It's ambitious and drenched in bold new colours.
"You always want to make a better record and do bigger things," declares Jules. But it didn't come easy. "There was definitely pressure at first, just trying to write songs again after not writing for a long time and wondering what the fuck they were going to be."
Coming off years of touring, the first songs they wrote sounded similar to those glorious indie-bangers that made up the first record, but that wasn't good enough. "We just wanted to make something that had more depth to it," Jules continues. "Even just sonically, we wanted something that had more to it than just A Rock album. It took a bit of trial and error, but I think we knew how we wanted it to sound."
And the result is eclectic but considerate of space. It's the sort of album that makes sense of a band. Every moment is important and has been polished to a razor-sharp point. "As we went along, we worked out that less really is more and that songs, especially emotional ones, can hit so much harder when they're not layered and layered. We were just really trying to do new things and trying to find new ways to lift a chorus, rather than just being louder. Even if it feels good in the studio to use all the pedals, all the drums and use everything at once, I don't want to listen to that on a record. I want to hear everything. We still like, go for it live though," promises Jules. Anyone who saw them in 2019 will agree, the band still surround themselves in excitable joy.
Recorded in Atlanta instead of a bike ride from their homes in London, The Big Moon were "constantly scared we didn't have enough time to finish it."
"The last album we did so quickly because the songs knew themselves, all we had to do was record them," explains Cee. "This time around, we had more days in the studio, but we didn't know the songs as well." Away from the immediate reaction of a crowd clapping, cheering or singing along, it fell to the band to work out what felt good. "You're in this studio going, oh god, is that the right decision, should we put the piano in the first chorus and if we don't, is anyone ever going to care about this song?! How do we give this whole body of work the best chance to be enjoyed and heard."
Jules continues: "There are so many of those minute decisions. It's intense and a jumble of emotions because you're working on all the songs at once. Some are nearly finished, and you feel good about them, and some of them don't even have lyrics, and you're freaking out." But the band just had to trust themselves. "You can't try and write a song but also worry about what everyone else is going to think. It squashes the creative process. You just have to write the songs that you like, or feel right for you."
Even with other people in the room offering opinions, the band stood their ground and refused to follow what had come before. "It's another level of growing up, which is what a lot of this record has been about," says Cee. Their producer Ben Ben H. Allen III was amazing and really collaborative, offering suggestions about what songs could grow into or become, "and then suddenly you're like, what do I like? You have to analyse why you did something in the first place, and it's a whole thing," sighs Jules.
While other bands would buckle under the pressure or lose themselves in the questioning, 'Walking Like We Do' sees The Big Moon amplify their voice. There's not a single track that doesn't feel like the gang you fell head over heels for.
"When music becomes your job, and it's part of an industry, it feels like there are ways to do things," offers Cee. "You can show us algorithms and charts about what's worked with other bands, but ultimately, music is subjective. It's an opinion." And The Big Moon have never felt like other bands. "These aren't products, these are Jules' emotions. It's just about excavating your feelings, trying to crystalise them, and communicating them in a way that feels honest. You have to push all that other stuff away."
"There was definitely a lot of moments where we were recording, where we were like, no, we're doing it like this because we want to. No, I don't know why," continues Jules. And the end result is, "Exactly what we wanted to do. I feel really good about it," she grins.
'Walking Like We Do' is a record "about growing up," explains Jules, and that's a confusing time to make sense of. "It's also about trying to process a change that feels like it's happened around all of us. Things have just been getting weirder," she starts, before pausing.
"When you're writing songs, you're just trying to explain something or trying to understand the way you feel about something. You're trying to boil down a feeling into some words and music, and that's a language that can be a lot of emotions all at once.
"I think it says a lot more than actual language. I mean, I'm finding it hard trying to explain it now because words aren't as easy. It doesn't have the same depth, whereas music is all the emotions. It's happy, and it's sad at the same time. Music can say so much more than you can just trying to describe things in sentences."
"You can make sense of things and try to make a positive difference. You can take all the shit and squish it down into a diamond and give back, in times like these," reasons Cee.
Overall though, it's a record about community and finding strength in other people. "When you feel powerless, you can find your power in the people around you and the things you can affect," agrees Jules. That idea is dialled up to the extreme with 'Holy Roller'. "I always thought it'd be cool to write a song about starting your own religion. I just felt like everything was so unstable and everyone's like, 'What the fuck am I going to do when I get older?' 'What's going on with the world?' I just feel like if you were religious, you would have this thing that you believed in. Everything would have a reason, so I just thought it'd be cool to write a song about starting religion for people who felt left behind where you could drink red wine mixed with coke 'cos it's way better, you know?
"I know it's completely ridiculous. I don't genuinely want to start a religion. I just found it a good way of describing the state of everything." Things are so lost, "I'm gonna start a religion 'cos then we'll have something to believe in. It's just a playful way of describing all the shit," without being too down about it. "I don't wanna be bleak about everything, I still wanna have fun."
And while Jules definitely doesn't want to be Jesus - "imagine the pressure?" grins Cee - the song taps into the idea that The Big Moon can offer something to the world right now. "I wasn't thinking we're the band that's going to be the one that everyone believes in," starts Jules, as Cee offers: "But we can help. It's not like we're The Band, but we can one of them."
In their scene, there are no Blur vs Oasis rivalries. There's no putting other bands down to get ahead. There's space for everyone's voice.
"If there's any truth in the idea of music being a space for people to come together and feel solace in, then it is very easy for everyone to find their own little pockets of comfort. We're not even saying that we have the answers," she adds with a smirk. But that isn't going to keep them quiet.
"When I listen to music, I just want it to tell me that I'm not weird," starts Jules."I want it to explain how I'm feeling, whether I needed to know I was feeling like that or not. I want it to be the right thing at the right time. I really want these songs to feel truthful, honest and to make some sense of what I'm thinking. I feel like other people will feel the same. There's a freedom in finding a song that can articulate your feelings in three and a half minutes and maybe you can dance or cry in a corner or whatever that makes you feel like doing."
That uplifting freedom is echoed in the album title, which comes from the line in 'A Hundred Ways To Land': "We don't know where we're going, but we're walking like we do."
"It just feels like it sums up a lot of what we're talking about on the album about growing up, moving on and just walking forward into this future that doesn't make any sense at the moment," offers Jules, before Soph adds: "And being hopeful. It's about trying to be brave, positive and confident."
"We're doing it together," reasons Cee. "We're not walking into the wind on our own. 2020 looks good. It's the year of The Big Moon." And you're all invited.
Taken from the February issue of Dork. The Big Moon's album 'Walking Like We Do' is out now.
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