It’s a couple of hours before Moaning’s first ever show in the UK. Outside it’s raining, an ample example of our mopey British weather for the end of April, and the Californian trio, vocalist and guitarist Sean Solomon, synths player and bassist Pascal Stevenson and drummer Andrew MacKelvie, have just travelled from mainland Europe with tour buddies Metz to play a set at North London’s Test Pressing Festival. So far they’ve played Spain, Portugal and Italy where the sun was firmly shining, although, “Germany was pretty cold.”
Evidenced on the three piece’s sparkling self-titled debut album - from the delicate ‘Close’, where Sean sings “I want it now I want it close, I think of you at least the most” on a bed of glistening synths, to gut-wrenching ‘Misheard’ with it’s meteoric distortion masking melancholic lyricism and a euphoric guitar solo - Moaning have an uncanny ability for meshing together strands of singular genres, from rock to grunge to garage to shoegaze, to create an innovative sound.
The three were in multiple bands before Moaning, but at what point was the shift where they started taking this band super seriously? “We had taken a break from playing music for about a year and we had played in bands that we had kept going since high school because we were all friends and did it for fun. But after people went to college or moved away and there was just an entire year where I wasn’t playing in any bands and I felt like there was something missing. I had spent a lot of time thinking about what the next band would be and what it would be called, and we had been trying to start a new band, and as soon as we came up with the band name, I think we just started going for it and writing and recording,” offers Sean.
And of course there were many other names floating about before they settled on ‘the one’. “We had talked a lot [about other names] and they were bad,” Sean says of the potentials that didn’t quite make the cut. “My Uncle actually keeps lists of band names in a note book, and when I was younger I asked if I could read through them and they were just all the worst band names. I remember one was, Free Range Chickens, but I imagine that some party band somewhere would probably be into them. Some of the names on his list are bands now, I’ve looked back on it.”
I note how it might be a bit embarrassing to shout, “We’re Free Range Chickens” at the end of every show, “I know, naming a band is very difficult and actually it took me a long time to think of that. After recording some music and trying out different stuff musically was when it sort of dawned on me that the music sounded like, Moaning. So, it was easy to pick it then, but it took a long time, I was thinking on it every day. That’s the hardest part, otherwise you end up with a shitty name like, The Beatles or something,” the singer laughs.
When pressed for their favourite songs from the self-titled debut, Sean quips, “We hate them all equally, for sure,” before settling on deliciously fuzzy opener ‘Don’t Go’ (“This might work out somehow, might as well see, cause it’s right right now, even if it’s temporary.”) The singer elaborates, “I think it’s the best lyrically, because it’s the most hopeful and musically I think it’s interesting too.” However Pascal notes, “It shifts for me a lot, I think particularly when you’re writing an album your favourite song is the last one you write, because you’ve heard it the least times and so it’s still kind of exciting. I think for me, in this point, since the album came out I like ‘Does This Work For You’.”
The band lived with the record for quite a long time before it’s release - afterall you have your entire life to make your first album - and as previously mentioned it crosses a lot of genres, so have Moaning started to think about where to take their sound from here? “We’ve been talking about it but I think we’re working on it naturally, and the songs are taking their formation on their own. With the first record it kind of goes between soft and loud, and different genres and we sort of have been wanting to push those things further, and make things that are more pop oriented and more the opposite and see if we can mix them. But, it’s been pretty natural, I don’t want to pretend like we have long conversations about the next sound,” Sean explains, before joking, “well, we are going to add in some dubstep.”
Sean pays his rent with other creative endeavours but he admits he wishes he could concentrate on music full-time. “I personally am lucky to be an artist for a living, outside of music, it helps me commit myself to art obviously. But I think we’d still be in the band if I have to work somewhere else, and I probably will eventually, when people stop hiring me,” he begins. “I feel like Moaning has always been something we do outside of our normal lives, something we’ve always done for pleasure, and now because we’ve put in that time and found that time outside of work, we’ve been able to make it take up most of our time and now we’re on tour for most of the year.”
It’s also interesting to note the artistic layers to Moaning, in particular the destructive imagery that appears in their music videos, from the building literally falling apart in front of them in the visuals for ‘The Same’ to the pyromaniac tendencies in ‘Tired’. Is there a deeper meaning to that? “Masculinity is a prison,” jests Sean before continuing, “I don’t know, I’m trying to think. Well the album cover was thought out because we shot it as a photograph and it was actually a mirror that we dressed as a window. If you open up the cover, you see in the insert it appears like a floating mirror and on the outside it’s a cracked mirror, but it looks like there’s some sort of surreal fucked up image in this window. We were talking a lot about how the window was voyeuristic, but the mirror was reflective. In a way, presenting the lyrics to people and having people listen to them and critique them but also learning something about yourself in the process.”
As our chat wraps up, I wonder if in and amongst all the hype and attention Moaning have received recently, there’s anything they want to say that other journalists may not have necessarily picked up on. “I feel like we never get asked about how rock ’n’ roll is a government conspiracy and how we’re being paid to do this. But I think it’s better that no one knows,” starts Sean with a mischievous glint in his eye. "One day I do want to come clean though and talk about it. I’ll send you an email when we’re ready for that scandalous article.”