Interview: The Mouldy Lovers

| October 2, 2012

Words by Anthony Thomas

The Mouldy Lovers are unlike a majority of young bands. Nowadays, it seems as though you’ve got either your classic indie-pop/rock band, or the more synth heavy, electronically-minded alternative. This octuplet (that’s eight members, FYI) comes nowhere close to fitting into either of those genres. I tried to describe in my own words what kind of music Mouldy Lovers make, and after a good half an hour of no results, I gave into the easy option: Facebook. They describe themselves as “subtropical gypsy funk junk” and let’s be honest, that couldn’t be more accurate. Even describing them as a band doesn’t cut it because really, they are a cultural entity, a collective channeling West End’s charm through music. It certainly caught the ear of my Editor, so I got in contact with Matt (trumpet/trombone) and we had a chat in anticipation of their single launch (click me!) at The Box on Friday night.

MM: You’ve got a lot going on as a band, how would you describe it?
ML: You’re right, we’ve got a lot going on like Meg Ryan in the ’90’s. We’re all young peeps, I think the mean age is 20, which of course [means] we listen to a lot of modern music – product of the generation we live in – but somehow, none of that makes it through our music, luckily enough in my opinion. I’d describe it as a European circus, with acts from around the world, gypsies, big flowery flamenco skirts, moustachio’d strongmen, lions, trapeze, Irish carnies, all boisterously putting on a show. And this circus is a family. The Mouldy Lovers are a world circus family.

MM: One reviewer said, “The Mouldy Lovers sound exactly what you think West End sounds like.” Do you think a suburb can influence a band’s sound?
ML: I think 4101 definitely is a creature unto itself. Many of the band were born here, for the rest it’s our adopted home, and it’s the kind of place where there’s a very natural, undeliberate [sic] kinship between the people who live here. “How grassy do roots get” kinda thing. I think, honestly, it comes from the poor-as-plop residents who started out here, the migrants, vagrants, the displaced, who came to a colourless West End as a refuge and made it colourful, literally and metaphorically. And from that mix, that friction, collaboration, creativity just happens, kinship happens. I think that eclecticism that we live in everyday does affect our music. Consciously or otherwise. Then there’s the day-to-day “aren’t these just the loveliest people you can meet?” Smile at someone, and you can always expect a smile in return. It’s a little bit Woodford without the time-limit.

MM: How has it influenced the band’s sounds specifically?
ML: Our sound borrows from many cultures, but also from the loud klezma music playing in neighbours’ living rooms and Indian restaurants’ kitchens after closing time, from peers and friends and their parent’s collections. We have songs with distinctly Russian, Latin, Romany, and Klezma flavours, and much of that comes from the swirl around us. Monoculture scares me. Growing up Taiwanese, I’ve always felt comfortable in a melting pot, never in a one race situation – whether it be all Asian, or all Caucasian – a lack of diversity gives me the creeps a bit, which might be why I feel so at home with my Mouldy family.

MM: With so many members (and instruments), does the song writing process become a little chaotic at times?
ML: Surprisingly, no. We all respect and are fans of, in a way, each others’ skills in their instruments. The process is: one person creates a riff or melody, shows everyone, and we jam it out until all our bits interlock nicely, then collaborate changes etc. We don’t write parts for each other, there’s no scoring or, “What if you play these notes?” For example, I don’t know anything about stringed instruments, so I trust Gav and Canna, to work out something awesome, which they invariably do. And it somehow works.

MM: Does get a little tight on stage sometimes?
ML: Oh yeah! We just added two more horns to the group, so we’re back to eight, that brimming number. [We] had a first go with the new guys, Jess McFayden and Jo Sri at Brew Café, which has a stage fitting for your solo singer songwriter types, and we squished in there. It was beautiful. We thrive off it, actually, being close to each other. We really bounce off each others’ energy, hear each others sounds intimately. Put us on a large stage and we tend to try and get close and collide with each other anyways [sic]. The music’s not static, so the stage isn’t either.

MM: “Wake In Fright”, the lead single off your debut album, is set to be released next week. Tell me about it.
ML: It’s a two-act song, a bit like how Fleet Foxes eponymous have two acts. It starts off with this sort of shimmering banjo and Laneous. We have Laneous on the track. Xanthe, a friend of mine had spotted Laneous and The Family Yah at Woodford, raving, lent me the Found Things. I was hooked forever. Play it in the Mouldy van, we sing along to the thing. It’s one of our favourites, and it was ridiculous that we shared the same stomping ground as them, they’re world-class. So when Louis, on a whim, thinking that a rap might sound good in the second act of the song, emailed Laneous, we thought it’d be a long shot. “I’m keen,” basically. We were thrilled. So you have Laneous’ silky smooth croon through the track. He’d been reading a book, also a movie, called Wake In Fright, which in addition to the working title “Yonder Ruckus”, inspired the lyrics, and he just laid it down on recording day. We were amazed. He got so stuck into it, tried it ten different ways. We’ve just chucked the clip online, actually.

MM: Fittingly, next Friday’s show is at West End’s newest creative venue, The Box. Are you excited to bring the Mouldy Lovers party to the space?
ML: Absolutely, we’re friends with the owners. Sarah of Browning Street Studios supported us since we stared out. I have breakfast at Sol Bread on the weekend, so lately I’ve been peeking into The Box windows while digesting. My thoughts might run to food come launch night. I can’t wait to see it from the inside.

MM: Would you consider your fan base to be largely local, or does it extend further than the central Brisbane area?
ML: It’s definitely where most of listeners reside, perhaps through sheer power of hassling them relentlessly through busking around Brisbane, playing on rooftops, gigging nearly every weekend. Though, we have found reviews of our music in Russian and Spanish! Louis’ brother in Cambodia is peddling us hardcore over there, so a bit up there.

MM: You told me earlier that you’re heading up to Cairns later on, what are you guys doing up there?
ML: As I’m answering this, we’re meant to be sleeping so we can wake up in five hours to catch the maxi-taxi to get on a plane to Cairns. I had butterflies all day, not so much about the festival, which I am excited about, but more catching a plane as a band. Waiting for instruments in the airport carouse, somehow it feels like you’ve made it if you get on a plane as a band. When I was 12ish, I saw Resin Dogs waiting for their instruments at the carousel and I told myself, “One day it’ll be your turn, Matt.” We’re heading up for Wallaby Creek Festival. It’s going to be incredible…forests, music, campfires, and good times.

MM: To those not “in the know”, how would you describe a Mouldy Lovers show?
ML: I would love to know what it’s like to be in the crowd. I see smiling, sweating, dancing, complete lack of self-consciousness, conga lines. It looks to me like they’re having a fucking good time. And when we see you’re enjoying it, we go even harder. If there was a conversation going on between Mouldy and crowd, I think it’d be, “Oh, I see you’re enjoying yourself, how about we just play twice as hard and see just how much fun you can have?”

MM: While I think of it, what’s with the name?
ML: Ah, Louis and Jade (ex-member and lovely person) came up with it in high school. I like to think of two lovers who have grown old together, like the Lior song, or people who love old musty old books, instruments, things.

MM: Do you have anymore gigs slated?
ML: A ton, pretty much every week, and if there’s a break week, busking West End Markets or Queen Street. The one that comes to mind, though, is Woodford Folk Fest. We’re not on the official menu, but like the secret Chinese menu for locals only, we’re playing with The Gremlins, a re-collaboration of a thing we did at Reverse Garbage.

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