Around this time last year in a post that featured The Skids, I mentioned that if I had to choose a band to represent the sound of Young Dunfermline today I’d go for The Moon Kids, who like to describe their melodic and timeless indie sound as ’fairground pop’.
Since then the band have packed out the T Break stage at last year’s T in the Park, appeared on BBC Alba’s Rapal and they’ve also been snapped up by new London based label Block 18 Records, who have just released their new single Strange Thoughts on Sunday, which The Moon Kids launched last Friday at Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh.
They have also just recorded a session for Janice Forsyth’s BBC Radio Scotland show, which can be heard online here in Britain for the next three and a half weeks.
This band is definitely going places and so I was delighted when frontman David Barr agreed to talk with For Malcontents Only.
But first, from their debut EP, this is the thoroughly wonderful Luna Park:
How would you describe fairground pop?
For me, there’s something very intense about fairgrounds – that combination of bright lights, pumping sound systems and machinery that has the power to catapult you 30ft into the air or spin you round so fast you forget who you are. They are designed for just one reason – to sell thrills. So there’s a lot of very upbeat energy around them. But there’s also a darker, edgier side too. I don’t just mean the stuff that’s going on in the shadows behind the waltzer or the whip, there’s something deeper than that going on. Maybe it’s the vacuum that’s created once all the thrillseekers have gone home, the machines have been locked up and the lights are switched off, once it’s dark and deserted. Suddenly that place, that was all laughs and thrills and energy just a few hours before, becomes very introspective and desolate. We want our music to capture both sides of that – the thrills and that darker edge. For me, the whole fairground thing is a great metaphor for the way life is – one minute you’re out with friends, you’re putting on a show and it’s a thrill a minute then, later, away from the bright lights and the energy, once the door slams shut and you’re alone with your thoughts wondering about the meaning of it all. Great pop music – whether it’s Anarchy In The UK or Suedehead or Live Forever – should always reflect real life so the whole fairground pop idea makes perfect sense to me from that perspective.
How did The Moon Kids form?
Originally we were all doing different things – I was writing songs and rehearsing with various line-ups, while Rory was in Sergeant, touring with Oasis and recording an album with Public Image/Stone Roses producer John Leckie. The two of us got together and began working on songs. Rollercoaster People, the opening track on The Moon Kids EP, was the very first thing we did together. Everyone else piled in a bit later.
Which acts have influenced the band?
Too many to mention but any list has to start with The Beatles and The Sex Pistols, Lee Mavers and The La’s, The Smiths, Blur, Teardrop Explodes, The Veils and, of course, Echo & The Bunnymen. We’re big fans of Tame Impala, Wild Beasts and Dutch Uncles too. I guess, because we’re from Scotland, it’s hard not to be influenced by all the amazing music that surrounded us growing up – everything from the Jesus & Mary Chain and Primal Scream to Orange Juice and Aztec Camera. I don’t think we sound anything like them, but two acts that also had an impact are, obviously, our hometown legends The Skids and a band that didn’t ever get the credit they deserved, The Grim Northern Social, who built a massive following across central Scotland. They had a really unique sound and a real punk-rock, independent ethic. I guess, from them, I learned that it’s important to do your own thing and go your own way. Even now, if you meet someone who has that GNS album, it’s like an instant bond. They were Scotland’s modern-day version of the Velvet Underground.
I hear Richard Jobson is a Moon Kids fan, which must be pleasing for you since you rate The Skids so highly.
Richard is, for me, one of the greatest frontmen of all time. Growing up, I’d go to see Dunfermline Athletic at East End Park and, as the team ran onto the pitch, Into The Valley would blast out of the PA. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and my heart start racing. The Skids, for me, were absolutely what it meant to be new wave. The Scared To Dance album – which was a huge influence on Joy Division and U2 – is so atmospheric and experimental but it’s packed with energy and attitude. If that record was released today, people would lose their minds over it. Richard has said some really nice things about us and, coming from him, it really means a lot. He’s one in a million.
When can we expect an album from you?
A bit further down the track. The band is still in its early stages so we’re just getting warmed up. I think every band wants to release one of those albums like Radiohead’s OK Computer or Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures that creates its own space and stands the test of time.
What would you say had been the highlight of your career so far?
Playing at T In The Park, in front of a hometown festival crowd, was a landmark achievement for us but there have been so many incredible moments it’s hard to pick just one. Discovering that, from 18,000 entries, our song Luna Park had made it to the last stages of an international songwriting competition was pretty special. Then the judging panel – including Tom Waits, Run DMC and London Grammar – loved it enough to vote us into the final selection. That was incredible. Most of all, just writing songs and hearing the band play them through for the first time is magical. Right now, though, I’m buzzing because our new single Strange Thoughts On Sunday has just been added to XFM’s Top Tunes Of All Time playlist on Spotify, alongside The Clash’s Janie Jones, The Who’s Magic Bus and Iggy Pop’s Lust For Life. It doesn’t get better than that.
Do you have an ambition for the band in 2015?
At last an easy one! The ambition for this year is just to make great records, play great gigs and grow as a band. It’s all about pushing forward and writing songs that connect at a deeper level.
Any new bands you would like to recommend?
I’m a massive Dutch Uncles fan – though since they’ve just released their fourth album, you probably wouldn’t class them as being that new. In terms of Scotland, we’ve played with Neon Waltz a couple of times and I think they are one of the most exciting bands around at the moment. White are creating a real buzz too. Though they’ve split up now, I’d recommend The Amazing Snakeheads album to anyone who’ll listen.
Yeah I would too. Amphetamine Ballads was my album of 2014. And I must feature Neon Waltz sometime soon on here. They’re another band to watch.
And some quick-fire questions:
What was the first-ever concert you went to?
T In The Park. First year at Balado. I was so young I had to sit on my dad’s shoulders to watch Stereophonics, Paul Weller and The Charlatans.
Ouch! That’s a hard one. See any of the above, but probably The La’s. It’s just packed with amazing songs.
The Warriors. Walter Hill’s 1979 updated take on Homer’s Odyssey. With gangs. And funfairs…
Favourite amusement park/carnival ride?
Probably Justin Codona’s Starchaser waltzer.
Best of luck with the single David and thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.
And here is that single Strange Thoughts on Sunday:
For more on The Moon Kids: