The past year has been non-stop for The Big Moon. They spent late 2016 supporting The Japanese House on their North American tour, performed an incredible 12 show stint at SXSW, and worked with their contemporary and pal Marika Hackman on her highly anticipated sophomore album – all before they had even released their debut LP. Now embarking on a headline tour, few can claim as impressive a start to their career as the London-based quartet.
“It was plenty,” jokes frontwoman Juliette Jackson, but the band are quick to insist that their packed SXSW experience is looked back on as a highlight. “We got into the mindset of ‘We need to keep going,’” says guitarist Soph Nathan. Evidently so, as despite their extensive touring there’s no sign of The Big Moon losing any enthusiasm for their craft. “Playing a show is the thing that makes me not tired anymore,” adds bassist Celia Archer. “At one point I remember we’d done three shows that day and the last one was for Radio 6, and just before we were going on I was like ‘I can’t, we’re all just so dead. Where are we gonna dig the energy up from to do this show?’ and then you just do and it’s amazing. At the end of it we were like ‘Oh my god!’ And then we went out all night.”
Already a handful of shows into their UK tour, the novelty is far from wearing off. “Because now we’re playing songs from the album and the album’s out, so even just seeing people sing along to the songs that they’ve never heard before but we’ve known for ages is so exciting,” explains Soph.
Love In The 4th Dimension, released in early April to immense critical acclaim, is a raucous and bold exploration of love and youth, capturing a sense of restless ambition not dissimilar to that heard on classic indie debuts Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, and Is This It?. “I think before the album came out, we were all having weird anxiety dreams. I was definitely telling everyone that I didn’t care,” says Juliette with mock bravado. “But deep down, I care,” she admits jokingly. Any pre-release qualms were surely crushed by the response they received, including their inclusion in NME’s Best Albums Of The Year So Far. “[In the article] there was a picture of me next to Drake or someone, that’s pretty cool,” she says, sparking jokes about a future collaboration with the More Life artist – only “If it’s the right project for us,” adds Celia.
Reflecting on the time between recording and releasing the album, “Everything we’ve done sort of needed to happen before it came out, or it feels like that now because that’s the way it happened,” says Celia. Included in this, no doubt, is the experience of playing as Marika Hackman’s band on her upcoming release I’m Not Your Man. “It was great because we did it before we recorded our album, so it was a good way to get to know what its like to record an album in the studio, so when we went to do ours I think we all felt a lot more comfortable with the environment and how it was going to work,” explains Juliette.
The band breathe fun into every stage of the creative process, with their music videos being no exception. I’m told most of the ideas behind them are owed to director Louis Bhose who, in Celia’s words, “Just keeps knockin’ them outta the park.” The conception of the videos seems laid back, “We’ll go have a fry up in a caf and talk it out” over a “cheap and cheerful veggie breakfast,” says Juliette, but shooting can be less so. As we discuss the Cupid video I offer the description “attacked with paint,” which Juliette validates by exclaiming “I felt attacked!”. She explains how the experience was almost relived recently, “We stayed in an inn last night, and one of you [gesturing to her bandmates] told the guys we’re all in the band, and a guy had been down to the cellar of the pub and got this massive can of paint and came up to me and pretended to throw it all over me ‘like in the video, right?’”
Songwriting is less of a collaborative effort, with Juliette taking care of this lyric-wise. “I find the idea of you running stuff past us like that weird,” says Celia. “Cause it’s your feelings. I wouldn’t be like ‘Oh Jules, really? I’m not singing that!’” Juliette goes onto provide some insight into how she navigates drawing on personal experience and emotion without giving away too much about herself, “I’ve written songs, even ones that I’ve shown you guys and then thought actually, I don’t think I could ever really play that cause its too much.” With genuine curiosity, Celia asks “Like what?” to which her bandmate coyly replies, “I’m not gonna tell you, cause then you’ll listen to them again and be like ‘Oh wow, you really think that about this?’ And then you’ll know all about me”. She likens sharing lyrics to “opening up my diary and showing my pals.” As daunting as this sounds, it has obviously paid off.
The issue of oversharing is as relevant to lyrics as to social media activity. “It’s nice to share band things, but obviously there’s a lot of stuff that we don’t share,” explains Celia, with Soph agreeing that “If you’re having fun you don’t plan to do it”. The boundaries are laid out clearly with Juliette’s inspired metaphor, “I like to think of it as something like a magazine – The Big Moon Mag. And its just sort of like ‘On this page, there’s a picture of us looking really cool, and on this page there’s-” (at which point her bandmates’ amusement over ‘TBBM’ interrupts the rest of this obviously very serious merch pitch.
That said, The Big Moon are breaking down the illusion of the inaccessible rockstar – instead being effortlessly and authentically themselves onstage and with fans. “In the same way that it was nice doing the in-store tours and getting to meet people, it’s nice when you get messages from them and they’re like ‘I had a really bad break up and then I listened to your song and it made me feel better’” says Celia, who was told by one fan after a gig that Formidable was their ‘power song’. “It’s so nice cause I have break up songs and they make me feel great, and now [to Juliette] you did this for someone else!”
It’s unsurprising that their lyrics have had such an impact on fans given Juliette’s quick-wit and ability to evoke both vulnerability and power, even within the same song. On the vision for the album, Juliette says, “We knew we wanted it to sound live, and strong, and like how we sound. But in terms of the writing, I always say you can’t really choose what kind of songs you write, you just sort of make some noises with your hands, and make some noises with your mouth – and that means something and they join together and mean something else.” Her oversimplification of the process is a testament to her natural songwriting ability. “It’s much more like- not accidental, but it’s a lot more intangible. You just can’t mould it.”
This sense of ease in creating their sound mirrors their dynamic as bandmates, so much so that it’s hard to believe it was only in 2014 that they came together through mutual friends. As to what felt right about The Big Moon, Celia explains, “One thing is that Jules had written a lot of songs before [the band had formed], so we signed up to those songs and we all wanted to be part of that, so that’s one reason. And then the other thing is, just like the magic thing that makes it work when something else doesn’t, you know? You can’t really put your finger on it.” Juliette echoes the sentiment, “It’s like being in a relationship with someone, and you’re just like ‘Oh. I love you! I just love you.’” The truth of this is overwhelmingly palpable – their onstage chemistry rivals that of bands who have been playing together for decades. “All those things that I thought I had to put up with with other people, I don’t have to put up with them. All those things that were hard, they can be really easy,” concludes Celia.
For those concerned that The Big Moon have exhausted their inventory of tracks on the debut LP, fear not – “We had quite a lot more, but didn’t wanna blow our load, you know?” says Juliette. We’re only half glad they didn’t.