With a debut EP winning them fans in flourishes and a bolshy presence to boot, self proclaimed ‘fairground pop’ act The Moon Kids are certainly aiming for the orbits their name suggests.
Since we caught them a week before their T in the Park slot, the boys have taken to the stage at Scotland’s biggest and most prestigious music festival and “packed out” out the T-Break Tent.
I didn’t get the chance to catch them on their debut performance at T, just a wee 20-minute drive from their native Dunfermline, still when I caught up with a couple of the guys, vocalist and guitarist David Barr and guitarist Magnus Collie, on a sunny Sunday afternoon up in Balado they seem in a buoyant and confident mood a day or so after their set.
“Amazing” exclaims Barr when talking about the experience of playing T, who seems proud to have come full circle on the Balado experience after coming as a young boy, being inspired by music at the festival and now getting to play in the same fields as some of his heroes: “the best thing about it is the first year I came it was 1997, the first year it was at Balado, and the final year it’s here my band gets to play for the first time.
“I remember the first time I came, I was just totally absorbed in the excitement and atmosphere of it all; that was the day I decided I wanted to be in a band and I wanted to be part of this world, so it’s kind of funny the way it’s turned out.”
Indeed, it seems a long running fondness for T runs within the band as Collie, the band’s most recent addition, has also being attending from a very young age: “I’ve been coming since I was 14-years-old, my dad took me and it was the same experience (as Barr), I’ve been coming every year since and now I’ve had the full T in the Park experience.”
T in the Park seems something that’s very close to the band’s heart, as Barr confidentially points out “it was the biggest crowd we’ve played in front of, we pulled a much better turn out than we were anticipating”.
This was maybe a surprise for the band, but from before their set it was clear they were quite capable of packing out the prestigious local band tent, not only have they been riding high on a wave of hype that has earned them a healthy fan base but their PR work at the festival seems to have been done into the ground, much like Hector Bizerk did to much success last year.
It was hard to go anywhere around T-Break without seeing their faces on flyers, whether they’re being handed out by enthusiastic fans or scattered across the floor they’re still visible and hard to miss, anyone who had gone down to T-Break would have caught a glance of the band at some point.
Barr is eager to point out that the fans helping out are as important to the band as the guys up on stage: “when you build a small fan base people are happy to help because they become as much a part of the band as you are.”
It’s encouraging stuff, as is the band’s enthusiasm for the scene they occupy, “we’ve spent a lot of the weekend down at T Break watching other bands at our level, showing our support, I think that’s important, that’s what it’s all about, that’s what music is all about, people being together,” adds Barr who lists Caithness psychedelic indie rockers Neon Waltz as one of his highlights of the weekend.
Collie is keen to add some of his highlights and demonstrates an interest that stretches beyond the indie rock circles you might associate The Moon Kids with, listing acts like Wolf Alice and Scary People as personal highlights.
Barr’s eager to note that although they don’t particularly share a sound with band’s like Scary People that doesn’t necessarily mean they don’t love their music: “I think what Scary People do is different, I like what they do, they bring a new aspect; heavy metal has been very stereotyped, but they bring something new to that”.
“They’re making it cool again,” adds Collie.
It’s interesting that as we talk we can hear the Radio One Stage and CHVRCHES playing their third set of the weekend, filling in for London Grammar, causing Collie to recollect bands being dragged out their Tent to fill in slots at T Break, something that’s yet to happen to these guys, but you get the impression they wouldn’t grudge it.
These boys are genuinely excited to be playing a festival that has been such a big part of their young lives, “the special thing about T in the Park is people come to see music, people are into the bands, when you’re from Scotland you get a special response from the crowd cos they seem to support Scottish music,” adds Barr.
When chatting to the guys they’re in universal agreement that the number one highlight of all their years here has to be actually playing it but they’re full of fond memories from the past too.
Barr tells us: “my number one highlight of T in the Park has got to be playing it hasn’t it, but prior to that the very first time I came I remember being on my dad’s shoulders at The Charlatans, it was the second live band I’d ever seen, they’d just release the Tellin’ Stories album, and I remember just being ‘wow music’ and that’s when I feel in love with it.
“They [The Charlatans] were on the Main Stage actually, it’s amazing cos the first year I came Paul Weller and The Charlatans played and they played this year too.”
While Barr recollects falling in love with music for Collie it’s more about seeing those “monumental and historic bands” he’d never thought he’d see, acts like Rage Against the Machine and Blur are mentioned and surely bring back fond memories for so many T attendees of the Balado generation.
Of course T in the Park isn’t quite the same without your fair share of horror stories, today we’re basked in glorious sunshine but there’s always those years when you’re up to your neck in mud, Barr recalls being a kid and kicking mud up the back the white jeans of “a well known person in the industry”, who goes unnamed not for my lack of trying.
Still, he admits “camping is part of the whole experience, I’d do it again, it’s only once a year and you want to get involved in it, if you’re going to experience the whole T in the Park, you’ve got to do the camping”.
“It’s the biggest party of the year,” throws in Collie, and at this point in time we couldn’t agree more.
Still, playing T in the Park for the first time is a mere stepping stone for a band with their eye locked on the horizon, Barr has been quoted as saying before that they “want to write the anthem for our generation” and is more than confident that they are capable of this, stating that we have only just had a taster of The Moon Kids with their self-titled EP.
“The EP is an introduction to The Moon Kids, Magnus (Collie) only joined three weeks before we started giging, so the EP was recorded as a three-piece before we did any live gigs.
“The development’s been massive since then; it’s a great introduction into our sound, our songs but things have progressed a lot so you can expect an advancement on the EP.”
The full album is already recorded and Barr is clearly happy with it, but feels no rush to push it out while they’re still riding the wave of the EP, for now the band are focusing on putting a single out to keep momentum going, ‘Plastic Waterfalls’ in pencilled in for September/November time.
The upcoming airing of a show they did for BBC Alba and no doubt the press they’ll get from their run of festivals will no doubt keep them plenty occupied, and with a pending Scottish tour to go with the single release and a few more sessions in the studio, it’s unlikely the album will be released until the band’s packed schedule has calmed down, which could be well in 2015.
The Moon Kids melodic take on Britpop could well be looked at as a throw back, but their presence is such that it wouldn’t be hard to see them creating some kind of revival and standing along side some of the big names of the genre.
Indeed Barr approaches his songwriting much in the way of Britpop hero Damon Albarn, crafting something to the best he can make it before bringing it to the attention of his band and allowing them to work on it.
“I love songwriters that write perfectly crafted pop songs on the acoustic guitar, guys like David Bowie and Damon Albarn who’ve mastered the art of songwriting but then from that they can take it and do something with it.
“I’m more interested in that than bands that piece together songs in the rehearsal room, if you write a song as a band it goes through filtering process, but if I write a tune I need to impress the band in order for them to want to work on it, if you all write it together sometimes that bias can creep in and you run the risk of putting out stuff that’s medicore.
If everyone’s chipping in ideas you end up with a Frankenstein of a song, it takes a bit more to appreciate someone else piece of art, it’s not about a collaborative effort, it’s about a song that everybody agrees in a great song.”
Words: Iain Dawson
Photos: Bill Gray