At the start of 2020, with a new album in tow, The Big Moon were ready to move up a gear. Then everything stopped. One pandemic later, they’re back – their lives changed, but better, and closer together, than ever before.
Words: Jessica Goodman.
Photos: Patrick Gunning.
We’re talking about the reality of having a period on a tour bus,” Jules starts. It’s Friday morning, and The Big Moon are in Glasgow, mid-way through a tour that’s been two years in the making. When we find them, Jules, Celia, Soph, and Fern are curled up around the sofa, discussing the cuteness of synced-up cycles and lamenting the difficulties that come with spending extended amounts of time on a vehicle that doesn’t have toilet-paper-flushing capabilities.
“Just one of the ways in which it’s not built for women, this touring life,” Celia sighs. It’s not been an easy return to life on the road (the group recently got back from performing at a Spanish festival to find that some of their equipment was stranded along the way), but as they relax a few hours before playing a headline show, there’s every sense that, obstacles be damned, this is where the band are meant to be.
Originally announced to promote and celebrate the release of their second album in 2020, this tour is long overdue. When The Big Moon released ‘Walking Like We Do’ at the start of the decade, it was met with excitement and acclaim. But, as every story of that year goes, it wasn’t long before any plans they had were cancelled in the face of the global pandemic. Any disappointment they might have felt at missed opportunities is evenly tempered. “There were other things to think about,” Celia states, “things that weren’t how our album was being received or what was happening with that.”
Instead, the way they look back on that era of their existence as a band is through the stories they’ve heard from family, friends, and fans. Fern remembers hearing from a friend of a friend working as a doctor in Melbourne during lockdown. “She was saying that she just kept repeating ‘Barcelona’ and her and her doctor friends just danced to it,” she recalls, prompting a chorus of heartfelt ‘aww’s from her bandmates. “You hear about those stories and you’re just like, ‘oh fuck, it is actually out there, and it is being heard and seen.'”
“Music always finds a way,” Celia enthuses. Not just a paraphrased quote from Jurassic Park, this is something these four women earnestly believe in. Jules questions what it might’ve been like, trying to get through these past few years without music – or movies or TV shows or any culture – and her sisters-in-sound are quick to echo her sentiment. “Art is such an important part of getting through life,” Celia expresses, “and making things feel bearable and exciting or magical.”
Something they have missed over the past two years is the ability to connect in person, to perform and play and sing, while being in the moment with a room full of people all enthusiastic to share in the same. This is what they’re revelling in being able to rediscover now they’re back on the road. More than what was initially intended – a chance to give their second record a new life on stage – these shows have now become an opportunity to air new material from their new album ‘Here Is Everything’.
When The Big Moon announced their third record, the news came alongside the release of lead single, ‘Wide Eyes’. An anthemic ode to love, to friendship, family, and support, the song was accompanied by a video showing the band enthusiastically partaking in The World’s Most Heartfelt Friendship Handshake (we admit we don’t know the stats behind this, but we feel valid in giving the group this accolade – Ed).
The video’s release was met with an outpouring of emotion. Mentioning it in conversation with the band does much the same. It only takes it being brought up for Celia to admit she’s nearly crying. “We thought it was going to be funny,” she states, “silly and funny,” while Soph is quick to agree, saying “we didn’t get how emotional it is as well.”
“To spend two or three weeks together just slapping each other’s hands…” Jules describes of the rehearsals that went into making the video. “It was the best fun?” she concludes, her surprise at finding so much happiness in something so simple turning her statement into a question. “I feel like I have never enjoyed anything so much in my life.”
“To spend two or three weeks together just slapping each other’s hands – I have never enjoyed anything so much in my life”Jules Jackson
A portrayal of the joy that’s found in friendship and connection, a celebration of trust and touch, the video shows who The Big Moon are at their very core: it’s fun, it’s playful, it’s poignant, and when all four of the band are together it works in a way that’s unlike anything else. Watching each other rehearse the group describe as being like witnessing a secret language. Rehearsing together all four of them and discovering that language to be innate to them all was an experience they found to be as mystifying as it was magical.
It doesn’t take long in their presence to realise that the emotion we see in the ‘Wide Eyes’ video isn’t just for show: this is just who The Big Moon are. In conversation, if one of them starts to overthink what they’re saying, the others are quick to chime in with support and affirmation. If another starts to lag, lost in thought or feeling tired, the others are quick to offer cheers, hugs, or to share their tea. They have an innate sense of each other – where they’re at, what they need – that only the closest friends can have, and using that to boost each other up comes as naturally to them as moving.
“This is a weird job,” Celia comments of being in a band. “It’s hard to quantify the importance of it.” Whatever it is you do, it can be hard to recognise what you’re bringing to the table. In music, success is largely dependent on an audience connecting with what you create. For The Big Moon, they’re just trying to do each other justice and do each other proud. “We just do it,” Celia continues. “We just are us and we just love each other and take care of each other. Unless someone tells you, you don’t know that’s what other people are feeling too.”
The innate connection they’ve come to share is what enabled them to bring their new album to life. Written over the course of the past two years – during which not only did the band experience lockdowns and isolation like the rest of us, but Jules grew, gave birth to, and began to raise another human being – ‘Here Is Everything’ is a testament to, well, everything.
“It documents this whole insane journey,” Jules describes, “lockdown, freedom, pregnancy, birth, motherhood, coming back together again… All of those things are trapped inside this album.” Here, she takes a moment to think over the things she just listed, then laughs. “It’s been a crazy couple of years.”
An album of two halves, ‘Here Is Everything’ encompasses all the fear and questioning and excitement of pregnancy, as well as the exhaustion and elation and adoration of motherhood. Jules jokes that she started writing during lockdown with the mindset of “‘what the hell else am I going to do right now?'” but it’s always been in this band’s nature to write songs that are true to them.
“Art is such an important part of getting through life”Celia Archer
“It’s my way of processing things and my way of trying to be normal, or trying to have my normal life,” Jules describes of songwriting. “I feel like I will always just write songs about my experience and try to describe what I’m seeing and feeling. I don’t think I could have written songs about anything else because it was all I was thinking about.”
Seeking out other people’s stories of their experiences with pregnancy and motherhood through podcasts and books and YouTube videos, it seemed natural to Jules to write her own experience of what she was going through and turn it into music. “Being pregnant is just extraordinary,” she describes. “I know it’s also really normal and billions of people have done it throughout history, but if you talk to the person it’s happening to, it never stops being extraordinary.”
“I feel like not enough parents get the chance or the time to tell their story because they’re so fucking busy,” she continues, laughing. “As soon as you have a child, you have 1% of the amount of energy that you used to have.” Written from her experience of pregnancy, birth, and motherhood, it’s the connection this group have, and the support they give each other, that enabled them to bring these songs to life and make the record what it is.
After getting together to record in early 2021, doing virus tests every day to enable them to do so (with the – in hindsight, “sort of insane” – determination to put out a record before Jules had her baby), the band eventually paused with the promise to regroup when they were ready. When they did regroup, several months and the birth of a child later, in a recording studio that Fern built in her house, their creativity found a new lease of life.
“We opened Pandora’s Box, which was a mess,” Jules states, prompting empathetic groans from her band mates. “The four of us together, with the baby, at Fern’s house, drank shitloads of cups of tea and coffee, and just fixed it.” It was a process that the band describe as being “a bit like renewing our vows.” “We were like these satellites that were so far apart,” Jules portrays. “Then we came back together and recommitted and worked together on these songs and made them what we wanted.”
The result is an album the band couldn’t imagine being more proud of. Jules describes it as half “questioning-while-pregnant songs,” and half “mad, hyper-emotional, hormonal love songs, where I’m just exhausted but more in love than I’ve ever been.” All four of the band members say they’ve been listening to it a lot. They state that they do so with variations of “I know it’s embarrassing,” but their enthusiasm for what they’ve created is a testament to how much they put into it and how proud they are of what they’ve made.
“The point of music is to make you feel like less of a weirdo, to make you feel not alone”Jules Jackson
“The point of music is to make you feel like less of a weirdo, to make you feel not alone,” Jules conveys. “So when other people are saying ‘I hear you and I have this experience too’, it makes me feel better to know that I’m not by myself. That is the point of all of this, for me.”
It’s something their fans have been quick to connect to, and something the rest of the band are quick to affirm, too. “People saying things like ‘I’m going through this right now, and I just listened to your song…’ I found that so moving to read,” Soph states, “and I’m not in your position or their position,” she says to Jules. Of the songs themselves, she says that “even though it’s about a specific thing, I feel like you can relate it to so much.”
“I find it inspiring to be able to listen to that,” she continues, “but I can also take some of the lyrics, and they make sense to me in lots of different ways.” Finding affirmation and connection in each other’s voices, working together in The Big Moon is – as it’s always been – a labour of love, a way to create while furthering their understanding of the world, not just through each other, but through anyone who connects to what they do. “That’s the beauty of music,” Soph states.
They’ve come a long way since they started out. It’s been nearly a decade since they came together through a shared desire to make music (spend any time with them, and it seems illogical that they’re not life-long friends, but the four women actually first met after Jules put a shout-out on Facebook for like-minded musicians). In that time, they’ve found success on their own terms.
“When we first started out, just the fact that we were women in a band was the conversation,” Celia groans. “That’s only about eight years ago.” Now, to spend a conversation focused on that seems like a parody when there’s so much more to say. Of course, they’re not the only ones to have encountered this: earlier this year Self Esteem took aim at the topic, performing at South By Southwest with her whole band decked out in t-shirts bearing the statement. ‘WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING A WOMAN IN MUSIC?’ “When we were nominated for the Mercury Prize [in 2017], only, like, two other all-female bands had ever been nominated for it,” Celia continues, “and one of them was the Spice Girls.”
Talking about it now, the group are all enthusiasm over how much has changed. On a personal level, it’s meant they can make the music they want to make on their own terms, and talk about it in the way they want to talk about it, too. “It was really great to just be able to do it the way that we want to do it, to take Jules’ lead in the way that she wants to do things and support it and just be really open about what we’re going through,” Celia expresses.
“It’s so nice to be open,” Jules agrees. In being able to give voice to her experiences, with the love and support of her bandmates, she’s been able to not only find, but share the catharsis that making this album has given her. “The whole world around fertility and birth, everyone’s going through huge, emotional things in this weird, silent space,” she describes. “It’s just shrouded in darkness and mystery. It is really dividing, and that’s sad and weird. So it just feels really amazing to have a space where we can be really loud about it and open it up.”
Asked what they hope people might hear in or take from their new record, there’s a moment of silence where the band all look at each other, before Celia abruptly bursts into song. “YOU ARE NOT ALONE!” she vocalises, to the laughter of her bandmates. The message she’s trying to convey is one they all agree on.
“I think once you release a song, it’s not yours anymore,” Jules expresses. “It’s out there. I want people to take it and hear their own stories in it.” Because that’s what it’s always been about for this band: connection. “It’s just a soundtrack to life, isn’t it, music?” she questions. “You always just catch whatever you want.” So find it, play it, make it your own. As the album’s title suggests, ‘Here Is Everything’, and now it’s yours for the taking. ■
Taken from the November 2022 edition of Dork. The Big Moon’s album ‘Here Is Everything’ is out now.