Formed in 2002, the group never stopped surprising their audiences with their multi-instrumental line up, originality and genre-defying music. On December 8th, London will be one of the last of several stops before a rapturous conclusion to their two-year world tour.
Combining elements of chamber, psychedelic, progressive and folk rock and taking inspiration from various kinds of musicians and artists, this English band always seeks to explore untouched areas and new possibilities in their artwork.
Since the band was formed, 15 years ago, players have joined and left. Instead of viewing it as a difficulty, members take full advantage of each other’s music persona and enrich the ensemble with their talents during the process. Three days before the beginning of the performance, The Prisma got the chance to interview the lead singer and songwriter Hannah Miller.
On your official webpage, I saw five definitions of “moulette”; and you also call your songs “Moulettes”. What is the story behind it?
I like the idea of “Moulettes”‘ meaning a microcosm, a small universe of ideas. It’s a stage where you can re-imagine our world, and tell stories. It’s also a little play on words- Moule- french for Mussel, which is like Muscle – so Moulettes are the tiny muscles – small yet powerful!
During the initial period, you were promoting “the Den of Iniquity” nights in London, what was it like?
Really exciting times – we were playing with some really great bands – Mystery Jets, Band of Skulls & The Noisettes just to name a few. Tin Pan Alley was still a very vibrant place back then, and the 12 Bar Club in Denmark St. was where we put on our nights. We were evolving around that scene.
We’re celebrating 10 years of our co-op label this month- with gigs and a special double vinyl that features some of these acts that we grew up with, and others that joined the label later down the line.
I understand that the members have been constantly changing since the band was formed, do you see this as an inconsistency or an opportunity to express the music in an alternative way?
We have been playing together for 15 or so years – We started the band at school, so in that time there have been players that have come and gone. Being in a band is not for everyone- It’s not always easy. In some ways, it would have been a lot easier to work with a consistent line-up, but life is full of surprises- you play the hand that you are dealt. I think everyone brought their own special spark to the proceedings, they brought their personality and talents to the table and this was a good thing.
How many albums have you published so far?
We have made 4 studio albums- Debut, The Bear’s Revenge, Constellations & Preternatural, alongside 5 EPs of B-sides, remixes, alternate language versions and live tracks.
“Each album has seen a significant leap into new unchartered territory”. Do you agree?
I like that! I think each record is very different to the ones that came before it, and you learn so much from going through the process of making an album. We love to experiment, and I think we have tried something new on each record. ‘Constellations’ is quite epic and cinematic- we worked with a chamber orchestra on this record, and some legendary guests, like Herbie Flowers and Arthur Brown. “The bear’s revenge” is more experimental-folk, led by the interplay of cello, violin and drums. ‘Preternatural’ is the most Prog-rock sounding album- but each album has many moods within it, lots of colours and textures.
Where did you look to for inspiration? Many of the songs feel very different style-wise.
Everywhere! There is so much to feel inspired by. We have this huge wealth of music and culture to draw from. Laura Mvula, Esperanza Spalding, Tortoise, Tune-Yards, Gentle Giant, Frank Zappa. These were some of the artists we were listening to. The idea for the record concept started after Oliver and I read about the Halicephalobus Mephisto Nematode Worm- a recently discovered ‘Extremophile’ that lives deep underground in extreme heat and pressure- and doesn’t need sunlight or oxygen. Its discovery re-drew the perimeters of life as we know it. I love the idea that we will continually be astounded by the world around us. We should have ultimate respect for the natural word, it is so much bigger and more complex than we can ever know.
The record is really about the dangers of mono-culture in any part of life, and the importance of diversity for change, growth and survival.
I understand that Raevennan Husbandes is the newest member of the band and she is also involved in producing the latest album. What kind of new possibilities has she brought to the group?
It was great working with Raevennan on this record – and a new thing to work with electric guitar. That was new to her too actually- she had always played acoustic and classical guitars. So, it was exciting trying new sounds, trying pedals, blending with the electric cello for lead lines. She also has a most beautiful voice, I love singing with her.
I noticed that the covers of your albums are very arty, who designed them? Are they trying to convey the ethos of your music?
I made and designed the earlier albums – it’s mixed media collage with mostly fabric and paper on canvas. For ‘Constellations’, Oliver and I worked with a sculptor- Rick Bosman, who built the Model planet system, using a real bonsai tree.
The reflection in the water is real too- and some of the planets had lights inside. We photographed it with a 1920’s Voightlander camera. It was quite an involved process!
For ‘Preternatural’ we worked with artist, Niamh Murray on the front cover. It is an amalgamation of many of the creatures that inspired the songs on the album, a hybrid beast! There is a lot of attention to detail in the music and presentation, and there are clues there to find…
Are there any special guests going to join the tour?
Yes, we are happy to be welcoming some great opening acts on this tour- Rioghnach Connolly, Bunty, Sam Walker, Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Mikey Kenney, Mike Dennis, Rachel Newton & Kate in the Kettle to name a few. You don’t always get to choose who you play with so I’m looking forward to it. London will be a double headliner with the wonderful 9Bach.
What kind of new territory are you planning to explore?
The uncharted kind! Keep your ears and eyes out, there is more to come…
Is there anything else you would like to say?
Music still surprises me with its power to be transformative. Sharing art and culture together is more important than ever in these strange times. Thanks for introducing me to The Prisma, I am reading your articles with great interest!
(Photos from Moulettes website)