but so are you Interview by Ian C Stewart, feautured in AUTOreverse 11
Moonbabies kick fucking ass. Whenever I get a new Moonbabies
tape or CD to review I never want to give it to anyone else.
I want to keep it all for myself. Their blissed-out guitar
pop takes me back to the hopeful innocence of the early 1990s,
when bands like Ride, Lush, My Bloody Valentine, Kitchens
Of Distinction, Levitation, Miranda Sex Garden, Slowdive,
The Cranes and Red House Painters seemed destined to conquer
the world with distorted guitars and great songs. Instead
we got Nirvana. Moonbabies are a pure shot of adrenalin administered
to the spine. Their songs marry elements of first-wave shoegazer
bands with fresh pop sensibilities, including the occasional
drum 'n bass or hip-hop loop in the mix. And like I said,
they kick fucking ass.
Ola Frick answers most of the questions, with help from Carina
What's up with the name "Moonbabies"?
We chose the name since we're people who quite often write
and record our songs at night. The name fits the atmosphere
of the music really nicely, the moon represents mysticism
and passionate love etc. When did the band form? Carina and
I started by singing on the streets of Copenhagen, Denmark
1995. Our voices melted nicely together. Formed Moonbabies
in 1996, strongly influenced by Miranda Sex Garden and My
Bloody Valentine. We released three demo tapes, which got
good response in the Swedish music press. We teamed up with
Henrik Thörn on bass and Thomas Lundberg playing drums. We
played a lot of shows in Sweden. Released five more demo tapes
during 1998-99 which got great response outside Sweden, especially
in the US. Tangerine Tapes released Collection Of Demos and
Air>>>moon>>>stereo EP came out on Moonkrack Recordings in
1999. We pushed further from the shoegazer/MBV sound with
the demo 12 TRK DEMO 1999. Henrik and Thomas left in winter
1999. Another demo compilation was released by Best Kept Secret.
Now Moonbabies are a duo but a five-piece unit when playing
live. Live members are Marcus Weitner on guitar, Mans Wieslander
playing bass and Conny Stade on drums. Duckweed Records recently
released our debut album June And Novas.
I started my first band at the age of six. I've since been
in ten different bands or more, most of them heavy metal and
1960s psychedelia. I have some other projects besides Moonbabies
going on right now. Campo Mondo, with Mans Wieslander, playing
mostly low-key acoustic beautiness. Blowing Wish is a solo
project which deals with a broad range of music from countryfied
lo-fi to instrumental and ambient soundscapes etc. The Blowing
Wish songbook is mostly taken from Moonbabies leftovers or
vice verse. Hunda Af Idag is an avantgarde music project which
has been used for art exibitions in Sweden. Lovely Lads are
a totally crazed 60s garage-punk band. Widely known in Sweden
for dramatic and destructive live shows. I've also started
a musical correspondence with J Mundok, who is also planning
to release a Blowing Wish CD on Jack Kettle.
What about you, Carina? What's your story?
Ever since an early age I've been writing songs on a small
baby synth and later on the piano and I've put on shows where
we always sang Beatles and Abba songs in front of all our
neighbours. I wanted to learn how to play different instruments
and took lessons for electric organ. I played the drums in
a girl-band in the ninth grade and later I joined another
band called Scoff. Pretty mean hard punk with a little girl
like me on the drums.
Back to Ola. Musical influences: who,
when and why?
I grew up with bands like Pink Floyd, Supertramp, ELO, Nationalteatern,
stuff my parents were playing at home. I strongly remember
listening over and over to a certain mixtape a friend of my
parents had given us, with songs like the Clash's "London
Calling," The Cure's "Fire in Cairo" and "Goodbye Yellow Brick
Road" by Elton John, all of which have been incredibly inspirational
to me. The music I heard made such a big impact on me as a
kid. I think that stuff underlines everything I still do and
think as a songwriter, even if it's not obviously detected
in the songs I write. As a teenager I put Iron Maiden, Slayer
and Alice Cooper albums on the player and up on the wall.
It's hard to say what has inspired The Moonbabies' music the
most. The day I first heard My Bloody Valentine everything
fell down to earth. This was everything I'd been looking for
in music, but didn't know existed. At first we were into sounding
just like a mix between MBV and Miranda Sex Garden, and I
guess we came pretty close to our goal. But the best thing
about that was that we came up with a couple of bloody great
songs and we knew that we had something coming our way. I
seldom listen to and get inspired by early 90's dreampop now.
When I met Carina, she got me into Sonic Youth, The Primitives,
Tori Amos, Bjork and Miranda Sex Garden. We're both big fans
of Kate Bush, Yo La Tengo and Red House Painters. My greatest
source of inspiration often comes from other hometapers such
as J Mundok, Grenade, Vinyl Bill, 99cent dream and my bandmate
You have something new out now?
It's our first album and it's called June And Novas. After
we made the decision to break away from Henrik and Thomas
last fall we realized how much stuff we were capable of doing
in the studio without thinking in band terms, which was a
revelation. We collected fourteen songs, both old and new,
which we thought summed up where we stand today musically.
Then we rerecorded, remixed and fucked around with every song
in every different way we could think of. I've been in and
out of work this last year and I've been pretty productive.
We actually started working on this album ten months ago.
In January we collected and borrowed studio equipment and
brought it down to our rehearsal space, where we've been pratically
living since then. We have a coffee-maker, a fridge, a bed-sofa
and there is a Chinese store just behind the corner of the
street that sells Chechian beer "Very cheap, only for you,"
what more do we need? Some of the songs were totally redone,
like the title track, which we must have spent a hundred hours
on! And I'm not fucking kidding! The song begins with a two
minute intro piece which took us fifteen minutes to write
and record, but the actual song itself was the hardest and
toughest thing we've ever worked on.
The great thing about working at home is that you can take
as much time as you want and try different things and redo
everything from scratch if you want, experimenting with microphone
techniques, instruments and coloring of the sound until you're
perfectly pleased with it. "Shining Sun," for example, is
an old song, from our second demo tape Hey Popsy. Carina and
I switched the lead vocals, so now she sings it. We also rearranged
the whole track to make it a loopy, slow, mellow ballad type
of song. Switching the lead vocal parts, which we often try
to do, can create miracles. Some of the songs were recorded
on Carina's 8-track portable recorder. They're almost impossible
to re-record. "My Buddy Buddy" is one of those tracks. The
recording is pretty shitty sounding compared to the rest of
the album, but it has a certain raw pure energy and aggression.
It's like you almost can hear the guitar being wrecked against
the amp in frustration, in classic Pete Townsend fashion.
I find the sound quality on this album as good as any record
you go out in the stores and buy. It's quite professional
sounding and clear, but never dull, slick or uninteresting.
Carina and I played every instrument on the album, except
for some tracks such as "I'm Insane But So Are You" and the
title track for which we brought in Conny Stade and Mans Wieslander.
We also share the songwriting a lot more then we used to.
It's great to have the two of us arranging and writing songs
together. Before, I wrote almost all of the songs, but now
we both feel that having the two of us writing and arranging
gives a new dimension to the music. Some of the tracks Carina
and I've co-written are the best we've achived, such as "Sister
Gold" and "We're Layabouts".
How actively do you trade your music with other artists?
I've been trading quite a lot in the last couple of years.
I've come in contact with several wonderful musicians/bands/artists
and their music. Like J Mundok, whose Artichoke album has
taken permenant place in my head. Any of you who haven't checked
out J's music or any projects of his, like Jester's Longevity,
must do so. Simply gorgeous. Other artist I've traded with
like Madmans Butterfly, Vinyl Bill, Cockerspaniels, Swoon,
99cent Dream and Greenland among many others, are being played
constantly. There's a whole world of undiscovered hometaped
masterpieces out there.
What music are you currently listening
Lately been listening a whole lot to Yo La Tengo. They've
become my favorite band. They're the band Moonbabies dream
of touring the US with. They seem to be relaxed and gentle
people and I know they're huge Simpson's fanatics as well.
Steve Reich's Music for 18 Musicans was in the player this
morning. It gets me really, really goosebumpy. We've gotten
into Quasi too, recently. They're a perfect mix of things,
like Elliot Smith and Built To Spill but very often better.
I've also finally discovered the greatness of American Music
Club, which I've been listening a lot to. I was crushed when
American Music Club broke up.
But the real question is: how did you
guys feel when you heard that Tommy Lee left Motley Crue?
I cried, then Carina cried, then little Maggie laughed...she's
such a little angel.
I knew you guys would be all shaken up
by that. How has your band been affected by the MP3 format?
We definitely have made an impact on quite a lot of people
through mp3.com as it looks. We receive a lot of positive
feedback from people all over the world. Some of them have
discovered us through our pages at MP3.com and other free
MP3 sites. We've sold quite a lot of albums on MP3.com as
well. Still haven't received the paycheck though! On one occasion,
one of our songs was featured in the alternative charts, and
in three days we had two thousand downloads! That felt kind
of cool to know, having two thousand people hearing your music.
I think we get an avarage of fifty downloads each day right
now from MP3.com, and it's a great way to get people into
Do you have a presence on the web?
Oh yeah. Our official website http://moonbabies.tripod.com
is filled with info, sounds, pictures and news. It'll have
a facelift very soon with an even prettier layout and cool
features. We have some presence on a few free MP3 sites as
well: http://www.mp3.com/moonbaby http://www.soundsbig.com
and http://www.popwire.com. Also Duckweed Records (http://www.duckweedrecords.com)
has great Moonbabies web material along with some MP3s. Duckweed
has been a wonderfully supportive and personal forum for us
during this last year. One small indepentent label giving
artists respect to use their own expression and creativty,
which has been a perfect enviroment for us. Unquestionably
letting us hold the copyrights to our own music and are totally
free from major label philosophy bullshit.
They've released albums by Grenade, Bill Foreman and Moloch,
which are fucking brilliant, as well as some rather diverse
and quite schizophrenic releases, such as Global Lo-Fi compilations
for instance. Highly recommended.
Now for the tough question: favorite XTC album?
I'm embarassed to say that I've never heard a whole XTC album.
One of my friends said Skylarking to be the best one.
Embarassed? Bloody hell, I'd be suicidal.
Well, at least you lucked out and mentioned Skylarking, so
I won't have to kill you now. Do you guys play live?
We've been playing live since 1998, everything from laid-back
acoustic shows to big venues in Sweden. We're very much a
part of the local music scene in Malmo, our hometown. The
sad thing about it all is that most of our fans live outside
Sweden, mostly in the US and we're not in the position of
having a lot of money to go on tour over there as much as
we want to.
The live music climate over here has gotten worse. Alternative
no-depression-country and back-to-basics garage rock'n roll
is the current turn-on among the Swedish live crowd in general,
and our own brand of pop doesn't belong in either of those
camps. It's not all bad though. Occasionally we do get great
responses from crowds. When we play live we sound a lot more
aggressive and raw than on the recordings. I've discovered
myself being dangerously aggressive on stage. It brings out
a lot of unknown sides of my personality since I'm mostly
kind of an easygoing, mellow type of person. I've never actually
wrecked a guitar onstage but been close a couple of times.
One side-effect of getting really excited on stage is that,
in my case, I always break guitar strings. Ending up having
two or three strings left on the guitar for the last couple
of songs. In February this year we had a pretty important
gig at a big media-music industry convent in Malmo. It was
the first gig with the new live members, in a venue bigger
than we'd ever performed on before, and I was more nervous
than I've ever been in my whole life for the entire week before
we went on. The rehearsals went perfectly fine, so I tried
to convince myself I had very little to worry about. Well,
the night before the gig I only got half an hour of sleep.
During soundcheck I slashed my hand against the strings of
the guitar so badly that one of my fingers started to bleed
heavily, which had me one second from fainting up on stage.
My face was pale white and we were supposed to be up on stage
in just a few hours. When we finally went onstage I discovered
that the sound technicians were unwilling to give me guitar
and vocals through my monitor. So most of our vocal harmony
interplay got destroyed by me badly singing out of tune since
I couldn't hear anything but drums and bass. Then the guitar
strings started to break during the second song and since
I didn't hear my own guitar on stage most of the songs got
wrecked by an out of tune guitar as well. Luckily I had a
spare guitar, but during the guitar intro to "The World Is
Loaded," another string broke and so the whole gig went. I
think I broke a total of five strings during our thirty minute
set, and afterwards when I told some of the audience about
the ordeal, they said they didn't hear any bad singing or
out-of-tune guitar! And after hearing the tape I kind of agree
that the gig went okay after all. Had I known all of that
while I was onstage, it surely would have eased my pain. The
last shows we've done have gone great though, due much to
the fact that we now have a 2nd guitar player in the live
Breaking strings onstage has got to be
one of the worst things ever. Period. Worse than caffeine
free Diet Dr Pepper! What kind of home studio stuff do you
All our previous demo recordings were recorded on Carina's
Yamaha 8-track portable studio. I heard that Robert Pollard
bought himself one of those and I know for a fact that Sean
Padilla aka The Cockerspaniels uses the exact same one. The
most important equipment we've used has been the 8-track,
one big Sennheiser microphone and a Berringer compressor.
We still use them. For air>>>moon>>>stereo e.p. we borrowed
an ADAT. And for June And Novas we used a 16 trk ½ inch recorder
and a computer, plus the 8-track. The programs we use for
editing are Sound Forge for effects, equalization and mastering;
ACID for loops; and Cool-Edit Pro for multitracking. Cool-Edit
works as a basic recorder. Not very complicated and it works
really smoothly. ACID rocks in a great way, it's an easy way
to get your ideas heard just in a couple of minutes and it
helps your fulfill your dreams. In the end it's not important
to use expensive equipment, it's just to learn and train your
ears to the stuff you have. We borrow most of the instruments
and recording systems from friends. Would love to go into
a professional studio someday, but we're hometapers at heart
and in the end I don't think we can sound better than we do
producing ourselves in a home studio.
I can't argue with that. The production
on June And Novas outshines many major label releases. But
ultimately, what are your feelings on Dr Pepper?
Oh, he's funny.
Did you guys use any different instrumentation
this time out?
Most of the stuff we've recorded on belongs to friends and
friends of friends. Wish we had more money, but hey that's
not the case. I used a vintage Fender Jazzmaster and a Telecaster
for the electric guitar parts. Carina uses a fantastic early
80s Casio which we've used a lot both in the studio and live.
The space sounds and car-horn tones on "Have You Ever Said
Goodbye?" for instance comes out of that little funny plastic
Casio. She also playes a vintage polysynth on some of the
tracks, also some piano. I play some organ and analog synths
too. The drums and bass parts were played and sampled by me
for half of the tracks on the album. Conny Stade hits the
drums both more technically and more professionally than I
do, so we used him for some of the songs which demanded a
tighter rhythm section. He's one of those living drum machines.
One other important and often used instrument on June And
Novas is xylophone. We used different types of xylophones,
from a big orchestral one to small toy ones. That has definitely
colored our recordings recently, and you don't have to be
very good at playing it, it sounds cool even when you're hitting
the wrong notes.
I think the new album differs a lot from our previous releases.
First, Carina and I have grown as songwriters and both of
us write the songs now, which definitely has made the music
more unique and diverse in many aspects. The dreampop/shoegazer
influence hasn't left our sound entirely, but I guess now
we use the influences in a more sparse and fulfilling way.
It's one of those things that I guess was bound to happen.
It's not as guitar-based and introverted as it used to be
either. The use of computers and loops has given us more opportunites
to create all new kinds of soundscapes and moods. The more
experimental songs like "Kissing Underwater" and "Count Stars
>> be patient" from the new album are a mixture of a thousand
things, and I think this makes them stand out as something
completely fresh and interesting, where the drum kit is reversed,
looped and distorted in abrasive hip-hop/breakbeat fashion
but the vocal melodies and guitars are still sounding very
Moonbabies. The album has the sub title "easy pop beats and
electronical underwater moods" which I guess is a good explanation.
Hmmm yes, it all makes sense now. And
I do know the Casio you mention Carina using. (see "Pissy
Casio" elsewhere) Really though, how do you feel about Cathy
Sorry, she's totally unknown to me, or most of us Swedish
folks I guess. It would be the same thing as asking you what
you think of Ulf Elwing?
Well, obviously Ulf Elwing beat out Torfi
Olafson on ESPN's World's Strongest Man competition in 1996.
But Cathy Dennis! Come on and get my love! You guys should've
put a picture of her on the cover of June
Actually, we got the opportunity to get this album professionally
printed in full-colour with a 16-page booklet, which is a
wet dream for a graphic design freak like me, and one hell
of a challenge. The front is a double-exposed photo of our
faces under a gentle dark-brown blurry shimmer. You've got
to look through the whole CD booklet to get the whole artwork
concept. It all goes through gold, brown, red and yellow colors
and contains some recently taken band photos, some graphical
design ideas of mine and a couple of pictures taken by a photographer,
Martin Bergstrom, during a New York visit of his. I like the
fact that the cover perfectly matches air>>>moon>>stereo e.p.
Tell me you at least watch The Young Ones. Please.
The Young Ones never got broadcasted here in Sweden. I remember
watching it on cable at a friend's house a lot of years ago
and it was pretty hilarious.
I know Moonbabies are all huge KISS fanatics.
What's your favorite KISS album?
Not a huge KISS fanatic. Destroyer and Alive are the only
KISS albums I've ever owned. Destroyer is a great record.
What's the Moonbabies Plan For Global
We've never put up any actual goals for Moonbabies, really.
But we're dreaming of such things as having our music distributed
and released in all corners of the world, touring Europe and
America someday, earning enough money on music-making without
selling our souls to a major label and maybe most importantly,
to do the theme song for a Simpson's episode some day.
What's your favorite Duran Duran song?
Hmmmm... "Rio" is good. Funny, here I'm getting questions
about KISS, XTC and Duran Duran whom I have very little, or
pratically no relation to. Please make me an XTC mix tape,
and send it over to me right away. I'm getting interested
and all, everyone's nagging about them. I think I will go
down to the store and buy a 12-pack of Dr Pepper as a tribute
Hey, that's not a bad idea. Get ripped
on DP and crank up some XTC, KISS, Duran Duran, Cathy Dennis,
Daft Punk and Gary Numan beeeyaaaatch!