NO HURRY, NO WORRY
Words: James Frostick
Aidan Moore of Moses Gunnn Collective talks about their forthcoming EP and how they have evolved since forming in 2009.
Aidan Moore tells me he thinks the NeverEnding Story is a bit of a messed up film. Not excessively so, just enough to weird someone out a little after watching. Fair enough I suppose; perhaps some of the films magic is lost once one passes childhood. I haven’t had a chance to revisit the film in many years; maybe I will have to watch it again soon. One thing that Aidan got out of watching the movie was the name of his band, Moses Gunnn Collective. The actor named Moses Gunn portrayed Cairon in the movie and it was the actor’s name that stuck with Aidan the most.
Admittedly, it’s a damn cool name, and although Moses himself passed away in 1993, his name is living on in the form of this Brisbane based psychedelic rock collective. Started in 2009, Moses Gunnn Collective was a three piece consisting of Aidan Moore, Alex Mitchell and Samuel Sargent. The trio started with modest beginnings, claiming they were in a band before they were actually in one.
“I only started playing guitar at 18, I got obsessed with it,” says Aidan. “A couple of years later Alex, Sam and I were all at Splendour in the Grass. We had these passes that year because we were working at the festival and we were telling all of the bar staff that we were in a band – trying to milk free drinks. We all thought, ‘Why don’t we just make a band?’”
So they did. Moses Gunnn Collective was formed.
Moses Gunnn Collective play a distinctive brand of soul-infused psych-rock that has changed and developed as the band fleshed out their sound and direction. While adding new members to the mix as they progressed through their formative years, the Collective are now gearing up for a new release – having spent the past few months preparing new material in addition to their previous album that was written, recorded and released while still a three piece.
“From the start it has been me, Alex on bass and synth and Sam on drums,” says Aidan. “They all play in other bands, Sam is drummer for The Belligerents and Silas and the Seasons and Alex plays bass in The Ride and a bunch of other bands. It was us three that started making songs. Then Lewis (Stephenson), also from The Belligerents was really keen to do guitar and now him and Simon (Andrews) from Daddy Loops both play guitars with us as well.”
The evolution of Moses Gunnn has been a slow yet steady progression to their current point. For a band that shares its members with numerous other acts, their output was never going to be prolific. Regardless, their dedication to the project ensures its survival and continual growth with the added bonus of having less pressure to deliver.
Their sound has changed over the three and a bit years since they started, which is good, because it exemplifies the desire of Moses Gunnn’s band members to continue to create and produce new music that can stand alone without comparison to their other work. Indeed, the sound of Moses Gunnn is quite dissimilar from that of say, The Belligerents, but Moses Gunnn is far from being some sort of neglected side project. Their first recorded effort, a limited edition release of roughly 200 copies, still shows a considerable amount of effort that was put into the songs, which bodes well for their future release even if it sounds completely different.
The 2009 release in question was recorded with the help of Junk Bar owner and former owner of the Troubador, Jamie Trevaskis.
“Jamie saw us and was like ‘Do you want to come and record with me?,” recalls Aidan. “We thought ‘That sounds crazy!’ so we went in and in about 5 days we did ten songs and went to launch that. “
“We only did 200 copies of the CD and we haven’t re-pressed that ever; so it has sold out and is just a past thing now. It’s gotten to the point now where it is three years later and we sound pretty different, as you do.”
Generally, psychedelic music is a hard genre to pin down. The free-forming elements are a constant, but how the sounds are generated and how they sound in the final mix are where things get hairy and hard to describe. Moses Gunnn Collective’s path to their current sound maps like a ‘prototypical’ psych song – a slow build on core repetitions and elements that are then gently built upon until everything comes together in a whirlwind of overwhelming yet coherent noise. The build-up for Moses Gunnn seems to have started with the differing styles of its core members.
“I think at the beginning, and you can see it on the first album, we’d write a surf song and then I’d write a Doors type song, with a lot of old rock,” says Aidan. “I don’t think there was any real intention to go for a certain sound or anything, but Sam liked to play loud, Alex likes funky soul stuff and I’m into folky, rock, and psychedelic stuff – it just all came together.”
From the original 3 piece configuration to the 5 piece line-up, Moses Gunnn Collective have added more to the mix to provide themselves with maximum noisemaking potential. When writing psychedelia, it surely helps to have more instruments at your disposal.
“We never really searched for a sound but the Moses Gunnn sound that we have now happened pretty fast. I think it is just a combination of the individuals,” says Aidan. “From our first album launch we got a bunch of money and we bought some synths. It was the first time we had used synths. Alex is a freak that can play anything so we started dabbling with the synth and I think that was the final ingredient that makes it the more spacey psych. Before that it was more classic rock, bluesy sort of stuff.”
“I think we have come a bit of a way from the beginning with the use of the synths and plugging my vocals into a delay pedal. That has become a part of it now, tweaking vocals with this little pedal and that gets a bit hairy sometimes but it has definitely taken us to the sound we have now.”
I have written before that psych music is underappreciated in Brisbane. Maybe that is an untrue statement – psych bands seem to be popping up everywhere now. But when Moses Gunnn started it was still a true statement. It was a bold move for the original trio to jump headfirst into psych.
“Back when we started there wasn’t much psych stuff happening,” says Aidan. “Our sound wasn’t intended to be psych, but we all like that sort of stuff. I don’t really know what it means, psychedelic, I think it means more of a spacey, tripped-out, delay heavy rock basically. We knew what we wanted to do was a bit different, we didn’t want to make garage music; we wanted to make eight minute songs. I think psych now is way more popular, it has started to become a big thing.”
So it seems that the new material will be invading people’s headspace at just the right time. Whether the reasoning behind the delay is a by-product of other musical commitments or just a preference for slowing down the creative process – the gap between drinks means that Moses Gunnn Collective will be releasing their new songs to welcoming ears. Thanks to the apparent ‘delay’ in new material, Moses Gunnn seem to be learning a few things about the process of recording and the importance of a forward thinking strategy.
“We’ve been together for three and a half years now and no one in the band is very business minded at all,” admits Aidan. “It has good sides and bad sides I guess, the good side is that it all happens naturally and we like that but the bad side is that things take longer.”
“Definitely after the first album that we smashed out, we were really new to the whole thing, we did a launch at The Globe and had a really good turnout but we knew nothing about organising a tour. Nothing about press or promo, we were making it up as we were going along.”
The forthcoming EP sees the band working with a few producers at a new studio, with an aim to increase not only sound quality, but to build an appreciation of professional help. Over a month ago, Moses Gunnn launched a single that was recorded with the help of Konstantin Kersting (also of The Belligerents) at Airlock Studios, owned by former member of Powderfinger Ian Haug. Other songs on the EP were recorded with the help of their previous collaborator, Jamie Trevaskis.
“We have always done recording on the fly, very DIY – getting friends to help us out – so this was the first time we thought to spend a bit of money and do it properly, says Aidan. “We had the money lying around so we thought we’d put it toward recordings.”
Even though Moses Gunnn Collective are on track to bring out their EP this year, they still aren’t in any hurry to put it out. A key difference from their previous release is that they are spending more time on working on the small things that make a release feel complete, something important for a band that plays textured psych music.
“This is going to be a 5 track EP,” says Aidan. “Everything is pretty much done but we aren’t really sure when it will come out. We want to still do a lot of back up harmonies with the vocals and other stuff. We’ve never really set deadlines or rushed things, it’s all just naturally happened. We’d like to get it out in the next few months and tour with it.”
So fans of Moses Gunnn have probably been waiting long enough for a new batch of songs. I’m sure they won’t mind waiting a little bit longer. I asked Aidan what they key differences would be between this release and their last one.
“This new one is not a home job, says Aidan. “It is a lot more professional in a sense that it has been done to a high standard of sound quality and everything. It is a lot more futuristic, a lot more in the now. The last one was more of an ode to these old rock bands and psych bands and folk singers that we loved and then this is more of a step forward and a bit more modern.”
“I’d say that in the end we have become a bit more professional in the sense that our first album really was just ten songs that we threw together. We had been playing them for a while in live sets, but we had never really put any thought into pre-production, singles or anything to do with that.”
Professionalism aside, Moses Gunnn will benefit from the two and half year gap simply because they have had time to get better. Improvements in instrumentation and imagination are key for any psych band to remain interesting and engaging. While their other projects might be doing engaging things as well, the benefit of having a band like Moses Gunnn is that it provides a creative outlet that removes the restrictions of contemporary indie rock. Perhaps Moses Gunnn is more of a creative outlet for these guys that we all originally thought. One thing is for certain, they are doing things their way.
“If anything sounds like a cliché, unless I want it to be a cliché, I can’t put it in a song,” says Aidan. “These guys that I’m making music with are really talented and have a lot of depth and knowledge; we thought it would be best to steer clear of anything that gets boring. As a psych band we have managed to keep a really dynamic show, so we have never really found it hard to play a slower ballad type song and then build that into a really fast, punk style song.”
Once the EP is out, what does a psych band do to keep the momentum going?
“As far as psych goes; it’s opening up more, it’s getting more love. So hopefully Australia is a bit more ready or it now, which I think they are. As far as getting it out there, there is no real simple way. A lot comes down to luck. We’ll have to see.”
While the Moses Gunnn story isn’t NeverEnding, it is far from finished. The future is exciting for them, so maybe a little bit more of a wait isn’t so bad.