Interviews

In Conversation with… MOON PANDA

The mysterious Moon Panda, latest addition to label My Little Empire’s not-so-little collection of emerging artists, hit us with their remarkable debut Rabbit last month, impressing tastemaker blogs everywhere and leaving us all thirsty for more.

Maddy Myers leads the quartet from behind the microphone, writing melodies and lyrics, whilst ably supported by the solid musicianship of Gustav Moltke on guitar, George Godwin on synth and Alfie Webber on drums. With their profile rising exponentially, they’ve booked some big shows teaming up with the likes of Hater and Psychedelic Porn Crumpets in the upcoming months, we see no sign of them slowing down.

Kit Gallagher: Where does the name of the band come from? What does it signify?

Maddy Myers: We had a lot of desperate-band-name-brain-storms. We talked about how much we liked an animal in band names (Tame Impala, Arctic Monkeys, Fleet Foxes…) so we had a lot of different animals in mind. Wolves were a front-runner. But suddenly, Gustav looked up at the sky, eyes wide, and said Moon Panda. Over time I’ve really grown to feel at home in it. The moon is kind of this beautiful, feminine symbol for balance and panda’s are really spacey and charming.

KG: What are you stylistically shooting for, and what do think you can bring to the table that’s new?

MM: We want our music to be like a psychedelic landscape, hopefully one you haven’t seen before. I think because the fact that we’re all individuals creating music in a new political time, the outcome will be unique. You know those movies that you walk away from and feel inherently different? Like you connected with a character so much that you became them for an hour and a half. We want to create the kind of atmosphere where you can leave your own mind and become a part of ours for a bit.

KG: You have a dizzying list of influences, can you elucidate a little more on what different ideas and concepts you’re taking from each of them?

Maddy: I mentioned Erik Mongrain and Charles Ives once and somehow that really circulated! I used to play guitar percussively like Mongrain as a solo artist but I wouldn’t say he’s an influencer on Moon Panda’s sound. Radiohead is probably Gustav’s biggest influence and they’re slowly becoming one of mine as well. I think we’re aiming for that same level of intricacy and thoughtful creation. One of the most common places of influence is what we’re reading. I love stream of consciousness, psychedelic stories that are rooted in everyday meaningless moments. Heiko Julien & Miranda July write the best short stories and a lot of our songs come from little moments in stories like that. We’re also really inspired by Tame Impala, Beach House, gotta love Björk, and whatever Justin Vernon is up to.

KG: How do the textures that you conjure in the studio translate live? Is the live show more raw and energetic, or is it restrained?

Maddy: We love when bands have different arrangements live vs studio recording. When they play something live that completely catches you off guard. We try and throw in moments like that – where you’re used to hearing ‘Rabbit’ take off into a psychy jam at the end, we’ll suddenly switch to a subby, electronic waterfall. Rapid changes in texture can be really hypnotizing and emotional. I’d say it’s a constant ebb and flow of energetic and restrained, but we tend to be laid back on stage.

KG: Do you think there’s still space in the industry for bands these days? With fixed costs for labels being driven to 0 by home production, why should a label bother investing in something more costly, and potentially unpredictable?

Maddy: This question makes me think of that song Everything Is Free by Gillian Welch. Humanity is so special because we see the beauty of something. We assign meaning, we create, we question. Art helps us express things in such a multidimensional way. We need art and we need people that passionately support art. Labels should invest in bands…but even if they don’t people will make music anyways and figure it out themselves. There’s not a lot of space in the industry in general but you’ve got to try your best to do what you love most.

KG: What live dates have you got planned? Anything in London that I might be able to come along to?

Maddy: Yes, come hang out! We’ve got a London show September 4th at The Lexington. After that, we’re opening for The Psychedelic Porn Crumpets in Birmingham on the 17th, then we’re supporting the awesome band Hater in Brighton on November 4th.

KG: Advances in technology have driven massive increases in the textural and rhythmic depth available to composers/producers in the last 100 years, but in terms of actual composition, this increase in depth has been accompanied by a steady decrease in harmonic, melodic and structural complexity. As a band that uses texture in such an integral and interesting way, could you comment on this trend? Do you see it continuing, or are we overdue a sharp turn?

Maddy: We just talked about this the other day! It’s wild how just one hundred years ago music was pretty much just piano, strings, or vocals and now there are people on stage controlling music with their body movement. Though the speed of innovation has definitely slowed down, it’ll be interesting to see what music is like in 50 years. We feel really lucky to be starting our career at a point where music technology is already so advanced. That being said, I think people are craving depth and meaning in their music more than ever. I know I am.

KG: What relevance does your music have to the political landscape of now?

Maddy: A lot of our songs are rooted in female empowerment, unfortunately, the only one that’s out, isn’t. The music industry, like so many industries, is male-dominated. You get used to being the only women in the room, but it’s taken time to learn how to not be spoken over, talked down to, or belittled. It seems like a lot of women are going through the same thing right now – demanding an equal playing field and creating it for themselves. So that’s a theme I think we can all expect to see on the rise in everything artistic. Being an American in Europe has led to a lot of acquaintances leaning in close and whispering, “so…Trump?” While I’m pretty tired of talking about Trump directly, there are plenty of other political things to address. Our upcoming songs touch on gun violence, mental illness, and human fragility. I think most of our songs come from a really vulnerable place and I hope people can connect to that.

KG: Thanks Maddy, fascinating answers, and looking forward to hearing what you’ve got in store for us.

Moon Panda’s debut single ‘Rabbit’ is out now via My Little Empire Records.

Moon Panda’s upcoming tour dates are, as follows:

Sepetmber 4th – The Lexington, London
September 17th – The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham
November 4th – The Hope & Ruin, Brighton

Find Moon Panda on Facebook and Twitter.

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