There’s a buzz around Scottish psych duo, Man of Moon and the release of their debut album, Dark Sea seemed like a decent time to find out what drives the band.
The product of a random meeting at college in Edinburgh, Man of Moon have hit Scotland’s music scene with a heavy psych punch.
It’s taken a while for the pair to release a full album, although there have been singles and EPs to keep the interest bubbling.
The combo of Chris Bainbridge (guitar) and Michael Reid (drums) have developed a kind of sound that was getting noticed around the Glasgow gig scene. To be fair, a couple of lucky breaks and the planets lining up in their favour have seen the band hit the ground running.
But, they’re decent runners.
Now, there’s a full album, Dark Sea. Full of banging tunes, but meticulously curated and full of a certain Scottish sound.
We needed to have a word and Chris fired up his Zoom, once his cup of tea was sorted. Rock and Roll!
P3dro: Where are you and what are you doing?
CB: I’m based in Glasgow, I stay in Hillhead at the moment. For the past couple of months I’d been working in the Garage Bar in town, but last weekend I got a new job as a chef. But with the new [Covid 19] regulations that came in yesterday, I’m not really sure what’s gonna happen with that. I’m juggling working and writing new tunes.
P3dro: Tell us about the band, how long have you been together, where did you meet?
CB: We met, I think in 2014. We were in college, doing sound engineering in Edinburgh. They needed some musicians for the rest of the class to practise recording, so Mikey and I just started jamming while the rest of the class was recording us. We just looked at each other and said: “This sounds pretty fucking good”, so we started jamming outside of college. Regrettably, dropped out at that stage and focused on the band. I kind of wish we’d stayed, but everyone has regrets.
Then we started getting more and more gigs in Glasgow through our manager at the time, started getting a name for ourselves in the Scottish scene, supporting bands like The Phantom Band, We Were Promised Jetpacks and The Twilight Sad. People started recognising us a wee bit.
P3dro: The big news in Man of Moon land is the new album, Dark Sea. A lot of the songs, both on the album as well as other stuff you’ve written reference water. What’s the fascination?
CB: I grew up in Musselburgh, a seaside town just outside Edinburgh. I could see the sea from my bedroom window, which was where I did a lot of my writing. My dad had a massive fascination with the sea as well and at the time when I started writing songs for Man of Moon, I was writing a lot of songs about my dad. I had this kind of strong bond with the sea and I got really inspired by it.
So the sea and water just naturally made their way into my lyrics.
P3dro: Was that any part of the thinking behind doing the recording [of the album] at The Cottage Studio at Loch Fyne?
CB: To be honest, not really. It was a happy coincidence. We knew it was a really cool place to go. A lot of bands in the Scottish music scene have used it, either for practice or demos or recording albums. We also knew it was quite cheap. It’s great, you can stay in the cottage, cook and drink at night and the studio space is right next door.
The view from it is amazing. We went in January 2019, so there was still snow on top of the mountains. You step out for a fag and you’re looking at huge mountainscapes – it’s amazing. The water being there was a nice addition.
P3dro: Another thing about the album I’ve seen referenced is that it’s a bit like a journey. You start off with Intro and The Road and then you end up with the last track Coming Back.
CB: Yeah. The flow of the album, and when we play live, is super important to us. We put a lot of thought into the journey of the music. We knew from the start we wanted “Intro” to be the really loud, capture your attention kind of thing at the start of the album, with the spoken words.
And then, with “The Road” we weren’t quite fully sure where it was going to sit on the album before we went up [to Loch Fyne], although we had a rough idea.
We knew that we wanted “Interlude” to finish side A, because we felt that was such a powerful, abrupt, ending to that side of the album before it was flipped over. But, otherwise we weren’t fully sure how it was going to go, save we knew “Coming Back” was going to be the end track. It was also the last song I wrote for the album. We wanted it to be a reflection of the other tracks.
“The Road” seemed to fit really well, coming after “Intro”, continuing with the Kraut-Rock vibe.
P3dro: Had you got the songs written before you went up to Loch Fyne?
CB: Oh, yeah. A few of the songs we’d had in the set for a long time, like “The Road” and “Interlude”.
“Ride the Waves” and “Strangers” were written at the same time, about 2, maybe 3 years ago. “Ride the Waves” came together super quick. I’d written the bass line for “Strangers” and brought it to Mikey in the studio, where we jammed it out a bit. We both knew instantly what sort of vibe we wanted for it, but it was just a jam. We went into the studio to demo “Ride the Waves”, which we recorded in a day. We had a second day booked, so we went in with this jam, no lyrics or anything. But it all pieced together really quickly, with the acid bass line, the cowbell part. By the end of the day, we were like “Fucking Yes, we have our new single”.
So, the album has been ready for quite a long time, sitting waiting for us to release it. We had planned on releasing earlier this year, but then Covid 19 hit. We’d considered waiting to see what would happen, but then we just really wanted to get it out. Some fans were asking about it, so we’re really glad we did. And it’s been really, really nice to see the response to it.
P3dro: You’re not the only band who’s felt frustrated by not being able to gig, but you’ve got music and thought, well, fuck it, let’s just release it.
CB: Yeah. I’m trying not to get too down about the fact we can’t gig it at the moment, especially having seen the reaction from the fans. It’s a real shame because I think the shows right now would have been amazing. Just interacting with fans after the show, chatting about the album, doing DJ sets and all that stuff.
But it’s the same for so many other bands at the moment.
P3dro: You’ve already mentioned The Twilight Sad and you played quite a few gigs with them. What do you take from them? Any influence on your music or your style?
CB: Yeah. When we started out we hadn’t heard of them! We’re huge fans of Mogwai – they’re a band [Mikey and I] bonded over, but we hadn’t actually listened to The Twilight Sad until we got offered the support slot. But when we checked them out, we were, like “YEERRRSSS, these are fucking amazing and we can’t wait to support them“.
The first show with them was in London at The Scala, which was huge for us. It was our first show in London and there was about 800 – 900 people there. We’d been travelling in a wee Toyota Yaris, proper squashed up with all the gear in the back.
But just watching them live, they have such a powerful presence on stage. I think there’s a similarity between our sound – the kind of “droney” sounds between the tracks. And Andy [MacFarlane] loves to play his guitar really, really, loud, and I’m a huge fan of that as well. It was that power and presence that inspired us a lot.
P3dro: There seems to be a kind of Scottish feel to a group of bands, such as you, The Twighlight Sad, Mogwai, Jesus and Mary Chain, perhaps. We get the impression there is a recognisable Scottish sound?
CB: Yeah. We’ve heard that before. For a while I couldn’t really figure out what it was. It comes back to what we mentioned before – that kind of droney sound. I think a lot of Scottish bands have that [going] underneath them at times. I guess we’re quite “proggy”, you know.
P3dro: We appreciate that the ink on the covers of Dark Sea isn’t really dry, yet because it hasn’t been out that long, but what are the plans for any new music?
CB: Yeah, absolutely, we’re working on album #2 for the past year and really going for it. It’s nice when you bring out music and you get a good reaction to it. That really drives you to get the next thing out.
So, over lockdown, I’ve spent a bit of time getting a wee studio set up in my room. A mate very kindly gave me an electronic drum kit to use, so I have a wee synth and a guitar set up. I’ve just been practising and demoing in the flat.
The plan over the next few months is to get some demos down and go in to record album #2 next year. We’re really excited about some of the tracks, because some [tracks] have been in the set for a while, so it’s nice to work on new songs. We think the song writing will be a bit more mature as well.
P3dro: Were you and Mikey able to get together in Lockdown?
CB: No, because I stay in Glasgow and he stays in Edinburgh.
P3dro: So, you were working remotely and emailing bits to each other?
CB: Yeah. Pretty much
P3dro: How do you see the future for gigs and the arts in general?
CB: As it stands, we have the album tour booked for January / February and they’re still booked. But as the months go on and on I think we’re all realising that this will change. It’s mental, we originally had dates booked in May . They all got re-scheduled to September, but its [crazy] to think they all got re-booked until January. And obviously, nobody knows. They will happen eventually.
But it all seems a bit doom and gloom just now with the industry. But I think music will prevail one way or another. But it is very, very shit at the moment.
Obviously a fair amount of venues will shut, unfortunately, especially grass roots ones – the most important ones – and they will take a big hit, but I think that may open up a place for illegal raves to come back. They’re gonna have to, because everyone wants to go and see live music.
<sighs> I don’t really know.
I think something the government and other people don’t realise is that the big bands that are playing the huge shows wouldn’t be there without the grass root venues. Places like The Leadmill in Sheffield – Arctic Monkeys – they wouldn’t be the band they are without having these smaller venues without giving them a step up.
So, for the future of music, these venues are essential for new bands to come through them, but especially with Brexit as well as the future of young bands being able to tour Europe as well … [we know the rest]
P3dro: On that happy note, recommend a band or an album you think we should be listening to right now.
CB: An album I have been absolutely rinsing over the last couple of years is Cocoa Sugar by Young Fathers. I love them.
Another good Scottish band is Domiciles from Fife. They’re a great psych band.