I’ve never been one to have a favorite band, but if push came to shove, Moose would be in contention. The band started around 1990 and were initially lumped in with the shoegaze movement in the UK. Their contemporaries of the time were bands like Lush, Boo Radleys and Ride to name a few, and their first three ep’s released on the Virgin subsidiary Hut did have the distorted guitar and were typical of the shoegaze movement. But with the third of those ep’s, they hinted at something a bit more classic and sublime think of a cross between Lee Hazlewood and Prefab Sprout. This sound would be fully realized on the first album …XYZ.
With the Mitch Easter produced …XYZ, gone were the distorted guitars, replaced by a cleaner more intricate sound that made you want to listen again and again, each time hearing something new. I still remember the first time I heard the first single, Little Bird, and how blown away I was by how different it sounded from their previous work. It was a single that was meant to be heard on the radio, and guaranteed to put a smile on your face. It may have put a few smiles on some faces in the UK, but it never happened here in the US, because the album never got released. They were subsequently dropped from Hut after …XYZ, because it got tagged as country which caused a falling out with the the current trends. The band soldiered, first putting out a single on their own Cool Badge label, and then signing to Play It Again Sam for their next two albums.
Their fourth (and last?) album High Ball Me was put out on Saltwater/Le Grand Magistery over here in the States, it had been five years since they had released anything, and it progressed the previous album Live a Little, Love a Lot. Moose again turned up the guitars a bit with the first single Can’t Get Enough of You. You could hear that they were going in a slightly different direction incorporating elements of eastern music, and Ennio Morricon, but the hooks by the dozen were still there making it another excellent record.
You really can’t go wrong with any of the four Moose records, each one is a beauty and a little bit different. After High Ball Me, the band kind of faded, not breaking up, but not working either. I wondered what they were up to, so I got in touch with singer Russell Yates who runs Cool Badge a music promotions company to find out. He was gracious enough to answer my questions that I sent to him by email. A new Moose album? Doesn’t sound like it’s imenent or anything, but never say never. In the meantime, you can purchase three of their four albums through iTunes, unfortunately …XYZ isn’t available.
The Finest Kiss: I guess the first question is the one that has been on my mind since I’ve never heard anything official. Is Moose still together? It’s been 7 years since Highball Me! came out, so most everyone assumes that Moose is no more. Is that the case?
Russel Yates: I GUESS SO. BUT WE HAVEN’T SAID NO FOR SURE.
TFK: If Moose is no more are you working on any other music (band, solo)?
TFK: Are there any plans in the works to collect the best of Moose on a cd or double cd? Possible inclusion of Peel sessions and those rare 7″ records you included with the first two vinyl albums?
RY: I HAVE HEARD THAT CHRISTOPHE BASTERRA (EDITOR OF MAGIC MAGAZINE) IN FRANCE IS INTERESTED IN RELEASING A RETROSPECTIVE ALBUM ON HIS NEW LABEL
TFK: What made you guys choose Mitch Easter to produce XYZ? I remember thinking at the time that he was such a perfect fit for you guys. Were you Let’s Active Fans, or of his work as a producer of REM, Hummingbirds, Velvet Crush, etc?
RY: I WAS ONLY AWARE OF HIM FROM HIS REM WORK. WE MET HIM & GOT ON WITH HIM REALLY WELL. A BRILLANT BLOKE & HUGELY TALENTED.
TFK: Your records are such cornacopias of sound, I’ll hear a cool guitar fourish here, a violin there, a backing vocal harmony somewhere else. How consious are you as a band at creating records that on repeated listening the listener hears something different every time?
RY: VERY. THAT’S HOW A LOT OF OUR FAVOURITE RECORDS SOUND
TFK: Moose has had quiet a tumultous ride through record labels. From what I’ve read, both Hut/Virgin and PIAS didn’t seem to have your best interests at heart. Do you think that if you guys had been on a more nuturing label, that you would have met with more success? What would your ideal label be?
RY: QUITE POSSIBLY. WITH THE BENEFIT OF HINDSIGHT IT WOULD HAVE BEEN INTERESTING TO SEE HOW THINGS WOULD HAVE DEVELOPED IF WE HAD RELEASED MUSIC ON OUR OWN LABEL & LICENSED TO DIFFERENT LABELS AROUND THE WORLD.
TFK: All of the Moose album covers were works of art. How did you find Laura Lockton and how did she approach the sleeves? Did she listen to the album and then come up with ideas?
RY: SHE WAS AN ART STUDENT WHO SENT EXAMPLES OF HER WORK TO THE LABEL, HE SENT HER ARTWORK TO US & WE LOVED IT. SHE HAD A LISTEN & TALKED WITH US. WE PUT IDEAS TO HER & SHE CAME UP WITH HER GORGEOUS COVERS.
TFK: James Reeder did the covers for the High Ball me era stuff, how did you guys hook up with him? I know he’s a fan, because he maintaines your ‘unofficial’ site.
RY: HE CONTACTED US. NICE MAN.
TFK: In my opinion, at the time Moose started in the early 90’s was a heady time in Uk indie pop music. There were so many bands that I still count today as some of my favorites. You guys, Boo Radleys, Pale Saints, Swervedriver, etc. All of these bands were lumped into shoegazers or the scene that celebrates itself, but all of those bands I mentioned and few more developed in totally different and exciting directions. I guess my point is, there has never been anything quite like that since. Today, it seems like there may be a bunch of bands that rightly or wrongly get lumped into a category, but they don’t seem to trancend that initial categorization. How do you see the UK music scene today, and are there any up and coming bands that get you really excited?
RY: THERE ARE A LOT OF AMAZING NEW ACTS AROUND. I LOVE SO MANY DIFFERENT RECORDS I WOULDN’T HAVE SPACE TO INCLUDE THEM ALL.
TFK: I see that you are involved with radio and television promotion with Cool Badge. What is the other half of Moose, K J McKillop, doing these days?
RY: HE’S A TEACHER, MIG THE DRUMMER WORKS WITH ME, RUSSELL FONG IS A CARPENTER LIVING IN THE WEST COAST OF AMERICA & LINCOLN STILL WORKS IN ENGINEERING (MUSIC).
Here are a couple songs to entice you to getting on over to iTunes to check out Moose.
mp3: Little Bird (Are You Happy In Your Cage)? – from XYZ
mp3: Uptown Invisible – from Honey Bee
mp3: Kidney Bingos (Wire cover found on the 7″ that came with the vinyl version of …XYZ)