Interview with MOULETTES

We recently described the new MOULETTES album “Preternatural” … released last week ” as “best art rock album of the year.” [Full review here.]

Last week we had a chat with the English Folk Rock and Craft band formed in Glastonbury in 2002 about the album concepts…

A suitable candidate for best art rock album of the year...
A suitable candidate for best art rock album of the year…

This new Moulettes record aims to investigate and honor the richness and the engaging diversity that exists in our natural world, and to analyze our relationship to it … Our similarities, our differences and our role as guardians …

So we asked, do you think mankind will ever approach the harmony and wonder found in the natural world, perhaps, for example though art or music ?

“Art in all forms has the capacity to be absolutely sublime, transcendental and elemental…”

“It is one of humankind’s main redeeming features! We can learn a lot about ourselves from other animals, but what we ended up thinking was that behaviour and characteristics we might consider exclusively human, are in reality no such thing.”

“There’s harmony and wonder for sure, in all corners of the world, in every species, and there’s also conflict & bloodshed, and more subtle things — humour, envy, loyalty, petty thievery, impatience, sabotage, compassion — you can see evidence of these emotional landscapes in the behaviour of some creatures, and they permeate human life and art. The interesting part is working out where your interpretation ends and theirs begins.”

Preternatural (Bonus Track Version) - Moulettes
Preternatural (Bonus Track Version) – Moulettes

Isn’t it too late for some of the species you’re talking about, we have done irreparable damage to our world. How do we make amends?

“That tension is at the heart of this record — but we wanted to provoke a positive response to this, rather than any sort of depressed apathy! Coral is under threat and some of it is irreparably damaged, but scientists have been experimenting with using a 3d printer to provide the structures the polyps need to inhabit.”

“A freshwater coral reef was just discovered at the mouth of the Amazon river. Meal worms are able to digest Styrofoam. Fungus can clean up oil spills, even nuclear waste. The problems are complex and urgent but solutions can be found — we have a wealth of research, resources, and great scientific minds at our disposal. The problem as we see it is that if corporations continue to influence policy makers to the same extent we are in real trouble, but there is power in the choices we make — we read a good sticker in a toilet once — “Every time you spend money you are casting a vote for the kind of world you want.”

Do you feel you have the duty to record the near-supernatural wonders of the earth, or is this disc, perhaps, a warning?

“Both maybe, but it started as a fun exercise. Oliver (Drummer/ co-producer) set us to task with some perimeters… i.e. themes to explore, key, tempo — as the starting point for some demos. For example camouflage, E flat minor, 133.333 bpm and that’s where the album grew from. We really enjoyed bringing in a kind of scientific rationalism in to the emotional songwriting process, and found it very satisfying to have some distance from the subject, but be able to get wholly involved.”

We thought that this album sounded more like a prog- rock album and less like a folk baroque one (the heaviness and the synths.) Was that a consciously made change in artistic direction ? 

“I think its fair to say that each Moulette record is different from the one before, but we wanted to challenge ourselves again with the production of this record — (self-produced by Jim Mortimore, Hannah Miller & Oliver Austin) and we were excited to be joined by Raevennan Husbandes (Electric Guitar/ Vocals) this time round. This was a new sound in the Moulette palette, at least as a main instrument, so we experimented a lot with blends of Bassoon, (Ruth Skipper) Electric Cello and Guitar, and various effects pedals, ebow and techniques.”

“Raevennan was listening to lots of St. Vincent and Esperanza Spalding for inspiration. We liked the mixture of electric, synthesised, sampled and acoustic sounds — and it led us to new territory. In general we all love such a variety of music, everything that is good! So we don’t feel bound to a particular style or genre. Because of the conceptual nature of ‘Preternatural’ — (Each song written for a different creature) we felt that we could change the mood at will to suit the beast.”

Ruth Skipper Moulettes - image by © Neil Mach
Ruth Skipper Moulettes – image by © Neil Mach

Were the songs on this album created and grow organically, or were they crafted together using arithmetic, logic and attention to detail?

“They started as organic growths, then went through a few stages of arranging, playing, preproduction, recording and sometimes some more re-writing- and they haven’t stopped growing…We’ve been rehearsing and touring the new album now for two months and we’ve all been making little tweaks and changes. It is the attention to detail that is satisfying about making music. The quote is, “Never finished, only abandoned” and we think there’s some truth to that — and its funny — that’s why we love remixes, acoustic versions, re-writes … its good for the music to develop and change. The album is just one face of the song- and you can take a song in so many directions…”

Talking of contributions from Raevennan Husbandes, how else did she chip in?

“It was great to have Raevennan on guitar in the sessions, as we mentioned, but she is also a superb singer, and a writer in her own right — so she had lots of good ideas to contribute. It was really a dream come true to have Ruth and Raevennan to sing 3-part harmony with Hannah Miller they have beautiful voices that make a very sweet blend. ‘Pufferfish Love’ which Raevennan sings the lead vocal on is a highlight of the record in our opinion.”

We thought there were more male voices than usual- were you aware of this when you were making the record ?

“Jim and Oliver have always sung b.v.s but we were lucky to have Oliver’s Brother, T. S Idiot to sing on Medusa — he does the 4 part harmony vocals- they were inspired by the eerie slowed down welsh choir on Kate Bush’s ‘Hello Earth’. We also experimented with some pitched-down vocals in this blend.”

“We’ve had several male features also including Blaine Harrison and of course the album before we used a multi tracked choir of Arthur Brown as a texture In a few songs. ‘The God of Hell Choir‘ we called it. Big Vocal arrangements is something we have enjoyed with this band.”

Arthur Brown and his Crazy World are still an experimental band and, of course, very theatrical. What did you learn when on tour with Arthur’s band?

“It’s great to open a gig for Arthur, his voice is legendary- and his band are all great players too, as well as being a lovely bunch with many great stories to tell. In addition, Jim played with Arthur for many years, and Oliver has also drummed with Arthur.”

“We also did a string arrangement with Anisa Arslanagic on his recent record too, so there has been lots of musical collaboration both ways. Its a honour and a pleasure to have the opportunity to work with someone with so much experience and such presence. He did also recommend that you should always eat beetroot on tour, which has stuck with me. He also has a ‘love potion’ before he goes on stage sometimes. We think only Jim and only a few others know what I that. Moulettes has always had a big collaborative element to it. It’s important and good for everyone. You certainly learn more things that way.”

Thank you Moulettes.

Moulettes were talking to @neilmach 2016 ©





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