FULL MOON FIASCO
Splendid Berlin meets up with Full Moon Fiasco to discuss Cosmic Palms, star signs and leaving New Zealand for Berlin…
Portraits: Heike Schneider-Matzigkeit
Interview: Nathaniel Fregoso
NF: Hi Full Moon Fiasco! You are originally from New Zealand?
Will: Yeah, I am and Mitch is. Jelena was born here but is from Croatia. A Croatian born in Berlin and Meghan is from South Africa.
NF: Can you tell me a little bit about moving from New Zealand to Berlin and what prompted the move?
Will: So I basically recorded the first album myself on cassette in New Zealand. Then had a band over there that I was playing with. And then I came here with another band called Thought Creature which was like a two piece electronic act. And we were living in Berlin for about 6 months I think it was and then I met Jelena. And I thought I might just come back to Berlin because I like it. My partner in music at that time, he wanted to go back to New Zealand to live, so I just kinda stuck around really. I just like the city. It was just for a change. I was a bit bored of New Zealand. I’d lived there for quite a long time. I had kind of just reached this point where I really liked my life there but it was not really going to change a lot and I just wanted to have a change.
Mitch: New Zealand isn’t like one of the most challenging places musically as well. You can be pretty comfortable. Have your band. Have little bit of success but then it doesn’t really go anywhere from there. So at some point if you want to do something with music you have to leave. I was later than Will leaving but . . .
NF: What’s the main difference between the music scene in New Zealand and the music scene here in Berlin?
Will: It’s pretty small in New Zealand. It’s a pretty small music scene. It’s definitely not as club based. Because club culture here has an infrastructure that New Zealand doesn’t even come close to having. Bars close at 2 o’clock. It’s probably more orientated towards live music. The good thing about New Zealand music is that because you don’t have so many people it tends to breed very integrated scenes which becomes a community. Instead of a similar brand of rock and roll bands that get together all the time. You’ll have a real mix of live electronic acts mixed with indie stuff or whatever, so it all cross-pollinates into pretty odd combinations of music. I think there’s a lot of creativity there that doesn’t get bound so much in scenes, because you can have more of a stable scene of particular kinds of music in Berlin. It can mean things become this cross-pollination.
Mitch: In New Zealand you go to a show and the opening act’s going to be a hardcore punk band. The next act’s gonna be a live electronic duo and the last act’s gonna be a psych band, you know? On the same bill. None of it makes sense but they’ll all just be friends. There’s no other bands to play with so they have to play with each other. Which has its positives and negatives. Definitely.
Will: Main thing is it’s a lot smaller. There’s a lot less venues to play at and there’s definitely a lot less electronic music.
Mitch: And a lot less money going around.
Will: There’s no money.
Mitch: You don’t get paid ever.
NF: We spoke briefly about your first album Cosmic Palms. You put that out in 2010. You recorded that all at home. Was it with a band?
Will: No, it was all by myself. Originally, I just came up with a concept really of a band that didn’t exist and made an album by myself based around that. Just because I was interested in the idea of doing that. By the time I’d finished that record I ended up with a band anyway. A friend of mine really wanted to play the songs and I couldn’t really be bothered but then he convinced me. So we started playing them live.
NF: How do typically write your songs? Do you jam things out? Do you make demos? Do you figure things out a little with the band?
Will: There’s a second album that’s finished and that was done a little bit differently from the first album in that it was done lot more live and there’s also a third album that I’m working on which will be a similar thing. It kind of just depends really. Some stuff all the chord progressions will be written and that will be taken to the band. Some things there’s recording and improvisations and they get reworked and put back on to it. Or sometimes it’s just a matter of instrumental stuff that got recorded on the four track. It just changes really. There’s no particular process. It really depends.
NF: Is the second album called Summer Eyes?
NF: Was it recorded here in Berlin?
Will: It was recorded mostly in New Zealand. But it was also recorded in Berlin. It was recorded in both cities.
NF: Is that coming out on a Berlin label?
Will: We have a label called Fantasy Fiction together. We’re gonna put it out on that via cassette and digitally.
OG: And vinyl.
Will: And vinyl. We’ll do vinyl presses as well.
NF: I’d like to ask you about lyrics. When you’re writing your lyrics do you improvise them? Do you sit down and actually write them? When I listen to your music I often hear a Jim Morrison delivery to certain things. Can you explain how you go about it?
Will: I really like the surrealists, so a lot of it becomes stream of consciousness that I will transcribe. I’ll make up or sing an idea over a demo enough times and then I’ll take the words and cut them back up and then put them back into the song in a kind of William Burroughs style. Or sometimes it’s just imagery that I see and I just write it down and maybe cut it up again and then put it back into a structure. It’s sort of that “enter the subconscious”, you know what I mean? And then use the conscious mind to rearrange that into something more of a form.
NF: I’ve seen you guys play live a number of times and to me your shows have a primal feel to them which I enjoy. How do you approach the live shows? Is there an improvisational quality? Do you rehearse a lot before you hit the stage?
Will: That’s a good question. I try to write into the songs, places that will change every time and things that will stay the same. So there’s always an element of improvisation within the songs. And then there’s also a structure as well. It’s kind of like a combination of the two things put together enough so the songs don’t get too boring to play. At the same time everyone knows how to play them. We try to rehearse once a week. Sometimes it’s twice depending on how busy we are. Going back to that primal thing that you asked about. That’s funny that he says that? It comes from New Zealand. Just living in a lot of nature.
Mitch: I was thinking when he said that as well. It also comes from the rock and roll scene in New Zealand. The Flying Nun stuff. That 80s thing in New Zealand. Before I was in the band Full Moon Fiasco I thought of them as a modernist twist on a New Zealand sound. The four track thing obviously. The New Zealand four track thing, so it’s funny that it translates into the live as well. It’s kind of a New Zealand style.
Will: There’s a lot of romantic poetry as well in that kind of New Zealand stuff. It just seems to sink into it I think.
Mitch: It seems to be a crossover between primal garage and some kind of dandy psychedelia. In particular The Clean and The Chills.
Will: And The Bats.
NF: How was it for you guys listening to The Clean and the Chills as you were growing up. Was it a big influence?
Mitch: For me definitely.
Will: Yeah, it was cool actually. Not just from a songwriting . . . I love the songs, but also from a recording perspective. It was kind of liberating to know that these bands recorded with just pretty simple stuff. They bypassed that whole kinda like you need a big studio and a lot of money. Kinda that DIY approach that I think was really appealing. And those recording sounds and techniques became like really popular, you know. Bands like Pavement and Sonic Youth are massively influenced by that.
Mitch: Brian Jonestown Massacre.
Will: Brian Jonestown Massacre even.
Mitch: When I first was introduced to Flying Nun stuff by my parents, it wasn’t at its cool stage by then. It was just New Zealand music. My dad would be like, “Oh that’s a New Zealand band” or “These guys live down the street from me”. It’s a second degree of separation of New Zealand music. You always know somebody that was in that band. But then by the mid-2000s, especially in the US, it became super cool to like Flying Nun and Flying Nun caught onto that and reinterpreted itself to catch up to the new market.
Will: It had a second wind.
Mitch: Because the label was dead. And now there’s a Flying Nun record store again in Auckland. Which there hadn’t been probably since the mid-90s.
Will: That stuff was popular especially in the US college radio circuit.
Mitch: Its rediscovery has been thanks to a lot of American bands. Anton Newcombe. Various other people celebrating New Zealand music. I’d say a lot of those bands thought they were forgotten. Especially those outside of The Clean and The Chills. It’s a huge catalog of stuff.
NF: What do you guys think about the rock and roll scene here in Berlin. Is it a tight knit scene? Is it easy to book shows?
Will: I think the live scene here has gotten really good since I moved here. I kind of got a feeling that a lot of people have come in from a lot of places in the world to make live music as well as club music. In more recent times. So I think that’s really cool. I have really good friends that are playing music here. Yeah rock and roll scene. I guess that’s what you’d call it. You want to say anything? Live bands you like? You want to comment on that?
Jelena: It definitely has developed since a few years. Since we started playing like two three years ago. We met a lot of bands in a sense of kind of working together. Working with bands such as Voodoo Beach who we toured with. So this is definitely developing and I hope it kind of grows even bigger.
Meghan: I definitely think there’s a scene. Specifically around 8mm. Where everybody hangs out there and everybody knows each other. We’ve played loads of shows with Levant already and Jawbones and these bands. I think it’s always been there but I think we’re getting to know… we’re all relatively new in Berlin apart from Jelena, but it’s definitely getting easier to connect through the scene. I think it’s relatively easy to book shows in Berlin. But after playing quite a bit in Berlin, it’s really exciting to think about playing outside of Berlin. We’ll see how that goes. We were just on a tour with Voodoo Beach and it was amazing to play outside. I am personally excited for that. To see what’s outside of the scene here.
Jelena: I also think the band scene is relatively small in Berlin. Electronic music is quite big. It sounds harsh, but there’s not that much competition. Just those few bands that are in this circle of 8mm and stuff. It’s just not that many bands that do the same kind of thing, psychedelic music. It’s more of an electronic music town. So it’s actually cool for us to be here right now because Berlin’s a real big city and things can get distributed from here very well. If you’re in New Zealand, there’s a lot of bands, but it stays all in one place. Here it’s not such a huge scene, but we have a lot of possibilities to play and book shows all around Europe.
Meghan: And seeing a lot of bands and playing with a lot of other touring bands here you kind of get the opportunity to broaden your horizons. Because we meet so many different people from different bands. Maybe they ask you to play with them somewhere else.
Jelena: Plus a lot of bands come to Berlin. Bigger, smaller bands. We always have the opportunity to meet people all around, so I think this is a real good place to be.
Mitch: It’s really multicultural. I’m the newest person in the band to move to Berlin. Coming from a scene in New Zealand where it’s predominantly white male. It’s changing. I think every scene around the world has problems. It’s predominantly white male. Berlin I feel like there is less of an obstacle. I’m sure many people in New Zealand would say that it’s changing. The kind of inner qualities, but I think in Berlin it’s a bit more developed. Which is obviously a very positive thing. The politically correct one. It’s true though!
NF: You’ve just been on tour with Voodoo Beach. How was the tour? Is this your first big tour together as a band?
Will: Yes. With this lineup, it’s the first tour. You played outside of Berlin once before.
Jelena: Yeah I played in Leipzig. We played some things outside of Berlin but this was the first tour we played outside of Germany, in Prague. Us two bands we kind of came together, organized it, and played. It was really amazing. Voodoo Beach is a great band. We had lots of fun together. We travelled to Leipzig, Dresden, Prague, Weimar and Halle. Every place was really different to each other. It was really cool for us to have this experience together in really different venues. It wasn’t venues all the time, we played in kind of more like bar surrounding. We played in a house. Kind of like a house party, villa. So it was like many different things within those five days. A lot of different places, a lot of different people we met and it was fucking amazing.
Meghan: Really fucking amazing. We just came back yesterday. We’re all a bit shattered.
NF: What do you like to do on tour to pass the time?
Mitch: I think people have various vices.
Jelena: We all have various vices. Definitely. Some like to just drink throughout the tour. Some like to not interact at all until they play the show. Everyone has their ways of surviving this. Of getting through this.
Will: Go record shopping.
Jelena: Record shopping, yeah.
Will: Record shopping’s good. I thought we were pretty busy the whole time actually. We didn’t have a lot of free time if you think about it.
Meghan: I think we spent a lot of free time getting to know the other people and really enjoying their approach. They’re like a German band and we are like really full on. And it was really cool to see how we got on in the end really well. Even though we’re quite different. We’re really good friends.
Jelena: If two bands go on tour, it’s two different groups of gangs basically that might not even be able to get along with each other, but we totally managed that and compromised a lot as well. The loud band that we are. Different things came out.
Meghan: Quite loud.
Jelena: Quite loud. Quite extreme in some ways and they are more sorted than us. It was really cool that we got along for all this time. Got together and meet each other.
Mitch: I’m the grumpy one.
Jelena: Yeah, you’re the grumpy one. Meghan was the funny one.
Meghan: I get really loud and then I’ll get really quiet with my headphones on recharging and then I’m like “oh guys!”, but I go on and off quite a lot, when I’ve had enough I’ve had enough and I go to bed immediately. I can’t stay up all night like the rest. I’m always in bed first.
Jelena: I was emotional. I got a bit emotional a few times. And moody. Will is constantly smashed.
Meghan: Will is drinking breakfast beers.
Will: Yeah, I’m kind of in my element on tour.
Jelena: Touring is like “let’s do stuff, yeah!” and I don’t know I never had this like that. I never was on tour, so I first I had to get to know this whole concept, what to do with yourself when you’re on tour and it’s a harsh thing sometimes.
Will: Yeah, you have to be careful, but it wasn’t such a long time. I think it’s okay. I think it would have been nice to have more time to go record shopping actually.
Jelena: Yeah I would have loved to see the cities more, but now I’ve learned that this is definitely not possible when you’re touring.
Meghan: Especially with another band. When there’s so much. So many people to coordinate.
Jelena: Plus two bands. We both have to soundcheck. If we were only one, we’d only have to soundcheck, we could have left our stuff on time. Now with two bands, it’s impossible to have any time or space. Everyone has their own stuff to do. So we did not really manage to . . . we didn’t manage to see anything, just hang out with each other. Sometimes get on each other’s nerves. Get along with each other. But it was a great experience. And we all had fun and we all came out alive. It was a funny five days.
Meghan: Yeah, by the way, it was only five days and we’re all fucked!
NF: Where do you guys see yourselves in the next few years? You’re putting out another record soon and then a third record.
Will: Yeah, one of them’s finished. And then I have the working titles for the next two. And then it’s just like working out what songs go on what record. I’ve done a lot of writing here and there’s also improvised jams there and it’s kinda just better now. Everything’s been demoed out and recording should start pretty soon I think. In New Zealand it was a bit easier because I always had everything there in my room, always ready to record. But when I moved to Berlin I had to sell all my stuff and recollect the studio together and meet the right people who also had gear or studios to work in. It just meant that I ended up with a lot more demos that aren’t finished. That have all been worked on at the same time, do you know what I mean? But it’s great now, especially this group I think. It’s a really nice version for the songs. And actually the city informing your songs. It takes a while. Someone living in Berlin from New Zealand, I found, is a different process from writing in New Zealand about New Zealand life. It took five years, so hopefully both those records will come out plus the record that we’re working on at the moment.
Mitch: Plus a host of other projects.
Will: Yeah and then connected to that Mitch has a group called Aporia. He is working on that as well. Meghan is also doing stuff with the band Snøffeltøffs. And then I’ve been working on electronic sort of disco stuff under the name Cosmic Palms as well which is my producer name for electronic music. So it’s kinda just business as usual.
NF: The magazine is called Splendid Berlin. So I’ll ask you some Berlin questions. What’s your favorite place to hang out in Berlin? What would you recommend to somebody coming to Berlin to see?
Meghan: You mean like bars?
Jelena: 8mm is really an amazing place. We hang out there a lot. And then we also go to clubs as well. We have friends that do radio as well. They have a really cool place. But I think 8mm is a really great place.
Meghan: I like 8mm because I live upstairs. I don’t have to go really far. I just go downstairs.
Jelena: We live really far away. We live in Wilmersdorf and it’s really great. And it has a park next to it where they only sell Thai food.
Meghan: Thai Park. Thai Park’s cool.
Will: If you can come in summer. Go to Thai Park. That’s a good hotspot.
NF: What’s your favorite thing to eat in Berlin?
Will: There’s a pizza store called Giorgio’s that I really love in Wilmersdorf.
Jelena: We’ve convinced our friends that we know the best pizza place in Berlin. We always invite them and they always approve of it. It’s called Dagiorgio. It’s in Wilmersdorf. For pizza it’s the best place in Berlin.
Meghan: I really like Asteria which is a really sweet, very normal place. It’s a Greek restaurant. They give you free shots the whole time you’re there. So it’s really cool to go there.
Jelena: You never told us about that.
Meghan: Asteria on Eberswalder. And you go in there and they pour you shots of Ouzo and you down it and they give you another shot. Basically they just fill up your shot glass the entire time you’re there. And then when you order the bill they bring you coffee for free and they’re really friendly. I just really like it. It’s not super hip at all. But I like it. I eat there or go to 8mm or my home.
Jelena: Netto is the best place. A pack of 3 pizzas in one.
NF: I just have one question that I like to ask personally. What are you star signs?
Jelena: Jelena is a Taurus. Will is a Gemini.
Meghan: I’m Capricorn.
Mitch: I’m on the cusp of Taurus and Gemini. 21st of May.
NF: Do you guys believe in astrology?
Jelena: Yes, I do. I totally do. I’m a total Taurus.
NF: How is this mix?
Jelena: Oh. Good question. I was always hanging out with either Geminis or Capricorns in my life. Apparently they don’t really fit with Tauruses, but I only ever had Gemini and Capricorn friends. And Taurus/Geminis.
Mitch: I didn’t realize you were only one apart. Because I am on the cusp as well.
Meghan: I’m on the cusp as well. 26th of December. I think I’m on the cusp of Sagittarius.
Will: Oh true.
Meghan: I know nothing about astrology.