In just three days “Space”, Newmoon’s debut full-length, will have you gazing at your shoes like few other albums this year. Following the “Invitation To Hold” EP from two years ago, expectations are high for this one. That’s okay though, because “Space” more than delivers! Here’s an interview we did with vocalist/guitarist Bert Cannaerts.
PRT: On Oct 27 you will be playing a show with Minor Victories, which must be very exciting. If you could put together a show with any band (past or present), what would the line-up look like?
Bert: Getting to play with Minor Victories is definitely something we are excited about. Obviously we're fans of Slowdive, but Mogwai and Editors are bands we really like and respect. As far as putting a lineup together, that's probably the hardest question you could ask us. Right now my first thoughts are Oasis, The Ramones, Nirvana and maybe Jawbreaker. Just because I never got to experience any of those bands live. If you'd ask me this next week you might get a completely different response, but let's go with those four yeah.
PRT: “Space” will be out in the US via Mayfly Records and leading up to the release, you have already received quite some press on American sites. To what degree is the US a priority for you?
Bert: Very early on we noticed quite some interest from people in the US. I think it might have something to do with the size of the country and the amount of interest in all kinds of music? I feel like the US is very open to indie and alternative music. Radio stations like KEXP definitely do a good job in putting the spotlight on smaller bands that deserve attention. Europe, or Belgium at least, has less of that. So we decided to try and get the album released in the US to see what would happen. We've gotten some very good response so far so we'll see how far we can take it when the album is officially out.
PRT: Both the album title and some of the song titles (“Head Of Stone”, “Coma”,…) are quite cinematic titles. And then there’s a song simply titled “Hi”. Where did that one come from?
Bert: We really like to be a little tongue-in-cheek, and poke fun at ourselves. “Hi” was one of those songs. We knew we wanted to include some sort of soundscape on the album. With “Hi” we tried to recreate the sound of a rocket lifting off into Space. At first we wanted to call it “High” as kind of a joke, but then someone said “Hi” would be more funny so it just stuck.
PRT: What does your songwriting process generally look like? What influences (apart from other bands) had an effect on Newmoon’s music?
Bert: Usually we try to determine the kind of direction we want to take with our music. Not necessarily just the sound but also the vibe and atmosphere we want to create. While this is happening we're experimenting with different kinds of songs to see what works and what doesn't. It's definitely a collective and collaborative process. Once we have a handful of songs we can usually piece it together really well. I think the concept for 'Space' became clear about 4 songs into the writing process.
PRT: You’ve made a couple of videos now. Which one was your favorite to make and why?
Bert: I think Head Of Stone might be my personal favorite because of the process. We got to work with our good friend and photographer Hannes M. Meier. We had limited time to record everything but the end result is absolutely great. The way he directed the video was amazing to watch. He was experimenting with very dramatic lighting and camera-shots. I don't think we could be happier with the way it turned out.
PRT: If you have to define shoegazer by referencing one band, which band would that be and why?
Bert: The only good answer to this question is My Bloody Valentine I guess? I mean they basically invented the genre so yeah. I'd go with My Bloody Valentine. What interests me more is the way the formula is something that happens in a lot of different genres. The melody and dynamics are something that happens in a lot of genres. I just love trying to hide the beautiful things behind a wall of noise.
PRT: How do you feel about the current wave of oldschool shoegazer bands reuniting? We’ve had reunions of MBV, Slowdive, Swervedriver, Ride etc. How do you feel about that and have you seen any of these bands live yet?
Bert: I have absolutely no problem with bands reuniting. Especially when it's a band that I never got to seen the first time around. Honestly I don't even really care about the reasoning behind it. As long as the band sounds good and it doesn't feel like they're phoning it in, I'll enjoy myself. It's nice to see a band like Slowdive finally get the recognition they deserve. To me it's the exact same as other
PRT: You toured with Touché Amoré, Jeremy released your first EP through his label and in the past couple of months you played shows or toured with the likes of Citizen, Turnover, Title Fight and Drug Church. Is the hardcore scene still a scene you have a place in with Newmoon?
Bert: We try not to think of ourselves in terms of “scenes”. We like to play with bands that we are fans of, or feel connected to. Touring with Touché was a given for us, as we've been friends for years. Touring with Citizen and Turnover was an absolute dream. There was an immediate connection with both of those bands and I think the crowds really reacted well to our shows on that tour. We just want to play shows with bands we feel connected to. I don't think “hardcore” has a place for Newmoon, but that won't stop us from playing shows with hardcore bands if that's what we want to do.
PRT: Are you at all worried about staying associated with that scene and not being able to play in front of other audiences?
Bert: It all depends on the type of show. If we get asked to play with a band we like, we'll play the show. Their connection to hardcore, punk or any other scene isn't really important to us. The crowds on the Touché tour were definitely less interested but we just wanted to go on tour with our friends. I'm not going to lie, sometimes I kind of enjoy playing to a rough crowd. You get the chance to try and pull them out of their comfort zone, and even if you convince just one person it's a win-win situation. We try to mix it up and not play exclusively to one type of crowd. It also keeps things a lot more interesting for us as a band I think.
PRT: You played a show with Swain a while ago, who used to be in a hardcore band before they started playing grunge. You used to play in a hardcore band before you started playing shoegaze. Do you think playing hardcore comes with an age limit?
Bert: I don't think age has a lot to do with it, but more so it's about keeping things interesting for yourself. When bands have been around for a while it is normal for them to evolve into a different thing from when they first started. The cliché of not wanting to write the same album over and over is definitely real. I love seeing bands experiment and pushing the envelope beyond of what their fans might expect. I think bands like Pianos Become The Teeth, Swain or Ceremony have been very successful on that front. And even if I don't really like the direction a band takes, I'll always respect them for having the guts to try something new.
PRT: You told a friend about how you toured Germany with label-mates and how the other bands all had motels or hotels for the night, while you as a band crashed on someone’s floor. Which was a nod to your touring days with a hardcore band. What part of the hardcore/punk ethos did you take with you when you started Newmoon. And to what extent are you willing to compromise?
Bert: Honestly, that wasn't even meant to be this statement of our punk-ethic or whatever. It's just the way we've always done things in the past. Even the thought of having other options other than crashing on our friend's floor seemed so ridiculous to us. We just don't have that kind of money to spend on things like big vans or motels. A lot of the bands on that weekender thought it was so cool and rock'n'roll that we were sleeping on floors, but we just couldn't afford to do it any other way. I think growing up in hardcore/punk has taught us that the only thing that matters is hard fucking work. Whatever the circumstances, you do what you gotta do and then you do it some more. So yeah, if sleeping on floors is what it takes for us to go on tour, so be it.
PRT: Coming from a scene that generally frowns upon bands getting big or even getting airplay: did you already have to make any compromises that you initially maybe felt a bit uncomfortable with, but in hindsight turned out to be the right choice?
Bert: We got a little bit of that at the very start but overall we got a lot of support. Newmoon is not a big band in any way, shape or form. All of our friends in hardcore or punk bands appreciate what we are trying to do and support us 100%, even though it might not be their thing. We try to surround ourselves with people who really understand what Newmoon is about, and who accept what that means. Whenever we feel uncomfortable with a certain situation we'll definitely speak our mind and work out a way that is right for everyone.
PRT: What’s your favorite Spinal Tap related anecdote from playing with Newmoon?
Bert: After a show in Manchester we drove back to Leeds to stay at a friend's place. He invited us to a Halloween party at another house but when we got there our friend was already gone. So we decided to go in since we were there anyway. The night turned into 5 random Belgian guys drinking pretty much everything we could get our hands on. This turned into a very weird situation where no one knew who we were and we didn't even know whose house we were in. An interesting situation to say the least.
PRT: What is the one thing in popular culture that’s going on right now that you want our readers to take notice of? (Music, books, games, movies, tv shows,…)
Bert: I think the wealth of information available to anyone at any time in itself is very important to take notice of. There is so much information out there to discover and explore. Culture, arts, politics, science,... It's all available at the click of link. In this day and age it's important to realize the value of this information. People should use it to educate themselves and to bring more positivity to their life and the lives of others. That could mean discovering a new band that makes you and your friends dance, or that could mean educating yourself on a social issue and actually protesting. I try to not take it for granted myself.
PRT: A few quick fire questions (feel free to explain why): My Bloody Valentine or The Jesus and Mary Chain?
Bert: The Jesus and Mary Chain for me. Even though I like MBV a lot, I absolutely love the aesthetic of JAMC. Their whole vibe and attitude is so interesting to watch. Darklands is definitely a personal favorite.
PRT: Black Flag or Ramones?
Bert: The Ramones is one of those bands that started it all for me so I'm going with them. A catalog full of gems that make it impossible for me to pick a favorite song. Also probably the coolest looking band of all time.
PRT: Nirvana or The Men?
Bert: I really like The Men but this is a no brainer. Nirvana for sure. The older I get, the more I find myself listening to them. Every release is a classic. And to this day I still find myself listening to them and getting blown away every time.
PRT: Of Mice and Men or Grapes of Wrath?
Bert: John Steinbeck is one of my favorite writers. It's hard to really compare these two books as the premise is so much different but both are classics. Of Mice and Men is my favorite of the two. Everyone should read it.