Interview // Liela Moss (The Duke Spirit)
Kathleen Coyle interviews Liela Moss about the band’s latest EP, ‘Serenade’.
‘Serenade’ feels like the natural successor to ‘Follow’, which was more upbeat than previous tracks on ‘KIN’. Heartbreak reverberated throughout the album, but a serenade suggests a celebration of love. Will the next album be more sanguine in tone?
I think most of the lyrics that tumble out of my head, oscillate between an optimistic vision of the triumph of humanity over fear, or the pessimism of losing love and being separate from the whole. So regarding the next record as it emerges, well it will doubtless peer into both of those realms, and come out blinking!
You have compared the writing process to meditation in the past. How do you think meditation shapes your songwriting?
Well, in the sense that meditation helps to foster an attitude of non-attachment, I get into the process of witnessing things in a slightly detached way. Looking at words and images arise and pass before I grab hold of them. Observing something unfolding means you don’t imprint concretely onto idea or maintain an agenda. I think it means that a lot more intuitive stuff gets through, without your mind intervening with its needs. Quiet, hidden moods get a moment to rise to the surface. A different tone of voice comes through compared to your everyday head-chatter…
Let’s talk about ‘KIN’. Songs like ‘Blue and Yellow Light’ and ‘Sonar’ considers light, shadows and edges. What were you hoping to evoke with this imagery?
I think they are very much about the above process. Taking your time to consider our impulses before your actions. Absorb the energies and personality in the room and think things over a little while.
Tell us a bit about the process of making ‘KIN’ and ‘Serenade’. How did these writing and recording sessions differ from your previous work? What is your process like?
Moving fast, using that intuition I mention above, to make swifter decisions without getting tied up in long conversations about “this sounds too this or too that”. The idea was to put considered ideas down, but not to fret and analyse them too much. Not to sap the naturalness out of them. Keep an open mind and be nimble with it!
The EP is being released relatively soon after a full-length album. What was the thinking behind that?
We rather liked these songs but they weren’t quite finished when we made the album. Luke is very much the archivist in the band, and goes back through half-written demos to check them for a pulse. He was good at making us aware that there were things on the shelf that deserved attention. Once we’d all started revising them, we felt that they had some character and should be put out, so we just got on with it. The more songs you have to choose from, the better it is to tour because you have a broader selection of stuff to play and can avoid getting bored. Keep reinventing the show each tour.
Are you able to write and record on the road?
A couple of things have emerged over the years, but honestly… I’m too fucking tired to concentrate. It is not a writing time for me. Notes in books, half-read novels, great conversations. That all happens and then I gather it all in when I get home for inspiration.
How do you feel you have evolved from ‘Bruiser’ to where you are now?
Like I say, a slight change in the tone of voice. And the tone of the music. Less obvious ‘muscular’, driven stuff. More powerful with less of a hustle.
‘Wounded Wing’ is my favourite song on the album. Could you tell us more about the meaning behind it?
It’s a little note on damaged people, of which I’ve met quite a few. Alcohol, familial neglect, drugs, whatever their thing is – the devastation obviously shows in their body, their posture, their skin, even after a recovery. I guess I was thinking about the way that damage forges a new form of the original person, who has had to put up so much armour.
Only over-tiredness and hotel bedbugs.
And what are you most proud of when it comes to your legacy?
I’m not sure I’m totally proud of anything yet. That’s why I carry on chasing the idea of a song I’ll be proud of…!
You are currently touring the EP. What has been your favourite date on this run and why?
In Birmingham there was a special feeling in the room. It might have been the amount of people singing the words, or the lighting?! Not sure. Leeds and Nottingham made me produce a special kind of sweat!
TYCI focuses on promoting female artists and performers. We are often aware of the misogyny reflected in a lot of lyrics, especially in chart-topping music. How influential do you think music making and lyrics can be in shaping a different kind of future for women?
Utterly persuasive. There are such mounds of lyrical turd out there… Let’s keep turning up the volume on the more imaginative, critical and beautiful songs instead.
The term “role model” is always tricky but who are some performers who have inspired you?
Patti Smith, Bjork, PJ Harvey, Courtney Love, Nick Cave, Maria Callas, Miriam Makeba, Nina Simone, Joe Strummer, Lux Interior, Kurdt Cobain, Liz Fraser, then recent (ish) proper pop-stars Robyn, and Emeli Sande are strong, elegant chart-sters…
‘Serenade’ is out now. For more information, visit thedukespirit.com.