Reign in blood
Moose Blood may only be a few years deep into this adventure, but new album ‘Blush’ confidently and brilliantly sounds like nobody but them. That’s the thing about writing from the heart.
Words: Ali Shutler. Photos: Phil Smithies.
I still say it to Eddy [Brewerton, frontman]. When is it alright for us to accept that we are a real band and this is what we do?” questions guitarist Mark Osborne. “And we still don’t. I think we’re all half expecting to have to go and look for a new job next week. But I guess it’s a good thing keeping that in the back of our mind because we never take anything for granted. We never get carried away. We all know full well that it could be over anytime, so let’s just make the most of it.” From the very beginning, Moose Blood have just rolled with it.
And with their second album out soon, the band – Eddy, Mark, drummer Glenn Harvey and bassist Kyle Todd – are set to get even more to play with. Where debut ‘I’ll Keep You In Mind, From Time To Time’ declared “I don’t believe in growing up”, ‘Blush’ admits “I’m in no rush to slow down”. More self-accepting, but still cradling fragile emotion, Moose Blood’s new record is a consolidation of purpose rather than a planked evolution. ‘I’ll Keep You In Mind…’ wore its influences on its sleeve and in its lyrics, ‘Blush’ on the other hand, sounds like no one but Moose Blood.
“We didn’t want a drastic change,” explains Eddy. “We were pretty happy with what we were doing and we enjoy the songs we were writing. We didn’t try to have a certain sound for the whole record. Us four people playing together just creates that sound.”
“We did what we did before, we just tried to do it better,” adds Mark. “Hopefully it is that natural progression and not a mad change of genre or anything like that. We weren’t trying to come out with some sort of concept or make a statement.” Instead, their vision was: “Let’s just make a Moose Blood record and see what happens.” The band have been constantly rolling the dice and enjoying the outcome since the very beginning.
Whether it was Glenn falling in love with Blink-182 and Nirvana, Kyle “being a rebellious teenager and just wanting to be loud”, Mark raised on a diet of Michael Jackson, Meatloaf, Def Leppard and Queen, or Eddy singing along to Celine Dion and Michael Bolton in the car with his mum (“that just got me to really enjoy music”), the four piece grew up around music but they never entertained any dreams about stardom.
“It wasn’t about playing stadiums or whatever, but I just wanted to play music like that,” offers Glenn, as Kyle grins: “I learnt guitar and now I’m here… I’m not sure how that happened.”
“I realised I wasn’t going to be a professional footballer, so why not try and be a musician?” starts Mark, before quickly adding: “I still ain’t, but that dream took over. Those teenage years kicked in and you want to be Kurt Cobain or whatever. That was that.”
“It just happened without really thinking about it, it’s something I’ve always enjoyed,” summarises Eddy.
Moose Blood’s introduction to music was as simple as that. From hanging out with mates making noise to acting as a bookmark in their own lives, the band are into music for music’s sake. “When I was a little kid, ’Hysteria’ by Def Leppard is something my dad would play religiously and now I’ve got that on vinyl,” shares Mark. “I still listen to it because it takes me back.”
“It takes you back to growing up?” smirks Glenn.
Moose Blood started life in Eddy’s bedroom, with songs written on a Macbook. “I knew straight away who I wanted to be in the band.” A year after messaging Glenn the first track, schedules and commitments had freed up and the group took shape. “We just had to roll with it and keep it going forward.” They haven’t stopped since. Once the band turned the Garageband songs into Actual Band songs “it was a case of ok, let’s go and record. We started practicing together at the end of August 2012. We did our first show in October and recorded the ‘Moving Home’ EP that month as well.”
“I remember selling ‘Moving Home’ for £4 or something, thinking that maybe people will buy it ‘cause it’s really low. We were just up for getting it ‘round as many people as we could,” reflects Kyle. There was never a need to experiment or feel around in the darkness for a sound, because Moose Blood comes straight from the heart. They were just giving it a go, so why worry about a masterplan.
“I’d never sung in anything before other than just in my bedroom,” offers Eddy.
“I still remember that first practice we had,” Mark reflects. “This was the first time he was singing into a microphone. You were bright red, properly giving it everything you had just trying to find a key from somewhere.”
“It was terrible. I have no idea how I’m still doing it to be honest.”
“It’s learning I guess. And progressing. The more you do it, the better you should become at it. That’s the plan anyway. And I remember that fondly mate.”
“I just remember the massive headache afterwards.”
“We were purely just giving it a go,” says Kyle of the band’s tentative steps. “It’s the same thing now,” adds Glenn. “We had no expectations going into it. We never thought we’d get here.” Instead, “We just wanted to put a little record out, have a bit of fun and play some shows,” explains Mark, before realising: “Which is still what we’re doing…”
Before Moose Blood, the guys had been in and out of other bands for years previously. Mark and Glenn were part of a melodic hardcore punk band while Eddy and Mark had a noise hardcore band who played Hevy and a couple of local shows. “We really couldn’t be bothered to do it anymore. We couldn’t be bothered to practice.” From the off though, Moose Blood “felt different to anything we’d done before. People seemed to be responding to something we were doing and I’d never had that before. People paid attention to what we were doing,” ventures Mark. “When you spend a long time in shit bands, you notice that quite quickly.” They weren’t concerned with the reason, they just rolled with it.
Following ‘Moving Home’, the ‘Boston/Orlando’ single, a handful of tours and a split release with Departures, Moose Band unleashed their debut album at the close of 2014. Recorded with Beau Burchell in Los Angeles, walking into the studio with Blink-182 and New Found Glory records on the wall “was one of the most intimidating things ever.” Flying out the day after playing a tiny show in a coastal town where the band messed up a whole lot, “it was one of those things where we asked, ‘What are we even doing here?’”
The band hadn’t seen anything yet. “That first record for all of us felt like the first step towards being a real band,” explains Glenn. Flying to LA to record that debut might look like Moose Blood knew it was only the beginning, but in reality: “I was thinking this is a once in a lifetime opportunity and we’re never coming back.”
“We all quit our jobs the week after that record came out,” he adds. With three tours in as many months (supporting Balance and Composure, Mallory Knox and their own January headline run) the band simply couldn’t get the time off. “It was a massive leap of faith.”
“You do it on a whim. You just gamble,” admits Mark. “I’m walking away from my career path and my financial security for a couple of tours but it’s all we ever wanted to do. For me, it’s the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. But that album projected us onto those opportunities and then, from January until the end of the year, we toured every month off the back of that record. We got to do and see some incredible things. We couldn’t be more grateful. We took everything with open arms because it may never happen again. We may never get a second record.”
But we know how the story goes.
‘I’ll Keep You In Mind…’ is one of those rare records. Already a classic, it’s adored by scores of people yet feels intimate and special. There’s a real sense of ownership with Moose Blood. They feel like your band. “It’s spiralled so big now, it’s almost incomprehensible, just to think how we got here,” starts Kyle.
“It’s really tough to try and put it into some sort of perspective because none of us ever expected it,” Mark continues. “And I don’t feel like any of us think or act in any way like it’s happening. We just go with it. We do things like this.” He gestures to the Maida Vale canteen where the band are waiting to set up ahead of their performance live on Radio One alongside A Day To Remember, Blink-182 and Against The Current. “It’s like… we definitely shouldn’t be sat here. We’re just expecting to get kicked out from somewhere.”
Despite the worries that it could all come crashing down, Moose Blood aren’t wasting time looking over their shoulder. They’re staring dead ahead at the coming months. “The level of excitement is nuts. It just increases every time and we’re so fortunate to have these opportunities. Every time we do something bigger, I think they’ve got the wrong band but we’re still just making the most of it all.”
And with ‘Blush’, those opportunities are set to come thick and fast. “Because of that first record, there’s now this basis of comparison and we didn’t have any of that before,” offers Mark. “It has to be a better a record because of the way that first one was received.”
“When you’re in the band it’s hard to have that perspective as an outsider, but this is the first time, with ‘Honey’ and ‘Knuckles’, that we’ve noticed it blowing up a little more,” smiles Glenn. “It’s crazy, we can actually see we’re hitting a bigger audience now.”
“That’s also quite daunting,” continues Mark. “There’s more people that could turn around and say ‘you’re rubbish’.”
With ‘Blush’ though, there’s no chance of that.
Starting work on their new record much later than planned – “we knew we should have been writing before we started writing” – the band first started trying to tie down ideas while on Warped Tour, but couldn’t take a step back without it feeling forced. It was only when they got home that the wheels started turning. In fact, ten weeks before the band were due to fly out to record, all they had was the title, courtesy of Glenn. “That was all the time we had. It was our own fault really.”
“It wasn’t that we were even lazy or being complacent,” continues Mark. “We were just constantly looking towards the next thing and the next thing was always a tour. We didn’t really have time to write.” Not that you’d know it from hearing the record. Fully-formed and tightly knit, you can hear Moose Blood’s relationship threaded throughout.
“We could have easily gone in and made the first record again,” reasons Mark. But, reunited with Beau and having developed on the road, the band weren’t out to retread old ground. “We’re making a better record and that’s the end of it. Beau just really pushed us so we’d work through ideas and I think that, on top of all the touring and all the playing we did together, helped us function better as writers within the band. Not saying we’re amazing, but it does help. With anything in life, the more you do it, the better you should become at it.”
“We’re a bit more glued together,” adds Kyle. “We definitely function more as a unit now. I feel part of a band more now than when we started.”
“We spent a lot longer, as much as it felt rushed, writing the songs,” opens Glenn. “We spent a lot longer in the studio on individual songs than the first time around.” Whereas before the band went in and worked from a checklist, “this time we broke everything apart again and made sure the song was there.”
“The first record we were doing two songs a day, this one we’d start a song and then come back to it to try and finish it the following week, or go back to the apartment to write little extra bits if we needed them,” explains Eddy, with Mark adding: “If we weren’t 100% happy with what we were doing, we either wouldn’t record it or we would rewrite it. We were very much aware we were going out to make this record under-prepared. What we demoed, it was probably half a record’s worth of material. Two of the songs were instrumental. We didn’t really have a plan other than we want to leave there with a finished record.”
“That made us work a little harder,” continues Eddy. “We put some more time and work into it because we didn’t have the songs finished and it’s made the album what it is.”
The idea of ‘you can do better’ pursued every decision Moose Blood made in the studio. “Beau wouldn’t let us settle for anything unless it was the best that we could do.” Spending every waking minute either recording, writing, rewriting, or pulling things apart to reassemble them, it was an intense couple of weeks for the band but that pressure, intensity and single-minded focus makes ‘Blush’ shine.
Once again, Moose Blood’s album is shaped by everything that’s gone on in their lives. “Touring definitely influenced a lot of lyrics this time around, the impact that had on family life and relationships with wives and girlfriends,” explains Mark. “We just draw from any experiences we’ve got and put them into a song. There are tracks about a family breakup and people passing away. I don’t know if we’re very good at sitting around talking and opening up to each other though.”
“That’s our way of doing it though, I guess,” Eddy reasons. “We write down things we’d say to each other and put that in a song but maybe we’ve not even actually said it to each other. It’s nice we can put that much into it. We’ve just been brutally honest about what happens. The things we talk about and the people we talk about are people we care about deeply.”
“There’s stuff we’ve written about that is tragic or horrible but we try to get it out in a way where you can turn it into a positive. That’s all we know how to do. I’m not good at turning a real thing into a metaphor or something like that, we literally just put it down as it is. Cut yourself open and write it down on a bit of paper. Everything that has gone on, good and bad, there’s probably a lyric somewhere that is us addressing it in some way. It might not be amazingly obvious to people that don’t know, but we cover a lot of stuff that’s really personal.
“It’s a really weird feeling when you put everything into a song that you’re so proud of and when you show your mum, it destroys her. We’re not writing these things to upset people, we write them because it’s what we know how to do and the people close to us are going to know what certain songs are about and it has that impact. In a way, it’s a good thing because you’ve done a good job of getting it out into a song that could move someone like that. It’s all personal stuff. When we run out of personal stuff, we’ll have to start making things up but that’s probably when it’ll be shit and that’ll be the end of the band. Maybe we’ll have to go out and cause a bit of bother…”
‘Blush’ revolves around loss. “Even the things we have in terms of relationships, work and family, there’s always that underlying issue that you could lose it because you’re away all the time. And you never know what’s around the corner. I think we can all draw on that experience. It’s not that we always dread the worst, it’s just writing in a way so you’ll be able to deal with stuff. Lyrically, we write about things that happen and what we know. We don’t try and be clever with them, I think its quite relatable in that way, it’s actual things that happened to us.”
Album opener ‘Pastel’ follows on from ‘Cherry’, with Eddy “just embracing all the stuff that comes with getting older, the responsibilities and all that. As terrifying as it may be at times, you’re not going to stop. You’re just going to live your life and handle everything that comes with it.”
While ‘Spring’, Eddy’s favourite song on the record – “I feel very lucky that I get to sing that” – expands on ‘Chin Up’: “It’s just something I’ve never really dealt with that well,” offers Mark. “‘Chin Up’ touched on it and I guess ‘Spring’ was the rest of the stuff I couldn’t say the first time around. You are opening yourself up so much, but then when you have to explain it, it’s tough.” The frank delicacy of “and the way you died, did it hurt at all?” in ‘Spring’ says it all really.
Despite the broader views and a more focused approach to writing actual songs, the band are still quick to play down their growth. “I feel more experienced as a songwriter but not more confident,” starts Kyle. “It’s still as scary now with new music as it was at the start. Only now, it shouldn’t matter but you want the existing fans to relate and still feel the same way they did the first time round, but you also want to gain more people. It’s definitely a thing you think about subconsciously, but don’t ever want to think too much about.”
“When you push yourselves and each other, it will make you a better musician to an extent,” says Mark. “We all struggle with confidence in general. Maybe part of being in this band is our way getting past any sort of issues where you might not feel as confident, but I’m in no way a confident musician at all… as you’ll find out when I have to play live on the radio.” As brutally honest as ‘Blush’ is, none of those self-doubts translate.
“There was a real sense of achievement that we were able to do this record,” Mark continues. “We walked away knowing we probably couldn’t have done any better.”
“The whole experience of recording this album was probably one of my favourite things I’ve ever done. It’s some of the hardest work I’ve ever had to do but I loved it,” beams Eddy.
“Yeah, you’ve never worked a day in your life. I can say that,” laughs Mark who, in another life, worked with Eddy at the day job.
Going forward, there’s the release of ‘Blush’, tours aplenty including an already sold out show at London’s KOKO – “It’s breathtaking. We’re all a bit blown away, it hasn’t sunk in for any of us.” – and a keenness to “whack some new ideas together. We learnt our lesson.”
Beyond that, “I think you always aim to dream big,” says Kyle. “When we started, I had aspirations to play a tiny London venue and now we’ve absolutely superseded what we thought we’d get to do.”
“We’re playing a show with Blink-182 today,” Glenn observes.
“I keep forgetting about that and my stomach just goes,” Mark says with wide eyes.
“If we get to carry on doing this for a little while, if we get to make music and tour together, that’s perfect,” smiles Eddy. “We’re having such a good time.”
“Dream big, see what happens,” finishes Kyle.
With Moose Blood, anything is possible and they’re more than happy to roll with that.