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Shire Folk Album of 2018

Moore, Moss Rutter
III

AlbumcoverIII

Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou

We always wanted to do five albums like Simon and Garfunkel, now it’s done.’

With their superb fifth album, Fair Lady London, under their belt, Shire Folk felt it was time to catch up with Hastings-based indie folksters, Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou. We talked to Trevor about lo fi, DIY, the joys of living in Hastings, and why the RAF’s loss is our gain.

Studioonemicportrait

Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou
in the studio

Shire Folk: After bringing in a big-name producer for Expatriot, why the change back to a more lo-fi, DIY approach for Fair Lady London?

Trevor Moss & Hannah-Lou: We didn’t really bring Ethan in, we toured together and became friends as we both had old camper vans, so ended up driving in convoy and having a real adventure. He is given demos every day, and a bit like having a mate who is a plumber, who hates being asked to check the boiler or to fix a leaky tap by their friends all the time, we thought we’d be cool and not mention it. We stayed at his house a while later just before we went on tour with Tori Amos in the USA to get a bit of advice, and at the breakfast table he suddenly said, ‘When are you going to ask me to make your record?!’

We have always believed in the DIY ethic, I was always in punk and grunge bands as a kid, and that’s still the music and approach I love the most. I think artists should live within their means rather than begging for money on the internet to realise their dreams. I think it’s more interesting too to hear where artists really come from. I’d much prefer to hear a bedroom recording on a tape deck than some fancy studio in Nashville that anyone can buy in to.

We like recording on the cassette machine as it is a true documentation process, you have to roll it and give a performance. There is no dropping in or ‘fixing’, just full honesty, and no computers in the room! It’s not really that lo-fi either, the quality is great, and if you put the mics in the right place – working with Ethan really helps with learning about that – and make a good sound the final medium you record on doesn’t make all that much difference.

Having said all that, we didn’t ask Ethan to make this one. Damn.

SF: After the last album you both seemed pretty fed up with performing and did other projects separately, so what made you decide to embark on a new album?

TM&HL: It was me who was fed up with performing and promoting records. Hannah-Lou has always loved performing, I’ve found it a chore mostly. The industry has changed so much and now you end up at a desk more often than anywhere else (like writing this now) which wasn’t what I got into this for. I was going to concentrate on writing songs and producing and was writing a record for Han. She is a great writer but by her own admittance is lazy so doesn’t do enough of it. We also had a very young son so one of us had to stay at home, so it was an obvious choice. Then her record took a little too long, and I started playing locally in Hastings to try out new songs for her, and earn a few quid, and got drawn back into it. Jesse then got old enough to take on the road and Han’s mum retired, so there was the opportunity to do another one.

We always wanted to do five albums like Simon and Garfunkel, now it’s done. After every album I say that’s the last one, time to join the RAF, but I keep coming back for more. Time’s running out to join up now.

SF: Based on the title track of Fair Lady London, your view of the capital seems equivocal to say the least. What inspired the move to Hastings and what do you think it does for you being based there?

TM&HL: I’ve often described London as a house party you should have left a long time ago. We met in New Cross and lived in South London for a while after leaving Goldsmiths. It was good for our first band Indigo Moss, we got ‘discovered’ playing in Nunhead and got our first break, so I’ll always be thankful for that. In the end we were living in one room above the pub in Nunhead where it all began, The Ivy House, and it was the end of the earth. Pit bulls roamed the corridors guarding dealers and users’ rooms. I think we were the only ones who payed rent, cash over the bar. We had a pet ferret to keep the rats out. It was time. We weren’t enjoying the music any more too, so one morning we called the band, the management, the label and packed all of our belongings in to our small red car and left.

We toured around for a while, living between parents, cars and Travelodges by touring as much as possible. We joined Danny & The Champions of the World around this time. Eventually we needed to plant some roots and we had heard good things about Hastings. It is a town of settled nomads, pirates and smugglers, and a lot of art and music, so we fell in love with it. And it was cheap.

It is a very inspiring place to be. Despite the gentrification it is still a punk town at heart, you can survive here, play music, earn a crust and afford to live in a cool, beautiful and honest little town. John Martyn settled here for a while, I think that says it all.

SF: You’ve done some interesting (and occasionally eccentric) tours in the past, so what’s planned for the new album?

TM&HL: We’ve done Tin Tabernacles, Working Men’s Clubs, toured by Canal Boat... We’ve just done a record store tour for this album and hope to be out there again April/May time. Maybe this time we’ll play some places that have PA systems, central heating, a stage, maybe some lights, and places people can find ... just for a change.

Fair Lady London is out now on Maiden Voyage Recording Co

Jonathan Roscoe