MOODY ALICE Sailing along on Moonlight Bay

Local folk-rock, father-daughter duo, Moody Alice have generations of music running through their veins. Mark Dawson grew up in the musical golden age of the late 60s, inspired by the music of his mother, he picked up an instrument as a boy and has been playing in working bands in the music scene ever since. His daughter Bec Dawson started her musical journey at a young age as well and carried on the tradition forming her own band in 2009, country/folk group The Cannonels. These days they are both playing together as Moody Alice and have put together a body of work in the form of their debut album Moonlight Bay, which they’re launching at Milk Bar on Sunday, December 19. ANTHONY JACKSON caught up with Mark and Bec to talk about the history and the future of their new release.

First off congrats on the full-length album, Moonlight Bay. I hear there is a launch party soon, What have you got planned for the release?

Mark: We’ll be doing a show on the 19th of December at the Milk Bar at the old Civic Hotel.

Bec: We’ve got Unicorn supporting, Rachel Rose and Missing Moon, it’s going to be really fun!

The album has a nostalgic feel to it, like the songs are telling a story of past experiences and places. Can you tell us about Moonlight Bay and the meaning behind the name?

Mark: (Laughs) I started that one about forty years ago, Bec and I got together not long ago and finished it off.

Bec: It started as a bit of a folk song and then you turned into, like, a heavy metal song almost (laughs).

Mark: I grew up through the late 60s, early 70s era, The Doobie Brothers, Santana, all that kind of thing, and it has always kind of stuck with me. Moonlight Bay, it was one of those songs, I was in Sydney, I grew up in Sydney and I was 28-29 and a good friend of mine, we were in a pub one night and he got into a fight with another bloke and the fella came back and shot him, and then he was no more. So basically that is what the song started as, about getting away, after that I moved from Sydney to WA, Geraldton originally. So that was my escape, and that is what the song was about, basically escaping the dramas I had over there.

So is Moonlight Bay a real place?

Mark: Fictitious!

Bec: I think we have looked it up, there are places called Moonlight Bay, but it’s not what you are talking about!

Mark: There was a song my mother used to play on the piano when I was a kid and it went, We Were Sailing Along On Moonlight Bay, so I guess it’s come from the back of my mind somewhere.

How was the recording process? Who did you record with?

Bec: It was awesome, we went to Apollo 10 Studios with Mark Donohoe, he is also playing bass for us at the launch. It was quick! Everything was really good.

Mark: He is really professional. He knew where we were coming from with the songs and he just picked them up straight away. And no arguments, it was amazing.

Bec: Oh, I feel like we had one, I got shitty at you once…

Mark: Oh, you and I had an argument, but not with Mark (laughs).

Did you record it all in a successive period or was it spread out?

Mark: We did it in eight weeks, and I went there twice a week for four hours at a time.

Bec: Dad would go without me and do a lot because I was working nights and we would work out when I could come in and do all my bits.

Mark: I pretty much did all the guitar parts, Bec did a few here and there…

Bec: Only on my songs (laughs).

I love how both your voices meld so well when you sing together, like on Lillie’s Song. But the songs that you each sing lead on, are they the songs that you have each individually written and brought to the project?

Bec: Pretty much yeah, There are a few that I sing lead on that Dad wrote, but then like Moonlight Bay we both helped write, like suggestions here and there, that’s what a collaboration is, right?

Mark: It all kind of depends on the key of the song too, if it suits Bec to lead in a good key for her voice I can normally just jump in and do the lower harmony and the harmony below that as well, which has always sounded good with a female vocalist. And then vice versa, if I sang lead, Bec did the high harmony and then the higher-higher harmony.

Bec: And that’s one thing that has come from playing with Dad for so long now, I’ve become really amazing at picking harmonies quicker than I used to, just because I’m used to his voice, I know where my voice sits well with him. Now when I collaborate with other people it’s real quick (laughs).

When you write a song, what is your process? Do you start with chord progression, melody, lyrics?

Mark: It’s pretty much all over the place, really. Sometimes it’s just a guitar riff and then I figure out, maybe a verse and then a chorus of just music and then the lyrics come after that, then the feel of the song becomes really important. Some songs we start with the lyrics, I’ll just sit at home and write lyrics…

Bec: He’ll write something one way and then reimagine it entirely. Which I am not good at, once I have written something one way I’m like, that’s it, I can’t hear it any other way.

Now, I’m hearing an alt-country sound but there are elements of rock and blues in the album. How would you, if you can, define the Moody Alice sound?

Mark: No way in the world I could explain exactly what we are and what we sound like. The next album that we are going to do, I can say, is definitely nothing like this one.

Bec: Both Dad and I have a very eclectic taste in music, we don’t just like one genre. I will listen to the heaviest of metal and then grime and hip hop…

Mark: And I listen to old Linda Ronstadt country songs and things like that…

Bec: Oh, I do love Linda Ronstadt as well, I love her (laughs)! Her voice is, sort of, my inspiration.

I am interested to hear about your history Mark, can you tell us a bit about your musical journey over the years?

Mark: Oh gee, I’ll tell you what, it probably started with my mother, playing piano at home. She used to play all those stage shows, like South Pacific, from the 1940s and 50s. She got me a ukelele when I was a kid and I liked that, then got a guitar a bit later on and started playing that. Right through high school, everyone seemed to be playing music where I went to school. I was in heaps of garage bands with friends that I grew up with. I started a band with a friend once I moved over to Geraldton, I’ve been in a million different cover bands in Perth over the years. It’s always been there, it’s the best thing in the world, music.

And Bec I’ve known you for a good many years now! From lots of nights hanging out at gigs and the Indi bar, is there some musical history going back that I don’t know about?

Dad taught me a bit of guitar when I was little, he had an old guitar hanging around the house. My school didn’t have any music, we had a music teacher until about year ten, the music class was, you would just go into class and everyone picks up an instrument and we all try and learn Mustang Sally and no one has ever played an instrument before, so this isn’t really a class is it? It’s like a free for all!

I moved out of home when I was 21 and moved to Scarborough and I just started playing, picked up a guitar again and was furiously committed to learning and writing songs. I picked up a poem I wrote when I was 14, super emo, so I don’t play that song anymore (laughs)! I was working at the Indi Bar so that was an easy way in. I started playing with René (de Vries) and then we became The Cannonels.

I remember suggesting to the lady that was the entertainment manager to get Abbe May to play, because she hadn’t heard of her, and I was like, “Dude, you gotta book Abbe May, she’s amazing!” Then because I had clued her onto Abbe May she put me on the line-up, but I had only been playing for like two months, so I was so nervous! I was like “I can’t believe this is happening! I’m going to make such a fool of myself in front of Abbe May!” But I didn’t and it went really well.

I love Sunset Cove, I think that is a killer track, what is your favourite song each on the album and why?

Bec: Mine is Lillie’s Song.

Mark: Actually I agree with you, I think Sunset Cove, I love that.

Bec: That is my best friend’s favourite song as well, people seem to like that one.

Mark: It’s one of those ones, that when you play it just feels good all the way through.

After the launch party at Milk Bar on December 19 what is next for Moody Alice? any touring on the horizon or more recording soon?

Mark: Yes, definitely recording. We are going to wait till it gets a bit cooler, like April around Easter time and we will try to do a couple of shows with this album around Perth.

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