Moody Witches bring the message 

After emerging from the shadows of quiet collaboration, Perth independent rock outfit Moody Witches have made their presence known with the release of their debut single Luna (Plague Of Love), a clarion call for domestic violence awareness. BOB GORDON spoke with singer/songwriter Alana Moodie to find out more.

As a band, Moody Witches authentically echo the grunge era that has so inspired vocalist, Alana Moodie. The likes of Nirvana, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, Mother Love Bone and Pearl Jam motivated Alana to form the bands Antacid and Black Amber in her teenage years.

Now after a long break from performing while life made other plans, Alana is back with Moody Witches and with her Wiccan and pagan influences in mind, reclaiming the witch-word while she’s at it.

“The word ’witch’ is so stigmatised,” Alana says. “If you’re called a witch it’s very derogative. So there’s three guys along with me and we’re just having fun with it. And my last name is Moodie and people have always said that’s fitted me to a tee (laughs).”

Back in her formative years any religious or philosophical beliefs that Alana encountered were entirely musical, thanks to her father who sadly passed away when she was 14.

“We didn’t have a religion growing up,” she notes. “It was The Beatles! I had to know all The Beatles’ names by the age of three or four. Everywhere we went it was like, ‘okay, who sang this song?’ or ‘which one’s this?’ and then from listening to that it just got me into everything else.”

“My mum and dad always had music going and it’s just always been everything to me. It’s just number one, it’s a constant… and just listening to all of that and then hearing grunge when I was 11 and just going, ‘wow!’ Kurt Cobain just articulated things so well. I would always be singing and then I got my first guitar at 12. I wished I was older to have seen it all.”

“Then the heavier stuff and stoner rock at 15, and just everything from psychedelic music to Roky Erickson – he’s one of my idols – and the 13th Floor Elevators. There’s something unique in every genre… I’ve just lived in it since I was a kid.”

By 13 Alana was heading to Perth’s beloved all-ages live music venue/skatepark Leederville HQ, and formed her first band with her best friends, Antacid. By 16 she fully discovered the local punk rock scene and community at the infamous Hyde Park Hotel.

“That saved my life,” she says, “just having that unity. It was like a second home at that pub until they sold it. I loved going there.”

The Hyde Park Hotel band scene further fuelled Alana’s thirst for a diversity of music, immersing herself in reggae, folk and psychedelic music and forming her second band, Black Amber, which gigged into the late 2000s before various members dispersed to go to university or travel.

Alana stepped away from playing in bands in the ensuing years, but music was always her guiding light. She has survived several relationships since her teens that were characterised by domestic violence, but has emerged as a resolute and creative writer, human and mother.

Over the last four years Alana has been jamming and writing with guitarist Blake Lockett. “Blake’s been playing since he was young, but he loves blues music and he’s very, very good,” Alana notes. “And he’s even better because he doesn’t know he’s any good!”

The pair has now formed Moody Witches, also featuring Cameron Potts (drums, Thou Gideon/Baba Yaga/Baseball/Nicholas Allbrook) and Mark Zombo (bass, Rupture).

Luna (Plague Of Love) was written on a Friday, rehearsed on a Saturday and recorded by Mark Ralph at Elemental Studio (along with a music video) on the Sunday. The band put a good deal of energy into the process and were energised as a result.

“We felt alive and all just fed off each other,” says Alana. “Cameron and Mark have been playing in bands since the late 80s and they both said it was the most fun they have experienced. It was like, ‘what just happened?’ It was magic.”

The song’s accompanying video, directed by Matt Whitton and featuring dancing by Mitzi Rae, is a surreal performance clip that floats on the song’s dreamy/droney melody while accentuating Alana’s emotive vocal.

“Mitzi ‘s wonderful,” Alana says, “she does a lot of Reiki healing work and how she danced was like a progression of what the words are about and then getting to a full release at the end. Just being able to see what I had been thinking was really, really powerful.”

Writing, recording and shooting the video for their debut single Luna (Plague Of Love) has provided catharsis for Alana, as she evokes experience, knowledge and emotion through words and music.

“It’s about a lot of women, and some men as well, who have been in horrible, violent relationships,” Alana explains. “It’s about leaving… or what happens if you stay.”

“I’ve been writing since I was about 13 years old and I’m 33 now,” she says. “It definitely was cathartic to be able to finally get down what I wanted to get down about it… very cathartic, actually. There’s almost like a ritual in the song, starting like it does and then getting happier at the end. It was liberating being able to get it all out.”

Moody Witches have more songs ready for the studio and have plans to hit live stages in the near future.

“It’s just years of discovering who you are, finding yourself and getting through demons,” Alana says of reaching this new point in her musical life. “I’ve got Complex PTSD and I guess for years that held me back, but then I realised just how passionate I am about it all.”

“It just won’t stop; every day I’m writing something different. It’s really great and as long as it’s fun that’s all that matters, you know?”

In the meantime, Luna (Plague Of Love) is an indicator of what’s to come for Moody Witches and a message about what needs to be done as a society.

“There needs to be more awareness raised about domestic violence,” Alana says, “and some sort of massive change.”