It’s been almost a year since local band MOANING LISA formed, and they have been my favourite Canberra act ever since. Actually, they’re probably my favourite band, Canberra-based or otherwise. They are Charlotte, Ellen, Hayley and Andy. They’re about to release their first EP. Here is their long overdue feature.
“I saw these guys in contemporary ensemble, which was part of a unit we were doing for our music degree … I saw Hayley playing a lead solo for an assessment,” says Ellen.
“Yeah, and then I kicked a chair over,” Hayley added.
Ellen approached Charlie with the idea of forming a band, after seeing Charlie play an acoustic cover of Wolf Alice’s ‘Moaning Lisa Smile’. “I hit Charlie up … I was like, hey, I’ve seen you around, do you want to jam?”
“Hey, I saw you like Wolf Alice. I like Wolf Alice – so does my friend Andy, who happens to be a drummer. Let’s be in a band together.”
Hayley didn’t join the band until the last minute, but Charlie knew she was the woman for the job. At the time, Hayley was already in a cover band. With a bunch of middle-aged white dudes. Who didn’t let her play guitar – only sing. “This chick is dope. This chick is a better guitarist than the lead guitarist in this band. What the fuck are they doing? What is she doing?” said Charlie. At the end of one of their gigs, Hayley realised she was too good for that shit, and Moaning Lisa was formed.
Apart from Wolf Alice, they cite their main influences as Sleater Kinney, Sonic Youth and Mitski. “Mitski’s phrasing is just so delicious … she’s a classically trained singer. Me, not so much. But I like the sound of it, so [in] ‘New Age Boy, there’s these really long, breathy phrases, and fuck, it took us a long time to master, but I think we’ve got it now.”
Charlie says ‘New Age Boy’ is probably their most ‘queer’ song. “As a queer woman, especially as a young queer woman, you date a lot of straight girls. And they kind of treat you like a boyfriend – like a sensitive, enlightened guy … It plays on that manic pixie dream girl idea where the only purpose [queer women] are playing in a person’s life is to help them feel more enlightened, and to evolve in some way…”
As for their sound, they describe themselves, broadly, as alternative rock. “I like to say shoegaze lite. Low-carb shoegaze. No added sugar shoegaze.” And it was this calorie-friendly version of shoegaze that won them the 2016 National Campus Band Competition. “… through that we were able to go to Melbourne and record for three days – 9-to-5 kind of deal. So we got our shit together. We decided that we only, realistically, would be able to record a four-track EP, and make it as good as we wanted to make it.”
“It was interesting recording, as opposed to playing live. There was a lot more precision required…” said Ellen.
“It took me half a day just to sing one line,” added Charlie. “It was weird being in a studio and having no one looking at you, singing these songs you’re so used to singing to people.”
The EP will be released digitally, but with an added something special. “So, we’re not doing CDs. We figured it’s just a waste of money in this day and age. But I still really like buying a tangible object. We also really like when bands put lyrics in their CDs, so I thought, why don’t we make a lyric book?”
The EP will be available through the usual suspects; Spotify, iTunes, Bandcamp – and the lyric books will feature art from local artists Alice Worley, Augustine Bamberry and Benedicte O’Learly Rutherford. “It’s skipping the CD, but keeping the best part about a CD.”
In addition to recording an EP, Moaning Lisa have recently released their first music video for their track ‘Shoe-In’. “The main thing we wanted to do was capture a vibe that was authentic to how we actually live. No one there is an actor, we’re all friends, and I thought it was really important to encapsulate that. [The song is about] growing up and being told you’re so smart, and so capable and you’re going to do such big things. When I was little I was like, ‘by 20 I’m going to be graduated, blah, blah, blah,’ and you get to those ages and you’re like, ‘well fuck, I haven’t done that’.
“[But] we still have such full, amazing lives. I consider us successful, in terms of the love we have, and the friends we have. So we wanted to capture that in the video clip.”
‘Shoe-In’ is the first track on their EP, The Sweetest. “As women, as musicians, as artists – we’re all forced into this position of pleasing others, and being palatable, and this whole idea of being ‘sweet’. It’s a snub to that idea. It’s toying with the idea of femininity, what it means to be a woman.”
Their music video and EP launch are just two of many projects Moaning Lisa are involved in. You may have heard them interviewed on triple j for International Women’s Day, and you will be able to see them soon in a short film from the One Woman Project.
Moaning Lisa have a couple more announcements on the way – but I won’t spoil them yet. What I can say, however, is that I think this is the start of something important.
“I don’t want us to just dissipate. I hate the phrase, ‘selling out’, because people [who say that] have tried to be successful themselves, and therefore resent other people for pursuing that. If being a sell-out means being successful, reaching a lot of people, and being able to live comfortably off doing what you love – I would love to be a sell-out.”
Moaning Lisa’s debut EP ‘The Sweetest’ releases on Friday March 24. Catch them playing their Pre-Order Launch Show at Transit Bar on Thursday March 23. They’re also playing the Rad Bar in Wollongong on Friday March 24 and at The Factory Theatre in Marrickville on Saturday March 25.