Moonflower are a Christchurch based rock outfit that have recently been making waves in the New Zealand music scene. Fronted by singer/songwriter/drummer Nicole Schaap and accompanied by guitarist Hamish Ellies, bassist Josh Failess and keyboardist/backing vocalist Ethan Bryant, Moonflower have started to amass a loyal following. Coming off of the back of an album release and an accompanying tour, Moonflower has quickly gained a reputation as being one of New Zealand’s best female-led rock bands.
I sat down with them in their rehearsal space deep out in the country to get to know the band a little better.
Congratulations on putting out your first album, how long was that in the works for?
Nicole: “It actually moved quite quickly once I decided that I wanted to do something more professional sounding, rather than just demos. It took about four to five months of getting organised. So we started making plans in August and then we were in the studio by the end of December. And then it was just eight days in the studio, we recorded the songs one after the other and we got a ten-track album out it. Which was sort of not expected, I wanted to do six to eight tracks originally and wasn’t happy with it being called an E.P. because of the length, it was quite a decent amount of songs. So I was like “well I’ve got a couple more songs let’s just work on them real quick and see if we can get them up to speed.” And we did and we got an album out of it so I was pretty blown away, it just worked really well.
Josh: “Yea it was real cool.”
The title of the album is called “Dark Lullabies” and some of the lyrics are quite dark were you drawing on personal experience?
Nicole: “Yes, past stuff and stuff that people can relate to.”
Josh: “Some of the songs are quite old as well.”
Nicole: “Yeah some of the songs are old like “Who Could Stand Me”, which is track number three, I wrote that when I was 15, so it’s quite an oldie. It’s one of the ones that got added last minute because I wasn’t sure about it and then Josh was like “No, it’s a good song chuck it on” and now we’ve been doing it every set since we’ve been on tour. It works quite well actually.
And so how long have you been writing music for?
Nicole: “Probably since I was 14.”
On the piano?
Nicole: “Keyboard, a little tiny kids keyboard I got it at a garage sale for about 40 bucks and then I started teaching myself and upgraded to a better keyboard. I never learned properly.
So you never took lessons at all?
Nicole: “No, I use it as a tool to write. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I’m a keyboard player, it’s my tool to write songs and everyone else helps me out in making it sound cool and not so basic I guess. You’ve got to start somewhere with a bass of a song and then just build it up.”
So what is the writing process like? Do you have an idea and then you all build on it?
Nicole: “That’s sort of the way, so I’ll work on something on my own time and then suddenly there will be a structure and then we’ll go from there, everyone will put their own creative input in and then we’ll see what comes out. That’s what we’ve done so far but that might change because Hamish you have a song.”
Hamish: “Yeah a couple.”
Nicole: “Yeah so we’re definitely open to doing songs from other people in the band, to have a little bit more…”
Nicole: “Yeah totally.”
In terms of your influences, I could hear quite a lot of sixties influence on the album I’m guessing like Pink Floyd and Zeppelin are you trying to rejuvenate that genre a little bit?
Nicole: “Yes, bringing in a little bit of darker stuff as well though and our next thing that we’ve been writing has a little bit of a doom influence as well. Just a little bit of everything that’s just really good and mixing it all together. The new stuff we’re going to be doing is quite different but still sort of the same direction.”
Josh: “Pretty much all of the covers we play are from the sixties, seventies time as well. Like Jefferson Airplane and all of that good stuff.”
Nicole: “People love that as well, it’s something they can relate to and something they can grab onto because they don’t really know our originals. It’s always good to chuck say four or five covers in if we have a big long set.”
So leading up to the album release you played quite a lot of morning shows in libraries around town which is something people would think is unusual for a rock band to do what was that experience like?
Nicole: “It was different for us too. It was good for us as musicians.”
Ethan: “Yeah it was good.”
Josh: “It was very awkward at first because when you’re playing in a library which is naturally a quiet zone so there were some people who were off-put and then other people were really into it. It was strange but it was good fun.”
Ethan: “It was cool to re-organise the parts and to see how we each fit into the sound as well.”
Because I imagine the audience on a Saturday morning would be quite a lot different to the audience you would have at 10 o’clock on a Friday night at The Darkroom.
Nicole: “Exactly, we had to change the way we did everything.”
Josh: “There were lots of families.”
Nicole: “Families and kids would come and sit down for 10-15 minutes and enjoy it. Friends and families of ours would come down sometimes, so it was a good opportunity for younger ones to see us in not so much of a rock band style but still doing our thing it’s good.”
For your live show Nichole, you sing and play drums that sounds like it would be really tiring what’s that like? Do you ever get out of breathe?
Nicole: “Yeah a lot, at the end of ‘White Rabbit,” the Jefferson Airplane song that’s where I nearly sort of blackout a little bit. I have a habit of having to stop between songs and have a drink because that is just one of the things that I have to do. It’s a workout.”
You’ve been on the ‘Women of Rock’ tour how has that been going?
Nicole: “It’s been going really well, it’s a new experience for me and the other two that I’m working with, Bex and John from Hypnumb they’re are a Christchurch band. The idea came about while we were booking the Moonflower album release tour and it was all going to be women of rock but then the idea got too big too quick so we cut it down to five shows, and then we’re going to revisit probably next year the other places that we missed on that tour but we still went and did an album release show anyway. It’s been a learning experience for sure but really well received and definitely has legs.”
Josh: “And we’ve got to work with really lots of cool female-fronted bands as well.”
Have you been drawing good crowds as well?
Nicole: “Yeah we have, Wellington and Nelson had great crowds those were out first shows and it was just brilliant, so much fun. And New Plymouth was pretty packed out.”
Hamish: “Auckland was good as well, there were some good numbers there.”
So what’s next for Moonflower?
Nichole: “We’re looking into some festivals.”
Josh: “We’re playing Twisted Frequency for New Years as our last gig of the year.”
Nichole: ‘Next year we’re going to be looking into more festivals and maybe even going over to Australia for a couple of shows. And we’re going to record some new songs and maybe even a video.”
You can check out Moonflower’s music below.