CousteauX – Davey Ray Moor Interview

Back in 1999, Cousteau released one of the great tracks of the era in “The Last Good Day of the Year”, leading to a worldwide hit and succession of high quality albums. In recent years founder members Liam McKahey and Davey Ray Moor reformed as CousteauX, with their new EP and album more than matching their earlier work. Jason Barnard speaks to Davey, the duo’s songwriter and multi-instrumentalist as they embark on the next chapter of their musical journey.

CousteauX

Your new album and BURMA EP have been described as your darkest, edgiest work. How would you describe it?

Well, I’d describe it as a reboot of Cousteau – a reboot that absorbs the two members’ evolution over the years between records. Strangely getting older has made us want to make more unsettling, stranger versions of our romantic, lush formula from yesteryear. People usually mellow out, but Liam and I seem to be seeking a more noir-ish, harder, more intense form of music than we used to make. It’s important to come back sounding fresh and rejuvenated.

Did the way you wrote and recorded it change given you’re now a duo? 

We used to be a band, and bands seek a signature sound that represents all the players. Working without a full band allows us to nuance the music a whole lot more. This time around we just follow the textures and arrangements the songs seem to ask for. It’s exciting because each song then becomes a new adventure in sound as well as in the storytelling and drama of it all.

‘The Innermost Light’ was co-written by The Libertines’ Carl Barat, a track that would work well as a Bond theme. What led you to collaborate with Carl?

The Libertines and Cousteau played together at The Blow Up Club at The Wag in Wardour Street at the very end of the 1999. Carl liked our Jools Holland songs and so we got together, hung out, had a lot of laughs and adventures and wrote a lot of songs. The Innermost Light was not right for The Jackals, but I got them playing on it, which is wicked. They’re a great band.

‘BURMA’ is a haunting anti-war song recalling the Robert Wyatt version of ‘Shipbuilding’. What inspired you to write it? 

Somebody mentioned they’d heard on the radio about this craze that swept the British Army in World War II whereby they would write acronyms on the back of their letters home; all of which were a kind of secret intimate (and often rude) code. BURMA was one of the most popular as it stood for ‘be upstairs ready my angel’. The upstairs idea intrigued me because it could mean the marital bed or the afterlife. It struck me as a great opportunity for a song that would speak to that very particular kind of longing soldiers must harbour when they are close to harm at the front. What I like about the way it turned out is that it seems like a song for all soldiers of all sides in all conflicts. I like that.

You’re nearing the end of a Pledge Music campaign for the new album – how have you found that compared to being in the record company infrastructure?

Platforms like Pledge, and more recently SupaPass, are the internet come good for musicians. It’s a direct channel between the band and their fans. Fans want to buy stuff and help the band make more music, and bands want to keep making music – maybe even make a modest living from their work! To date the whole thing is going very well for us – definitely the way of the future. I really love the idea of fair trade streaming – SupaPass are way ahead of the curve in that regard.

Going back, were you surprised by the success of ‘The Last Good Day of the Year’?

Yes we were. We knew it was good, but musicians are used to inoculating themselves against becoming too hopeful about having success and hits. However the song has had a charmed life worldwide and has been played endlessly internationally since it came out.

Did it create pressure to follow it up?

I guess what it creates is a tension between natural songwriting processes and the tendency to consider creating some sort of facsimile that repeated the same formula as your most successful song. Looking back, I now reckon it might have been OK to deliberately analyse and create a similar song – who knows, it might’ve sounded great. But it would’ve been un-natural to do that and I feared I’d break some precious spell if I wrote a song by numbers.

What are your favourite tracks from the previous incarnation of the band?

My favourites are She Bruise Easy, Of This Goodbye, Have You Seen Her and How Will I Know.

What led you to reform after such after about 10 years?

Making music apart from each other led Liam and I to separately realise how magic it was when we used to work together and combine our abilities. Sometimes musicians just find a companion with a mojo that creates something synergetic and bigger than the two individuals. That’s magic when that happens. Getting back together again, we write and record so quickly and it is all such a cool thrill for us both.

What’s the future for CousteauX – are your plans for any more live shows?

We’ve got some European dates lined up after our album launch gig at The 100 Club in London in September. Once our album gets out there people will know the new tunes we’ll probably do more joined-up touring in 2018. We’re just kicking off, so let’s hope somebody will book us to play!

Thanks for this! I hope you like the new album. Warm regards.

More information can be found at www.cousteaux.com

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