Moin is a London outfit comprised of Raime’s Joe Andrews and Tom Halstead as well as percussionist and longtime collaborator Valentina Magaletti, who contributed drums for both Raime albums and has been part the band’s touring lineup for several years. Their music under this name trades the shadowy electronics of Raime for the sinewy, guitar-driven sounds of post-punk and post-hardcore, but a similar darkness pulses through the group’s debut full-length album, Moot! – which arrives almost a decade after their original EPs. More than just a different set of influences, what makes Moin stand out is their relatively straightforward approach to composition: there’s an immediacy to the way they combine live recordings and studio techniques that yields thrilling and often surprising results. With its thunderous guitars, dynamic grooves, and intriguing vocal samples, Moot! is an album of visceral intensity generated through unconventional means – an assortment of familiar sounds that manages to feel wholly refreshing.
We caught up with Moin for this edition of our Artist Spotlight interview series to talk about the origins of the project, the process of making their debut album Moot!, and more.
What was the initial inspiration for Moin?
Joe Andrews: The initial inspiration was kind of the same inspiration as this one, really. Tom and I had been getting into guitar-based music a bit more around that period; when we started the project, that included things like post-punk and industrial, and to be honest, the whole American alternative scene from the late ’70s through the ’80s and ’90s. We’d been into electronic music pretty strictly for a long time before that, so it’s a bit of a reawakening for us, finding that amazing stuff that we got really into. So it came out of just being like a little release from our main project, and sort of simultaneously we met Valentina, and Valentina had done some work with us on our first record for the Raime project, Quarter Turns Over a Living Line. With the outtakes from that, we kind of just put it together. It came very easy, very much like this project.
Tom Halstead: There’s a degree of naivety in the making side of it, which is actually exciting, because we’d been working on electronic stuff and so it’s quite freeing to make that switch.
Why did this feel like the right time to revive the project? Was there a specific reason you were drawn back to these sounds?
JA: We felt like we just wanted to work within a framework – you know, the framework of this record is bass, guitar, drums. Obviously we put some of our own slightly stranger touches in there, which is the electronic stuff and some of the samples. But working in electronic music, there’s a lot of options. Electronic music a lot of the time is about finding worlds to inhabit and to explore that are not necessarily completely new, but you’re trying to find some difference, I guess. Whereas this one, we just enjoy taking that pressure off and just working within a band framework. It’s like the other way to come at creativity: you start at a very established point and you see how you can mess around with that, rather than necessarily doing it the other way of trying to explore unknown territory.
You used the word framework, and I was wondering how you contextualized the sound of the band this time around – was the space post-punk is occupying within the current music landscape at all on your mind, or was it more oriented towards your own individual tastes and impulses?
JA: I think it is very individual. It was all about a little cocoon, man. We were just like, “Let’s not worry about what the world is doing, let’s not worry about what other people are doing or what’s happening anywhere. Let’s just put ourselves in a little cocoon and make whatever we want to make and not be worried about how that fits in and we’ll see what happens at the end of it.”
Valentina Magaletti: It’s approached like post-rock, but it really is like electronic music. I’m having loads of people texting me constantly, because I think they’re like, “What the fuck is it?” You know, they can’t really place it, which is the freshness that he’s describing; it’s just like, “Let’s play,” and then they produce it according to the values that they really like at the time – what they’re listening to, what they’re absorbing, what they want to transmit. And that really comes across. I think it’s part of why this has been so far very successful in terms of how it’s been received, because people just gain exactly what Joe described.
At the same time, there’s such a singular focus when it comes to your performances. How locked-in do you feel when you’re playing together during those sessions?
TH: The sessions are actually more constructed. We do sessions with Valentina and do drums first, and we construct it around that afterwards, post-production-wise, rather than all of us playing in a room at the same time. But the idea is to get across that we are all playing in a room together. [laughs]
JA: I think that’s what makes it interesting, right? You know, we come from a production background and we love spending time making things balanced and making a composition. It’s like, Valentina goes in there and essentially does an amazing improv session, and then we get to use our production ear, which is always about picking the parts we like and finding the bits that inspire us and then almost building the composition out from there. So it’s a really weird way to come to the sound that it comes to, and that’s what gives it a slightly different feel. It’s not a straightforward band in the traditional way; it’s taking those pieces, rearranging them, putting them back together in a bit of a different way.
How did you go about maintaining a balance between the directness or the live dynamic of those sessions and the production that came afterwards?
JA: That’s a really good question, because it’s a really tricky balance. Too much electronic stuff sounds pretty gross and a bit odd and unreal and kind of cheesy, but the right bit at the right time inspires in the listener a sense of the Other, which actually transcends the band. So you’re kind of looking for those moments where you’re like, “Shit, that really adds, but it doesn’t take your eye off the ball.” And that’s just trial and error. [laughs] That’s pure trial and error. We have a huge amount of improv electronic stuff, sounds that we have created and we go through, and it’s about finding those moments that you didn’t expect but actually really make a difference.
TH: Both Joe and I come from more of an electronic dance music background, growing up with that, and when you start building stuff afterwards, you can take the life out of something by being too – your natural inclination will be, like, 16 bars of this and then 16 bars of that, and it can be quite blocky. You’ve got this incredible rhythm, the drums underneath, and that can get swallowed if you’re too systematic. So we do have to keep our ear to make sure it doesn’t sound laboured.
Were there any moments during the making of the album that you were surprised with an idea that came up?
VM: For me it’s like a major, beautiful surprise when I actually hear the tunes. Because we go from the drum sessions to just plan and scheme and take it into songs, so it’s like, you’re telling a lot of things and then your speech just gets back the one thing that you want people to hear. But if I just hear what’s ready at the end, it’s like, “That’s quite good, actually.” [laughs]
Tom and Joe, for you, were there any moments where you were surprised either by what Valentina had come up with in the first place or by your own production, in that you felt like you were stepping out of the mode that you’re used to working in?
TH: We’re always surprised by Valentina, because we go in with ideas and then she always supersedes those. And there were bits that we didn’t expect we’d do, like ‘I Can’t Help But Melt’, that has a guitar solo at the end. Joe was like, “This needs something else, I don’t know what it is. Have you ever done a guitar solo?” I was like, “I don’t think I’ve ever done that, let’s give it a go.” So that was that was a surprise, I didn’t think that would be coming out of the woodwork.
JA: That’s my favorite moment on the whole record, hands down, the most fantastic moment. ‘Cause if you know us, a guitar solo is absolutely anathema to everything that we have ever thought we stood for. [laughs] Also, the actual guitar solo, Tom did it first take, no re-recording – we actually did a mess about, re-recorded it, but we re-recorded it to try and be as accurate as possible to that first take. Which is kind of amazing, because again, as Tom says, he doesn’t do guitar solos in his room on his own a lot, you know what I mean? [laughs] So it was just a wonderful moment, because when you’ve been producing for a long time, you obviously have habits as a creative, and those moments where you’re able to step outside of those and to rest some of the rules that you have placed yourself in your head about what you do and how you do it – for that to work and also inspire you a little bit, to show you that you can always do that and it’s not that much of a risk to do it. You’ve just got to give it a go.
That moment definitely took me by surprise as well, I’m glad you mentioned it. I was wondering if you could go a little bit more into the guitar sound on the record – what were you aiming for and how did you go about getting there?
TH: There’s a lot of guitar influences, but the actual quality of sound, there’s always a balance of wanting to get the bite, really have it – not being too distorted or it sounding too macho. We went into the studio and tried a few different amps, actually – there’s basically one pedal to give a little bit of bite to the guitar sound, but it’s actually the amps and the way that the guitars are played to get the sentiment that feels right for whatever track.
JA: I think our parameters are always – minimal is a really difficult word and not something I would probably apply to this, but the idea of like, we know that the guitar is never supposed to outweigh any of the other elements. You know, Valentina’s drums are equally if not more important in some aspects, so we’re always trying to keep things balanced.
What was your general approach to the vocal samples on the record?
JA: Vocal samples kind of work in two ways: the most obvious way is, they’re a counterpoint, and they work in a very similar way to electronic and dance music. They are there at the right time to usually say a short enigmatic phrase or sentence at a particular time in the composition, which drives the narrative. They’re often more enigmatic than they are definitive, so they often suggest something but don’t quite define it. And the other part of it is that that they basically provide the human element of the singer; they take that space of the singer, but because we never wanted a singer, that’s not what this music is about, we wanted to have that human presence at the right time. But it’s also great for that never to establish itself to the point where it feels like this is a song, because these are not songs in our minds, these are pieces of music or tracks. And I know that might sound – I’m not trying to belittle the music, I’m trying to say how we contextualize it in our heads.
Why was it important for it to still have that human presence?
JA: Because we’re playing with the format of a band – and also, it’s kind of fun finding those samples and putting them in. They make different things happen in the tune.
VM: It really sets the mood that people can relate to, really carefully selected to create and put you in [a specific mood].
Could you talk about the story behind the album cover?
TH: It took a while actually finding the right cover. We’re very visually-based and we work with designers, and there were a lot of suggestions floating around. This was a picture I took maybe six years ago. It was a laundrette in Hackney that had been vandalised, but in a very painterly way. And that picture, Joe did a crop of it, and we were like, “Actually, that is pretty strong.” It felt right by that point.
VM: I feel it’s incredibly strong to put a washing machine – you know, it’s trying to clean the urban filth, but it’s just vandalised.
Have you had any conversations about where you’d like to take the project next?
JA: We’re pretty much finishing record two now. It’s already written, we are pretty much in the final mixing stages and it probably will be finished within the next few weeks or so.
Are you able to give any details on it?
VM: I think it’s a bit early to talk about album two. We might change everything as well, so…
JA: [laughs] We might trash it all and start again.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and length.