Thought Creature and Full Moon Fiasco
This band changed my life. They took me on tour. I still haven't left the South Island.
First published in Groove Guide in Issue 332, 11 August 2010, New Zealand.
Will Rattray's band Full Moon Fiasco hails from Newtown and their first album came out this week – but other than that, news on the ground is next to nothing. The only solution is to show up and see what happens.
Newtown is a neighborhood in Wellington that has got, how shall we say, a reputation. As an early arrival, "Don't live in Newtown" echoed until it became a common refrain. But sitting outside a cafe waiting for Will Rattray, this place doesn't look so bad. The strangeness is all part of the fun of finding a new band. It's like the poet Shel Silverstein said, "Anything can happen, child. Anything can be."Though I was beginning to get very tired of having nothing to do, so I look to see what I've got in my bag. One yellow copy of Alice in Wonderland.
After half an hour I was considering, in my own mind, whether the pleasure of another coffee would be worth getting up and ordering again, when a boy in a brown scarf wanders by and starts talking to friends. Nose over Alice my eyes slide between them.
"Here for an interview," the boy with the brown scarf says.
I raise my hand. "That's me."
"Sorry I'm late." His eyes are red. Was recording with last night until three am.
"Is this a piece for the new band?" asks the friend.
"I guess. What is the old band?"
"Thought Creature," said friend says.
Instead of a destination we wander instead. We start climbing a hill that seems to never end.
"I think Newtown is so dreamy and surreal," Will purrs. A place where one forever stumbles into friends. "Full Moon Fiasco was supposed to be nothing more than a side project," he admits. "I was trying to explore something entirely inside my head." But one by one he found the outfit filled out by friends. Now Full Moon Fiasco has the backing powers of bassist Isaac Mawson, Alice Macklow on the keys and drummer Aidan Craig.
"This band came together in the strangest way. I met Aidan when he was living with my girlfriend. He was sitting there in the room, not saying anything – which is unusual for Aidan. And I just looked at him and out of nowhere said, "You're a drummer, aren't you?'"
The wandering just kept wandering. We pass kids playing football and climb past the zoo. Wonder if the monkeys think that we're in cages too. We see South Island mountains and surf in Lyall Bay. While Will talks of four tracks and analogue tape.
"Though that's not to say analogue is better than digital per se. But one thing I'll say for it is that analogue leaves more room for accidents. One of my favorite parts on the album is when I accidentally recorded on a section of tape that already had something on it. Moments of chance like that give back the human element."
American composer John Cage was a big fan of chance. "When our intentions go down to zero," the avant garde artist once said, "suddenly you notice the world is magic."
It's late at night and the moon sits fat and low over Wellington glittering. Outside it's all dark, but underground with the kids, the music is happening. It's happening like 1952, when John Cage took over Black Mountain College with friends. Or when Yayoi Kusama wandered New York and calling her kimono presence Walking Piece in 1966. As sticks hit the skins and silks are tossed in the crowd like confetti,there's the intangible feeling as the sound moves sideways that you're inside something.
What is this place, where psychedelia is born again? Perhaps Lady Alice had a hint.
"I must be getting somewhere near the centre of the earth!" Alice cried, tumbling down in the blackness, after deciding to go for it and leave her languid afternoon to chase the White Rabbit. "I shall have to ask them, 'Please, Ma'am, is this New Zealand?"
OUT NOW: Full Moon Fiasco – Cosmic Palms
SEE THEM LIVE: Full Moon Fiasco
Sat Aug 14 2010 – The Basement, Auckland (Golden Axe, Pikachunes, Cat Venom – all ages)
Wed Aug 18 2010 – The Blue Ice Cafe, Franz Josef
Fri Aug 20 2010 – Chicks Hotel, Port Chalmers (Bad Sav + more tbc)
Sat Aug 21 2010 – Media Club, Christchruch (early show – all ages)
Sat Aug 21 2010 – Goodbye Blue Monday, Christchurch
After the article was published, I found the band at their Auckland gig and was invited on the South Island leg. The photos on this page – and the following piece, published in New Zealand Musician later in 2010, were what eventuated.
Local Talent Full Moon Fiasco
New Zealand Musician
For the last six years Will Rattray has traveled in endless circles around the islands, bringing the swamp rock thump of Thought Creature to towns as far flung as Franz Josef. That band carved its identity on the road, then proceeded to release their first album, Teleport Palace in 2008. The fact that this was only two years back at first makes Rattray's forays into a side project sound strange.
"But I see Thought Creature as this really simple idea – where the rhythm and melody are controlled by the drums and the bass. The guitar can come in and supply parts, but the presence of the music isn't reliant on it. That is a particular sound – but I wanted to see where my mind would take me outside of that place."
So Rattray locked himself in his bedroom with his four-track. Eighteen months passed. Twelve tracks manifest. Thus was born the Full Moon Fiasco project. Though conceived in solitude, the project has since grown into a band that puts thunder in the sound. The band includes Alice Macklow from Kittentank on the keys, Aidan Craig on loan from Red Country on the bass and Isaac Mawson of Red Country and The Pick-ups on the drums.
When Full Moon Fiasco plays in Wellington the kids dance 'til they're dead, but elsewhere news is spreading slow. In Franz Josef the bar staff said they liked it but the drunk crowd playing pool only stopped to request them to turn it down. In Queenstown the place emptied out after the second song and but was packed again in minutes when the stereo came back on.
"Wow, there's actually people here," Alice Mackow said as the band walked in for an in-store performance at Records Records in Dunedin. That night they played Port Chalmers at The Chicks Hotel and at the end, one of the locals who had come over from the port smiled over his beer, "Hey, this is really good!" The only ones at their Christchurch all ages show were three boys, shoulder to shoulder, transfixed in the front row. Later that night the crowd squeezed into Goodbye Blue Monday for the tour's last show. "I love this band!" A boy in the audience was heard crying to his friend in the silence before the first note.
There are three hundred copies in the album's first printing. Rattray sells the CDs at shows – or at least he does when he remembers them (thanks to the support of up-and-coming Auckland label Muzai Records, you can also get the music at stores). One day, perhaps after touring America, the band hopes to sell vinyl instead.
"The only New Zealand records are made of acetate," Rattray mourns. Then his eyes light up. "Though you know what you could do with that? I would sell those records with a stamp – and there would be boxes that you could stamp to track how many times you have played it. Like you could only play it so many times... and then it fades away."
And you remember that everything Will Rattray says sounds strange. Strange, but in the best possible way.
Isaac Mawson, drummer of Full Moon Fiasco, on stage at the now defunct Goodbye Blue Monday in Christchurch, 21 August 2010.
Full Moon Fiasco take a break on their tour in support of their debut album Cosmic Palms on the West Coast of the South Island, New Zealand. August 2010.