Aidan Moffat on Here Lies The Body Irish shows & Arab Strap
As former Arab Strap man Aidan Moffat and friend/collaborator RM Hubbert prepare to bring their Here Lies The Body show to Ireland next week, Moffat discusses how the project works live, the financial lure of the nostalgia circuit and whether Arab Strap may yet record new material
IT TAKES a while for Aidan Moffat to answer the phone when we call to discuss his upcoming Irish shows with RM 'Hubby' Hubbert.
"Sorry," the Falkirk man apologises.
"I just wasn't paying attention. I've got some new equipment to put together because we've got a festival at the weekend and I just get totally anal about these things. I was absolutely 'in the zone'!"
On the face of it, the pair's new collaborative album Here Lies The Body might not seem like 'festival fodder': released in May, it's a moody, highly atmospheric collection of downbeat experimental folk based around the loose concept of two ex-lovers unexpectedly re-united as their stag and hen dos collide in Blackpool.
"Festivals are a bit of a funny one for us because we're not exactly 'daytime music'," admits Moffat of the project with ex-El Hombre Trajeado guitarist Hubbert, which was inspired by a magazine article about a mother leaving her family to start a new life.
However, the Arab Strap man's amusing between-song chat at the duo's recent live shows has apparently helped to sugar their pill.
For example, Moffat introduced their number Everything Goes at the Inverness gig by explaining "this next song is about the breakdown of a family" before asking the packed Saturday night crowd: "You having a good weekend, aye?".
"Before we played She Runs in Manchester, I was talking to the crowd about the terrible traffic," recalls the singer, who first worked with his Glaswegian chum Hubbert on Car Song from the guitarist and songwriter's 2012 album, Thirteen Lost & Found.
"It turned out that it was because Ed Sheeran was playing that night. Someone shouted out 'Shee-Ran', so I changed the words in the song. I think I managed to get to the end of the first verse before I started crying with laughter and we had to stop."
Moffat honed his live patter as singer/mumbler with miserabilist electronic folksters Arab Strap, the Chemikal Underground-signed duo he formed with Malcolm Middleton in 1995.
Having split in 2006 after six albums, the pair went on to solo work before reforming last year for a series of rabidly received live dates, which Moffat says he "absolutely loved".
"If there was a problem or Malcolm had to tune his guitar or something, he would tell me to 'put on the clown shoes' and I'd have to start being a bit of a fanny," recalls the frontman, who reveals the pair have been turning down lucrative offers for the reactivated Strap in order to make time for their respective solo work.
"Malcolm and I have knocked back a lot of money this year already," Moffat admits.
"The frustrating thing is that it's clearly easier to make far more money by playing songs you wrote 20 years ago than doing the new stuff.
"I understand why a lot of bands get trapped into that retro scene – we've all got bills to pay and children to feed. I'm doing 10 times more work now for a 10th of the money we used to make.
"But we're sticking to our guns. We've talked about doing a new record and it might happen, I don't know. I mean, it's a possibility – I would not rely on it happening and we haven't put it in our schedules – but if it does come together then maybe we'll play again."
Of his post-Arab Strap solo work, which includes his 2007 solo debut I Can Hear Your Heart, two albums with Scottish music legend Bill Wells and a trio of experimental records made under the moniker L. Pierre, he says:
"You just have to keep going. I'm just happy to have a job and keep going – as long as I can get by then I'm quite happy, y'know?"
In the Here Lies The Body band, Moffat and Hubbard are accompanied by vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Siobhan Wilson – an acclaimed Scottish singer/songwriter who will also be the opening act for their upcoming Irish shows in Galway (July 23), Dublin (July 24) and Belfast (July 25) – and ex-Arab Strap drummer David Jeans.
"The best thing about a band is knowing that you can trust everyone to be brilliant and then you can just do your own thing," enthuses Moffat of the current ensemble.
"We've all got a good wee relationship on stage and Siobhan is great – she adds so much.
"She does everything: she sings, she does a wee bit of percussion, she plays the piano and the cello. She's a one man band."
Wilson came to the project because the first song written for the album happened to be a duet [Cockcrow].
"I knew I had to find a woman to sing it," recalls Moffat.
"I'd had a few ideas, but then Siobhan's album [last year's There Are No Saints] came out. When I heard it, I knew she'd be perfect.
"She's a classically trained musician – and her voice is a great foil for my sort of grumble."
:: Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert, July 23, Roisin Dubh, Galway / July 24, Grand Social, Dublin / July 25, The Black Box, Belfast. Tickets via Roisindubh.ie (Galway), Ticketmaster.ie (Dublin) and Blackboxbelfast.com.