Arts

The Big Moon discuss challenges of being female rockers in a man's music world

They may have just lost out on the Mercury Prize with their debut album but The Big Moon have big plans for the future. The London Indie rockers talk sexism, X Factor and self-worth as they tell Francesca Gosling about their three-year road to success

London all-female Indie band The Big Moon – It's frustrating when people compare us to only other female musicians, regardless of what they sound like
Francesca Gosling, PA

IT'S a pragmatic approach to success for Soph Nathan, youngest member of female Indie rockers, The Big Moon. Just days after the band marked its three-year anniversary with a slot on the prestigious Mercury Prize shortlist for first record, Love In The Fourth Dimension, she muses: "Getting a Mercury Prize nomination was never on my bucket list, because it never even crossed my mind it could be an option.

"Perhaps l need a bigger bucket.''

The album does what it says on the tin: an ode to the hopeful side of romance as experienced by lead singer and songwriter Jules Jackson (28) who fell for an artist named Max just days after bringing the group together.

While the uplifting menu of danceable bangers, including Cupid and Pull The Other One, lost the winning spot to Sampha's debut Process, there are no hard feelings, and Nathan confesses: "Winning would have been scary... it means you're not the underdog anymore.''

But being the underdog is not always a fun ride and, while the London-based four-piece of 20-somethings are still reeling after a summer of festivals and a US tour performing with Marika Hackman (they play in all but three songs on her latest album) they tell me that there are still some irritating tropes lurking around the industry when it comes to being a female artist.

"Living in the society that we live in, a lot of things are so deeply ingrained that you don't always notice,'' says Celia Archer (27). "Fortunately we haven't faced too many obstacles. I think we have only ever had one person in a crowd, when we were supporting The Vaccines, who shouted ''get your t**s out'."

She jokes wryly: "I didn't because I was wearing an awkward outfit, but I apologised.''

According to Jackson, part of the problem is the attention paid to the difference in genders in the first place, whether for better or worse.

"It's frustrating when people compare us to only other female musicians, regardless of what they sound like,'' she explains. "One guy in a Nottingham pub, a music journalist, once told me: 'You're going to get compared to Warpaint because you are so like them'.

"I said we weren't so he asked me to name other female bands. I reeled off 20 that he had never even heard of and yet there he was telling me what my career was going to be like in an industry that I am actually in.''

Nathan interrupts: "You shouldn't have given him female bands to compare yourself to, you should have just given him other bands. It makes sense when it's groups with a female singer, as that gives a certain sound, but that's the only difference. It doesn't matter if you are a man or a woman playing the bass.''

Reflecting on her own experience, she continues: "I studied in Brighton and I was the only girl out of hundreds of guys. I didn't think I was bad, but there was always this feeling that I had to prove myself more because I was a girl. Maybe that made me more determined.''

So what is their advice for female musicians who do feel like they are banging their guitars against a brick wall? For Archer, the answer is simple: "No matter who you are working with, remind yourself that you are the person making the music.

"You have something and just because it's something you love, doesn't mean that it doesn't have worth and that people shouldn't give you credit, and money, for it. Remember you are in control and it's your talent.''

For that reason, the band unanimously lavish love and praise on their manager and "mother hen'', Louise Latimer, who always has their best interests at heart and allows them days off their increasingly busy schedule when they are desperately needed.

With all that hard work, how do they feel about the X Factor phenomenon? The ever-growing trend that sees young amateurs propelled to instant stardom after a brief performance on reality television.

"Is X Factor even still a thing?'' asks a baffled Celia, as the viewing public gets stuck into this year's fresh series of the ITV contest. After a few minutes trying to list successful artists that made their debut on the show, Nathan points out that One Direction "had a good ride''.

"I think the people who win those competitions are signed into such restrictive contracts that there's no room for any personality,'' Jules offers. "Those shows aren't about finding talent, they are about finding a good looking body to make a noise for you, and I don't feel like they have any real kind of freedom.''

"It's quite intense to have your life change so quickly,'' adds Soph. "Especially for the younger ones who go in one day and suddenly they are super famous and all over the telly...it's weird.''

Celia decides: "It helps that we are older and didn't start doing this when we were 17. We are more settled into life and we have done other jobs. We have degrees, we are our own people and that makes you recognise and appreciate the work that goes into music, and how great a career it is.

"Whenever I feel tired and stressed or miss all my friends, I remind myself that you have those days in any job, and a lot of jobs are worse than this. When you are cleaning up a bar at 2am and you are still trying to kick drunk people out... I would rather be in a band.''

So they agree that they would turn down a Simon Cowell record deal if the chance ever came along but they might accept a dinner offer.

"I just want to see what he looks like in real life,'' admits Jules, "and how tall he is''.

With the future firmly in their own hands, they are dreaming big.

For Celia: "I would love to play a big stage in Glastonbury, I want to tour Asia and South America and I want us to not break up because we hate each other.''

For Jules: "I want to make another album, and I want our manager to be able to buy a house and get all the dogs she wants.''

Other hopes on the horizon include more collaboration, and The Big Moon have their sights set on producer Rostam, of Vampire Weekend fame. They are working on how to get his attention, but have only got as far as following him on Twitter. Rostam, are you reading?

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