Labelling themselves as improvisers instead of musicians, fans of Norwegian trio MoE are going through an identity crisis when discussing their genre of choice, and they’re not bothered in the slightest bit. Be it noise rock, trash metal or as some have even called it, jazz, the band has always been trying to advance from established genres with their alternative compositions and experimental noise approach to the sounds they make. And that fact was proven by Guro Skumsnes Moe, Joakim Heibø Johansen, and Håvard Skaset’s visceral and explosive live performances. JUICE caught up with them when they stopped by Kuala Lumpur for the third night of The Transitions Tour with The Observatory.
Since this is the band’s first tour in Southeast Asia, what were your expectations for your crowd over here, compared to the ones in Europe?
Guro It’s so thrilling to meet a completely new audience, and it’s difficult to have expectations – it is always different than what you originally have in mind. We were in Japan back in February and had a glimpse of the vibe from an Asian crowd, but I would say that it’s different everywhere.
Håvard For us, it’s most important to play our music and deliver as much as we can in hopes of people understanding it, because we cannot possibly change our music to suit the audience. For me, I would rather play in Asia than in northern Europe because the people are really stiff and boring there.
G They react to our music in another way, as they are more uptight. Perhaps it’s the temperature, I don’t know, but our Southeast Asian crowd was more in touch with themselves and more capable of expressing their emotions. With a crowd like that, you can actually sense how your music is being received, and I think that was a healthy sign. In Norway, especially, when the crowd is just standing there it makes us go, “What are they thinking?”
How does touring play a role in the composition of new music?
H I would say that being away from Oslo plays a big part as I get really uninspired by being at home for a long period of time. It’s easy to dwell into the same routine every day and that’s how I tend to get too comfortable, so after a while things just get intensely boring. We are essentially music nerds wanting to hear more music; so playing in new places is a good way to meet other musicians. Catching up with them and hearing how they approach their music inspire us.
G Testing our sounds in all these different conditions has also really shaped us as a band. It’s from what you eat in the morning up till the moment you’re on the stage – everything affects the music we play.
How did everything start between MoE and The Observatory, from being friends to touring together for the second time?
G We were pen pals. (Laughs) No, I’m just kidding. I met Chee Wai and Leslie back in Norway, when they were playing some improvisation shows in Oslo. I got to know about The Observatory when they played at the release of Lasse Marhaug’s fanzine, where I got to hear their music that blew me away. I then offered to help them put up some shows when I heard that they were touring in Norway. It turned out to be so much more convenient to do a split tour, so from then on it just made a lot of sense to tour together in different continents. We have even released a split vinyl together for our Italy tour in 2013.
What did you guys hope to get out of The Transitions Tour?
G … Fat? (Laughs)
H To be better performers, meet new audiences, connect with people who are interested in music, and maybe come back and play at even more places in Southeast Asia. Our main focus right now is to get our new album out this Fall, then get it distributed all over to try to get more people to hear it. The most difficult thing right now is getting your new music out there, even though there are so many other channels to purchase your music. There are so many bands, artistes, and musicians and so much music being recorded and released, so it’s hard to get it out there. It’s like white noise, almost.
What can fans expect from your new album?
Joakim It sounds great actually. It’s harder, darker, faster, and heavier.
H We went to this really great studio in Norway, and managed to play the entire album in less than one day, with just one or two takes. That’s the thing about our music – we try to make it sound pure, and make the best out of it. Unlike most bands, we don’t do a lot of post-production because we want it to sound as real as we could.
What would be the message that you’re trying to convey to the audience with your music?
G Be yourself no matter what you do.
H For musicians, play the music that you like and just do whatever you want while figuring out your own music, but never ever rip off of others. Play in tours, meet people, and make peace.
MoE performed at Free Space @ Kakiseni along with The Observatory for The Transitions Tour 2014 on Thursday 19 June ’14.