Adding some beatbox to a blues guitar, the duet Heymoonshaker is creating a new kind of blues, full of unheard colors. Here's an interview with two nice lads...
So guys, you're living in France now. How Come ?
Andy Balcon (voice/guitar) : We were living in Sweden and then my girlfriend kicked us out. So we moved to France.
Dave Crowe (beatbox) : France really welcomed us with open arms. As soon as we came here we felt welcome, people understood the music, food is good, women are beautiful, you can smoke everywhere...
DC : We do. Really if you wait long enough you can smoke in a bar...
So you like it so far ?
DC : Lovin' it ! That's genuine. It's like home...
Tell me about the band's name...
AB : It kind of mean something. I basically made up an fantasy band in my head when i was working in an office. Seven years ago.
DC : The concept of heymoonshaker is not just about a band. It's an idea. A lifestyle. We're advertising our lifestyle. It's not about being a travelling musician.
AB : It's about taking control of your life. Being able to shape your life like you want it to be as opposed of being somebody else's. Or sometimes you may think you may want something and being able to make it. To find tune in your life. Even the guitar is out of tune.
DC : Heymoonshaker is a life choice. And a happy one...
Andy, when you started working with Dave, did you had the feeling that the beatbox would add new colors to the music ?
AB : Yes, definitively so. When i first began to play music i was listenning to a lot of hip hop all the time. I was also very influenced by rock n'roll. There was a crossover that hadn't been made. The beatbox seemed to be an ideal way of creating a new sound. The way music is growing, i mean hip hop rock or electronic. Even now i can't find anything i actually want to listen to. There is a guy John Fairhurst, he's a brilliant guitar player. We toured with him in the UK and he can see the music we want to create. He's very involved with the sound of his guitar. He's coming. It's hard to explain.
DC : Over the last couple of months we travelled a lot, toured a lot. We met a lot of musicians last year. And there is a new energy, new sound coming. John Fairhurst is a part of that sound.
AB : A combination of rock n'roll and electronic music. It's really really good. It's exactly what you want to listen to.
The funny thing is there is no electronic involved in your music making. And yet i thought there was some dubsted influences in your sound...
AB : No that's Dave. He's the electronic. This new sound is there but we're trying to make it as primitive as possible. A guitar, two voices.
It's very natural...
DC : Yeah. Electronic music is.
You used to play on the streets a lot. Does it have an influence on the way you perform now ?
AB : Definitively so. Dave is definitevely is a good example of how we applied on music venues. After playing so much on the street you learn how to interract with a crowd which isn't necessary on music. In fact they're not listenning the music, they're going shopping or whatever.
DC : They're doing everything else apart from listenning to you.
AB : So you have to capture the crowd. And i think Dave is one of best people for engaging an audience. The best i've ever met.
You guys have met half way around the world, New Zealand i guess. So is travelling an important part of your music ?
DC : Absolutely. It's one of the core element of what we are. And of where the music comes from. All we want to do is travel. And you have to work to earn money to travel. And we don't want to work or i should say we want to work for ourselves. And all we want to do is to play music.
AB : And we decided to do that.
DC : Yeah we decided to play music and travel. And hopefully we can make enough money to live. And that's the idea. And as soon as we started to travel we met more and more amazing people and more and more amazing musicians who inspired us to write better music. More honest music.
AB : And learn about different lifestyles, different cultures. We've been living in Australia, New Zealand, Sweden as well. And they're very english. Coming to France for instance, learning the french culture, it's such a pleasure to have the opportunity.
DC : It does a lot to the music and the performance. I'm sure you'll agree, you being an elegant man yourself. It's like given in large cities at least, in France, everybody is elegant. Everybody looks good. People care about that. When you live in an environment like this it makes you care about your appearance more. It made me feel more elegant, more handsome. It changed my performance on stage. I feel more confident.
So where are you going next ?
AB : Probably Canada.
DC : I'd like to play more in the south. Way more.
AB : Yeah me too.
In a french perspective, it looks like every musician in the UK picking up a guitar wants to be the Beatles...
AB : It's true.
BC : I'm not really aware of the UK scene. I know very good musicians within my booking agency. But apart from that... I've been away from the UK for seven years. The previous month was our first tour in the UK. It was really fun, really amazing, we met a lot of very good musicians. But i don't know if everybody wants to be the Beatles or not.
The cd says « welcome to the heymoonshaker family ». Is that sense of belonging important for you ?
BC : We want people who enjoys our music to understand that we are similar. Exactly the same. Everybody we're working with is family. We want to make sure that everybody is cool. Everybody is making their job and that's cool. And then we felt that all the people coming to the gigs are family.
AB : It's a 50/50 relationship with the music and the audience. The audience is involved in the music.
DC : It's just as important.
AB : The energy we're playing with is coming from the people. It's not just us playing music. We're letting the music free and it's coming back at us.
Like an energy going back and forth ?
DC : Yes, it's really important the people understand that when you listen to the music or come to a gig, we are with you man ! We're really really with you. That's no bs. We always sell cds ourselves, we always meet the fans afterwards. We are nothing special just because we are musicians. We're lads, man ! We just want to hang out with nice people. We want nice people to feel nice. The particular design of the cd is also important. There is no track information on the cover. It's based on trust because when you buy it you don't know what's inside. And then, when you click it open, you see the logo and what tracks you have. And then when you take the cd out, you see something personal : « Welcome to the heymoonshaker family ». I love it. It's always about the experience of buying music.
AB : We did that ? That's nice i like it !
DC : You've got be kidding me ! We spent ages doing that. Andy always loved buying an album, a cassette, opening it up, the smell... I didn't have that because i was really late introduced into music. I didn't buy music.
DC : Oh yeah. Late, man. I listened to gangsta rap until i was 19. I couldn't have a conversation about music that wasn't hip hop until i was 19. Very narrow minded in my musical taste. Until i was 19, that's pretty late man. I've done my homework since. Now i realised that how people really feel about music. And the way i feel about bands, the way i feel about following bands. The experience is so special. And our cd is a big creation and i'm happy about that.
What about your tattoos Dave ?
DC : It's a transition from my old life into my heymoonshaker life. I had everything i needed in Sweden. I was living in a beautiful apartment in the forest. I had a dog. I was in love. A nice car. Money.
A job ?
DC : Beatboxing. It was perfect. I had achieved what i wanted to achieve. I was 24/25. Everything was sweet. And then when we did our first tour in France i realised what was possible. I can either spend my life being an beatboxer on the streets making good money. Having a good life, family, whatever. Or i can try to maximise this experience as possible. To get as many people as possible in one place night after night after night. To tell them the same thing i'm telling them when i sat on the streets. And then when this happened there was a lot of things in my life getting quite difficult with my girlfriend. What i wanted out of life. What she wanted out of life. I left Sweden, i left my life. The day i came to really start heymoonshaker i tattooed the logo on my neck to show him my commitment to the band.
Any tattoos Andy ?
AB : My skin is always changing, like a snake. I've lived many different lives yet to this point.
DC : We're very different anyway. I realized on an early age that i need reminding from the things i've learned. And i have to check myself all the time. And the tattoos i wear on my body are all very very important to my life. They're all reminders of what i need to do. I don't have enough time to forget for a day. There is not enough time.
DC : It was ! Wasn't it ? (laughs).
What's coming up next, an album ?
AB : Possibly. It's been weird recording music. We recorded an album in three days. We've got ten tracks down. We had just a few ideas, few riffs and it came down as ten songs. Four of those songs are on the EP. It appears this new album may or may not involved songs which was used for the EP. We perform those songs live already anyway.
DC : A general idea of them at least.
AB : We're making a jam around the ideas that were recorded. We try to find to time to get to the studio. The shakerism EP is a combination from the EP recorded in Sweden released last year, « Heymoonshaker block », and the tracks recorded for the album. You can see how the sound developped. « Colly drop » has more structure. And more full sound and colors to the music. But that is not the point, the sound is always developping, changing direction, and we're also influenced by meeting people.
DC : Also, it will be a good idea to see how this year goes with that EP. Tryin to get a big fan base with what we have created so far which isn't much yet. We will always record. Release i don't know. We always release new videos to keep people interested in seeing us in different countries.
AB : We also like the idea of the live element. What you get on record is completely different from the live experience. Our performance is always different. The idea of being able to share that is what we want to focus on for the next record. Being able to capture the jam feeling.
DC : We capture 2012 on the shakerism EP. It's gonna take all 2013 to realize what to capture.
Andy, it just occured to me that your voice is really different when you speak. Your singing is pretty intense...
AB : Yes it is (laughs) ! It's funny because when you live in a skin which has been... The skin i live in now is conditionned by the way i live. I'm being very open here. But when i sing and play music i fully express myself without being restraint from anybody's judgement. It's all expression of emotions i won't necessarely put forward when i'm not on stage.
DC : I think the reason he's getting so intense right now is because he just started to fully express the person he is inside and really share it. Maybe in a couple of years is gonna come down a little.
AB : Right now i've got something to say.