Mahoney & The Moment

It's not every day we get to interview an Americana band who formed in New York City and emigrated to the UK. Mahoney & The Moment (the project of British musician Steve Mahoney and Boston-born singer Emily Moment) are determined to be a big deal on both sides of the pond, and frankly, they deserve to be. The pair cut their teeth in the Anti-Folk scene in the East Village in 2011, and moved to London the following year. They currently run the Chalk Farm Folk Americana night at The Monarch club in Camden.

Get better acquainted with them by checking out our exclusive premiere of the video for "Kiss My Frowning Face," from their upcoming album Confession Note, below. If you can't make it out to their CD release show on March 5 at The Slaughtered Lamb in London, you can hopefully see them during their next trip stateside, later this year.

Emily, what's it like being an American musician in the UK?

E: There are actually a lot of Americans here. London is a melting pot just like New York and there are people from all of the world. I definitely don’t feel like the lone Yank in the British crowd. Some of the British musicians we play with genuinely seem far more ‘American’ than I am.

S: And you’re treated like a superstar… like Andie MacDowell in Four Weddings and a Funeral!

E: I don’t feel like that though. Because we’re in the Americana community, people expect Americaness from us so I’m not sure I get special attention. But we do have the same hair…

Tell us a bit about Chalk Farm Folk. Do you ever get Americans there?

E: We get Americans both on the stage and in the audience.

S: It started off as a residency for us, and we find that the best way to control the quality of the music night you play is to actually run it! It's really good for being part of a community and meeting like-minded people... Us musician types need to stick together, collaborate and help each other out!

E: We were also looking to create an atmosphere like what exists in New York.. A free entry night, where people can see you from the street and be enticed to come in. The venue’s stage is perfectly situated with it’s back to the main road, but on most nights you would never know because it’s closed off by a red velvet curtain. The first thing we did when we got in there for Chalk Farm Folk was open the curtain. Last night there was a couple just kissing behind an act while they played and that became part of the show.

S: I suppose it's actually also like the vibe of all those bars in Nashville on Broadway, where there's live music all along the street and free entry venues... But with Chalk Farm Folk, we were trying to replicate the strictly music based / tip jar venues in New York City like Rockwood Music Hall.

Has Americana replaced Anti-folk in popularity in the UK?

E: I would say yes – in London anyway. I know there is an Anti-folk community here but Americana seems to have really risen in popularity. There are some really good Anti-folk musicians around but they don’t seem to have a base in here like I had the Sidewalk Cafe back home. It used to be all about the 12 Bar Club which was a big deal in London, but that’s unfortunately closed now.

Is there a big difference in the way audiences receive you in the US versus the UK?

E: We always say it takes the British a couple of drinks… As audience members, Americans are boisterous and give you a lot of energy back, and they will come straight up to you, drunk or not, and tell you if they like what you've done. Whereas in London, not only will they sit in silence and politely tap their legs while they watch, but they usually have to be drunk to come up and talk to you.

S: Yeah... same as the dating really!

Have you ever played Nashville?

S: I’ve been years ago and I loved it! I didn't actually play though. Funnily enough I went along Music Row giving out demos to these humongous record corporations! I was trying to go straight to the top... and was enjoying the bars in the evening!

I remember thinking it was amazingly cool, that I was dancing with all these 18-21 year old girls to songs like "Sweet Home Alabama," "Fortunate Son" and stuff like that. In the UK, young people only dance to music that sounds like it's been created by a cyborg on an iPhone. So I really appreciated and enjoyed that! I also remember just loving walking down the street in Nashville - just the smell of BBQ everywhere! I also traveled to Nashville from Miami Beach... which was such a massive culture shock. It was like two different planets!

We’re planning to come to Nashville this Fall and we’d love to play a gig, so if anyone wants to offer us one we’re available!

E: .For weddings, funerals, openings of an envelope…

Musicians Corner was inspired in part by London's Speakers' Corner. What's it like these days?

S: I haven’t actually been to Speakers' Corner, London seems too stressful to walk in the park!

E: So it’s this spot in Hyde Park where a lot of people are ranting on soap boxes about politics, religion, and philosophy. My mother took my there when I was 14. I’m sure it has changed quite a lot since then... a few prime ministers and a couple of new wars will do that… but even so I’m sure it’s nothing like the headline inducing vitriol it used to be in the 70’s.

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Tell us about "Kiss My Frowning Face."

S: It was written for a concept Rockabilly album I have planned which is a bit of a joke in the vain of Neil Young’s "Everybody’s Rockin’"... about hard times and having no money... but seeing the comedy in it.

When I was writing this song, it was a stream of consciousness and it made me laugh... just this really laid back, drunk “Love is Always Free”- type of thing. On the voice memo on my phone I actually have of me writing it, I’m laughing... so that’s how I knew that it could be something good because it made me feel something.. and it was already a performance.

E: We were doing these demos at our friend Sam’s house just before we started recording our album. That day I was trialing what I thought I would be contributing to the record and Steve was laying down all of these joke songs for his Rockabilly thing. What came out of that was that we realized "Kiss My Frowning Face" was actually a really good song. I’d say that’s the day it made it onto the album.

S: I’m quite proud of the way it testifies how much I’m into the Faces, Ronnie Lane, Ian McLagan thing, which I’ve never really done before. I've always quite obviously had rootsy singer-songwriter influences like Neil Young, Ryan Adams etc, but this is pure 70's Pub Rock, a drunk care-free song - which feels like something new for me.

E: Yeah there are some star performances on it, aren't there? Jack and Sam on the keys and dobro were crucial in bringing that Faces appeal to life.

S: When we recorded it, it was the 2nd take and the 1st take wasn't even a full one so it’s really raw. The guitar was really tuned down and it’s just drunk end-of-the-album / night type stuff... and the banter at the end is just true isn’t it? Ashley our drummer says, "It’s got to have an ending like that," because he didn't think we had a proper take yet!

What's the story behind the video?

E: We filmed this video at a music venue in East London called Jamboree, located in the same complex where we recorded our new album, Confession Note.

S: We did 6 videos in one day, it was a bit of a marathon that took a lot of organisation. It was actually filmed at noon in the day, so we were going for the vibe that we’re still playing really early into the morning. We asked some Swing Patrol dancers to come in (which is quite big in London at the moment), who are also filming us at the beginning and it’s the idea of how people get ‘into it’ in England over the course of the night. If you are a cover band playing for 3 hours, people will start with no reaction at all... and they might be dancing by the end. The main influence for this song is the British band The Faces. I would say they are my favourite band of all time at the moment... the whole thing was a party, and that's how life should be!

E: We wanted to try and capture the energy of how we would normally perform at a gig. That song is a party so the video had to reflect that and be a party as well.

S: If you look closely near the end of the video there’s a party popper that explodes behind us. I didn't know that was going to be happening whatsoever. It feels reminiscent of The Who when they played on American TV (check YouTube!) and Keith Moon put explosives in his drum kit. I didn't know what the hell it was in that split moment and that’s on film...