One of the unlikely success stories of the last eighteen months The Moonlandingz – the band that began life as a semi-fictional concept album by Sheffield electronic analogue weirdos the ‘Eccentronic Research Council’ and fronted by Fat White Family’s legendary frontman, Lias Saoudi – have been rampaging through 2017 off the back of their frankly brilliant album Interplanetary Class Classics released earlier this year. A riot fiendish psych dappled space-pop and outsider sounds that rummage in the wreckage of post-punk and obscure outsider music and crafts sounds that are genuinely gleeful. Each song rattling with taboos, rubbing the face of an increasingly ugly humanity gleefully into the dirt. Since the albums release the group have been playing sell out headline shows and making incendiary festival appearances across the Globe throughout the year. They are just about to embark on their biggest headline shows to date and their final tour of the year… possibly for a while.
The Moonlandingz’ Adrian Flanagan explains:
“We never really expected that things would blow up for us the way they have, I never in a million years expected to walk out (for instance) at the Glastonbury Park Stage over summer to anything more than a tractor and a handful of CatWeasel lookalikes in a K-hole, I certainly didn’t expect to see smiling people as far as the eye could see. We seem to have tapped into something that has been missing from so-called Rock & Roll or pop music for a long time – just by being inclusive to our audience and bringing something that is both a little Wild but also very fun and timely to the people – it’s been a real joy for me to witness those effects from stage side. However, this past year or two our feet have had no time to touch the ground, no time to even truly create anything new and to be honest that’s what I and all the Moonlandingz people and their various projects live for you know, creating some magic out of nothing in the studio, which ironically is the hardest thing to do when you’re playing live all the time. You play four shows over a weekend, then need a couple of days to just feel normal again, before you’re thrown in the back of a van a day later, it leaves you with no time to be getting on with anything, especially as we all have our own other groups and musical projects, as great as it is to be busy or in demand it’s a hard one to balance . The likelihood is this will be our last tour for some time, we may do the odd one-off show but we really do want to end the year on a high with a handful of big shows… I think once we’ve dredged our souls and put them into something musically fresh with our other groups, then hopefully, we will reconvene for phase two in Moonlandingz world. For now, though, we are going back to Fiction!”
We sent Moonlandingz founder, organ grinder, Adrian Flanagan some questions:
Hi, how are you today?
“Good thanks, just getting ready for our tour starting this week. My livers replenished and I’m ready to retox!”
I know you’ve probably talked about this to death, but how did the Moonlandingz concept come together?
AF: “I have another project called the Eccentronic Research Council that I do with Moonlandingz synth man, Dean Honer and the actor, Maxine Peake. We did a spoken word concept album called ‘Johnny Rocket, Narcissist and Music machine. I’m your biggest Fan’. The story I wrote for it was based on a little band I did for fun with friends in Sheffield a few years back – and a troublesome Stalker I had. In the narrative of the story I called the ‘fictional band’ The Moonlandingz and to give it a bit more depth I thought it would be cool to attempt to write some songs for the fictional band, so I gave Lias and Saul from the Fat White Family a shout, who I’d seen a few months earlier playing to a small but wayward crowd, in the 12 Bar Club in Soho. Anyway, they said yes, we wrote an EPs worth of material together and I thought it would be funny to get one of the tracks (Sweet Saturn Mine) to radio and see if we can get fans for the fictional band in the run-up to the E.R.C album getting released. Strangely, almost by mistake, the track got A-listed on the BBC 6 Music playlist, next thing we are being asked to do a radio session for Marc Riley. We never even considered playing live, The Moonlandingz was a studio project and being quite electronic we weren’t even sure if we could re-create the studio sound. anyway, we rose to the challenge, did the session for Marc and it went down really well, from there on we were bombarded with emails to do live shows, so we wrote a bunch more songs, then went to New York and fleshed out the tracks with Sean Lennon at his studio in the countryside. From there on we got a record deal, put out an album and a bunch of singles and have been doing tours and festivals across Europe. It’s funny how running with your imagination can turn out!”
Why call it, The Moonlandingz? I keep thinking about conspiracy theorists every time I read the name…
AF: ” I thought The Moonlandingz was the perfect name for a slightly futuristic, slightly retrograde, space rock group – and yes, it ties in nicely with being a fictional/fake band and those conspiracy theories of the moon landings being faked!”
You released a series of singles/EPs before the album – was it a case of road testing material?
AF: “Not really, I think every track on the album could be a single… in an alternative universe!”
There are some quite obscure musical references to be found in your songs, what were you listening to during the recording period?
AF: “Nothing I’d not been listening too for the past 20 years. I/we are massive music fans, everything from Joe Meek too crazed disco records from Lahore to soundtrack albums by Alain Goraguer and beyond – we also really love Pop music, Tatu, George Michael, Scooter… all the greats!”
Did you have a set idea how each song would sound beforehand or did they just emerge this way?
AF: “We made all the songs using graphs and scientific data – to make the perfect record for wronguns!”
Has the success of the Moonlandingz even surprised you?
AF: “Not in the slightest; it surprised everyone else though!”
There’s a sense of fun about the way you approach songwriting, what kind of things inspire the songs?
AF: “Terrorism, politics, suicide, religion and sexual awakenings… all the fun shit!”
Tough question, but what’s your favourite Moonlandingz song?
AF: “Do They Know It’s Christmas!”
How does being in the Moonlandingz differ from your other musical experiences/groups?
AF: “One is popular Music, one is genuine outsider music!”
Yoko Ono has been very vocal in her support of your band and featured on This Cities Undone. How daunting was it to work with her, and how did you get on?
AF: “Yoko recorded her vocals with Sean after we’d been in his studio and when we were already back in Sheffield/UK. I never got to meet her in person. Obviously, I am tickled pink with the results of our collaboration, she’s a total hero, a one off!”
You have some cool guests on the record who would be your dream collaboration with?
AF: “Karen Carpenter, alas she’s gone. We were very close to having Fred Schneider from the B52’s on our track ‘The Rabies are Back’ – he loved the track but our schedule and his made it impossible to pull it off in time for our deadlines. Maybe another time!”
What new acts should we keep a beady eye upon?
“I like a group from Liverpool called Pink Kink, Australian weirdo pop group Confidence Man, Shabazz Palaces, Saul’s new stuff, Insecure Men is great too!”
Describe a Moonlandingz show? What kind of setlist will you be performing or will it be a surprise?
“It’s a celebration of specialness; 50-something minutes of unwashed, throbbing, psychedelic pop heroism!”
You’ve said this could be the last Moonlandingz tour is it literally a play it by ear thing?
“Kind of, The past couple of years has been Moonlandingz heavy, we’ve been on the promoting the debut album/singles conveyor belt all year and being a project made up of people in other groups – things need planning out properly – so next year, Lias will be stepping back in to his Fat Whites trousers and getting their brilliant new material out there, which means he’ll be out doing all the stuff we’ve been doing this year. You can’t really have two bands with the same frontman touring constantly, not the way we tour, they’ll be deaths (laughs) – so next year, we are gonna just concentrate on writing and recording whatever the next Moonlandingz record will be and Dean and I are doing a new E.R.C record and some new projects. I can’t see us touring for a good while other than possibly the occasional ‘one-off’ show if we are made offers we can’t turn down (laughs), for now, we go back to fiction for a while!”
The Moonlandingz (possibly) final ever shows;
18/11/2017 – SWG3, Glasgow
19/11/2017 – The Church, Leeds
21/11/2017 – The Ritz, Manchester
22/11/2017 – Electric Brixton, London
23/11/2017 – Trinity, Bristol
16/12/2017 – The Leadmill, Sheffield