A founder member of Bas Jan and Charismatic Megafauna, Jenny Moore is a Canadian who has been immersed in London’s DIY scene for the last few years. Next week sees the release of He Earns Enough, a dynamic new EP from her raggle-taggle gang of choral-dance-punks, Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business. Featuring members of Trash Kit, Bamboo and F*Choir, plus solo artist Rubie, the five tracks on the EP draw on Moore’s love of gospel and hardcore and match deftly-hocketed feminist mantras against sardonic takedowns of corporate greed.
In advance of He Earns Enough, we’ve been granted an exclusive live session of Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business performing ‘Feels Like Grace’ and ‘We Want our Bodies Back’ at EarTH in Hackney. We took the opportunity to email a few impertinent questions over to the mystic business-woman herself, who gave us the inside track on forthcoming shows with the likes of Pictish Trail and Rachel Aggs, as well as humanifestos, the transformative power of choral singing and the abolition of capitalism.
GiitTV: Hi Jenny. Where are you now, what are you up to and how is it all going?
Jenny Moore: I’m in London, we’re all finally back in London after some time of being spread around the pandemic landscape of the UK. We’re having weekly band practices, talking about the sheer exhaustion of being alive in the neverending pandemic, driving to the sea for anxiety cold water dips, eating ice lollies on long walks with housemates to face collective depression, planning an EP launch gig, reaching our little tentacles out towards our music peers whom we’ve only seen online for some time and trying to say something interesting when we see them.
The last Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business release was in 2018. It seems a lifetime away. What’s new this time around?
An absolute lifetime. This time around, we recorded songs that we’d actually gigged a lot! The fact that we’d gigged a lot made songwriting, arranging, recording so much easier because I knew the group better, I understood where our power was and could lean into it. I think this set of songs and the recordings of them are really confident, economical, and unapologetic – we’re leaning into earworms, hooks, rants and making them into alt-pop choral punk tunes. The first record has more of a theatrical, live sensibility to it because that’s exactly what it was – it documented the beginning of something. This EP knows its own edges a bit more. Technically speaking, the group is smaller, we’ve chiselled the drum set up down from two full kits to one dislocated kit, one xylophone instead of 3, and added a microKORG synth and electronic drum pad. These changes came because it was more practical for touring but it opened up a different sound world. I like doing a lot with a little.
What’s the story behind the live clip you’re sharing with us?
This live clip feels like a dream or hallucination – it’s from last summer, during that little gap in pandemic time when we were just dipping our toes into ‘normality’, reconnecting with each other, poking our heads out of our houses. An amazing friend, producer and musician in their own right, kyle acab, let us into the legendary Hackney venue EarTH and recorded this live session. We hadn’t seen each other in the flesh for a year, so another artist friend, Johann Arens, came to capture it on video as we peeled ourselves out of our skin and into songs again together. It was absolutely boiling – must’ve been 35 degrees inside – and we sang ‘Feels Like Grace’, a tune that we often do live but hasn’t been properly recorded anywhere yet. It’s a song about dissociation and disembodiment, about the necessity of drifting away sometimes, dropping so deeply into your own self that you enter the outer space of your being. It’s a bit of a trauma response, and people often think it feels terrible but, it can be like relief from the intensity of things. I’ve really felt that during the pandemic. But, like I said before, singing helps me come back so singing this together in that empty, beautiful room, was a mix of emotion and physicality, a massive gift.
We then bashed out an old Mystic Biz classic, ‘We Want Our Bodies Back’, which we used to perform in the middle of a crowd at the end of a gig, surrounded by the audience, off-mic, pounding away on the floor and getting the last bits of gig energy out. It’s like a manifesto, the demand for some autonomy.
So this live clip is a super special, one-off event in the biggest venue we’ve ever played. Filmed by Johann Arens and Emma Hoette, recorded and mixed by kyle acab, edited by Beth Chalmers, woozy titles by Sophie le Roux, dream team.
I love JMMB’s use of choral rounds and the way the songs achieve their effects through repetition, but I’m not sure I can quite articulate what that effect is. What are you aiming for?
I think of songs as circles or spheres, three dimensional round shapes you can suck on or hold in your hands. This repetition is like an exploration, a chance for the vocal qualities to start interacting with your ear, the more you listen, the more you can hear with your whole body.
A moving, powerful part of group singing is that moment when you realise you’re singing along, that the sound of your own voice is pouring out of your mouth into this huge sound of the multiple voices. I see this as a kind of meditation, it’s cumulative, it’s a commitment, you have to get into it to get something out of it. But once you understand its logic, you realise that it’s not really something you can articulate (exactly as you said), it’s just something felt and experienced. It’s time. It’s space.
I’m interested in music that can create a sense of the present moment. Like you are right here, right now and that’s the only place you ever will be and that’s ok. A container for now. I don’t know anything other than good sex and choral singing that makes me feel so HERE. It’s like when you’re singing and you don’t know when you started or when you’re going to end – that’s bliss.
The first track on the new EP is called ‘He Earns Enough’. Did you have anyone specific in mind?
Ha! If only it was just one person! I’d encourage everyone to do a little google-ing about how much the super-elite and businessmen of our time have increased their wealth throughout the pandemic. It’s gross. It’s criminal. I’m so tired of it. But also, this isn’t just a pandemic thing. The gender wage gap has been a thing for… ever in so many countries. People try to argue it away or justify it or patronise women or placate them but, at the end of the day, I just think we should ABOLISH CAPITALISM.
I like the last track a lot, ‘Woman is a Word’. Sometimes it makes me think of The Raincoats, other times I hear Rave Classics ’97. Am I warm yet? It’s insanely pop. What’s the song getting at?
Absolutely banging combo of Raincoats and Rave Classics ’97! I think you’ve very accurately located my musical intersections and influences. Add a bit of gospel choir in there and a sprinkle of American straight-edge hardcore and we’re on track. ‘Woman is a Word’ is actually a cover of an Empress Of song, she’s a great pop artist and writer, so she’s a good place to start. When I heard the tune, I was struck by the lyrics and how she cracks open some of the aspects of being female in a way I hadn’t heard anyone do before – the song kind owns womanhood but on one’s own terms, building to that line, ‘I’m only a struggle if I get in your way’ which makes me feel hot and bubbly every time I sing it. Taking the song apart, I tried to filter it 100% through human bodies, translating the sounds into vocalisations, hums, docketydockadahs, oohs, ahhs, claps and it started to embody the idea that words are not enough to describe the fullness of a human. Get the band singing this and BANG it’s an insanely choral bop.
Who are your bandmates in Mystic Business? How did the band come together?
This band is full of powerhouses and is an ever-morphing, flexible beast. This is mostly because it came together quite haphazardly in 2017 when I did a call-out on socials asking if anyone wanted to be in a drum-choir-gang. I had written some new music for an art festival and needed some big voices to make it soar. Turns out, quite a few people were in need of a drum-choir-gang so 13 of us came together, rehearsed for a week and performed at Wysing Art Centre on that weekend. A few days later, we recorded what would become the first self-titled Jenny Moore’s Mystic Business cassette (Audacious Art Experiment 2018). As the music and the ensemble shifted and flexed, I’ve played with so many great musicians moving through London but have settled for this record the current lineup:
Rubie is an intelligent and charismatic songwriter/performer in their own right — they play all the instruments and can sing any note you ask of them. They also have a soft spot for polyrhythms, difficult clapping and incredibly large drama. We met while performing in the huge hall at Central Saint Martins – I was dripping in gold crocheted dungarees and shouting “EJACULATE” on a drum kit and they were 15 feet in the air singing ballads at the top of a ladder.
Nandi Bhebhe is a choreographer, mover, singer, multi-instrumentalist, and part of my inner Universe. We live together and make art together whenever possible, she speaks to me physically and harmonically, I think she sees my inner music brain and can hug it. She also plays all the instruments and sings all the notes, specialising in the low soul and adventurous harmonies.
Louise O’Connor was an original mystic, meaning she’s part of my musical fabric and we’ve collaborated on a number of projects (punk, dance, folk choral, you name it). Louise is a composer and performance artist whose musicality and dedication to weirdness keeps me sharp and inspired. She plays all the instruments and can make her voice sound like a round bell played by a Greek god. She mixed and mastered our recent collaborative mixtape Mystic Mixness.
Rachel Horwood is also an original mystic and long-term household name on the DIY London circuit. She’s the drummer and founding member of Trash Kit (one of my favourite bands on earth), Bamboo, Bas Jan and Halo Halo. Rachel is the epitome of drums and voice for me – the way she moves between the voice and her sense of rhythm makes whole worlds appear.
Jeni Be is the newest mystic and we met through the feminist choir I run, F*Choir. I swear Jeni holds the entirety of music history in her throat and can summon whichever spirit a song needs. She’s a choral sea creature, her velvet vocal cords add a kind of texture and depth to everything she passes through them.
‘We Will Invent a Language’ sounds like quite an adventure. Is it a manifesto of sorts?
Total humanifesto. I tried to imagine and describe a place I could thrive. A place that could hold me and all of the contradictions that come with being alive, but also acknowledge that there are some fundamental things we need as humans to stay alive and healthy. It’s really hard to hold onto those fundamental things in the UK right now unless you’re a millionaire and that is messed up. Being in community with chosen family (even when that is hard as hell) has literally saved my life a few times. I use the pronoun We because I can’t survive without interdependence. And so, we’re imagining how we want the world to change and recognising, we probably have to invent a new language to hold its newness, acknowledging that it’s not some utopia where nothing ever goes wrong or we never feel hard things or are challenged with the messiness of being human, we just have space to feel three-dimensional and alive.
WE WILL HAVE PLACES TO SLEEP
WE WILL HAVE THE TOOLS WE NEED
WE WILL BE UPSET AND INTERRUPTED
WE WILL BE IN LOVE! WE WILL BE IN LOVE!
What’s the next step? Do you have any live shows planned?
We’re hoping to get up to Scotland to celebrate with the Lost Map family sometime this year.
He Earns Enough EP Launch Party has just been announced as a special Sunday afternoon show on 10th October at The Victoria, Dalston with support from the legendary Rachel Aggs doing their solo set R.AGGS (Shopping, Trash Kit, Sacred Paws)
Limited tickets available via Dice https://tinyurl.com/32h9sm2s
Lost Christmas: Dude, Where’s My Card? (Daylight Music with Pictish Trail and Molly Linen)
December 11 2021 at St John on Bethnal Green, midday to 2 pm
Our EP He Earns Enough will be out on Lost Map Records on the 8th October 2021, and you can pre-order the vinyl now: