It happens a lot; band sends email requesting we check out their music, we check out the music, and then (if we like it) we create a piece of writing in response to it. Sometimes, like when China Moon‘s debut single “Nebula” is that aforementioned music, it inspires a big reaction from me, such as: “In short, this song is fucking incredible.“
To back track a little, China Moon is a four piece from Manchester which includes John Thacker on vocals, Matt McCracken on guitar, Ralph Smithson on bass, and Eleanor Churchill on drums. “Nebula” is the first release from the band, and it’s a damn good one. Coming with a dark and alluring music video, it’s an intriguing first taste of the band. We wanted to know more about how the band came to be, as well as the inspiration behind this first song.
The Formation of China Moon
McCracken gave us the lowdown, beginning about a year ago when he and Churchill were jamming at their local rehearsal space. “We’d both been in heavy/progressive bands before and wanted a change of scenery,” says McCracken. “I’d been hugely impressed with her drumming in the two-piece-sister-doom band Chambers and she was enamoured with the Eastern-tinged proggy weirdness that I was doing with my band Sawbones and in my solo work.”
McCracken shares that the two wanted to create music with an indie-pop sensibility that they both loved, while also adding “some kind of edge to the already heavily saturated genre. Being mixed race I’ve always been drawn to the Eastern scales and rhythms, implementing them in all of my music, and Ellie had always been a huge fan of Beirut who utilise these themes really well, and so China Moon was born!”
They found Thacker through Vampr (a Tinder-like musician finder app), instantly loving his vocal style. As Thacker came from singing EDM-based pop music, the two were concerned that their sound would be too heavy for him. However McCracken says that Thacker “loved the rough demos we’d come up with, and everything clicked in that first rehearsal with him.” McCracken shares that Thacker has a positive influence in the practice room and contributes more to the structure of the song than a lot of singers he had worked with previously, making for a collaborative songwriting process. “John’s addition added that dreamy element to the music with his distinctive vocal style and his grounding in pop music.”
It took the gradually forming band awhile to find a bassist. McCracken shares that they “tried a load of different people that didn’t feel right” before eventually poaching Smithson from a band that Churchill was playing with. Talking about their connection, McCracken shares “Ralph and I share a lot of similar influences. We both learned to play the guitar in the school of Radiohead and Muse and often break into impromptu covers in the practice room. We’re both big hip hop fans and we listen to a lot of the new wave of British hip hop artists, people like Ocean Wisdom, Splurgeboys and slowthai.” He also adds that Smithson’s songwriting abilities push China Moon to try different things structurally, as well as appreciating Smithson’s “one more time” urgings for further refinement. McCracken affirms that the formation of “a rock-solid rhythm section” with Smithson and Churchill allowed for China Moon to start working on an EP.
With regards to the debut single “Nebula”, McCracken shares “Like many of our songs, “Nebula” came about as a result of Ellie and I jamming in my living room. Ellie was inspired by an Alt-J track and suggested creating a similar verse structure with stabs for those sections. So the drumming drives it, with the guitar following the rhythm. The break sections involve a delicate ride cymbal to bring in a bit of Eastern influence alongside the guitar. Ellie is also a big fan of the Maccabees and their influence comes through in particular when you hear the song.”
McCracken says that himself and Churchill came up with the bare bones of “Nebula” in an afternoon. “It was lacking a middle 8, but that shift from the verse groove to chorus riff was there. We’d gone into it wanting to make something a little heavier than the other songs we’d been working on; juxtaposing groovy and upbeat with dark and heavy.”
The China Moon collective initially struggled with it in the practice room, with the chorus being difficult for John, and McCracken shares that “it took us some time to get the middle 8 together with it’s stop-starts and roaming bassline”. McCracken says they made many structural changes before settling on what we hear today, and that the band’s other songs came about a lot easier than “Nebula”. I can’t wait to hear more from the quartet!
Listen to/watch “Nebula” below via YouTube, and find it at your favourite streaming places on Friday 27th September.