Moaning Lisa’s Savvy Seven

Chances are you probably caught Canberra band Moaning Lisa play recently as part of the brilliant Instagram live music festival – Isol-Aid, helping raise funds for the essential music industry support service Support Act. 

The four piece found each other in 2016 after graduating from music degrees, and came together after realising they all shared a love of 90’s music and bands like the Pixies and (not so 90’s) Wolf Alice. Since then, the band has gone from playing small local shows in Canberra, to national tours and performing at large festivals like Splendour, Lorne Falls Festival and the Yours and Owls Festival.

Charlie, Moaning Lisa’s bassist and singer took some time out of a Covid19 lockdown to have a chat with us. 

1. What inspired you to pursue music as a career?

I had every other aspect of the music industry in mind to pursue as a career apart from performing and songwriting. So it’s bizarre that the one thing that I wasn’t actively pursuing is the one thing I ended up being really good at. I feel like I’m constantly being reminded of what’s inspiring me to pursue a career in music because I don’t actually feel like I have obtained a career fully. I feel like the thing with the music industry is that we’re constantly in pursuit of it. I feel like I’ve said pursue so many times but that’s okay.

2. Besides making music, what have you done to get to where you are?

A hell of a lot of self-growth and learning. As much as institutional education helped us find each other, it was getting out into the industry and doing those hard yards of relentless touring that really made us who we are. Learning to function as one entity and not just four individuals has made the biggest impact, we’re a bizarre hybrid of relationship/workmates/best friends/siblings which has helped shape the way I navigate the world and empathise with others.

Are you just starting out? Check out our great Advice for Emerging Artists course – every single person we’ve ever interviewing has chucked in their two-cents worth and it’s quite an illuminating watch!

3. How do you approach developing timelines for your career?

I’ve always had a hard time with the logistical side of the industry. Mostly because I’m incredibly impatient and incredibly perfectionist, which are constantly at odds with each other. To be honest, the way I approach timelines is to rely a lot on other people around me to help inform how I approach them. 

I think sometimes I probably only think as far ahead as a month or two because I know things are fickle and can change so quickly. I don’t like to make big plans in my head. When we first started playing live shows in Canberra I thought we were never gonna play a big venue and then we did, and then I thought we were never gonna play interstate, and then we did. And then I thought we would never play a big festival, and then we did. So I learn from past patterns. It helps to have managers!

4. What is the most significant challenge you have conquered in your career?

Doubt and uncertainty. And I haven’t even conquered those things, so I shouldn’t say that. There’s no right or wrong answer in music. It’s not an exact science where you can tick a box and get a score and know you’re doing things well. There are no parameters for knowing whether you’re doing things right or not and that’s really scary. I’ve realised the best thing to do is to make the kind of art you want to see in the world. That way if everything else goes to shit, at least you like it yourself. 

5. What will musicians discover from touring and how should they prepare for it?

What do you discover from touring… I feel like that’s a weird question. Expect travelling and sitting on your arse waiting around to exhaust you a hell of a lot more than you ever thought it would. Know your limitations. Give yourself a strict bedtime, because that very quickly can get out of hand and fuck up your energy levels which ends up fucking up how you perform which ends up fucking up the whole tour.

You discover that you can actually afford to give a little bit of yourself to an audience every single night. What am I trying to say… Literally all it takes is one person to be receptive for it to feel worth it. I’ve stopped worrying about half or even three quarter empty rooms. It’s interesting that the question isn’t performing, it’s about touring. Touring is about going out and sharing your music in unfamiliar places for a short period of time. It’s giving people a little snapshot of yourself and then leaving, and kind of scattering yourself amongst different places. 

Now’s probably a good time to suggest you take a look at the GET BETTER SHOWS pathway over at the toolbox. It’s full of free and premium resources like gig checklists, tour budget templates etc. 

6. How should people educate themselves on current industry issues?

It’s pretty hard to educate yourself in traditional forms. You can’t read a book, you can’t read articles, you can’t truly get an understanding of the industry without being in it yourself, or having someone close to you being in it. I feel like it’s one of the most evolving, schizophrenic industries in the world, if not the most. And so the best way to educate yourself is just to be constantly open to those changes and be adaptable and try your best to keep up. As soon as you think you’ve been educated on it there’ll be something else that pops up.

I guess COVID-19, hey? Not to be that person. 

7. How have you integrated modern technology into your content process?

I mean, it doesn’t inform me too much in terms of songwriting because I write all my songs on acoustic instruments. I’ve never really gotten on board with the bedroom producer thing (yet!). So the main way modern technology has informed my content process is that it opens up lines of communication and awareness of other people. I write the best music when I’m emotionally receptive, and that is highly dependent on others.

Enjoy this? There’s plenty more great reads over at our Savvy Seven archive collection. 

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