Eighteen months ago Moulettes unleashed a curious beast of an album on the world.
It was inspired by an article lead singer and songwriter Hannah Miller read in New Scientist that described how the discovery of a microscopic creature had redefined the perimeters of life as we know it.
The result, Preternatural, is an eclectic 11-track opus for the natural world, and the strange and beautiful creatures in it.
Since forming in 2002 the Brighton-based band has been an ever-evolving entity. This album was recorded as a five-piece, but shortly after its release co-founder Ruth Skipper left to pursue a career in medicine.
The band is now wrapping up the Preternatural cycle with one final tour.
‘It’s been quite a long and varied tour, lots of mileage, we had some great times in Canada,’ says Hannah.
‘After this, it’s definitely going to be the start of a new chapter, we’ve always tried to enforce that impression on people, that we try to inhabit that album completely for that time - like a holistic experience in that chapter. And then we open the book to another blank page, and allow a very different inspiration to come in.’
Whereas some acts might shy away from describing their work as conceptual, it’s something Hannah positively embraces.
‘”Concept” is definitely the right word for it. In a way every album has some sort of concept, I guess some people don’t want to align themselves with the more far out ‘70s prog conceptual thing, but personally I’m a fan.
‘I actually spent some time looking into female artists who’ve done concept albums - like Bjork, or Janelle Monae, and if you want to go a bit further back you’ve got storytellers like Bobbie Gentry - listen to Fancy, that’s a real ride. I don’t think people need to be scared of the word conceptual, I like to think that we’re able to reinvent the word for a new era.’
We don’t want to sit still. We want to reach into the rich resource of possibility that’s out thereHannah Miller
So has she started thinking about the next album yet?
‘I haven’t really let myself think about it, because it has been so flat-out. It’s kind of more frustrating to start and not be able to to see it through. There’s been some creative time, but I’d rather wait until there’s a dedicated time.’
And this will be the first time, they’ve recorded in this line-up.
‘We’ve done most of the gigs for this album as a four-piece, since Ruth left 18 months ago. It has been different, but it’s kind of evolved. It’s not always easy if someone’s not always there, so we’ve been able to get locked in, and know what to expect which gives you a bit of freedom. There’s quite a few alumni now - people have come and gone, and that’s what it is, it keeps on evolving.
‘At the moment I’m keeping a very open mind about what the next chapter might be - that’s part of the freedom I want to have to explore new ideas.’
The band was initially categorised as folk, but their sound now embraces a much broader palette.
‘The other day I listened to all our records, which I hadn’t done for years. It’s a bit of a strange, difficult thing to do, I find, but I went back, and I wouldn’t say the first record was folky at all - the second, maybe - but there’s not much point debating it, as it means something different to everybody - whether you’re talking about trad or whatever. The third one, Constellations, has got a lot of progressive edge to it as well - it’s quite a strange record actually. It allowed me to reflect on all of these people who’ve come in and out, and all of the sparks they’ve brought to it, it was quite a therapeutic experience, really.’
But for Hannah, it’s all part of the ride the band is on.
‘It’s all very identifiably Moulettes-y because I think it’s quite unique and not particularly classifiable, and we’ll always continue to try and evolve and push ourselves. We don’t want to sit still. We want to reach into the rich resource of possibility that’s out there. It’s a feast for the imagination - why limit yourself?’
The Brook, Southampton
Wednesday, December 6