CousteauX are back with a bang or should I say an X, and after more than 10 years apart, it's like they never left. We had a chat with band member Davey Ray Moor about CousteauX new self-titled album, life away from the band and Davey's future plans for CousteauX .
It's great chatting with you today Davey! What have you been up to lately?
We were at some daft posh place called Soho farmhouse which is part of this Soho house franchise if you like up in Oxfordshire in the heart of the posh cox world. I don't want to be too rude about it but they weren't our kind of people and nor did they totally get what we did so it was a complete waste of time, and they wouldn't let us talk on the phone in the bar where we were playing.
That does sound crap, but let's get on to the happier times, where did your journey with music begin?
Well, my first memory of music was, well I grew up in the middle east and my parents used to listen to the BCC and then, funnily enough, forces radio although they weren't with the forces but it was kind of like an eclectic mix.
The first music I heard syncing that was really beautiful was Bac Rack songs and I kind of fell in love with that, so that was my kind of earliest memory. And glam rock, David Bowie, Elton John, all the hits were getting kinda slain at the same time when I was a young lad. It was very exciting and out their music, then my taste got a bit more refined as I got down the years. But yeah that was kinda my earliest memory I think. It was my first memory of thinking wow that’s a really beautiful song and I think it was 'Close To You', actually was my favourite song.
Did you like the fashion back then, did you used to dress up the same?
I would've liked to but I was in suburban Australia back then, probably would have got beaten up, and I was too young for it. I would’ve liked to have dressed up like an alien and worn big red boots, but I certainly had to wait for a while, and by the time I did grow up it was long gone.
Its revived now I guess, like if you go, Camden, you’ll see that eccentric kinda fashion.
Yeah, that's true, amidst the 80’s revival I think people, can appreciate David Bowie and Mark Boland. I guess nearer when things were flamboyant, and stars were larger than life, which is a bit different these days. I mean some stars are larger than life, not to do with the scale of character too much. But then again I was only a young boy, so everyone seemed amazing and larger than life back then, but I liked the kind of glitz, I like the kind of glamour, and I guess I like that sort of music as well, that was kinda dramatic, and on a bigger larger scale.
So you grew up in Australia what was that like?
It was a sort of robust way to grow up, lots of outdoor stuff, and beaches. But I couldn’t wait to get out of there and come to England, which I eventually did. I was always a big fan of English music, English literature, and English movies. I just thought I would eventually end up here, and I just got lucky, got a job early, and well they allowed me to stay and I love it here. I’ve been here many many years, a couple of decades now, it’s just a fine and beautiful country, I love it, it's so diverse and strange and quirky.
So many different parts of it, you never know who you’re gonna meet, and there’s so many little nooks and strange little associations, communities, and clubs. You never know who you’re gonna meet in England, do you, that’s what’s the great thing; you don’t get that in Australia, even though you know each other’s business. It’s like a small town in a huge continent, a small town spread across a huge continent. That’s what Australia’s like I think.
Do you miss the Australian sunshine?
No, I hate it. All that heat can get oppressive. Claudia, I think English people, are so starved of sunshine, that they develop I think a perverse view of what it would be like to live under relentless sunshine. That you kinda find yourself hiding from it a lot. It is part of why I became a musician, was just so I didn’t have to go out during the day, so I could sleep and avoid the sun. But I kinda like the cold, I like it here, I like the fact you can wrap up and it’s all so dramatic. People back in Australia just wear sports clothes, so it’s not for me, that’s why I’m here. Happy immigrant!
So, moving onto a lighter subject what was your worst job?
I’ve had so many. Ok, worst job that I ever had was working at a sprout factory.
Oh really wow?
I meant to do it on the TV show in Australia when I was looking it up, when I was younger I had a little band, I became famous for working in a sprout factory, cos people thought it was so funny. Quite the worst job I’ve ever done.
So what did you do in the sprout factory?
Washed alfalfa sprouts… But I moved on now. Healthy food but it wasn’t a great job.
So you've said that CousteauX were extremely successful in the year 2000?
That’s right, yeah.
What do you look back on now and think is your proudest moment?
I think the proudest moments, where the big shows in Milan and Rome I guess. Something changes when suddenly people love your music, I dunno whether you’ve ever played in bands Claudia, are you a musician do you play in bands.
I’d be rubbish at playing, but I'do love listening to music.
Ok right well, I mean you’ve probably gone to see friend’s bands and stuff. The early stages of any band, you play to empty halls, with different people, with their backs turned to you talking. And when suddenly we had big auditoriums a couple of thousand seaters, packed full of people who cheered when we came on, that was a welcomed relief, after all those years of feeling despondent.
But I think it was big shows in Milan, we did a really good slot at Glastonbury in the year 2000, that afternoon I felt everything changed for us. I think anyone who plays Glastonbury says it’s the best thing because there’s something different about playing there, not just cos it’s Glastonbury but because there’s an atmosphere and magic about it, so that was probably the best. We played the Troubadour, we sold out the Troubadour in LA twice, and that was such a famous place and did two nights in a row and both sold out, that was kinda my proudest achievement, yeah so I’ll go for that one.
When they sent me up to LA, the Troubadour in LA, was a big deal, and it was packed out, and lot’s of famous people were there, and we felt... we felt excited, even with the sad slow music, all these people loved it. And that was a cool thing.
LA must have been great!
Everybody loves LA so that’s cool, that was the coolest thing. To see people queuing down the street that was that’s a pretty cool thing.
So what life motto do you live by to stay so focused?
Well, I think that with music, cos music’s so central to my life, that’s really my thing. I don’t wanna say something cheesy, but I think I’m just determined to make music that I want to hear. And that happened with CousteauX, me and Liam are clear about this, because we spent years trying to get bands off the ground, and trying to get signed, and getting signed and dropped into crap management, labels and all that sort of stuff.
But the minute we actually thought, hold up let’s just make the music we really wanna hear, and just for us. Then ironically, more paradoxically, it started to come good for us. And I think that’s a sort of motto that I work with for us, that is just to make something that I truly truly love, and then the love for that will hopefully radiate out, and affect other people.
I think just like anything, the clothes you’re wearing, the things you do, we spend a lot of our lives seconding other people’s agendas. I think everyone loves a man with a plan, a person with a plan. If it’s just doing something that you really believe in, then that’s the day you start making good art, when it’s the thing you wanna hear, or the thing you wanna see or experience.
We totally agree with you on that and during your break from the band, what did you get up to?
I raised a daughter, that’s pretty good. Raised a really nice girl. Because we kinda collided like some musicians do with a band taking off and starting to have children, they are sadly often mutually very difficult to be a good dad and a busy touring musician.
I know there are lots of people that make that work for them, and I really admire them. So, I went off and did that, and Liam did the same as well, which is why our kids are the same age now. Cos we did it at the same time more or less. Now that they’re their own people now, we can go off and join the circus again. We did our big sensible bit, now we can go back to playing our music, and I guess reconnect with our little dream of making this peculiar music.
What’s your daughter’s name?
It’s Lilly. Lilly RayMojo is her name.
And how old is she?
Oh, how lovely.
So that’s job done I think. And she’s a lovely little girl. And in all honesty, we’ve found ourselves with an opportunity to do music again, as older guys, because we reckon we’ve got a pretty good story now. And I think the music that we did was always pre-aged, sounds like it was never fashionable, and that’s the advantage of never being fashionable, is that you were never out of fashion, and so we can just do this slightly the melancholic, cinematic, romantic music that we do in a dignified way, and try and be kinda cool. Because most old aged people mellow out or end up making nash versions, but I think our music has got a bit more darker and a bit more dirty as we’ve got older.
So what brought you guys back together?
Well, it’s as simple as this, what brought us back together, is that all those years we were apart, as much as we fought it and try to replace it, we came to the realization, that sometimes you just find the perfect fit for your music in a partner. And he and I just have that hand in glove complementary rebalancing. We’re like a good singer-songwriter distributed across two bodies. He’s a fine singer and a frontman with a story, wild-life, and background. And I’m a songwriter, that can do a bunch of things.It’s blend of that synergy I think, it’s bigger than some of the parts.
When he sings my songs something else happens. It’s like hydrogen and oxygen make water, that’s a lovely and different thing and I think some people get it like that; Lennon McCartney, Morrissey, Johnny Mars and countless others. It’s kinda never as good without that combination for most people. Being as good as when they were together, something else happens. And we’ve got to realize that, we kind of begrudgingly over the years realize we had something wonderful and sort of lost it.
And to be honest with you Claudia, we had a messy divorce, we had that sort of ‘right the last time I ever want to see him’ sort of thing. Because we toured around and did four hundred gigs, in five years. It’s like going camping for five years with somebody. You get sick of it! And then we realized in the fullness of time, actually, we had something really special. As you get older you value the good stuff, and so we’re delighted to be working again. All enmity dissolved away instantly when we started talking to each other again.
Cos you’re old friends as well right?
Exactly, it’s kinda like we’re veterans from a long campaign, and we have good memories from such a rich range of incredible things. From the early days, it’s been like were underdogs trying to get the band going, and to where it worked well, and that’s a mutuality in your own story, it’s pretty irreplaceable. It’s sweet we love the fact we are making music again. And loving the fact that people are liking it, and giving us good reviews. That thing that we thought was great, other people like. So that’s a cool thing.
So your album came out in September?
Yeah, I think it did, a couple of weeks ago now.
What’s new about it. Is there anything exciting fans can expect?
Well, we used to be very romantic but now when we got back together, listening to a lot Liam’s solo work; he’d been doing a lot darker and edgier stuff, he did more like Mick Cave or Kelexico. He likes his Noirish music. And I kinda clocked that and thought well actually we could chill to a much more edgy direction with this CousteauX thing.
Again, fighting against the usual trend, coming back with something that sounds like a middle of the road thing he used to do. That was something we were lucky to be able to avoid. Because I think, the one good thing I did was listen to all the music he was doing, and in doing that I was gifted with the insight that we could make CousteauX a bit darker, and a bit more edgy I suppose.
The other good thing we can do Claudia is that, because we’re a two-piece, we don’t have to have a live band on every song. Which is a blessing of course when you have it, and also a bit of a curse, because every song tends to sound the same. Whereas now each tune, we can wrap it with the right texture, and just do some interesting things, there’s some soul sounding things on the record, there are some James Bond sounding things on the record, and some ballads and acoustic songs.
We work with a range of musicians because we know, there’s so many great sounding players out there, so we can pick and choose people from each team. So it’s a much more varied and eclectic sounding record.
Now you have an X on your band name, why the X?
Yes, why the X well there’s a story there. When we were beginning to wear out on our first incarnation, our name was Cousteau, and then we were named after a venerable French Oceanographer, and one of the world’s great first environmentalist, and a wonderful man whose TV shows were on all the time when we were boys. Probably a little bit before your time. It was called The Underwater world of Jacque Cousteau, and it was a lot of ocean footage, like the David Attenborough of the deep.
So we sent all our music over to the Cousteau society and said listen to what we’re doing, we’d love to get your opinion. But we never heard from then, until five years later, when they got really heavy with us, with these lawyers, and told us to cease and disassist, and shut us down basically. And we could have probably ignored them, but we were feeling tired and over it, and we just dropped it and thought well that’s the final straw. And then we reconnected when got back together, we thought wouldn’t it be great if we could use our own name; oh yeah but the Cousteau society they’ll sue us, and we said “Oh gawd”.
And then I noticed that there was another family name with an X on the end, like Smith and Smithe I suppose there’s another way to spell it over there. So if we stuck on the X, and especially a big X on the end of it, we could become another French family name, not be the same trademark, and connect to our old fan base. We like to see it as a scar like it also honours the fact that our guitarist, drummer bass player aren’t with us anymore, so it’s a kiss and scar and a legacy of a brand that once was, but now updated. OSX and it seems to be a very 21st-century thing, a zeitgeisty kinda gesture.
So, while you were together did you think you had a kinda rock n roll sort of lifestyle?
Well, we did.
Did you go a bit wild?
Yes. We did have a rock n roll lifestyle. I won’t go into any details.
Ha, why not?
For a kind of soft lounge band, particularly our front singer, and our crew, are no strangers to fun. And we managed to find it all across the planet, and we still do. Well, I don’t know exactly what you’re talking about, but we don’t go to bed with a warm cup of cocoa, at 9:00 pm, listen to radio 4. Maybe one day but now is not the time.
So, as you get older, do you think you’re wiser now?
I would never assume myself to be all the wiser. I think we’re better at knowing what we do well, and enjoying that. I think we know who we are much better than when we started because we’re slightly finding it. Now we’re clear about it.
So if you had to collaborate with any other artist who do you think it would be?
Well, I guess it would be someone who can bring something out of us that we can do ourselves. I’d like to work with Danger Mouse cos he’s done some cool things lately, with Norah Jones, and Jack White, I think he would draw something out of us cos he sounds kind of cinematic, but he is kinda very beatsy and quite contemporary at hip-hop influences.
That would be a cool thing to do. Just thinking it the other day. Cos you know I could do most of his production but I’m not arrogant enough as he is to do that well and not as well as him.
So I’d like to get someone like that involved. I’d love to work with somebody very orchestral in an open and empty kind of fashion, without just slathering strings over things, that’s the spacious, strange landscape world I’d would choose. But for the time being, I’m just happy to write for Liam, cos I just think he’s one of the worlds greatest singers, and it’s an honour to be working with him.
I guess you guys have a very close connection with music?
Yeah, we do, yeah we do. And it’s the best thing we do. We just love recording it and listening back to it really loud, it’s total high. That’s the best part of our lives. Once we get that spine-tingling feeling, then we know it’s gonna be good. We know our crazy fans are gonna like it.
What kind of message do you think you get across with your music?
It’s mainly about ways to think and talk about love that are unusual. It’s an innate and soft masculinity that CrousteuX get across. It’s very emotional music, but it’s also slightly hopeful, so it’s not bleak, it doesn’t make you sad, although it’s sad sounding music. But I think it has an uplifting quality to it. I think that’s what people find unique about it.
So what’s next?
We’ve got to put together a plan for touring next year, hopefully going to South, by SouthWest, that would be a good thing. We haven’t heard about that yet. But, we’re still on the web, we’re just kinda re-establishing ourselves, and the music that’s gone out to the world hopefully into people’s lives. I think we’ve done our part now, as much as we can.
And I think we’re going up to Spain, Portugal and Italy. So we’ll go out and do that. And I think then we’ll take a little break and come back in the spring of next year, cos Liam has to go back to Australia for a little while. But the idea is that we’re just gonna build it slowly, and let the gist of the music settle in people’s lives for a little while. I think that’s the thing now. And then go out there and play it live.
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