MUSIC INTERVIEW: Maud the Moth
Amaya López-Carromero (aka Maud the moth)’s third album – Orphne – earned her a 10/10 review on Bring The Noise UK a few weeks ago (you can check it out HERE). Having let the dust settle over the release somewhat, we caught up with the neo-classical musician…
Hi Amaya! We hope you’re enjoying the gloomy weather today… First off, why Maud the Moth?
Hi! Well, I never wanted to perform under my real name. My name felt like something public, and I wanted a stage name instead – something that was about the music rather than my own identity. I started making music when I was fourteen. I had rock bands and stuff like that, but I would also have songs which I would write on my own and record and do dubs on tapes in my bedroom.I would also paint my own album covers and everything. The whole thing was called Moth and it was a teenage goth dream! Then when I grew a little older and started to take things a bit more seriously, I imagined this character that was Maud the Moth. There was this component of futility in the insect imagery, and it sounded phonetically interesting as well. The name Maud was taken from a Norwegian queen who used to go on expeditions in the Arctic – it just seemed to fit!
There’s a lot of really interesting themes in your album – including about the underworld not exclusively being the realm of the dead. This is pretty heavy stuff; how do you balance your light and dark?
Personality-wise I am actually quite bubbly, I just seem wired that way! I’m extroverted and cheerful, not by choice but that’s just how I am. But that does mean I often keep stuff bottled up. I have struggled with mental health for most of my life, and have started going to therapy in the last five years. Music is where I can be myself – there are no responsibilities or expectations and it allows me to go to those darker places and release those feelings in this weird, magical realism kind of space. Darker music always gives you that outlet.
This album is beautifully designed, packaging-wise as well. You have been inspired by late-romanticism, art-deco, surrealism and lots of other classical art and aesthetic influences. How important were these visual aspects to you in creating this album (and e.g. the artwork, music videos, etc.)?
It’s always been something I’ve got involved with. For my first album (very far removed from what I do now in every way), I designed the cover myself – it was like a homage to those old tapes! I’ve always enjoyed drawing and all forms of art, really, but as I’ve got older I’ve specialised more in music (and I have a science “day job”!) and I just have less time! So I like to work with artists who understand my visions and who I identify with artistically. Anna, who I’ve worked with before, designed the inside of the LP. When I explain things to her she just gets it. In general, when writing my music I do have very strong visual components in my head. I see it in an almost cinematic way. And there’s always some sort of overarching concept – in this case, it was the expiration of the self and becoming your own cosmos. The album was conceived to be like an old, art deco jewellery box which you could open and find a cosmos inside.
In terms of music videos, I used a 1912 film called Cleopatra which I took from a public domain site! I made it myself on my laptop (due to budget constraints…) The film tapped into the vibe of As above, so below and was just exactly what I was after. I thought it fitted the music perfectly!
Orphne is a brilliant collection of songs, but it also comes together so well with the overarching concept and the themes it explores as a whole. How do you go about constructing an album like that?
I always like to have a strong concept for things to gravitate around but I try to keep it loose. I like variation a lot, like using different instrumentation on different tracks. I also always try to have something in each song which directly taps into the concept. The whole album this time has a cosmos vibe, so each song has a different character or different paths travelled which can be found in that world. I also think this album is aesthetically pretty consistent, which I owe to lots of other people. Jaime Gomez [producer] is very experienced and knows exactly how to make all the songs work together. I owe him a lot. Alicia Garcia [also a Spanish singer-songwriter], who did my string arrangements, just plays with so much personality that it helped to tie the tracks together as well.
You were born in Madrid, so how is it to write lyrics in your second language? Also, where does the spoken word segment in The abattoir come from?
Well, I started learning English when I was two and a half, so I guess English is technically my second language but not really! I’ve been living in the UK for seven or eight years now as well.
The spoken word segment in The abattoir is taken from a poem by Irina, who is one of the oldest known female poets – she was writing around the same time as Sappho. I find that drawing on my experiences of the world as a woman is my driving force creatively. My biological gender has had a strong effect on how society has treated me and how I’ve moved in the world, and I can’t disconnect from it. It’s led to a lot of issues and trauma, which is what I then explore in my music. I’m also very interested in general in feminist readings and people who do research in that field – especially how women lived in antiquity. The female experience in ancient civilisations was a strong influence on Orphne. The poem used in The abattoir is called The Distaff. The segment I used just really struck me and tapped into the feelings I had for that song. It deals with a sexual assault, but in a way which goes past the physical violence and into the deeper annihilation of yourself in the wake of it. It also talks about Mormo, who is another character in the album (you might know them as another mythological creature, Lamia) which is basically a representation of a fallen woman.
The most striking difference between this album and your previous, The Inner Wastelands, was a massive difference in production. How was it to work with Jaime Gomez (who has previously worked with a lot of black metal artists)? And how is it to perform tracks on your own (for example, at Chaos Theory – linked below) versus playing with all the other musicians you have on the album?
The Inner Wastelands was a much more intimate project, but for Orphne I really wanted to go more over the top with it. I wanted rich, decadent flavours and textures. And that’s a pretty hard thing to pull off, technically! Jaime Gomez was absolutely the right choice and he nailed the sound, I’m really happy with it. It was super easy to work with him, and I was also there during the mixing and mastering so I could contribute and give feedback.
In terms of performance, I have been playing some of these songs before I recorded them, with a different line-up. I’ve always wanted to have a band but logistically it’s hard! From the beginning, I’ve always been playing on my own and using loops. I wanted to do this album the way I imagined it in my head and record those songs with all those instruments, but to me, songs are more of an abstract concept. Structurally they will be the same whether with a whole band or on my own. There is a different experience listening to these songs live or listening to the record, and I like that.
So, with any luck (everyone keep your fingers crossed) you’re supporting Jarboe in December? [Yes, that Jarboe, who made a name for herself in one of the most uncompromising and infamous bands to ever record, Swans.]
Yes, THE Jarboe. Her tour manager is the only one who hasn’t cancelled an international tour in 2020. We’re not out of the woods yet but everyone working on these gigs is trying so hard to pull it off! I’m hoping it will still happen! We also have shows in Edinburgh and Bristol in December, so everyone pray!
We definitely will be keeping everything crossed that this tour manages to go ahead… Perhaps 2020 can still be saved if we can see Maud the moth and Jarboe play in a church in the winter…? Thank you so much for your time, Amaya!
Maud the moth‘s latest album Orphne is out now, available to purchase HERE.