The multi-talented Jo Moore, favourite British son of Elefant Records, has just released a rather excellent new LP called “Disconnect” under the moniker The Perfect Kiss. It’s a tuneful electro-pop delight, recorded with only a 1985 Yamaha PortaSound PSS-450 keyboard,that his friend Jeanie Pugh’s father gave him. His companion on this new adventure is Holly Vanags, a wonderful singer from Oxfordshire. We were delighted to catch up with Joe to discuss the new LP as well as other projects The Yearning and Lia Pamina, cheesecake and much else besides!
How did The Perfect Kiss come about?
I had these songs I’d written as a break from other stuff which were lyrically quite different and I had the idea of doing a lo-fi electronic project. I wanted to do lyrics that were a bit like a social commentary on modern life. Holly Vanags (singer) has worked with me before and I thought her voice would be great for this. She and I did it as a bit of fun, and did not take it very seriously!
How much of a challenge was it to restrict yourself to using the Yamaha PortaSound PSS-450?
The more parameters, the easier it is. The fewer options, the quicker you become. It was very spontaneous and great fun. I just looked at what the keyboard could achieve and arranged it with the sounds available. It meant the whole album sounds cohesive because I was limited by the timbre.
Did that direct you to certain bands from that period in terms of trying to emulate a feel or a sound?
I love lo-fi keyboard bands – Magnetic fields, Radio Dept, Ladytron and Au Revoir Simone – so when I was given this keyboard, I thought I’d give it a try! I grew up in the 80s loving New Order, Pet Shop Boys, Human League so I’m sure I’ve been influenced by that stuff.
Does the name The Perfect Kiss refer to the New Order song of the same name?
Yes – it came out in 1985, same year as the keyboard. Love the name, and somehow it sounded right for the music. And I love that song by New Order.
Had you worked with Holly before?
Yes – she has done backing vocals for The Yearning.
Are the songs reflective of how you are feeling about the world at the moment (or aspects of it)?
Absolutely. Some of it is ‘in role’, as if Holly is a character, a bit like when I write for Maddie in The Yearning. I frequently want to ‘disconnect’ and I think a lot of people can relate to this. ‘Everything’s Awkward’ is just a flip on ‘Everything Is Awesome’ and is quite a cynical look at love, which I never do with The Yearning. ‘Just Like The Moon’ is about people who can appear fake – I feel a lot of the world can seem like this sometimes. ‘Clubbing At Thirty’ is just a funny song about a girl growing up and not knowing which direction they are going in – many young people can relate to this I think. I always used to think if you were clubbing in your 30s then it was sad! ‘Broadcast’ and ‘I Don’t’ are very much anti-media songs, and the one-way sharing of news which becomes relentless now with the internet etc. So it’s quite a negative album, but often tongue-in-cheek at the same time.
You’ve been busy of late with the recent Lia Pamina LP (not to mention The Yearning compilation). Do you find it difficult to balance everything? Is there anything else we should know about?
Yes, I’ve been busy for a while, but it’s my own decision to make lots of music, so the only pressure I have is from myself. I wish I had more time, but making music is something I always try to find time for. I love listening to music, and hearing music I don’t like makes me write more! I’m working on new songs for The Yearning, Lia has more material of mine out this summer, I’m making an album of French synthpop, doing a surf-noise-pop EP (all for Elefant) and have just finished an 80s synthwave project. And there are plenty of other projects I haven’t mentioned or remembered that I’m going to be working on! I love the variety.
What was the first piece of music that really affected you, and why?
Crumbs, something pop. I grew up listening to Simon & Garfunkel harmonies. ABBA’s melodies. Or Pet Shop Boys melodies. Melodies are what make me go crazy. Anything by Brian Wilson usually makes me cry. I always liked Stock Aitken Waterman’s songcraft. And Max Martin. He’s a genius.
How did you end up signed to Elefant? They do call you “Their Brit” .
I’d made a CD called ‘The Yearning’ and thought it sounded OK. I’d never sent any of my music off to anyone before, but I liked bands on Elefant so I thought I’d send them a copy. I didn’t send it to anyone else and completely forgot about it. Then, on the day my son was born, Luis from Elefant offered me a deal. It was literally the best day of my life! They are the best label – as long as they like what you are doing, they will support you – it’s not all about money. They have been amazing in helping me and supporting me. I cannot thank them enough. I feel proud to be represented by them.
How do you feel about BREXIT?
How difficult/easy do you find it to write songs? Do you have a method?
I find it easier now after 22 years. Yes, I have methods. I’m better (I think) at knowing when to pursue an idea and when to ditch it now! I usually start with an idea for the style of song I want to write, then a hook/key line, then structure it from there. I always sit at a piano and I’m obsessed with chords and melodies – I spend hours trying out different melodies and chord progressions. I think songwriting is very scientific – you need to know what structures are available, but also experiment. I’m better with words than I used to be, but for me when I listen to words, it’s more important first how they sound than what they mean. Songwriting is about the complete article, so production and arrangement is part of the process – it is just as important.
Have you ever played in Dublin/Ireland?
No – I’m not very good at playing live any more. I prefer to create. But if we played live, I would love to play in Dublin!
What’s your favourite song you’ve written to date?
I don’t know. They are all different. I love ‘When I Lost You’ by The Yearning. I like ‘Disconnect’ a lot too. ‘Love’ by Lia Pamina is probably up there too. I’m always trying to write better songs, so I don’t dwell too long on stuff that’s finished.
What song by another artist do you wish you had written and why?
The Day Before You Came – ABBA. Genius melody, lyric writing, chord sequences, storytelling. The lot. Be My Baby, God Only Knows, Being Boring…
Who have been your biggest influences?
Depends on the project. Pop in all forms – 60s pop, 80s pop, indie pop. I could list hundreds of artists. The more. I listen, the more I learn. Brian Wilson, Francoise Hardy, Tennant & Lowe, Max Martin and Bjorn & Benny have taught me a lot. Psychocandy is one of my favourite albums ever.
What’s your idea of success?
Having people enjoy your music.
If you weren’t a musician what would you love to do?
I’m a primary school teacher and a dad. And I run a community choir. I like doing lots of things.
What question would you like to be asked that you never are? And what would be your answer?
What is your favourite food? Cheesecake.
Finally, we ask everyone to do a sketch/drawing for us
Joe persuaded a friend to do a “perfect kiss” sketch for us, check back next week when it will be installed in The Galleria De Switeria!