February 9th 2011
Nick La Rosa
Singing a Backstreet Boys song with her school choir on Hong Kong radio was Alex Ward’s first radio experience.
You wouldn’t guess it from her debut EP as Moon Holiday, with its ghostly beats and time-lapse vocals – moody and cinematic enough to even enlist her classical-listening grandmother as a fan.
Here are other things that you may not know about this Sydney musician.
Your name, Moon Holiday, is inspired by your childhood memories of Hong Kong. How did you end up living there and what were your most memorable/unusual experiences of being in Hong Kong?
I ended up living there because my dad went to work at an airline when I was a baby. My parents decided they liked it, and we grew up loving it, so we stayed for 15 years. I guess the most memorable stuff would be getting to sort of ’sit in’ on everybody’s festivals – I went to an international school with lots of different nationalities and we totally took advantage of each other’s cultural highlights.
Your EP is also influenced by your time in Hong Kong. Can you talk about the particular Chinese details (dragon dances? lantern parades?) that inspire your music?
I guess it’s more the feel of living in that kind of a city, more than particularly traditional things. It’s somewhere I miss and think about a lot, so it comes into my music. The most dreamy and visual memories are the things like Mid-Autumn (or Moon) Festival, and that’s where I got my name from. When you’re a kid and you’re marching along a path at night with this crazy lantern, you’re just like “OK this is normal”, then you think about it years later in a different way and it inspires you for some reason.
For a record that draws from Hong Kong, it doesn’t have an obvious or stereotypical Chinese sound. (Like those awful movies where a gong is sounded whenever a character lands in China!) Was that something you were wary of?
Definitely (although I see a time-saving idea there with the gong!) There’s really only a hint of a ‘Chinese’ sound with some scales and intervals in the music, nothing overt. Also, the songs from the EP aren’t only about Hong Kong, so I wanted to leave it more open to interpretation.
Sometimes the most interesting sounds on a record comes from unconventional sources (I think Otouto used the sound of their amp blowing up in one song and Megastick Fanfare use a sneeze solo and hammerless piano on their latest record.) Are there any unusual sounds that you ended up using on your EP?
Well, unlike those guys I wasn’t sneezing or blowing up amps in the studio; I’m a serious professional! Just kidding, of course. I would definitely like to do more of this sort of thing. In the past I’ve made songs with field recordings, but this time around it was mostly synth sounds run through some amazing gear borrowed from a friend. I love the idea of ‘capturing’ real sounds and then incorporating them in my music though. It’s a goal for sure; sometimes you hear a sound so unique you have to have it.
Can you tell us how you went from living in Hong Kong to being based in Sydney?
My whole family moved back here, so I was part of the package. It was a weird transition, but now it’s good. At least I live nearer the city now so I can stock up on Asian groceries whenever I want! A hard part of it was that when I moved back here, I didn’t know many people playing music. I was into guitar at the time and wanted to be in a punk band, but no one else played instruments near me.
When did Moo