An interview with Heymoonshaker at Shambala Festival 2012
By Louise Ungless
A beatboxer and a blues guitarist – you might wonder how this duo came about. Heymoonshaker consists of Dave Crowe (beatboxer) and Andy Balcon (blues guitarist), who met in New Zealand on a crazy golf course in 2009. Through street performances and gigs they performed a truly unique sound. Three years later, they’re now smashing the UK festival circuit with their beatbox-blues via Chai Wallahs; an independent music venue showcasing the UK’s alternative and underground music scene.
So what does Heymoonshaker’s sound consist of? “Post contemporary blues” says Balcon, whilst Crowe defines it as a mixture of “dubstep, hip-hop and blues” (with Balcon quickly adding “grunge” onto that). “To be honest I have no fucking idea what our sound is” Crowe confesses, leaving the duo to define it as a “complete mashup”.
This mashup certainly gets the crowd going though. Their performance at the Chai Wallahs tent had members of the audience interacting with one another throughout the whole set. “Everything today was brand spanking new” explains Crowe, with Balcon using a new pedal. When Heymoonshaker perform, they jam. “There is some structure, but I know what Andy’s gonna play as he’s playing it. I can feel it coming. I can feel his groove and his vibe” says Crowe. Today however, the beatboxer broke the bluesman’s guitar. “Now that shit is definitely off the cuff”.
The guys got involved with Chai Wallahs when they were working with an organisation called Nabokov in London, who do theatrical event programming. “A good friend of ours was playing with his band and we met a few people who were playing, like Yes Sir Boss. We heard about Chai Wallahs through those guys. It escalated into getting a show at the Yes Sir Boss Desperation State EP launch, in a place called Fiddlers in Bristol” says Crowe.
“We listen to all the best music at the Chai Wallahs tent” says Balcon. “We’re there for like eight hours and they say ‘Don’t you wanna leave?’ and we’re like ‘no, not really’. We’ve got these wicked chairs where we watch bands from the side… You meet people at Chai Walllahs and they make you feel like you never listen to music. One conversation and they’ve just named nine artists you’ve never heard of before.” Dizraeli and The Small Gods and Joe Driscoll & Sekou Kouyate are definitely a highlight for these guys.
It was Diplomats of Sound that the door opened for Heymoonshaker. “For fucking six years in my career I’ve been walking into doors that won’t open in England, so I left just to see if it was any different, and it was” says Crowe. “Trying to get into the door in England is such a knock in the face because it’s home. You want to represent but you can’t. With the economic crisis, promoters are either ‘play in my bar for free’ or ‘if you’re known then we’ll pay you’, but anything in between, which we are, then you’ve got nothing.”
Crowe had been beatboxing for six years. “Four years ago I decided that I was gonna try as hard as I could to make a living out of beatboxing. So I went to New Zealand on a small amp, busked, couldn’t make enough money, so I sold charity in the evening. I started busking in the day and made enough money to get me and my ex-missus from New Zealand to Australia. We got to Australia and within seven days I was busking again. I never made more than fifteen dollars a day, and I’m fucking beatboxing my ass off, with six hour days. Then one day this guy, who watched a whole show, walks up to me and says ‘Your amplification is shit’. I was in a really bad mood – I’m poor, I can’t pay for anything, and this guy is telling me I need a better amp.”
Crowe went to grab a coffee and drowned in his own sorrows. The next day it turned out that this man built amplifiers. “This guy comes up to me with a plastic petrol can. Within that petrol can there were car speakers, 6x9’s. He puts it next to me, stops me in the middle of a set and plugs me into his amp. Instantly, it was like five decibels louder. I got a crowd in like five minutes, and in ten minutes made what I’d make in four days.” Crowe spent that money on celebrating for two days. He then asked the guy if he could build him an amp. “I offered to pay for all the parts but I couldn’t pay him to build it. But he just did it. After that, I was making like 250-450 Australian dollars a day. His name’s Anthony. He gave me my career.”
Without a doubt, production makes a huge difference in what Crowe is doing. When asked how he would rate the Diplomats of Sound production, he responds with “excessively clean. It’s a really clean sound and probably the cleanest I’ve ever heard”. Balcon also points out that it means “a constant high performance.”
The banter between the guys is certainly endearing. “Me and Andy are like muppets” jokes Crowe. “You keep saying that but we’re doing alright ay!” says Balcon. Their move into a new house in France in the next eight weeks certainly shows that they are doing alright.
You might also say that Balcon was a light at the end of a dark tunnel for Crowe whilst in New Zealand, who during that time, got screwed over by love and just needed a taste of home. “I couldn’t get baked beans or anything” Crowe says. “Balcon gave some good words of wisdom and invited me to his big yellow bus for a drink.” It wasn’t long before Balcon was playing his guitar, with Crowe dropping a beat. “His face, honestly, he raised his head and his eyes were like googly. Nobody had ever looked at me like that” says Crowe.
“When we both broke up with our girlfriends around the same time, everything then went into Heymoonshaker. We want people to feel a part of what we’re giving, the life we wanna lead, what we wanna change in music and what we stand for” says Crowe. “Basically we’re gonna change the world” adds Balcon. Heymoonshaker have a passion to raise awareness of travelling creatives and alternative lifestyles, through music, photography and street art. You only have to watch a video on YouTube and see how much social interaction on the street they stir.
With a few beatboxers lined up at Shambala, we asked the guys if there was any room for collaborations. “Without a doubt, man” says Crowe. “I heard that Reeps One is here this weekend. He’s like my favourite beatboxer; for technicality, ability to perform and new beats. Without a doubt, he is the person who inspires me the most. He uses visual affects, a really nice artist and really nice vibes all the time. He pre-writes these beautiful, minimal dub step beats. They’re long, clean and just beautiful, and his ability to keep the fucking sound and pressure all the way. It doesn’t drop – it’s just magical control.” Crowe’s style is different. “Way more rough around the edges and heavy going”.
Woodnote is also at Shambala in the Wandering Word tent. “He busks as well, in a really beautiful way and has a good system going. He’s like a fucking business man on the street” says Crowe. On Shambala’s final night, Heymoonshaker, Reeps One, Woodnote, Bellatrix (female world beatbox champion) and Joe Driscoll all took to the stage together to have a jam. The result was a complete beatbox-off and a showcase of unbelievable musical talent.
“You’re interviewing me at like the happiest point of my entire life” says Crowe. The duo recently released their self-titled album. “The album was recorded in six hours” explains Balcon, with help from Swedish eccentric Victor Benzen, who described their sound as, (Balcan does an impression), “‘Basically, Andy baby, you know, you put the milk in the coconut, you pass the coconut around. You look for the coconut. Where’s the coconut? You have the coconut’ And I was like, ‘That’s our sound?’ and he just said ‘Yeah baby.’” Be sure to check out Heymoonshaker on their Bandcamp. They also have shows lined up in France, coinciding with their relocation to the country.
Check out the clip below of the guys in action on Brick Lane, London.
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