INTERVIEW: Mosquito Coast set to grace WA with 'Skipping Girl' tour
From taking out 2015’s triple j Unearthed High to having their music featured in Elle UK's Kylie Jenner promo, Mosquito Coast are now set to head into 2019 with a bang — especially with the near release of their debut album.
With a hometown tour fast approaching in December, and a spot opening for Beach House at next year’s Chevron Gardens, Conor Barton gives us an insight into what the crew have been up to:
Have you guys been celebrating any milestones recently as a band?
Conor: Getting the band together, and pulling off our BIGSOUND set in September. It was our second show back with a whole new live band and we showcased songs from our new album. We had a new stage set-up and new sound design as well with in-ear monitors. There were a whole lot of new things for us to try, but we pulled it off so we had a big celebration after that!
Yeah, and at BIGSOUND too! That’s a huge deal.
Conor: Yeah, we hadn’t played for over a year at that point — so still seeing a full room was really encouraging.
You guys have come a long way from winning triple j Unearthed High 2015! I even remember when you played Murdoch University Open Day, SOTA Festival and opened for Gang of Youths with Day Wave a few years ago.
Conor: That was a great show! It’s crazy how big they are now. I love Day Wave as well, they’re awesome. I’d also really wanted to tick off playing at the Astor Theatre since I’d been to so many gigs there.
And look at you guys now — you’re going to be opening for Beach House at Chevron Gardens 2019. How excited are you?
Conor: I know, it’s still a pinch-me moment! We listen to so much Beach House; I have all their records and they’ve always been a staple for us.
Do you reckon you’ll get to meet them before the show?
Conor: I’m not sure, but when we supported Frankie Cosmos and Margaret Glaspy at PIAF 2017, they came over at dinner and were like, ’Can we sit with you?’ — and of course, we weren’t going to say no! It was a grand time.
With that said, it’ll be pretty surreal seeing you guys play again on your upcoming WA tour.
Conor: Yeah, we’re really excited. We played down in Margaret River once at an arts festival, but we haven’t ever had our own show there. Hopefully people turn up!
Was there ever a moment back then after you won where you stopped and thought, ‘This is it, this is what we are going to do’?
Conor: The funny thing is that I never thought about being a musician. If it wasn’t for Naomi, I don’t know if I would be playing music or producing anything. We met in Year 9 through mutual friends. Even though I played the keyboard and drums before, she was the only person that I’d ever written music with or collaborated with so closely. We started off just doing covers, going through hours and hours of different songs and learning them together — then we slowly started writing our own stuff. You could say we pushed each other to play more, practise and learn new musical techniques as well as how to use software.
So it’s never been the absolute path I’d thought about — but I’m so glad it’s come to this.
As are we! We’re thrilled for that new album coming up. How exactly did Mitch (on bass) and Oscar (on drums) come to join Mosquito Coast?
Conor: That’s a really good question actually. No one ever really asks about the other two in the band! I’ve known Mitch for quite a while; he’s my cousin’s best friend’s boyfriend. He used to be in a Perth band called Custom Royal and he was a really big deal, so I was a little intimidated by him haha! We asked him to hang out, without expecting him to say yes [to being in a band with us]. But he did, thankfully. He’s a bit like an older brother figure for us. Always been super supportive of everything. If we’re sitting on a plane, we’ll all swap tracks and he’ll show me how to do different things. He’s a bit of a whiz on it and we’re always learning from him.
As for Oscar, he joined at the start of the year. We’d had our eye on him for a while. He was in twelve different bands at one point. We were actually too scared to ask him but we finally did, and the rest is history! We’re super lucky to have him ‘cause he’s just so reliable. It’s also really nice having him on drums.
Was that the transition to having yourself get more involved front and centre?
Conor: I think that when we had the band reshuffle, it made sense [for me to sing more and] show that Naomi and I had written those songs altogether.
It was fun to be on drums but when we brought it to the next stage, I had been writing a lot more of the complicated synth lines and singing more. Over time I just grew more confident on stage, so it all just happened naturally, really!
What else can we expect from the new show and set-up?
Conor: Well, there are going to be heaps of songs off the new album, which we’ve only played once or twice live before. There are way more keyboards, so everyone will have a keyboard in front of them. I’d say there’s a lot more variety in sound and more vocal harmonies. Really looking forward to seeing how the crowds react to it.
Would you say your upcoming album departs much from your earlier music?
Conor: A lot of people used to say that our initial music was like ‘road trip music’. I don’t know if I would describe our new stuff in that way, but we’ve always tried to make it dreamy and warm. That kind of vibe. Lots of sparkly moments, you know?
For sure! Very fitting for you to be playing with Beach House then.
Conor: Agreed, that’s what we’re modelling off!
Earlier this year you travelled all the way to New York to record with Nicolas Vernhes. What was the best part about the trip?
Conor: It was just great. Great and intense! We were there for 14 days, and recorded for 13 of them. From 10am to at least 10pm every night, we were in Nicholas’ studio which is at the bottom of his house in a converted warehouse. We barely had a breather, but we were just wrapped up in this whole new environment and loving it. We didn’t put too much pressure on ourselves; we were okay with maybe just making an EP, but we’re really glad that it came out as an album. We were (and are) so happy with how the songs turned out.
Did you get a chance to be tourists?
Conor: We did, a little bit. We went to MOMA which was nice, and caught an Easter parade. We went to Central Park and did lots of vintage shopping in Brooklyn. Lots of record shopping too! We came back with all these New York band records.
We were also near this converted shipping container home to The Lot Radio, an online radio that broadcasts live with bands in New York playing and doing DJ sets there. Weeks before we rocked up, Stella Donnelly did a live take in there. They had a coffee shop and we hung around there a lot, and became friends with British artist Shura. We met some really nice people there. The trip was eye-opening for sure.
Your recent music video for ‘Skipping Girl’ is truly something else — I’d say eerie and fantastical in the best way possible. Did you have HIBALL Productions run free with directing this one?
Conor: Sure did! Our friend Stanton Cornish-Ward (from HIBALL Productions) did the storyboard. She was listening to the lyrics and its positivity, and she wanted to put an eerie spin to it so that it wasn’t too sickly sweet. She wanted to try out all these different things and really focused on what was going to look good visually. I still can’t believe we all filmed it in Melbourne in a day!
Like, with the 200 golf balls on the tiles — a lot of it was just a chance to experiment. We’re super glad we gave her free reign because it turned out really well. It was fun to be almost like a model in her movie. They were like, “You’re going to wear a helmet and Naomi should have green eye shadow on.” And we were like, ‘Okay!’
Any thoughts for the next music video?
Conor: If we do another one, we’d be really keen to work with them again. It’d be nice to have a cohesive aesthetic in that way.
Where do and/or Naomi draw most of the inspiration for your lyrics from? Do you speak from experience?
Conor: Most of it is quite personal. In the last EP, we were quite vague in a sense and talked over subjects. So this time, we’re lot more direct and try to confront the problems head on instead of taking the whole escapist route. This last song was kind of about running away from your problems, but now we’re going to tackle them. You’ll get a bit more sense of it once you hear the new record! Our sound is definitely getting more mature as we’re getting older.
Mosquito Coast have played at some pretty rad festivals across Australia, from BIGSOUND to Lost Paradise. Run us through those experiences?
Conor: That was like a ridiculous mini tour that we did. We did 4 states in 5 days, so we played the last Southbound ever, drove straight up back to Perth and flew to Sydney that afternoon. Then we played in Sydney, Melbourne and central NSW. All in all, it was really fun. Those festivals were the biggest ones we’ve done. Just nice knowing that there are fans in other places as well!
Which cities/shows do you hold close to your heart (apart from home)?
Conor: Every place has their own little quirk to look forward to. Every time we go to Adelaide, the crowds are really rowdy — and there are a lot of sushi trains too so we usually get sushi there. Brisbane has always been really lovely to us, and they are the people who know the most words to songs. We were really lucky to have had Cub Sport come along to watch our show then. And as for Melbourne, we’ve always done really solid shows there.
You can’t beat playing back at home though. We’re just so excited to get back into it and play at Jack Rabbit Slim’s and the new Indi Bar which just opened up. That’s where my Mum used to hang out at, so it feels like a rite of passage to be playing there!
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