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Spoonbill

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We’re now on the cusp of 2015 and a fourth Spoonbill LP is yet to arrive. That said, the project hasn’t been inactive in recent years – there’s been three EPs since Zoomorphic, all of which flaunt a ballsy bottom end. But herein lies the issue: has Moynihan lost interest in weaving together field recordings and found sounds to form stimulating long-playing releases? Has this decade’s mad pace pushed him towards quick fixes and bangers? Beats gave him a call to find out exactly what’s going on.

“I’ve built a studio and a house in St Andrews, about an hour north east of Melbourne, over the last two years,” Moynihan says. “So the album that I wanted to put out a couple of years ago has been postponed a bit. [The house is] 97 per cent done so now I’m locking back into production and working on finishing my new album.”

The entire Spoonbill project is a perceptibly meticulous undertaking. Sounds of nature and grabs of conversation communicate with blipping electronics and live instrumentation to form gleefully absurd dance music. It might come across as rather whimsical, but reaching such a level of listenability clearly requires several thousand hours of work. “My music usually has a lot going on and doesn’t just sit on a groove,” Moynihan says. “There’s a bit of problem solving to make it sound cohesive when it’s made out of hundreds and hundreds of snippets of different sounds.”

Moynihan’s studio engineering technique doesn’t sound too far removed from the detailed procedure of designing and building a house. His training in industrial design was also a major help when applying himself to the house’s construction. “[Industrial design] is about problem solving and conceptualising ideas and thinking through the processes and coming up with solutions.”

However, while it’s easy to draw a parallel between these two separate forms of construction, when it comes to initiating new Spoonbill tunes, there’s no master plan. Rather, Moynihan prefers wading freely through the sonic swamp, gathering sticks, reeds and anything else that takes his fancy.

“I just express myself without trying to conceive how my music’s going to fit into any specific scene,” he says. “The prerequisite is to make music that is stimulating me at that point in time. I’m trying to express myself through my tools and make a personal expression, like any artist. Sometimes I’ll want to produce something that evokes this feeling or this sort of energy. But it’s not often that I’ll know how it’s going to end up being.”

With the house and studio just about finished, Moynihan confirms the long awaited follow up to Zoomorphic will arrive in the early months of 2015. Now, the burning question is whether this record will harness the clubby squelch of Spoonbill’s three recent EPs or take an alternate route?

“I really want to put out a nice cinematic listening album,” he says. “Although I’m making more punchy, dancefloor-heavy, gnarlier party music than I ever have, I’m also making a lot more cinematic listening music. It’s still beats-y, but it’s not trying to be hectic or party music.”

Along with completing the aforementioned EPs, Spoonbill has kept performing live over the last few years. Earlier this year he appeared at a bunch of European summer festivals, and in late 2013 he did a run of shows through India and Israel. Throughout the last decade, Moynihan’s become rather adept at entertaining festival crowds, which ended up influencing his production choices.

“You can’t help but enjoy seeing the crowd lose their shit to a certain track,” he says. “I suppose that becomes ingrained in you when you’re writing stuff. You don’t think about it, but when you see the crowd enjoy a certain track and it’s got a heavy funky twisted drop in it, it’s a great feeling.”

More than anything, it was convenience that prompted Moynihan to issue three back-to-back EPs, and he’s now ready to return the focus to Spoonbill full time. However, the luxury of time doesn’t mean the more immediate crowd-pleasing side of the project’s personality will cease to exist.

“The new record will be more chill,” he says, “then some of the heavy dancefloor stuff I’ll probably release separately on EPs. It still retains the Spoonbill attitude towards music, but tougher and heavier.”

Spoonbill’s Australian live return will take place at the Rainbow Serpent festival in late January. The continual growth of his recorded repertoire means his live sets will be more versatile than ever before.

“My main set will feature a lot of stuff that’s unreleased,” Moynihan says. “Some of it will be on this new album but a lot of it won’t be. Saturday night, main stage, everyone wants to get freaky and dance their arse off and have a good time. But banger after banger, that can be tiresome. I think a really great electronic producer that’s providing an amazing show has some dynamics and changes tempos and styles and vibes. That’s what stimulates me and that’s what I like to do.”

BY AUGUSTUS WELBY