I don’t mind telling you this new album from ZEELLEY MOON has bought back some very happy memories of a special period in my life I can’t seem to stop going back to. The good news is, I’m not alone. I know a lot of you crave to get back there, too. I’m talking of course about the 70’s and here’s a band, from my point of view, who have created an album of wonderful songs that would have fitted right in on radio and played over the stereo system in your local Record store back then when music was king. As you’ll find out in the interview below I just had with Patrick Molesworth, this band gets a lot of inspiration from the likes of Supertramp (dare I tempt fate and add Little River Band and a touch of early Floyd?). You’ll know what I mean when you get hold of it and play track after track.
So, is it a blessing or a curse to be tagged and compared to a worldwide phenomenon like Supertramp? Find out below. But here’s a taste of Zeelley Moon before we get started. Trust me, you’re going to love it!
Good, right? I’ve been playing the arse off of this album in the car and on the stereo system as well as the PC while I’m working. It just has that warm friendly vibe with the likes of Supertramp (sorry to keep bringing them up…. actually I’m not. That’s my happy place) and 10 cc had back in those days before we were distracted by far too many electronic gadgets. Once when we all had a life set to music. Look, I’ve never heard of this band before. I was asked by a friend if I could give a heads up about this album of theirs, and I received a few Mp3 files which for some reason my computer took an instant disliking too and wouldn’t open properly. So the album was sent to me over the water and in due course I received it, and “WOW!” For a band who let’s be fair, aren’t that well known in the Prog community or even Rock community internationally I would suspect, I have say the packaging nearly blew me over. It comes in booklet form with a sturdy cardboard cover. You open it up and there are pages filled with graphics and lyrics, with enough room at the back to include the CD and a page devoted to who are Zeelley Moon and what they play. So who played what on this album?
So top marks for presentation and the thought gone into it. As for the music. I’ve talked it up as being very 70’s orientated, but have to say it fits comfortably within the musical mores of 21st century living. Edward Macan in his excellent book on Prog, “Rocking the Classics: English Progressive Rock and the Counterculture” summed it up quite well when he said, “The musicians who plied this style–of which the Electric Light Orchestra, Supertramp, 10 cc, the Alan Parsons Project, and Al Stewart are best known–drew not so much on progressive rock’s tradition of virtuosity and monumentality (the prime attraction of the progressive rock idiom to American stadium rockers), but rather on its quasi-symphonic fullness.” This kind of rock was important enough for bands like Yes, Genesis, Pink Floyd, and ELP to try their hand at it, and as we know, met with varying if not startling levels of success and/or failure. Which is a long way away from now, but is equally important in the sense that even in today’s climate, bands like this are willing to chance their arm in a very fickle music market , claiming their own space to perform the sound they want to play. I think (and hope) Zeelley Moon has a place here in prog based on this album alone. That and they have the goods to perform live with it. These are good songs to fit within the prog epics. Even if the second track wasn’t titled “Smile” I think I would still pick up that vibe that these are melodic, catchy and uplifting tunes and yet still retain that whiff of melancholy we all yearn for in our daily prog.
Patrick (or Pat) Molesworth gets the credit for all the words and music. Not only that, he’s also noted for piano, keyboards, orchestral arrangements, vocals and backing vocals. Guitars go to Tony Dubinski (also on acoustic) and Geoff Bolam. Tony Dodd and Geoff Bolam on Bass. Drums has Nobby Birch, Mike Bennett, and Manna Ash – all on various tracks. We also have additional backing vocals from Esta B Daley, and spoken contributions from Orsola Muscia and I-Chen Huang. The album was recorded at Area 18 Studios in West London, Waunlippa, Pembrockshire and Croft Gardens. Richard Bignell engineered and mastered the album at Area 18 Studios.
I’ll add a bit of historical background I picked up from their Facebook Page (links below).
So I happened to throw a few questions Pat’s way which he graciously replied to candidly in quick form, so appreciate him taking the time to tell us a little about himself and the band.
Paul: A tough crowd and very competitive market these days. How did you come to be involved in a music career?
Pat: In my 20’s the industry was still very much about A&R guys and ‘finding a deal’. The industry has changed so much since I first aspired to emulate the music I fell in love with. I was never interested in making 3-minute songs though I fantasized about having a ‘hit’ but I was never going to be a pop star and I’m a rubbish front man!
The online parallel universe has made it possible to reach many more people, more directly and void of any industry influence. People now can really find what they like, share it, talk about it and generate support for the music they love. It’s a beautiful environment. I write music to please myself and I am honoured that there is an audience for my work.
….So I’ve always sat at the piano since a child and was making up tunes early on. I eventually began writing songs and instrumentals influenced by anything that moved me; anything from my older brother’s Pink Floyd and Yes albums to TV themes. I never really got into 3 chord rock or blues although I love the emotion of blues. I love the incorporation of some of the melancholy of classical music into more rocky harder edged music.
Paul: “Zeelley Moon.” Interesting name for the band, Pat. Where did it originate from and what does it all mean?
Pat: I sooo wish there was a cool ‘rock n roll’ story behind the name. I even thought of making one up! The truth is quite dull: The name “Supertramp” was already taken (Bummer) but I liked the way it sounded. “Moon” was a cool word but the “Zeelley” is totally abstract and comes from a friend’s son-in-law’s husband’s surname “Zealy”.
I simply took it and spelt it differently. The guitarist I played with at the time always said it with a questioning upward inflection as if to doubt it but I told him “If four guys in a studio decided on ‘Pink Floyd’ as their name before being associated with dark, heavy and hugely successful albums, it might have sounded doubtful.” All band names sound silly at the beginning. Zeelley Moon is a unique name which, I hope reflects the unique nature of the music.
Paul: If you don’t mind me saying, you seem to have come out of nowhere, and here you are with an album Progheads like myself simply love on the first playing. Well that’s my prediction based on my own first impression. It’s a very likeable, melodic and cruisy album harking back in part to the 70’s, and listeners who haven’t heard of you before will easily pick up on some of the track’s references, if not a not so subtle nod and a wink to the likes of Supertramp, (circa, “Even In the Quietest Moments”) especially on “Tricks and Tragedy” and “Weight of the World.” This was a conscious effort on your part to focus on that particular band for these songs, surely? Was this your way of paying homage to them and drawing in fans who liked that Soft Rock sound bordering on Prog? Or just a happenstance moment?
Pat: Wow! Thank you. I’m thrilled that people like it. There are moments, when sitting at the piano and experimenting with chord progressions and melodies, that something lovely emanates from the keys and first you think “Ahhh that’s lovely” then you think “Ah………….bugger! That’s someone else’s”.
There are many common chord progressions that find their way into many songs. Although I was influenced by the weight and melancholy of Pink Floyd, I loved the sophistication of Yes and the tunefulness of Supertramp. I have also been moved by elements of Bach and even piano singer-songwriters like Peter Skellern and Beverley Craven and undoubtedly Elton John. There is never a deliberate or conscious effort to pay homage to these great people, but I guess some of the DNA is going to filter through the same as we can’t help looking like our parents! So, I’d say happenstance and the inevitable result of such influences.
Regarding Progheads… Your good self and others liking it on first playing, my guess is that while it is easy to write a song, it is not as easy to write and complete a song that really means something to one’s self. My aim is that if it resonates with me, lyrically and/or musically, both in its content and emotion then maybe it will resonate with an audience who look for similar qualities in their music as I do.
Paul: What do you make of the attention you’re getting from the Prog community?
Pat: I think the Prog community are among the more musically open minded and I really appreciate all the genuine and lovely comments and reviews we’ve received and of course album sales and downloads. “Prog” for me does not exist as a form of music in its own right: Surely it is a prefix; progressive rock, cooking, architecture, teaching…..anything really? People of various forums bang on about “is this or that band really Prog??” and it really seems to miss this point. Or am I missing something?
I’m afraid that when I listen to what I think they think is ‘pure prog’ it doesn’t really do it for me; it becomes pastiche.
Paul: Since 2010 you’ve been performing as Zeelley Moon and playing live gigs as the band went through a reshuffle over the years from then on. You even state you’re not a Prog band, but have attracted a good number of fans of that genre with your music. Has it surprised you that sector of music lovers have been drawn to your music?
Pat: As I said before, maybe the proggers are more open minded and less inhibited to like what they like where as some listeners don’t tend to get it. I think it might be that the prog fans are more tuned in to listening music with a narrative that maybe develops during a song or even over the length of the album. I wonder what they’ll make of the next studio album!
Paul: It really is good hearing an album which features a bit of piano on it. Is that where the structure of these songs starts from?
Pat: Thank you. Yes it usually starts on the piano. Sometimes it doesn’t. Ideas have come from elsewhere; a rhythm, a sound, an idea or theme while not anywhere near the studio …………………. but yeah, more often it’s me at the piano!
Paul: Reading the lyric sheets in your wonderful well thought out booklet CD, I get the impression that some of these expressions of feelings and ideas you started writing down at a young age may have begun as poems. Or were they intended to be songs from the onset?
Pat: Again, thank you. I think all of them have always been lyrics for songs, and sometimes not the songs you’ve heard them in. Sometimes a phrase has been written down many years before it ends up in a song or a song that I record.
Paul: Are these tracks based on personal experiences? Although in the booklet with a sepia toned image of a number of streakers showing off their bare arses in the main street I imagine you must have led an interesting life otherwise? 😉
Pat: Ha ha the streakers!! Doing perhaps, “what will be seen to be right looking back etc etc…..?” I’m glad the photo was taken from behind. The themes of the lyrics on this album have tended to be based on a mixture of real-life experiences, other’s experiences and my perspective on a particular aspect of life or issue. The songs as they appear also started to form a narrative which to some extent does reflect my own life. I like them also though to be just ambiguous Sometimes they come about as the result of experimenting with melodies, singing nonsense words and then something either fits or sounds so good you’ve just gotta go with it and fit it in.
Paul: I can tell each photo on each page is chosen particularly in an allegoric sense to the lyrics for each song. I might be wide of the mark but I get the impression that these are kind of representative of certain dream passages you might have had? Or am I missing something?
Pat: Hmmm…. They are certainly all relevant to the songs yes and representative but not so much dreams;
The blank book in track 2, Smile perhaps eludes to an unwritten future following the acceptance of a loss.
In track 3, Tricks & Tragedy, the long exposure photo of a torch being waved creates a kind of heart monitor image reflecting the sad story of a larger than life fiend, whose life finally ended after months of uncertainty.
The streakers for track 9, Feel so real, are maybe really doing something according to the lyrics in the chorus.
Paul: The band last played together live back in 2016. How is it working out you living in Wales and the others elsewhere?
Pat: Wales is a beautiful part of the UK and I love it. It’s become a bit of a break from playing live though it’s meant, in theory, more freedom to explore things in the studio. Geographic distance means playing live will probably mean a change in line up. For now the work is in the studio.
Paul: Looking forward, will you be taking this album out on the road to promote it, as well as build your fanbase? These songs are just ripe for live performances.
Pat: I would like to tour. At some point we’ll see how things are and how much support there would be for live shows.
Paul: Early days, but will there be another Zeelley Moon album following this one?
Paul: What were some of the Prog artists and albums you listened to in your youth, if any?
Pat: My older brother’s LPs and albums when he was away. Pink Floyd, Yes, Supertramp, Mott the Hoople, certain pop acts in the 70s, Gilbert O’Sulivan (I know!!) Peter Skellern, Elton John….really anything that struck a chord with me and touched a part of me. It didn’t have to be in fashion or a particular genre. Often I listened to really uncool stuff and bought TV themes on vinyl! I bought “Clouds across the moon” by the Wah band. Super pop but with lovely chords! Keep it to yourself eh? [Heh, heh…. Fat chance, Pat!]
Paul: What about now? Any new bands you’re following?
Pat: I’ve found Steven Wilson, Big Big Train (I love Martin Read’s voice). I’m a bit of a cherry picker and tend to fall in love with one or two songs and ditch the rest. Introduced by friends, I’ve discovered brilliant tracks by John Mayer and Joe Bonamassa I haven’t experienced loving a whole album for a long time though but maybe that’s a teenage thing. Mind you, people have said they like the whole of the Zeelley Moon album so I hope they are having a lovely experience.
Paul: Where and how can we purchase your album?
Pat: People can order physical copies on Amazon.com, CD baby or direct on our website:
Paul: Thanks, Pat.
Pat: Thank YOU Paul. I’ve really enjoyed it. Thank you for having me.