Wednesday 30 December 2015

So long, and thank you for the music.

This year, in some ways, has been amazing for us as a musical duo.

Highlights include supporting Mercury prize nominee Kathryn Williams, upstairs in renowned live music venue Leaf, Liverpool, playing to a huge audience, and having BBC 2 DJ Janice Long, who attended, say of us on her radio show that we were "mesmerising". Later this year we were honoured to support Louise Jordan at the Liverpool gig of her tour, upstairs in the intimate setting of the View Two Gallery on Mathew Street. Amongst those fond gig memories of this year we have to include a lovely, festival-feel gig at the Bombed Out Church (the venue in which we married in 2014) with our folk duo friends Penmann, too.

This was also the year we released our studio-recorded CD, Amateur Astronomy, to reviews which included comments like, "the sound of the resilience of humanity", "one eye on the music of the past but also one foot in amongst the stars" and " addictive and eloquent".

Ruth also wrote, and performed the violin parts for, a string arrangement on a song by The Loungs, an indie band with a large following, and seeing her name on their CD sleeve was definitely something of a buzz.

We had our single, Ella Brown, played by Mike Brocken on BBC Radio Merseyside, which was an amazing feeling.

We really thought that this might be the year we started to make some headway into finding more people who really wanted to listen to our music. We've never craved record label interest, or huge numbers of fans, or making vast amounts of money. What we've wanted, always, is to make music that we love, that really touches people's hearts, making them feel and think... and for our music to reach those people without us ending up utterly out of pocket.
Supporting Kathryn Williams at Leaf

However, after the highs of the summer, with its magical gigs, and the feeling of finally holding in our hands a copy of a CD that held our own music, our original songs, written, arranged and performed entirely by us (and made to sound fantastic by magic-working producer Andy Bowes), came the autumn.

Album sales were already disappointing by then. Given so many bands keep figures a secret at the risk of losing face, we're going to be totally open: we had 100 CDs made; we'd have preferred 50 but the cost per CD was so much cheaper at 100 that we went with that, but set ourselves the more reasonable target of selling 50. Our launch gig didn't go as well as we'd hoped, and although some lovely people ordered multiple copies of our CD to give to friends, all in all we have sold 37 to date. The CD was make or break for us, and it broke us.

Amateur Astronomy, our CD
Being online is also a demoralising experience; asking - begging, in fact - for "shares" but getting instead a handful of "likes" and even then only if we're lucky; asking people to listen to our music on Bandcamp and finding out most people stopped listening way before the end (in some ways being able to see statistics is really useful; in other ways it's a complete downer), and the awful self-doubt, and occasionally green-eyed monster, that creeps in when similar artists seem to have huge comment threads whereas we have tumbleweed. Constantly trying to work out if our music is just awful (and if so, why such good reviews?) or if we're somehow not playing the online game properly - is there a rule sheet? And what's the rule about buying music from and promoting online the music of other musicians - is it right to expect quid pro quo or not? How does it work? We've never found out any of answers to these questions, and suspect we never will.

Then came our worst gig ever; we've played to empty rooms before so it wasn't that, but it was the way the audience completely disappeared after the performer before us finished his set; we'd hoped people might stick around, but watching the large audience dwindle away to next-to-nothing before we were due to play, seeing scores of people leave as we picked up our instruments, was demoralising in a way that's hard to describe. It didn't help matters that at that point, Ruth was ten weeks pregnant, tired, and feeling a little faint; sadly the next day a scan revealed no heartbeat and shortly afterwards, the pregnancy came to an end of its own accord. Obviously the two were in no way linked, but any resilience we might normally have to cope with such musical disappointments disappeared with the ensuing grief. We also had to cancel a gig as Ruth had to go to hospital; having never cancelled a gig before we felt terribly guilty but it simply wasn't possible to play.

We thought about stopping there and then, but we couldn't quite let it go on that note. We'd planned to do a Christmas gig, as our 2014 Christmas gig had been so magical,but when we asked on our Facebook page who might be interested in attending, we only had a handful of replies so decided against it. In the end, we did play a gig at Christmas (as it was organised by someone else)and in fact, it was rather lovely. We played for half an hour in West Kirby library on the concourse to a relatively small but very interested audience, playing some carols and folk music, and just one original song. It was somewhat redolent of the very first time we'd played in public, back in 2012, as carollers, but our musicianship was infinitely better after three years of practising and playing together.
Our first ever time playing together in public, 2012

And so, that's it for Moss & Jones. We've managed to go out on a high note; the Wirral gig was a lovely experience; we even sold one of our CDs. However, we need a clean break from music, at least, from promoting, organising and feeling never-quite-good-enough about it. What we plan to do is sing around the piano at home, save up to buy Ruth a decent violin and Marc a better accordion, practice the instruments we have, and play together for fun, and get Ruth's son - Marc's stepson - involved too, if and when he wants.

It seems to us that perhaps we went about things the wrong way. Maybe we didn't reach enough of the people who love the sort of music we make; maybe we did, but our music just wasn't quite impressive enough to make them rave about it. Whatever the reason, we couldn't quite make it work for us.

Our CD, Amateur Astronomy, along with the rest of our digitally available music, will remain on sale for the next six months on Bandcamp, so if you do want to grab yourself a copy of a infinitesimally small piece of musical history from the folk music enclave, now's your chance.

We're grateful to the people who've listened to our music, bought our music, reviewed it, blogged about it, promoted it, encouraged us, given us pep talks, given us advice (yes, even unsolicited - thanks to a very dear friend who gave us the nudge to arrange our songs better), retweeted and shared our posts online, arranged gigs and put us on, let us use their venue, designed artwork for us, loaned us instruments, produced our music, organised open mic nights, bought our CD for their friends, played us on the radio, attended our gigs, brought friends to our gigs, and subscribed to our newsletter.

We suspect that one day we'll feel brave enough to put outselves out there in public again, but if we do, it won't be as Moss & Jones. If you'd like to stay with us if and when we embark on that journey, please email us - mossandjones [at] gmail [dot] com - and let us know, otherwise we'll take this opportunity to say goodbye, now, and thank you so much for the support you've given us.

"Summer won't be here forever - autumn will creep up on us before we know." - Shepherds' Delight (It's Not Time To Go To Bed), Moss & Jones.

Thank you. xx

1 comment:

  1. this is very upsetting to read and I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your baby, this is just God awful guys. It would be easier to tell you you were no good at music Rev but thats simply not true, you are to date one of the most gifted individuals and talented stage men I ever had the pleasure of working with, I remeber when myself and my friends saw you play first at the half moon putney so so many years back! we were all taken back and mesmerized by the talent of the keyboard player! I know that you and Ruth would of equally put the same love, if not more, into your own music. I battled for a long time before giving up, i would ask myself in my head "am I shit and don't know it?" but asking people to hear what you hear in the days of such digital egomaniac so called music is just a flat out unrequited love. I miss the stage but they cant stop me playing a gig for myself in the kitchen at 4pm, Ive played some blinding shows to the dog, and it keeps me sane, be grateful of your gifts and enojoy the gigs around the piano, much love, be blessed and thanks, Simon xx