Mood Pop Go…
There’s been a healthy number of electronic outfits emerging from the North East part of the UK in recent years. The likes of Twist Helix and AXLS have demonstrated that there’s not only a keen energy at work, but also a desire to pave their own unique paths through the busy corridors of the music industry.
Enter Moodbay – an electropop duo currently based in the North East who have been together since 2017, crafting their own distinctive musical style. Consisting of producer-songwriter Alfie Cattell and vocalist-songwriter Anna Stephens, the duo draw influences from the likes of The Weeknd, Portishead, Massive Attack and Christine and the Queens among others.
Describing their music as ‘moodpop’, over their brief existence, the pair have won critical acclaim from various outlets, including being championed by BBC Music (their tunes have been playlisted by the likes of Janice Long and Alex Lester). Meanwhile, on Spotify, Moodbay have clocked up over 101K listeners in 76 countries.
Alfie Cattell is a self-taught musician from North Wales who began his journey into music by learning Zelda tunes on an old Yamaha keyboard. Favouring the piano as his weapon of choice, Cattell also brings his not inconsiderable production skills onboard for the duo.
Meanwhile, Anna Stephens originally moved from her native Darlington to Paris, where she worked at a magazine house. Against a Parisian backdrop, she began sketching out poetry, which she later adapted as songs set to piano while completing her French studies in Oxford.
Moodbay was launched after a chance meeting between the pair in the corridor of BIMM music school in Manchester (British and Irish Modern Music Institute). Stephens completed a diploma in songwriting while at BIMM and also went on to found music PR outfit Decent, which helped in getting to grips with the tough world of music promotion. Not content with keeping busy with those two gigs, she’s also got a sideline under the moniker of Anna Blaise as a solo artist (producing a particularly haunting cover of Radiohead’s ‘Creep’).
Moodbay’s debut release ‘Listen Up’ offered up a slickly produced piece of stylish pop when it arrived in summer 2019 (summed up as a “startling debut” by BBC DJ Janice Long). ‘Alone’ followed swiftly after, a more reflective composition inspired by themes of isolation and loneliness (apparently sparked from seeing a mystery figure walking on a motorway in a rainstorm). Both tunes displayed a talent for arrangement and an impressive vocal turn from Stephens. The result gives the songs a deep and immersive sound, which can be both intimate yet also expansive.
2020 saw a change in Moodbay’s style with more of a nod to RnB in the slow beats of ‘Ghost’. But ‘Video Games’ swung them back into a more electronic direction with melodic synth sweeps and a warm foundation. Cattell built up the track from samples taken from some of his favourite classic retro games on a composition which features an engaging vocal from Stephens.
‘Video Games’ emerged during the Coronovirus crisis and carried a message to promote awareness, solidarity and the very real threat of being impacted by the virus. Lyrical couplets such as “Now I’ve got it figured out/I know how to win this game” acknowledge that times are tough, but that they won’t be here forever. The contemporary electropop feel to the track throws a nod to Chvrches, but without being purely a pastiche of the Glasgow’s groups own particular sound.
Moodbay’s latest release, the tight beats of ‘Like Nobody Else’, suggests Christine and the Queens meets Pixx. The clipped melodies, synth layers and smart vocal overlays creates a chemistry that results in ‘Like Nobody Else’ emerging as an effective electropop gem.
Apparently, Stephens had taken inspiration from Botticelli’s iconic painting of Venus – a work of art that captures something beyond mere flesh and blood and into the mythic. Equally, ‘Like Nobody Else’ hints at something that encompasses a larger than life aspect, yet with a hypnotic draw that’s all too human (“All I can ever see in you is something beautiful”).
There’s an intriguing range of styles nestling in Moodbay’s catalogue of work, which weaves in electronic instrumentation with more organic elements. It serves up a warmer palette of sounds that calls to mind the likes of Purity Ring and Ooberfuse and certainly embraces the ‘moodpop’ that the duo are aiming for.
‘Like Nobody Else’ is out now via Online Records: https://songwhip.com/moodbay/like-nobody-else