Two analogies for songwriting from Joshua Moriarty and Giuliano Ferla.
Joshua Moriarty by Stu Morley. FERLA by Simone Griggs.
With Miami Horror frontman Joshua Moriarty's new record, Melancholia, out in the world, and FERLA announcing their new album Personal Hotspot, Moriarty and Giuliano Ferla came together for an impassioned discussion about creativity, self-doubt and the Universe.
To celebrate the release of Melancholia, Moriarty is set to return to the stage next month, The Brunswick Ballroom on Thursday 9 December. Meanwhile, FERLA have offered fans a taste of their impending new record, with the release of their “meditative but menacing” new single, Nothing Else Matters.
Giuliano Ferla : After a bit of time away from writing I'm just about ready to pick up the tools again. It's been a nice break but I'm starting to feel the itch, you know? I find that it helps my writing if I think of it in terms of analogy, so songwriting for me is like going down into a mine. I'm mining for gold. Some days I go down and all I do is move dirt around and after a day I come back up with nothing. Other days I'm down in the mine for all of ten minutes and I strike a massive vein and I'm on my way. I find this analogy helpful cos it doesn't allow me to make excuses for myself. It doesn't matter if I'm tired or moody or uninspired. I just show up and do the work. How do you think of your songwriting? If you had to put it into an analogy, how would you think of it?
Joshua Moriarty: Yeah I like that analogy. I remember once hearing Chris Martin mention that writing a song was like trying to catch a fish; if you don't cast your line you'll never get anything. I liked that. I think it's about knowing the watering holes to head to, what bait to pack and who's on the boat with you. I'm not a big believer in waiting for inspiration to strike, it's kind of a rarity, you've gotta just turn up to work and get things moving and by beginning the process you are allowing things to happen. As you probably know, sometimes what you start with isn't what you end up with, you gotta work it through. Everyone knows though that those songs you get done in about 10-20 mins are the most magical hey?
G: Man, I wish I had that experience. The quickest song that I ever wrote was maybe 4-5 hours, and that was a total anomaly. Years sometimes pass between conception and the finished song. It's slow going but I like it as a process. Revisiting, developing, refining.
J: Yeah it's definitely rare, the last fast song I can remember writing was a few years ago now, I was working in a kitchen and had to quickly run to the bathroom to hum an idea into my iPhone. When I got home a few hours later I sat at the piano for 20 mins and put the chords to the melody the best of what I could remember.
G: Haha! Great image. Bolting to the bathroom, 'are you ok?' 'yep, just had a great idea.' '...sure you did.'J: The chorus lyrics didn't take long to come after that, I think most of the words started to form out of the gibberish I was singing pretty quickly. The extra hours came when I had to write the verses but I decided to do the song as a duet and my friend Coco and I nutted it out in a couple hours. I don't have too many stories like that though, there's no right or wrong way huh, regardless you just gotta get shit finished!
I have a bit of trouble going easy on myself. If I've had a shit day, say, and haven't produced any thing that I think is worthwhile, I can really be a bit of an arsehole to myself. Something along the lines of "'you're not good enough, you're not working hard enough, whatever skill you had you lost, etc etc." Nagging self-criticism. All very unhelpful. I've always managed to work through the thoughts, but they're very clever, getting through all my defences. Do you ever have those kinds of pervasive negs? How do you deal with them?
J: Absolutely I have the self-criticism! Before every new song I write I'm sure the last thing I wrote was the final good thing I was ever going to come up with and there is nothing left in the tank. I manage to get through it too but I know exactly what you're talking about. I don't think it will ever go away, it's just a matter of learning to work through it. I find it helps keeping things to myself until I know I'm onto something good, it's the fear of people hearing something crappy I've done that haunts me, kinda like having people read your diary entries. When you do the big reveal if you notice yourself feeling funny about something while someone else is listening then you sorta know it's whack and you gotta fix it.
G: Something that really helped me along was when I started externalising the source of creativity. I am just one person with all these limitations but the universe is endless. It sounds a bit new-agey, but if the universe is infinite then there are an infinite amount of unwritten songs out there and all I have to do is pluck one out. It took the pressure off me to live up to my own impossible expectations of myself. I subcontracted out to the universe. I still only half-believe it, but even half-believing has made me much more productive.
J: Ah yes, the capital U version of the Universe, our new age Messiah! I had a bandmate who went a bit mental and thought he was a shaman, it turned me right off new age spirituality but I totally get the sentiment. I used to have a similar belief but now it doesn't even really enter my mind, I just try get to work and most importantly steal shit off other artists! Why wait on the universe when you can get plagiarizing right now?? Just mix up the combo of thievery, a pinch from one artist, a punch from another, a sprinkling of your own flair and voila, ready to send to mastering.
G: Oh no! Well I promise you, I got shame but I'm not a shaman. See what I did there? I stole that from the Killers and added my own self-depricating flair, and voila – a terrible joke. So amidst all the self-doubt and self-criticism that comes with being an artist, why do you do it? Why put yourself through it? What's important to you about music?
J: The question of why stopped long ago, I don't really know how to do anything else and I've dug myself into this much of a hole that there is no turning back now, I'm halfway to China, just gotta keep going! I'm pretty sure I still enjoy it...? I think the main thing that keeps me going is I always have a bunch of ideas floating around, demo's and half baked jams, a bunch of stuff I still want to get fnished and for as long as I can remember that has always been the case. If the muses are knocking at the door it feels like your obligation to let them in right?
What is it that keeps you going? Do you think music is important? My bandmate and I have been laughing about this recently, the idea of IMPORTANT bands. It's only music, I don't feel like it's ever necessarily important? I'm definitely being a little glib but the idea of taking it all very seriously seems a bit naff to me.
G: I think 'important' is a word that is bandied around a lot at the moment. When I first heard it it seemed to me to be a common descriptor for artists that were marginalised or that spoke to a greater diversity, and putting the spotlight on those artists is important, but now it's on everyone's press release and it's become so overused that it's bordering on cliché. So I agree with what you're saying, and that self-seriousness can be a real trap, but it's not quite how I meant it.
Yeh, I do think music is important. But I've already written an article for Alyse's zine explaining a reason why… which I direct the reader to look at, right now why not?
Melancholia is out now, Personal Hotspot is out March 3, 2022.