Music / Features
Track by Track:
Full Flower Moon Band -
Words by James Lynch
All visual content by Full Flower Moon Band
Wednesday 8th November, 2017

Full Flower Moon Band’s debut album Chinatown is an eerie psych-pop journey, and matched with the masterfully cinematic Chinatown Movie, shows an artist who is unafraid to push boundaries and wander deeper into the rabbit hole of her art.
Kate ‘Babyshakes’ Dillon, the mastermind behind Full Flower Moon Band, has been slaving away over her audio visual concept album Chinatown for years now. A brief glimpse was offered into the project back in 2015, with the release of the Chinatown EP, and finally, two years later, the Chinatown album is out. It’s a dark, psychedelic journey into the world of Full Flower Moon Band - grimey synthesisers buzz and guitars burn, looming bass and drum combos groove ominously and Babyshakes’ vocals float above everything with a powerful yet sinister quality. The music comes accompanied by the Chinatown Movie, a reimagining of the album full with gloomy, gothic visuals and impressive cinematography that perfectly captures the paranoid eeriness of the album. To help us stumble into the world of Chinatown, Trouble Juice spoke with Kate to talk through the album, track by track.
Street Love

TJ: 'Street Love' does a pretty impressive job of setting the tone for the rest of the album. It’s also the first track from the Chinatown EP released in 2015, which makes me think it might have been one of the earliest tracks written for the project. How important is 'Street Love' to kick off Chinatown?

FFMB: 'Street Love' cemented itself as the opening track for the record early on, and it made sense in the narrative to keep it at the start of the movie. The image of traffic lights and the title screen CHINATOWN MOVIE was the first thing I wrote for the film.

Folie Á Deux

TJ: There’s a few instrumentals across Chinatown and they all kind of serve to build the cinematic quality of the album. Can you tell us where this track comes from?

FFMB: This came to me while I was living on Mt Nebo. I was standing in the kitchen and I sang it as a voice memo. I knew it had to be exactly as I had sung it. A piece that feels repetitive, but is not.


TJ: I heard that this track was one of the hardest to record for the album, but I think it came out as one of the strongest tracks on the album - really nailing that dark but groove heavy sound. How did this track come around? 

FFMB: The reason I said it was hard is because a lot of people like the bass line of this track - so I really felt the pressure to ‘get it right’. I can’t remember when I first wrote this song this song, but I was obviously in my ‘dissonant chord’ phase. This one is easier to remember than some of the others, because it’s only two chords.

For So Long

TJ: So far, the lyrics on Chinatown have remained relatively abstract, but 'For So Long' seems to be a bit more straight up in it’s meaning. While the album’s telling it’s own story, how connected is Chinatown’s narrative with your own experiences? Also, the weird outro with the rougher version of 'For So Long' playing in the background is very cool - is that a throwback to an early version of Chinatown?

FFMB: Lyrically, this plays with 'variations on a theme' like a lot of my work, but I understand what you are saying - the theme and variations are less abstract. The ghostly outro is a sample from my original EP sessions. I like that the demo is so old. It’s like I’ve literally been singing “for so long I’ve been thinking about my baby” for years.

Blue Shadow

TJ: 'Blue Shadow' might be the most eerie track across the whole album - what’s going on now in the Chinatown story?

FFMB: I was reading 'Man and His Symbols' by Jung at the time. In Jung theory, every person has a shadow self. I was also researching the difference between making movies on digital and film formats. Apparently in digital format you can't get a ‘true black’. It’s impossible. So I was thinking, because my art is digital, I will never be able to put a 'truly black’ representation of my shadow self online. My shadow self will never be truly black. I have a blue shadow?

In the movie I originally saw a character depressed, walking down a smoky street alone at night. A steamy street like you find in NYC or Blade Runner, coming to terms with the long journey that awaits them.


TJ: 'Loop' might be the first track on the album based almost solely around your guitar playing. How does 'Loop' fit in with the album? Also, it might be a good time to note that while you wrote and produced the entire album, you didn’t play everything on it. Want to tell us a bit about the band?

FFMB: 'Loop' is also from a dissonant chord phase and is again, variations on a theme.

The biggest deal on this record was getting the drums right. I sampled drums from Bella Carroll (squidgenini) for a few tracks, and Gabriella Cohen recorded drums for the whole album. But then I changed my mind on what the beats should be, so we re recorded the whole thing with Danni Ogilvie, and so the whole record is a big mash up of drummers. I cut all the drum sessions up to a point where they are almost un-recognisable. The Cactus Channel drummer Hudson Whitlock played drums for Street and Blue Shadow. Drums were a really big deal on this record. The only other person who worked on this record was Arun Roberts who did 2 days of bass takes, which remained un-edited.

Full Moon Dog Show

TJ: 'Full Moon Dog Show' feels like another slight outlier on the album for me - it lacks the gloom of other tracks and just comes as a fuzzed out pop song. Was the process of writing this track different to the others? And how’s this mood shift relevant to the Chinatown narrative?

FFMB: I spent a long time in love with this song and wanting to do it justice. Stripping it back seemed like the only way to do that. I know it sounds like a pop song, but 'Full Mood Dog Show' is always going to be plot line number six. The fall from grace. The protagonist reaches their lowest point and all is lost. It is the "dark night of the soul". 

In the original version of Chinatown Movie, this scene is an alien invasion. There is a speaker system telling you to "get your back to the wall and stay at home". "Invasion is imminent". Keep your eye on having fun is like a melancholic call to arms for the human race. Could you stay light hearted even when your reality is fading, and aliens are invading?

There’s a Time

TJ: I read someone describe the Chinatown album as sci-fi, and 'There’s A Time' really has that feel, as if it was written specifically for a certain scene in a sci-fi film. (Obviously, this might be the case.) When it came to writing and recording this track, and the album in general, was there a sense that a certain kind of song would be needed to fit this part of the film and narrative? Or did the way the song came out define the way the movie went?

FFMB: I didn’t have any specific sci-fi themes in mind when I was recording this one. In the album’s narrative, this is simply a moment of reflection for the protagonist. The track didn’t make it into the movie because it holds no major plot points. 
I get how it sounds sci-fi though, I was referencing 'Future Sailors' from The Mighty Boosh TV series. 


TJ: 'Ceremony' is another really cinematic track from Chinatown, and comes as one of the album’s most ominous sounding songs, perhaps to do with the sparseness within the mix. How did you go about recording this one, especially to nail such a foreboding mood?

FFMB: The vocals are an original take from Mt Glorious back when I was writing the EP. I didn’t bother re-recording them for the album because that digital distortion on my vocals was hard to re-create. The music is a heavily EQ’d sample from a Persian poetry CD. Danni convinced me to let him add percussion, and then I built the arrangement up from there, and I’m really happy with it.


TJ: 'Beautification' is another track that was featured on the 2015 EP. How does this version differ from the old one? And was there much stress when it came to recreating demos with a fuller band to ensure you captured the same vibe and feel?

FFMB: I was so frustrated with my equipment and process while making the EP - when I re-recorded the EP tracks I had a big list of things I wanted to do with higher production value. But for the most part I am still frustrated. 'Beautification' in particular. I never got a drum take I was happy with, so the drums are me playing a keyboard, not ideal.


TJ: Following straight after the trio of 'There’s A Time', 'Ceremony' and 'Beautification', 'Washington' feels like a move out of the gloomiest and darkest part of the album. As the third and final instrumental on the album, what is going on in the Chinatown narrative now?

FFMB: Washington hosted the world fair in 1901. Paris was in vogue (when is it not), and Washington decided to plan out their city like Paris - with large boulevards to create ‘beauty’ and inspire the poor to live better lives. I think of this song like a big beautiful boulevard, filled with hope - not sinister at all! However, then I learnt that the reason they made large boulevards in Paris was to stop people revolting from the government and blockading the streets. So, actually quite sinister. 

In the movie, this scene is towards the end of the film because I wanted the audience to feel like the storyline is returning back to it’s original reality, but in a way that leaves us new and changed by the experience. 

The character you see walking the streets is the Google Maps blue dot. In the future, the Google Maps blue dot will have materialised into our physical reality. Further into the future, with more developments, the dot will eventually become quite obsolete. So that is why the Google dot can be seen walking the streets, calmly, but a little bit lost.


TJ: 'Space' is the only track on Chinatown recorded in a different context. It’s also the most stripped back moment on the album, really highlighting your impressive vocals. Where did 'Space' come from and was it always intended to fit into the album as it does?

FFMB: I recorded that at 4AD studios, and it was very cool. Gabriella and I were invited to the office, and they mentioned the small studio Fabian Prynn has set up underneath the building. I was so excited I asked if I could record something on the piano and Ed who we were meant to be meeting with, very kindly agreed. It was the most productive meeting I’ve ever had.

The song itself came to me almost like a premonition. I wrote it when I was quite happy, and couldn’t understand why it sounded so sad. I thought perhaps someone else had written the song. 

The lyrics are attempting to say goodbye to the trauma of love and loss. In the narrative, this is the protagonists way of letting go - in order to grow. The only confusion for me was if this track should be used to say goodbye to the protagonists old self, before the re-incarnation process ('Ceremony') or to say good bye to the protagonists reality as she transitions back into normal society (like 'Washington').

Spaceship Pt 2

TJ: You repeatedly sing ‘“now that it’s over” on this track, which really seems to blur the line between the character of Chinatown and you’re own voice. How connected are you with your character in Chinatown? Also, considering the amount of time this album has been in the works, was recording this track somewhat cathartic as the project was nearly over?

FFMB: I enjoy Bretch theatre. I always find myself breaking the fourth wall. Maybe too often. So yeah, this is a blurred line, but it’s deliberate. I am very connected to the lead character as the protagonist, and the narrator. The story is both fiction and auto-biographical. 

Recording 'Spaceship Pt 2' was cathartic because I had not made a demo of it previously, so I was feeling pretty fre$h while recording it, and it was one of the last songs I worked on.


TJ: 'Chinatown' is a pretty glorious ending to a pretty overwhelming album. What was the role of this track in finishing both the audio and visual experiences of Chinatown?

FFMB: The lyrics are summing up the protagonists hero journey and the lessons she has learnt. What lessons did she learn? The moral of the story is, you only ever have your own lived experience - “This is a story, that's good enough to tell, even though I’m barely there”. I’m saying, no matter how well I have told this story, I will never be able share the pure lived experience.

In the final version of Chinatown Movie, the protagonist ends up making a film that is so good no one has enough artistic credit to watch it. That’s why it has a 'European ending', because it's bittersweet.

Check out the Chinatown album and Chinatown Movie above, and head to the Tote tomorrow night to see Full Flower Moon Band launch the album alongside Zoe Fox and the Rocket Clocks.