Arts in Lockdown Series Part 17 – David Barr and The Moon Kids
The Moon Kids rock band is taking on new steam with a local film contract and music videos. But these working class heroes from Scotland wouldn’t have been known in the U.S. without the magic of the legendary Rodney Bingenheimer, who is renowned for discovering numerous bands. He came across The Moon Kids when he was the DJ for the Los Angeles FM radio KROQ, when he was the first DJ in the U.S. to play their music, and where his manager John Ferriter first heard it. Ferriter was a mega-L.A. producer, the founder and CEO of the Alternative Agency L.A. and the manager-bass player of our town’s historic 1980s band, The Tearaways. He liked their music and provided them top exposure as an opener for The Tearaways featuring Blondie drummer Clem Burke at a gig in Scotland post International Beatles Week, and hosted the band at Los Angeles venues. It was at the Scotland gig that Santa Barbara’s Kim DeVenne, founder and producer of HWY 101 Entertainment, met the band and took an interest to rep them after Ferriter’s passing in 2019.
In a phone interview this week Rodney shared: “I was playing The Moon Kids’ songs at the end of my run at KROQ and then at SiriusXM’s Little Steven’s Underground Garage. My manager John Ferriter loved what he heard from The Moon Kids and we all went to dinner at Musso and Frank one night when they came to Los Angeles. I remember introducing them at one of their L.A. shows. John wanted to manage the band, but sadly he passed away unexpectedly before they could get it together with him.”
Moon Kids founder, musician David Barr, is in Santa Barbara to work on new projects for the band with his producer. He is a self-taught musician songwriter of eight years on guitar, bass, and keyboards, and a recording artist for twelve years. In addition to music, he paints. The band was a finalist in 2016 for the International Songwriting Competition in Nashville.
Here’s our live interview, where Barr’s bandmates joined via Zoom:
Q. How did you meet John Ferriter?
A. John messaged me on Twitter in July 2017 to say he’d heard Rodney Bingenheimer play our music in L.A. He told me he loved the music and would be in Liverpool late August with his band The Tearaways. With the last 70 pounds in my pocket at the time, I booked a train from Edinburgh down and introduced myself to him as he came off stage. A few days later we got together again in Edinburgh and a year later we supported The Tearaways at King Tut’s in Glasgow. In April 2019, we had the privilege of going on stage after The Tearaways for our U.S. debut in Hollywood.
How did the band form?
The lineup of the band now is actually myself, Connor Whyte (lead guitar), Craig Reid (bass/keyboard) and Yogi Adamson (drums). The true story is I had the first EP written and the band developed from that. Myself and Craig were in a band beforehand called The Joker’s Melody. The Moon Kids is really an extension of that. The first EP was basically songs I was writing whilst playing in The Joker’s Melody. Connor was actually a fan of the early Moon Kids lineup and reached out on Twitter. Yogi is his best friend and joined shortly after.
And the name Moon Kids?
Thin air basically. We had already recorded our first EP and knew we needed a name. We all really like the ‘70s cult movie The Warriors and thought let’s think of a name that sounds like a gang that would fit in the film and The Moon Kids was what we came up with. Nothing to do with the moon or anything like that, we just thought it sounded cool.
We were actually called The Moon Stings for a bit and if you watch our video for the song “Luna Park” you can see “The Moon Stings” spray-painted on the drum kit.
Do you still consider your music to be fairground pop?
No. Back when we first started a lot of our influence came from the films The Warriors and That’ll Be The Day. I had a loose idea in mind of writing an album about a guy who lived on a fairground. Kind of like the songs would be his stories, and all the weird and wonderful characters that would come in and out of his life. Maybe that’ll be our Sgt. Pepper’s phase on our third album. Not intentionally, but some of our music when we first started had a kind of fairground sound to it so that’s where ‘fairground pop’ came from. When you really boil things down we are a modern rock ‘n’ roll band. Some would say indie, alt rock whatever – to me it’s just rock ‘n’ roll.
What has been the lockdown’s impact on your band?
I think it would be easy to dwell on the fact that we can’t perform live shows at the moment. But I like to think of myself as an optimist and I think lockdown has given me an opportunity to focus on writing, recording, and putting out music without the distraction of preparing to perform. The difficult period for me was when we first went into full lockdown and the band was unable to rehearse together. It was frustrating but… what came out of that was a fuller understanding of just how much we appreciate playing together. Once we were allowed to rehearse again, we all felt really inspired and motivated. We realized how blessed we are to have each other.
In September, I took a leap of faith and quit my day job. I decided to take this time during lockdown in Scotland to go back to America, to further the band with opportunities and connections that we had developed there. Because of travel restrictions from the U.K. to the U.S., I had to spend 14 days in Mexico. I ended up in the direct path in the eye of the storm of Hurricane Delta. I was in a hurricane shelter for three days with 1,200 other stranded tourists during the global pandemic. We were instructed to just wear the clothes on our back and bring a pillow and… a mask!
“Touch of Venice,” the band’s newest single, was written prior to my trip, and the second line of the song is “we used to ride with the hurricanes.” It was almost like the line manifested itself into reality.
How does music influence the human condition?
In so many ways! Mainly it touches our emotions. It can bring joy to people’s lives, it can lift people’s moods, it can ease the pain of a broken heart. Music is the sound of the soul and that’s why it resonates and connects. There’s a universal truth within the sound of music and it’s powerful! But it’s also something that can’t really be explained and for me that’s the beauty of it.
What are the issues influencing your experience as a musician?
A lot of my lyrics I’m singing about my direct environment. We are four working class lads from Scotland, so we do face our own challenges, especially in the music industry where the business can feel at times that it’s geared towards musicians not making any money. It does feel like there are a lot of barriers and a lot of walls to kick down and a real lack of opportunity. But, it is my duty as a songwriter to uplift and inspire people so a lot of times what I’m saying in my music is – regardless of where you are at, in any walk of life, there is always hope. You just have to look in the right direction sometimes.
Describe life in Dunfermline compared to lockdown in Santa Barbara.
Well I love my hometown and I’m proud of where I am from, but being locked down in the cold grey streets of Dunfermline definitely seems like a rougher deal than being In Santa Barbara. I used to work day jobs in factories, warehouses, and even as a postman where I’d have to get up at 5 am and scrape the ice from my car to then work 10-12 hour shifts doing jobs I hated. So even though the restrictions here aren’t ideal, it’s still a real privilege to me to be here soaking up your beautiful weather. Scotland at the moment from what I hear from family and friends is certainly in a worse position regarding lockdown rules.
What’s next for you?
We’re doing it all! We have a brand new five-track EP that we will be releasing early next year. We’re working on some really exciting film projects with HWY 101 Entertainment, a local Santa Barbara company, and with independent filmmaker Tucker Horan.
As well as documentary footage, we’ve also come up with a really exciting plan to make a new music video where my band will be filmed in Scotland and I will do my scenes in Santa Barbara. So it’s been really cool having local Santa Barbara and Scottish filmmakers collaborating together. Just recently we licensed our song “ENEMY’ to Emmanuel Itier of Wonderland Entertainment for his new documentary film Guns, Bombs, & War: A Love Story. I think there are always messages in any song and I like the listener to have the freedom of their own interpretation. I’d hate to ruin it for them by laying it out on a plate. It’s almost nice when people can connect lyrics to their own lives. But I think if you listen to our song “ENEMY” you can really hear a direct message in the lyrics regarding the world we’ve been living in recently. I am writing new material to open D tuning on acoustic guitar. It has a really amazing resonance to it and has a kind of ‘70s classic rock feel.
Giving back/paying forward?
I’m a firm believer in giving back to those who show me any act of kindness. Last year a friend and mentor to me John Ferriter passed away. He was someone who believed in me and who was trying to help me succeed in my musical journey. He was a powerhouse talent agent. He organized us shows in L.A. and let us rehearse in his home. I think it’s my duty to make him proud and for the band to achieve the greatness he felt we were capable of.
A message to your fans…
Exciting things on the way. Can’t wait for you all to hear/see what we’ve been up to. Stay tuned brothers and sisters!
411:The Moon Kids: IG/FB/Twitter: @themoonkids
Yogi Adamson: @michaeladamson_mk
David Barr: @davidabarr
Craig Reid: @craigreid87
Connor Whyte: @connorwhyte_mk
Kim DeVenne, Producer: www.hwy101entertainment.com