The Big Moon’s Soph Nathan: “When I first started playing, I thought I should be noodling over everything. But space is really important”

Soph Nathan
(Image credit: Mike Lewis Photography/Redferns)

Since bursting onto London’s live music scene in 2014, The Big Moon have passed through several phases. First came Love In The 4th Dimension – the band’s irreverently Libertines-esque indie-rock debut that earned them a Mercury Prize nomination. 

Then, in 2020, the four-piece showed a softer side with the more spacious pop sensibilities of their “coming of age” record, Walking Like We Do. Now, they return with Here Is Everything – a collection of 11 songs that were conceived amid the pandemic years, and during the pregnancy of frontwoman Juliette Jackson.

With its themes of birth, motherhood, excitement and fear, the life-changing circumstances that inspired the album make it a decidedly more grown-up offering than anything The Big Moon have yet released. Still, it features all the astute lyricism and millennial wit that listeners have come to expect from Jackson’s writing, while doubling down on harmony, texture and a sense of collaboration from the other members. 

Lead guitarist Soph Nathan was responsible for cooking up the complementary riffs and intricate lead lines that adorn Jackson’s songs. Having first picked up a guitar at seven years old, Nathan began fantasizing about playing in bands in her early teens and then, at 16, made it a reality. 

She’s been keeping the dream alive ever since and is now eight years deep into what she describes as a “marriage of four people” in The Big Moon – alongside Jackson, bassist Celia Archer and drummer Fern Ford. 

Like many, her earliest musical memories were shaped by parental tastes and listening to mixed CDs on repeat on every car journey. 

She reminisces: “My mum loves guitar music. We listened to a lot of Motown, but also the Eagles, Joni Mitchell and Jefferson Airplane. We’d sing a lot in the car. On Hotel California we’d always sing along with the solo – the one that’s like 10 minutes long. That definitely influenced me.” 

A native Londoner, Nathan’s burgeoning style was also influenced by coming of age amidst one of the most vibrant indie scenes on the planet. “I was probably spoiled for gigs because every band comes here,” she explains. “I don’t know if I necessarily thought about it, but now I recognize that being able to go and see bands was big. I grew up near Camden, so there was a lot of music around, which I’m so grateful for.” 

In fact, her very first band even rehearsed at The Roundhouse – the legendary Camden venue which had its walls shaken by the likes of The Doors, Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix back in the 1960s. By the time Nathan and her friends were busily honing their craft in the adjacent rehearsal rooms, acts like Oasis, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Bob Dylan were headlining the main room. 

Possessing a naturally collaborative spirit, the idea of spending hours practicing in solitude never appealed to Nathan quite like making music with friends. 

“It was a strong pull. I always wanted to play with other people and be in bands,” she says. “I actually don’t play guitar by myself that much anymore, unless I’m making something up. Fortunately, I get to play guitar a lot with other people. That’s felt like the best way for me to get better and learn new things.” 

While she might have spent her youth playing air guitar to Joe Walsh’s incendiary solos in the back of her mum’s car, her contribution to the band is measured, tasteful and full of thought for her sonic surroundings.

“Jules also plays guitar in the band and we play so differently,” she explains. “I’ve learnt a lot from playing with her. It’s really cool to understand where someone else is coming from and to bounce off of each other.” 

As such, Nathan’s guitar work on Here Is Everything feels like part of the very fabric of the songs, with plenty of echoes of Jackson’s vocal melodies that blend in seamlessly. But restraint is something she’s had to learn over time, after first suppressing an instinct shared by guitarists the world over. 

“When I first started playing, I thought I should be noodling over everything,” she laughs. “But space is really important, and it means that there’s more impact in the parts that are there. The way the songs are, and the way that the others give me the room to be creative, I don’t ever feel like I have something to prove.” 

When I first started playing, I thought I should be noodling over everything. But space is really important, and it means that there’s more impact in the parts that are there

Now approaching a decade of playing together, it’s safe to say the four band members know each other very well, musically and otherwise. 

“It’s been a really long time and we’ve all grown and changed as people,” explains Nathan. “This album has been the most collaborative we’ve done, and it had quite a long journey because we recorded it two weeks in lockdown in Suffolk, and then a load of life stuff happened. We came back nearly a year later and added four new songs.” 

The “life stuff” that Nathan is referring to was predominantly the birth of Jackson’s son, which inspired the addition of this latter batch of songs, including the lead single, Wide Eyes

“I think it made us stronger,” reflects Nathan. “I feel more confident in what I’m doing now because we all understand how the others operate.” 

Thinking back to the early days and how the band’s sound has matured, she ponders: “We started out a bit more rocky, and our first record – because we’d played live so much – was just trying to capture that. Now it’s more of a case of working to make a song sound like the perfect studio version. Then we take it and make it live.” 

Although these songs were largely fully formed prior to the recording session, Nathan still found room to add some spontaneous flair. 

“Often, Jules and I will make something up together while I’m playing,” she explains. “That’s what happened with the chorus of Wide Eyes. The first part, I had done, and she started singing the end bit. I love making stuff up together like that.” 

Similarly, the pair developed the guitar solo at the end of Trouble, by singing and playing licks back and forth until they had the completed article. “That was a really nice moment,” recalls Nathan. 

When it comes to guitars and gear, she confesses to “always taking everything” whenever she heads into a studio. Normally, however, she finds she could have gotten away with travelling much lighter as she’s really a one-guitar woman. 

Referring to her trusty G&L ASAT Classic T-style, she laughs, “I’ve really tried to branch out, but I always end up going back to this. Obviously, some guitar parts need a different sound, so we’ll try and shake it up sometimes, but I just really love it.” 

Tonally, she describes it as “much warmer than most other guitars” and cites its particularly “hot pickups” as the reason why, for her, it trumps most Fender Teles. “It resonates a bit more, and it’s got a warmth that I struggle to find when I use other guitars.” 

As for effects, Nathan keeps it simple. “I mainly have distortion and delay pedals,” she says matter-of-factly. This has always been the case, but their usage and density in The Big Moon’s sound has morphed over time. 

She laughs: “Jules really didn’t like delay when we started the band, and I only ever played with loads of it back then. Now, I feel like we’re in the middle together with the amounts.” 

The most abundantly used pedal on Here Is Everything was a Strymon BigSky Multi Reverb, which Nathan used to provide “all that sprinkly, reverb-y goodness” that abounds. “It’s got such amazing sounds in it,” she enthuses. “I would like to explore more with pedals, but I’m quite comfortable with the ones I have. Creating it all live is all quite straightforward.” 

Since joining the band, Nathan’s used a Vox AC15, but she acquired a 1970s WEM Dominator combo during lockdown, and it’s fast becoming her new go-to. 

“We used the WEM for recording,” she explains. “I think Jules’ guitars also went through it for most of it. It’s just a really clean amp, whereas my AC15 has less headroom and breaks up more.” 

With sights now set on resuming touring and showcasing Here Is Everything to live audiences, an autumn run of dates will culminate in a show at The Forum in Kentish Town, London. Geographically close to home (and just about a mile from those formative Roundhouse rehearsal rooms), it’s an almost poetically important gig for Nathan.

“In terms of where I grew up, it feels like such a big deal,” she explains. “I feel more grateful than ever to be able to play live. We’re really ready to make the most of it.”

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Since graduating from university with a degree in English, Ellie has spent the last decade working in a variety of media, marketing and live events roles. As well as being a regular contributor to Total Guitar, MusicRadar and GuitarWorld.com, she currently heads up the marketing team of a mid-scale venue in the south-west of England. She started dabbling with guitars around the age of seven and has been borderline obsessed ever since. She has a particular fascination with alternate tunings, is forever hunting for the perfect slide for the smaller-handed guitarist, and derives a sadistic pleasure from bothering her drummer mates with a preference for “f**king wonky” time signatures.