Interview with Artist Moana Ete
Tena Koutou Katoa! I'm Moana Ete, I'm a multi-disciplinary artist. I make music and films and create theatre experiences - I'm also an actor, writer, director, producer and work under a company name Ohokomo. It's a whole lot of little jobs that I add up and make up one proper job.
How did you get into music?
I come from a very musical family. My maternal grandfather was a Jazz musician in the 60s. His name was Robin Waata and he was a part of the Maori showbands movement. In many ways my aptitude for music was 'passed down' but it wasn't until I first saw The Spice Girls that I thought music could be something that I could create for myself in my own way
What are your fondest musical childhood memories?
Super fond memories of being 8 or 9 waiting by the radio to record a specific song onto a cassette tape. Just sitting in front of a boom box just rewinding again and again. I've never been a records person because it just missed the boat on that. But give me a cassette player I'll jam that forever.
What have you been listening to lately?
Remi Wolf is an incredible artist that I can't get enough of right now. Muroki, COTERIE, Niko Walters, Rhys Rich, SWIDT, Jarna, Noah Slee, Bailey Wiley, Ladyhawk, Aldous Harding - it's all really good, quality, outstanding stuff.
You’ve made music with 'Fly My Pretties', ‘A Girl Named Mo’, and now play as ‘Mo Etc’. Can you tell us about your musical journey, finding your own sound and where the name ‘Mo Etc.’ comes from?
A Girl Named Mo was a name of a band where I played with Slade Butler and Marcus Gurtner. Still close friends/collaborators. In 2020 I was going through a lot of life changes. There were aspects of me, mindset/attitude/habits that didn't serve me anymore. I sought to retire anything about my work and life that I could no longer give to and could no longer give to me. I stepped away from that version of 'Mo'. Mo Etc. was a rebrand. Short story even shorter - Mo Etc. is just what it looks like when I scrawl my 'Mo Ete' name real fast. But I feel like etcetera has so many implications. 'What's to come' or 'you can assume the rest'.
One can read as far into it as they'd like. To me Mo Etc. is someone who rocks up to a place with a group of people and says to the doorman saying "these people are with me" and the doorman says into a walkie talkie "It's Mo, etc..." then us all getting buzzed in.
How would you describe your most recent album 'Oceanbed'?
At the time I thought I was creating something 'hyper feminine'. I thought the feel of the album was girly and pastel and soft and gooey.
In retrospect I understand Oceanbed to be divine feminine expression. It's nurturing and fertile and understanding and gentle and alluring. It's far more active than whatever it is that I thought I was creating. It was also a bit of an experiment. I was no longer with a record label. I was working on my own time and money so I just challenged myself. What do I actually sound like? I really went back to basics. Every song I made I searched for in the dark.
You created the album by yourself. What did you learn from that experience and what would change for the next one?
It's funny, when I finished High School the question was whether to go to Drama School to be an actor, Art School to study fine arts or Music School to become a singer/songwriter. I got accepted into NZ Drama School so I did that for 3 years and I have been working on (and behind) stage and screen for 12 years now.
Oceanbed was my music school. It was 1st year, 2nd year and 3rd year all in one 8 track album. I'm writing and recording an E.P this year. The quiet success of Oceanbed has enabled me to get funding from NZ on Air so now I have the resources to work with an engineer. Also because I had my divine feminine journey with Oceanbed, this time around I'm really interested in exploring the divine masculine. I'm working with Slade from A Girl Named Mo days so that's been lush to reconnect.
What were you listening to when you wrote the album? How do you think your music was influenced by that?
Firstly, Kimbra (who I came up with since high school) who has been such a creative force in my life. I always come back to her craft as a reference. Then there's Grimes I listened to as a reference for my vocal mix. With Grimes and Kimbra their production quality never ceases to thrill me. I believe they resist trends and follow a deeper calling so that's what I needed in my ears at all times. There were many many other artists but Kimbra and Grimes were the parent inspirations of Oceanbed process.
You released the music video for ‘Next October’ last October. Tell us a little bit about the song and the making of the video.
This was my first time working with NZ On Air Funding. This was such a great project to bring people into. I made the video with collaborators that I've worked with over the years so the shoot was second nature. We already had some sort of shorthand. I wrote and directed it and edited it. It's a great start for me I think. I look forward to the next one (I shoot in June). I want to make videos that show my perspective as an artist. I'm always fascinated by the Behind The Scenes element of any piece of art and to try to make the behind the scenes a part of the art is what I'm trying to get across.
On the track ‘Forward (Where I’ll Be) [feat. Manu Aitken-Ete], you read a bedtime story to your son. Have you found motherhood has changed/inspired your approach to music?
Some (including myself) thought motherhood would be an obstacle for creating/creativity. The reality of being an artist Mum is that creative energy is neither blocked or is it diverted by having a kid it's just funnelled. Before having Manu creativity was rainfall or 'free flowing' now it funnels out at one point. My artistry is just another expression of motherhood. And motherhood is an expression of my artistry. It's one and the same. I have to fold Manu into what I do, otherwise, I'm forced to choose one or the other and to me, there's no way that can't end in tragedy. I think through Oceanbed every other song is me battling my ego and unpacking my resistance to intimac. 'Forward' is a little window into who really has my heart right now - my son. Being a great mother means a great deal to me. But me 'heeding the call' puts me in the best position to align Manu to his calling.
How has your experience as a woman in the music industry shaped or affected the direction of your music? What advice would you give to girls/women starting out?
It's been pretty sad at times. When women are the minority in any industry it's just sad. Sad and lonely and yuck. So the direction now is to be the exact opposite of sad and lonely and yuck. The goal is to cultivate joy, inclusion and yum! Also - just take time to contemplate what is business and what is artistry. What you need to do for your business is not necessarily your art. And that's ok.
Tell us about a favourite or most memorable performance/project/song from your musical career?
Probably this year when Mo Etc. played Twisted Frequency. It was literally 5 wahine on the road from Wellington to Golden Bay. So much went wrong (like me getting the van stuck right before the set started) and I don't think any of us thought our individual performances were particularly 'good' (We all came off stage self-flagellating).
But after 2 years of lockdowns and show cancellations and plans derailed to actually come out the other end of it this time with just wahine was a like stepping into an alternate universe. The conversations, the laughs, learning so much more about each other, the camaraderie with a group that I knew was safe and looking out for my best interest and for theirs felt like progress.
Are there any Kiwi musicians who inspire you? Who would you most like to collaborate with?
There is so much good music in this country. It's all super super inspiring. There is MĀ (@maaofficialmusic) who I think of off the top of my head. They're making beautiful music and creating awesome live experiences. Wax Mustang I want to vibe to feature on something for me. Also I want to direct a music video for Shepherds Reign.
Do you have any hobbies or interests outside of music?
Yes, I sew! I like to make clothes and work with textiles. I find focusing on tiny little things like needles and thread really calming. As mentioned before, Art School was an option after high school. I haven't in a really really long time but I'd like to get back to painting. I see myself in my 80s as a visual artist. A Polynesian Yayoi Kusama.
Check out more of Moana's work here!