Posted July 22, 2020 by Jeff in Tunes

Singer-Songwriter Liela Moss Explores How Humanity Has ‘Slipped Into an Abyss’

Liela Moss photo by Paul O'Keeffe
Liela Moss photo by Paul O'Keeffe

In advance of the Aug. 7 release of her new solo album, Who the Power, singer-songwriter Liela Moss has released a music video for “Atoms of Me” as well as a lyric video for “Watching the Wolf.”

“An imagined rebellion created by packs of wolves, who mete out justice when they lure a power-hungry narcissistic wannabe politician to his demise,” says Moss in a statement of “Watching the Wolf.” “[It’s] a modern day folk tale whose villain is a fraud. Useless in the face of an emergency — ‘now comes the hour, when you’re not gonna know what to do’ — and utterly inane, he has no idea he is despised by so many, including the animal kingdom. If you’re going to deconstruct the modern psyche, you might as well dance to it.” 

Who the Power represents the follow-up to 2018’s deeply personal My Name Is Safe in Your Mouth and backed by the urgent grooves needed for the job.

 “To make music for the sake can sometimes feel like a narcissistic thing to do, and very reflective of our times,” says Moss. “So much of being a musician and live performer is about projecting energy outward, which can be a beautiful and powerful thing. I experienced a good round of that over previous years, and now wanted to explore my fears of tipping the scales the other way: why should I continue to re-enact the narcissistic habits of our generation, desperate for validation, desperate for space, for ‘a platform’?” 

With her new life as a parent at a time of ecological and political upheaval also very much in mind, Moss entered a period of “hardcore self-enquiry” that included a return to a 10-day stay at a silent Vipassana Meditation centre. Determined to avoid “content for content’s sake,” Moss’ intent was to cleanse her palate and anatomise her motivations to make music. 

Fucking about with some demos to justify my existence,” she says, “was not an option.

Moss describes album opener “Turn Your Back Around” as “one filthy, upbeat, downhearted, close-your-eyes-and-dance-by-yourself pop song, offered as a parting gift to Mother Earth.” 

She considers “White Feather” to be a “lament for the earth.”

“Humanity is losing connection with something vital, and willingly letting itself slip into an abyss,” she says. “This isn’t as simple as my reaction to the distressing reality of environmental damage; it is my thoughts on our lousy behaviour to one another.” 

Working again with partner/producer Toby Butler, Moss wrote and recorded the album at their studio in Somerset, where they live with their child. The difference this time, she explains, was a desire “to create something more urgent”, which captured a sense of renewal while conveying a strong sense of despair at modern culture. 

“Perhaps that oscillating energy is best expressed musically via machines,” she says. “We spent much of our time playing with vintage synths and drum machines, building a more visceral palette. I wanted the album to convey a depth of field, to be multi-layered yet feel simple, and to groove.”

Over 14 years, Moss has worked with UNKLE, Nick Cave, Giorgio Moroder and Lost Horizons, as well as serving as muse for fashion icons Alexander McQueen and Phillip Lim, among others.

If My Name Is Safe in Your Mouth offered a “haunting snapshot” of Moss’ intuitive instincts, Who the Power repurposes and refuels those instincts.

“My offering is only mine,” Moss says. “It lacks ubiquity. Crucially, it doesn’t seek to rob from others. In actual fact it only has to feed three mouths, under the shelter they need, and provide enough time to nourish their minds so that they can in turn be in the productive service of others. It doesn’t need to win to succeed. Just to be understood for what it is, is enough.” 

Photo by Paul O’Keeffe


Jeff started writing about rock ’n’ roll some 20 years ago when he stood in the pouring rain to hitch hike his way to see R.E.M. on their Life’s Rich Pageant tour. Since that time, he's written for various daily newspapers, alt-weeklies, magazines and websites. Feel free to comment on his posts or suggest music, film and art to him at jeff@whopperjaw.net.