Adapting your performance and music to suit an audience with Lick the Moon

By Alex Jones

30 May 2024

Making changes that suit your audience may not seem like an attractive proposition to most musicians. But it can help groups grow in popularity. Jazz musicians have struggled in recent times to conform to the trends in modern music which seeks shorter, more dance led songs as opposed to lengthy improvisation. 

Meet Stan, trumpeter in the seven piece jazz group, Lick the Moon. He spoke to Feedback about the changes they have made to their branding and sound to mould into the Manchester scene.  

Stan’s route into music was very traditional, beginning to play the trumpet at the age of eight after growing up in a very musical household. “My parents are both professional classical musicians so I had lessons for a few years. I grew more interested in jazz stuff and I set up a little dup in sixth form. My dad’s side of the family is really really musical.

“I’d sort of always been playing around on the piano just because my parents are musicians, there’s just so many instruments everywhere (in my house) so I’ve always been messing around.” 

The rest of the group are also mostly classically trained musicians, and so for Lick the Moon, adapting their music and presence to a modern audience has been something they’ve worked on across their two years together. “Most of us came to jazz a bit later on and were already trained classically and we have quite a classical approach to our music. We have lots of different influences, Latin music and lots of more electronic stuff and experimental classical stuff as well.” 

These multiple influences reflect one of the ways the band have been working on audience retention, providing a little bit of something for everyone in order to make a name for themselves. Playing in Manchester has been hard for the group. Stan said: “I am a little bit disappointed to be perfectly honest. There is some stuff going on. It is a very good city for music in general, lots of cool venues and stuff. But like in terms of jazz there is not loads.” 

Stan’s band have tried some routine changes as well as some slightly more unorthodox ones. In terms of making jazz more digestible. He said: “When we first started out we were a jazz band who’d do lots and lots of solos on each tune and stuff and now we have sort of realised that the direction we want to go in is more sort of songs that happen to have a little sax solo, or a little sax break in the middle rather than that being the main focus. I think it has helped us in terms of popularity.

“We are quite on the dancy end of the jazz spectrum, it is not like lounge jazz or weird experimental jazz. A lot of our tunes are upbeat and dancy and I feel like people enjoy dancing to it when they come to our gigs.”

Making the sound more comfortable for live listening is one of the more standard techniques Lick the Moon have employed. But what Stan next described was throwing a kind of rock opera spin on his introduction of the band at gigs. It is a fun project for Stan and his group and this shines through in their quirky stage presence. 

“Recently at gigs we have been making up stories about our backstory as a band and we have sort of been saying we all met on a space journey to Mars. We sort of crashed and landed to play music.

“We keep making up these stupid stories. We started doing this like a month ago in gigs, I don’t really know why but it is quite funny.” 

They don’t take themselves too seriously, describing the history of band name on a festival application form in a more than creative way. ‘We were almost called Lick the Spoon due to a particularly indulgent bowl of stew but then we realised our sound was about more than just culinary adventures. Realising that our mission required us to transcend ordinary we felt that Lick the Moon reflected our desire to explore the unknown.’ 

Stan’s next step in music will be playing on cruise ships and branching out into travel entertainment. As for Lick the Moon, the group is aiming to shift from having music as a hobby to taking it a lot more seriously. “We’ve been juggling degrees this year, so have had to turn down lots of gigs, just because of stress. Hopefully next year we’ll be a bit more serious about it.

“Up to now it has just been for fun basically but I think quite a lot of us want to take it further, apply for festivals next summer and release some new music.”

On the subject of new music, Lick the Moon plan to release two singles in the coming weeks. Follow the links below to stay tuned for the new tracks. 

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