Keeley Moss, one of the driving forces behind hot new Dublin act Session Motts, talks about her fixation with the past, her passion for music, and how an unsolved murder case in Northern Ireland captivated all her attention.
Arriving late to Dublin’s Library Bar Keeley Moss waltzes in flustered and says breathlessly, “Sorry! The train was late. I ran like Linford Christie to get here, and now I’ve arrived looking like Bonnie Tyler on a bad hair day!”
If I held any resentment at all for her tardiness, I’m left chuckling by that introduction alone… Clad in a denim jacket which bears half-a-dozen music pins – David Bowie is present, as are the Beatles – and wearing a Lush t-shirt underneath, Keeley’s style is an ideal introduction to Session Motts’ musical tastes. This is a band whose members (producer/bassist Ingmar and guitarist Daniel Kane) owe a debt to the various pop, rock and shoegaze bands that they adored throughout the ’80s and ’90s. A fascination with Britpoppers Suede, says Keeley, was instrumental in their formation.
“Dan and I met at a Bernard Butler and Ben Watt gig,” she says, “because we’re huge fans of Suede. It proved to be an interesting connection, because Ingmar worked as a producer for Island Records and actually had a session with the band during his time.”
Session Motts’ sound can be described using a word-soup of genre-compounds and musical reference points; they’re post-punk, shoegaze, Northern Soul… the list could go on. Keeley herself refers to each of genres and others during our conversation, revealing a encyclopaedic musical knowledge. But what sets the singer apart from others is her very specific lyrical subject matter.
“I don’t write about the usual kinds of ‘song fodder’,” she staunchly declares. “I don’t write about love – I don’t think I could write a love song. I don’t have a head to talk about falsehoods.”
No, nothing so generic for Keeley. All of the band’s most recent songs relate to the horrific unsolved murder of German backpacker Inga Maria Hauser in North Antrim in 1988.
“I’ve always been drawn in by shows like True Crime and Crimewatch,” she explains, “especially if it’s about cases from a different era. But I didn’t expect this one particular case to have such an effect on me.”
Noting that the case was unique at the time – in that it was a murder case but was unrelated to The Troubles and therefore didn’t get the media attention it probably deserved – Keeley started a personal blog titled ‘The Keeley Chronicles’ 13 months ago, to create resurgent interest in the case. Since then, she has found herself working closely with senior Northern Irish politicians and the PSNI to try to determine who committed the crime.
Keeley claims that the case has formed the basis for as many as 17 of her songs (an album’s worth, she excitedly states). The first of these to get a proper radio airing was ‘Plundered Past’, an eerie, enthralling dancefloor pop tune.
“I wanted to chronicle Inga’s life and give a voice to this woman who had it ripped away from her,” Keeley says passionately. In the closing bars of ‘Plundered Past’, she sings, “You crept in the backdoor of my mind/I’ll give you the voice they denied”.
Able to discuss minute details of the case, I have to pry Keeley away from the subject several times to ask her other questions, but each topic leads us back round to the singer’s two consuming interests – crime and music.
“The rest of the band are probably fed up with hearing me talk about this,” she laughs, “but I just have this desire to make Inga’s voice heard, in defiance of her killers. And for me, having desire is the most important thing in music.”
Staying true to her self-imposed artistic commitments, Keeley tells me that she’s quitting her job as a librarian after shortly to pursue Session Motts full time. Adamant about giving a voice to a lone 18-year-old backpacker through song, Keeley might just be embarking on something brand new in popular music…
Session Motts play Whelan’s, Dublin on July 14.