Neil Pennycook: ‘I’m reclaiming Meursault’
Neil Pennycook Supermoon Meursault

Following a recent fan-exciting teaser, Alex Watson tracks down Edinburgh musician Neil Pennycook to find out more about Meursault, Supermoon – and the man behind them both

It’s almost two years ago to the day that Edinburgh musician Neil Pennycook bade farewell to the pseudonym he’d been playing under and creating under for eight years, with one last spine-tingling and spectacular live performance.

It felt firm and final, and when I sat down with Neil a few months later to talk about his new project, Supermoon, he was adamant that Meursault was now just an often-mispronounced piece of music history.

So, just a few weeks ago – on July 26 – when Pennycook mysteriously shared a link to “the first track from the new album” on Meursault’s Facebook page, you could understand the internet’s excited confusion.

Rather than puzzle over the possibilities, I went straight to the source to find out exactly what this move means for Meursault, Supermoon and the man behind them both.

Hi Neil. When we talked back at the end of 2014, it seemed like you were putting Meursault to bed for the last time. What changed?

“For a while there I was fairly certain that I’d put Meursault behind me. When I started out under that name, I considered it to be a solo project, but as things progressed and the number of people involved grew, the dynamic changed and Meursault became more of a band in the traditional sense.

“While I don’t regret taking that approach it put me in unfamiliar territory, and I found that I wasn’t particularly comfortable or able to work in that way. Long story short, it got to the stage where I felt I had to ‘push the reset button’ and start again under a new name.

“After a year or so working as Supermoon, I began to notice similarities between what I was doing now and how I had approached things as Meursault – especially on those first two records. After procrastinating for a few months, I came to the conclusion that I wanted to reclaim Meursault and continue where I’d left off, rather than start from scratch as Supermoon.

“Besides, no one could spell Supermoon.”

The album announcement was a pleasant surprise for lots of people – has it been in the works for a long time, or was it a fairly spontaneous decision?

“The album – I Will Kill Again – is what I’d been working on as Supermoon. In truth, I’d intended this to be the title of the fourth Meursault record before my self-imposed exile, so it’s nice to have had the time to flesh it out and work up the lyrics and themes of the album.

“It was recorded at The Happiness Hotel, which is owned by my good pal and long term collaborator Matthew Young (Song, By Toad) who is also releasing the album.”

What can we expect from the new album?

“Musically, I think the album sounds like a continuation of All Creatures Will Make Merry combined with some of the ‘spookier’ elements from Farewell, Bastard Mountain. I think a big reason for this is that the record was self produced.

“While I’m really proud of the third Meursault album – Something for the Weakened – and Pete Harvey did a great job with the mix, I think I’d underestimated how much my production style informed the music.

“Lyrically, the new album is both darker (but not too dark) and funnier (but not too funny) than anything I’ve done before. It really taps into that classic ‘Kurt-Vonnegut-sits-down-with-Mark-David-Chapman-to-discuss-how-to-rid-the-universe-of-all-evil-only-to-discover-that-they’re-alone-at-the-end-of-the-world-and-that-they-themselves-are-both-one-in-the-same’ vibe that everyone’s going crazy for these days.”

The response to the announcement has been extremely positive so far – how did it make you feel? Are you nervous about coming back as Meursault?

“It’s been incredibly encouraging and it’s definitely made me feel confident in my decision. The warmth and general goodwill that people have shown towards the project is something that I think I may have overlooked over the last few years.”

Will there be more live shows under the name?

“Absolutely. Expect an announcement very soon with regards to shows and tours, both in the UK and beyond. While I’ll be approaching live shows as a solo artist, I’ll also be enlisting the help of some old pals.”

Can we expect to hear old Meursault tracks played live again, and how do you feel about playing them?

“I’ll definitely be dipping into the back catalogue more than I have done in the past. I’m far more comfortable doing that these days, and can sympathise with previous bandmates and audiences who’ve been somewhat infuriated with my inclination to play mainly new material at live shows.

“That said, I’m very excited to show off the new songs so you can probably expect an even split of old and new.”

What about Supermoon?

“I intend to keep Supermoon as a name that I can use to put out informal or experimental releases, and as the title of my ongoing comic series which I hope will see the light day sometime in the not-too-distant future.

“In the meantime though it’ll be full steam ahead as Meursault.”

Neil Pennycook plays live supporting Grandaddy at Summerhall, Edinburgh on August 22 – more info

Like this? Try these:

Supermoon performs a live session on Arthur’s Seat
Supermoon: ‘I’ve got absolutely no desire to compete with the music industry’
Live review: Meursault’s last performance

Main image: Alex Watson