“The party’s rockin’ and I feel alright” Carmouflage Rose sings on his 2017 breakout single ‘Late Nights’, a bona fide hit that propelled him on every festival circuit you could imagine. Four years later, the party is still rocking, but with a bit more introspection.
Queue his new EP A Night With No Moon, an expansion in styles and a display of maturity, showcasing an artist that isn’t afraid of evolution. The moon in this collection represents ‘Moments Out Of Nostalgia’, where he’d find himself in a constant loop of reminiscence, thinking about better nights and times in the past. Throughout the seven tracks, he uses elements of R&B, pop, hip-hop, and afrobeat to tell tales of romance, narrating his inner thoughts through impassioned croons and ear-catching flows. Producer James Angus returns as his right-hand man, directing the project’s seamless stylistic transitions with heavy bass, rattling percussion, and atmospheric soundscapes. Contributions from the likes of BLESSED, Gill Bates, Yaw Faso, and more also help create this sonic cinematography, allowing us to see Rose at his most fully realised.
So what is the catalyst of this artistic development? The simple answer is time. The pandemic-affected climate gave Rose the time to sit and think, garnering wisdom without the distraction of a hectic touring schedule or media trudge. Since moving to Australia from Zimbabwe a decade ago, the ambition has been a constant grind, whether in the form of working a day job to get by, or sleepless studio sessions trying to conjure his next idea. This signifies the first chance he’s had to reassess and reinvigorate himself. From this self-exploration came events like writing camps on Stradbroke Island, and returning to his home country. This refresh isn’t a restart, but a vital moment in his artistic journey that finds him sitting at his computer today, staring at my face through the lens of Zoom. Throughout our 20 minutes together, he talks us through his return to Zimbabwe last year, the songwriting process for A Night With No Moon, and being vulnerable in his music.
Congratulations on the EP, man. How are you feeling?
I’m feeling great. It’s like the weight has been lifted off my shoulders because the music is finally out. I’m excited that the fans are hearing it.
I love the title A Night With No Moon. What does it represent?
Moon stands for ‘Moments Out Of Nostalgia’, and that’s just me explaining that when I would go out with friends, I was reminiscing on other, better nights. I was never in the moment, and A Night With No Moon was me addressing those moments. It’s an internal dialogue of what goes around in my head when I’m in those situations.
I feel like the nostalgia related to better nights has been a prominent thing over the last year, with all of us essentially being locked down.
I think that was a massive part. My heart and my energy were saying that I need to approach my music in this way as opposed to creating turn-up stuff because nobody is turning up right now. This music came naturally to me, and it felt right. I think some of the people out there listening will feel the same.
That creative turning point exemplifies growth, which you’ve experienced a lot of both musically and personally. How do you think you’ve evolved since the days of ‘Late Nights’?
When the pandemic hit, It was a good moment for me to go through a phase of chilling out, relaxing, and refining my centre. It was good for me because I was going from festival to festival, from here to Europe and back. It was good to find out about myself and what I like doing because I didn’t have the time to do that before. During this time, I learned how to produce vocals, a little bit of beat stuff, and zone in on my craft. I became better in the studio, and better at songwriting. Before, I was doing a lot of intoxicated writing, never writing sober, because I was a bit of a party animal [Laughs]. I’ve just grown up. The older we get, the more responsibilities we have, and when I made ‘Late Nights’, I didn’t have any responsibilities.
You’ve described music as your 9 to 5 before, but with the festivals and hectic touring schedules, you can find yourself working overtime. When and how do you wind down?
I think you just need to have a good team around you. Often, James Angus or my manager, Josh will be like “Hey, you need to go away for a week and not do anything.” They are times where I don’t write music or touch the computer or anything. With the way the industry works, there’s no guarantee. If you go and learn to fly a plane, you’re guaranteed to get your license. If you study law, you get your degree after 5 years. You know what’s coming at the end. With music, we spend 2-3 years making a project, and when it comes out, we have anxiety in terms of whether we celebrate, or we get back to work. We just want to keep on going, because there are no guarantees. I kind of had that episode with this release, where everyone just had to tell me to chill out, and fucking enjoy it.
The enjoyment is deserved, especially after wrapping up a project that’s so vulnerable and expressive in content, particularly around the themes of love. Is it hard to tackle these subjects in the studio?
In the studio, it’s easy for me, because it comes organically. I have a fountain of those emotions that are running, so it’s easy for me to tap into those topics. It’s not like creating something I have no information on. I know the ups and downs of love, yearning, and wanting to move forward. Instead of me cooking myself up, I just make music about it, and I know there are people out there in the same place who are going to listen and relate. I love doing that stuff, and I think my fans have been waiting for me to be that guy.
Your surroundings seem to be a big part of your creative process, whether it’s the people you write with, or the geographical location, having completed a portion of this project on Stradbroke Island. How do you think this plays a part in creativity?
It eliminates distractions. The problem with making music in your city or during the day is that there’s a lot of distractions. Your phone’s ringing, your mum is asking you what you want for dinner, stuff like that. We have a studio in Fortitude Valley, where you hear ambulances passing and stuff like that. It’s also about creating a space where people don’t have to worry about rent and the necessities in life. You want them relaxed and with clarity, in a cocktail of peace and harmony. In that mix, if you can overlook the ocean, you can create some really beautiful ideas. Making music and accepting criticism is much easier in that environment. You can’t plant a palm tree seed in a teacup and expect to grow, it’s about creating a space where it can flourish.
Hearing all of this is very inspirational, especially with you journeying to Australia from Zimbabwe a decade ago with this goal in mind. Can you describe what those times were like when you first arrived?
I remember I couldn’t understand the way you guys spoke [Laughs]. I remember someone was like “How you going?”, And I was like, “Going where?” When I started working as well, people would go on smoko, and I was like “I don’t smoke,” so I wouldn’t go on my breaks. I also had to try and adjust to the Aussie humour, because some of it was nasty and crazy [Laughs]. It was all very interesting. I fell in love with the style as well, with the TNs, the tracksuits, and stuff. Also the other side of that, with the bougie stuff. There are just so many different kinds of life here, I love it.
How have you found the journey of connecting to your cultural heritage through music?
I feel like that just naturally comes, so I don’t have to think about it. It’s not intentional, I just know that it comes out. Sometimes with the art stuff and the videos, I make sure to represent my country. I try to represent both Australia and Zimbabwe because I don’t want that local energy. I always want to have global energy, where someone can look at photos of Kanye West, Travis Scott, and myself side to side, and view us in a sense of artistry. Even though we are on different scales, you know what they say, shoot for the stars and land on the moon.
In Zimbabwe, genres like Chimurenga music have always been used as a beacon of hope in the darkest times. How do you think your music gives you hope?
I feel like that’s why I make music, to give hope to people, and help them understand that they’re not alone in dealing with stuff. That’s the feeling I was going for with A Night with No Moon, where somebody could listen to it, and understand exactly what I’m talking about because they’re going through it as well. Growing up, my mum used to play a lot of Zimbabwean music like Oliver Mtukudzi, and in his music, he was always giving advice. He was telling you that you’re going to be OK, you’re going to be fine. I try to harness that energy in my music, giving advice and my view on love.
You went back last year, with the difference being now that you’re a solidified, successful musician. What was that trip like?
You know, it’s funny, they don’t even know who Carmouflage Rose is there. I also didn’t realise I had an accent [Laughs]. But man, the studio sessions there are awesome because they have one producer, 10 artists, and no Wi-Fi. The producer would make a beat and everyone would write verses. If you’ve been in a studio before, people will usually write their verses, wait for the others to be done, and then go in and record. But here, I felt pressure, because sometimes I lay my verse and miss a word or something, and these guys were absolute guns. They’d write, and immediately have the energy and vibe they want to display to the world. I’ve kind of taken that back here with me. I’ve always been a one-take guy, but they’ve inspired me to take it to a different level.
Lastly, man, you’ve mentioned that you want to enjoy the release of the EP, so how are you going to spend the rest of 2021 enjoying A Night with No Moon?
Man, I’ve got some videos coming out, so that’s going to be great. I want to do a show soon, but I don’t know when. I also want to do some festivals, so when that happens, it’s going to be great. In the meantime, I’ll just have a few drinks with my friends and family, and hopefully, when the times change, I can have a house party soon. Maybe it’ll be a Zoom party.