“I’m Just Spilling All of These Stories”: An Interview With Archy Moor

Ethan Herlock connects with Archy Moor to talk about balancing the cultures of Ireland and Nigeria, using his music to open up on 'Bonnie Hill' and more.
By    February 24, 2023

Image via Archy Moor/Instagram

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In an industry where young talents are on a fast track to imposed maturity, Archy Moor grows at his own pace. Starting his rap career at 19 with the release of the Irish gothic boom-bap debut “Moonboy,” he quickly followed up with the jazzy Osquello-featuring “The Long Road” and “Remember Me,” boasting complex rhyme schemes and wordplay. Now 21 years old, the Nigerian-born and Dublin-raised wordsmith released his latest project, Bonnie Hill, a sophomore EP packed with the emotional potency of a dust-covered bildungsroman and the freeing air of exploring one’s self and the changing world around him.

There’s a breadth of Irish hip-hop landscapes to lose yourself in from Rejjie Snow’s backpacking rabbit-hole-exploring raps, Officia’s cutthroat drill bangers and Kneecap’s politically satirical protests. What makes Archy Moor stand alone from his peers is his deeply personal and acute storytelling which cuts through your soul like a knife but heals those wounds like a panacea. As a listener in need of a guide throughout the recesses of Moor’s mind, he takes your hand throughout the 18-minute EP as he philosophizes, laments and rejoices in real-time.

Moor is a lone wanderer on the fringes of the music industry and it’s reflected by the small list of features that reads like supporting characters in the coming-of-age tale that he’s carefully created. Jgrrey lends additional vocals in the opener “Beautiful” wondering where the hell “Bonnie Hill is” and Moor’s mother is given the classic voice note treatment in the outro of “Belly Of A Queen.” Jubilant at the growth of her son, the intention of the voice note serves as a sincere immortalization of the bond they share – an ever-lasting embrace between recipient and receiver, mother and son.

The producers tapped for Bonnie Hill: Earl Saga (Loyle Carner), MIKEWAVVS (Jack Harlow), Nick Mills (Baby Keem) and Benji Miller (Rejjie Snow) concoct boom-bap drums with glowing synths, lo-fi drum production and breezy guitar chords which materialize as canvases for Moor to weaves vulnerable reflections on familial ties, memory and personal growth.

Moor speaks over Zoom, diving into small talk about whether honey lemon ginger tea hits the same with natural or processed ingredients (it has to be natural) – growing up in Ireland and the process of Bonnie Hill. – Ethan Herlock

You were born in Nigeria and grew up in Dublin? What was it like growing up in two very different cultures?

Archy Moor: It was cool, I didn’t know anything else about how life was. Looking back and seeing how things were, it was lowkey isolating, not many people to relate to, from primary school to college days, in a “back-home” sense.

Growing up, I was trying to mould myself into the things people were doing and what was around because you don’t want to be on your ones. But these days, I’m like f*ck all of that, by doing your thing you attract people who have a similar mindset and you find your people. It was cool but it is what it is.

When you’re a kid and your world is small, not fitting in socially is a really big deal.

Archy Moor: Yeah the whole narrative growing up is sports-heavy, any slither of creativity you would get is rinsed in school. “Why are you doing that?,” “why are you painting?,” “you should be playing rugby with the boys.” But when you keep doing it then certain people start to give ratings but I remember back in the day they didn’t get it.

So I get the vibe Dublin was pretty isolating for you? What was Nigeria like?

Archy Moor: I’ve been there a few times for holidays, my experience of it is summer holiday-esque. My sisters went there for a few months and she said it was so different to how we experienced it when we were children. That’s something I’ve yet to experience.

The default thing was, my dad lives over there; I see him, go see my cousins, 15 of us running around, you miss that when you watch home movies where we’ll be movie stars or football players. Existing in that childhood realm is surreal because you’re not going to get it back, to get everyone together now is hard; everyone’s working, married or in college. I’m happy to have experienced it that way. Even if I didn’t get it in Dublin, I didn’t have to shy away in Nigeria.

It’s a crazy contrast; Nigeria, you felt connected and Dublin, you didn’t. Was it like an element of race played into it or you just didn’t gel with others socially?

Archy Moor: I mean, if it was a race thing, I didn’t really know it, because I was oblivious, there were those weird things…

Like microaggressions?

Archy Moor: Yeah, and in secondary school there were a lot of sly jabs, it was weird but at the same time, you laugh it off because otherwise it’s gonna be mad. Me being me now I’m not on that, you look back and think, wow did I go through that?

Schools can be a hotbed for that type of behaviour. I went to an Irish Catholic school so I can relate to some extent, it’s very subtle but sometimes overt like some of these dudes would tell you to go back to your own country.

Archy Moor: And it just feels like nobody’s there to stick up for you, because these things happen in front of others, all of this would go on in front of us and they’ll laugh and not do much, even if a few people noticed, they would kinda egg you on for not taking it well. Do I speak out? Do I keep it in?

Those situations have unconsciously seeped in and those feelings bleed throughout my music, how open I am with that feeling of isolation, you can see it in my writing, how open I am – I never had an outlet to express that until I started making music. I’m not trying to make bops, vulnerability is a must for me.

With Bonnie Hill, it’s a testament to growing up, especially in “Have It In Ya Hands,” you go into familial dysfunction and the lyrics read like you’re getting over life’s tribulations as if it’s still raw for you?

Archy Moor: It’s surprising for me, as open as I am, it’s weird, it’s not that conscious, it feels like I’m being taken over by a different me. I’m just spilling all of these stories, once I finish writing and look over, I go over it and I’m like, “woah did I say that?” But I reflect and it’s actually good, it helps.

In “Belly of the Queen,” I talk a lot about my mum and dad, for me, the family drama, I think it doesn’t really f*ck with my mind anymore but then I wrote that song and I’m like, oh shit. Even talking to you now, I’m not. I wouldn’t imagine saying this stuff to you about my private life but when I’m writing songs, it all comes rushing out.

You don’t want to repress those feelings and creative expressions can be a healthy outlet. How did your mum respond?

Archy Moor: Oh man, when I first started making music, I was moving so discreetly, worrying about my mum finding out I wasn’t in college. I focused on music, sneaking out at 7am to go to my mates to record. She would ask me what I was doing up so early and I’ll say I was studying. Eventually it got to a point where it’s like I either tell her and she f*cks with it or I tell her and she doesn’t.

I just told her, this is what is happening, I need equipment and one day I came home and there’s mics and a laptop. She tells me if this is what you want to do, go off but try to take college more seriously. I kept her happy by studying and then she was supportive of my music.

In “Pray My Ma,” it’s based on this story. She’s like a de facto executive producer, always giving me advice on production like telling me to add a guitar here. She’s down with the latest trends in rap, showing me a lot of trending rappers, she’s really proud. As a child, you want to think your mum is proud of you but for her to say it verbally, it means a lot. For me, you can’t beat that.

Who was the producer you went to? Earl Saga?

Archy Moor: Nah it was a random schoolmate at the time when I was 15/16. I met Earl Saga last year. When I did, it was an instant click, from the first Zoom we had. It became brotherly very quick, the same wavelength 24/7 and we work well.

How did that connection come across? He’s produced for artists like Slowthai and Loyle Carner; artists known for their albums on post-adolescence masculinity.

Archy Moor: Someone I knew introduced me to him, before then I was just bouncing from producer to producer and it made me realise I can’t do the whole “You’re hot but I don’t know you but f*ck it, let’s make a tune.”

As soon as I got introduced to Earl, it was pretty refreshing off the jump. I asked him how he felt and he felt pretty disillusioned with making music bouncing from different people. He was hunting for artists and I was hunting for producers, we was put together at the right time, eventually I would fly out to Milton Keynes for some sessions and four months later, we f*cked off to LA to create more music.

It sounds pretty instinctual, speaking of LA, you posted a street-sign saying Bonnie Hill on your IG. What’s the connection there?

Archy Moor: We finished the project without a name and I couldn’t really think of one, I didn’t want some random title. One day, Me [and Earl] were on a walk and we saw the sign and I thought it was a unique name and I started to think of this journey we’ve been on making this EP, it ended on that street during the walk. It naturally made sense.

It ties things quite neatly showing the end of a transatlantic journey. I read in an article you filmed the “I’ve Been” video in Japan?

Archy Moor: [Me and Earl] recorded 98% of the video in South Korea and the other 2% in Japan. It was a random video, we did the song on a plane and thought, ah it would be sick to do a video, so we went to a Sony store, the storekeeper couldn’t speak English and we was just running around trying out these different camcorders and bought one. Filmed and edited the shit ourselves with a Sony AX camcorder, I forgot the exact make of it.

There’s a lot of Irish contemporary artists getting their flowers right now; Rejjie Snow, Biig Piig, Kneecap, A92 and Officia. Where do you think you fit into the bigger picture?

Archy Moor: I think we all have our own thing, everyone’s unique in their own regard. For me, I don’t know how it sounds but I don’t pay attention to the other noises or fitting in, it’s just about my music for me. I’m based in Dublin but I fly to England and LA for this so in a sense, it doesn’t feel very Irish, I feel like I’m floating about more.

Well when I first listened to your music, I instantly thought of old school Rejjie Snow. But like I feel like you’re more introspective whereas Rejjie’s music is more escapist? I could smoke weed to Rejjie Snow and have a dope trippy experience whereas I couldn’t smoke weed and listen to your music because I’ll probably think about my dad and shit.

Archy Moor: It’s weird you say Rejjie Snow, I get those kinds of comparisons all the time. Me and Rejjie [grew up together] and he gave me some advice but I’m mainly trying to create my own lane. Alex is an inspiration to me, especially when I started out because seeing someone like him do what he’s done. It drove me to think “woah I can do it too” and in the early stages of my music, I was moulded by his come-up but broke it and started doing my own thing.

What kind of music did you listen to growing up?

Archy Moor: From childhood days, I was heavy into head-banging rock, heavy metal shit back on Limewire days.

Like Iron Maiden and Black Flag?

Archy Moor: I used to listen to “I Predict a Riot” by Kaiser Chiefs a lot, that shit was looped endlessly for a good part of a decade. Then I went to Flo-Rida, T-Pain, Timbaland and Tinie Tempah.

“Low” was formative to every Gen Z kid, that shit used to go off at Year 6 school dances. Can’t forget the chokehold “Pass Out” had on us too, we were really living our best lives.

Archy Moor: My first US rap introduction was through A$AP Rocky, A$AP Mob and Migos. Quite recently, I’ve been into Joyce Wrice, Loyle Carner, Puma Blue; those kinds of artists. I still listen to the trap and rock shit but everything started with heavy metal which is weird. It’s a weird stepping stone but then you start exploring.

What’s the future for Archy Moor?

Archy Moor: Honestly I don’t plan that far ahead but with the tape, it’s like people will listen to it, understand more about who I am and the stories I tell. Whatever happens, I’ll adapt to it.

Any advice for artists trying to come up?

Archy Moor: Follow your guts, be yourself, don’t let people swindle you and lead with love.

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