I Confronted My Teenage Fandom for The Moffatts by Interviewing Scott Moffatt
We caught up with the former frontman of The Moffatts to find out what he's been up to for the last 15 years, and if there's any hope for a reunion.
Just 15 short years ago, I was finger-tracing the signatures on the autographed The Moffatts poster my friend Ashley had gotten me, wildly feverish with pubescent weirdness. I would imagine their wrists grazing the edges of the glossy paper as they signed their names, coveting the pen they used to do it. I was in the exact same stage of my life as those screaming, crying, absolutely insane hoards of girls you saw blockading the front row in videos of old Elvis or Beatles concerts, or more recently the ones crying over lost One Direction members. I couldn’t explain why, but the hysteria I felt toward The Moffatts was very real.
Scott Moffatt often shared the frontman role with his brother Dave, but was arguably the edgier of the two (keep in mind, this is coming from a girl who preferred Kevin Richardson over Nick Carter). For me, Scott was right up there with 1998 Leo DiCaprio and early-2000s Josh Hartnett. From his tousled tresses and raspy voice, to his guitar skills and semi-mysterious demeanour, Scott had the bang that groups like Hanson just weren’t bringing.
I grew up with The Moffatts. I listened to their bubble-pop at a maniacal pace, watched their videos on MuchMusic, and ordered their CDs with my mom’s Columbia House subscription. Naturally, I took some sort of weird ownership over the band like any diehard fan would with music that they think they like more than anyone else on the entire planet. I also dyed my hair eerily similar to a popular late-nineties Scott ‘do when I was in grade five, and I’ll never really know if it was subconsciously influenced by him or not.
Just a few weeks ago, I spoke with my childhood heartthrob Scott Moffatt on the telephone (since then he’s also added me to Facebook and I CAN’T EVEN—but, I digress). We spoke about everything from disbanding and teen angst, to lingering Moffatts fan clubs and his in-the-works solo project. “I’m doing a bunch of stuff right now,” the 32-year-old told me over the phone from Nashville. “I’ve been doing indie stuff in Montreal, I just produced for this girl named Iris. Also, I lived in Thailand. I lived there for about five years and worked for Sony BMG as an in-house producer. We had a few number ones over there.” During that stint, he says, he also won Producer of the Year.
Up until 2000, “Miss You Like Crazy”, “I’ll Be There for You”, and “Misery” were some of the big sing-along hits being pumped out by the young fraternal foursome. But then one day, my best friend’s older sister got a copy of what would go on to be the band’s last CD together, Submodalities. I had no idea what that word meant—I still don’t—but my god, I’ll never forget the first time I listened to it. The four brothers were on the cover—hair cut, soul-patched and stubble-clad, and they were doing things with guitars that made my 11-year-old brain short-circuit.
That album helped them go from BOP cover material to softcore bad boys, as their sound immediately went from baby bop pop-rock about having a crush on their babysitter, to four grown-ass men singing with abstract intellect and Radiohead-like lucidity with lyrics like “Captain May I has told us, we're ready to land / The Martians will greet us, but no one is an alien.”
In the 15 years since Submodalities came out in 2000, the band seems to have been hiding in the darkness, not releasing any new music together. “We didn’t know it would be our last [album],” Scott tells me. “We actually had songs ready for the next record. Dave wanted to leave the band, and I also kind of wanted to leave the band too, but mine was kind of more irrational heat-of-the-moment ‘I don’t wanna be here anymore.’ Dave’s was sort of more legitimate, soul-searching.” But don’t let the Zayn Malik-ness of the whole ordeal trick you into thinking these guys were just a boy band. “We’d been doing it since we were six or seven years old,” Scott says. “We were young guys that wanted to make music and the only people we could make music with were each other. I think we were more like The Bee Gees. We were brothers and we were making music and we were writing—it wasn't manufactured.”
Glossing over the details of the untimely disbandment, Scott says at the end of their last tour for Submodalities they had a “bit of an issue,” where Dave wanted out. Scott says the rest of them had planned on continuing together after that, but that plan quickly fell apart. Before the teenybopper world could say their first curse word, the Moffatts were no more. “We kind of just decided to live normal lives for a bit, says Scott. “I became a manager in a kitchen in Calgary. We all had girlfriends, and we were doing our own thing. It was like we were still the band, we just weren't hanging out as much.”
But for the fans, the memories continued to live on. There are still handfuls of online fan clubs, Facebook accounts and customized YouTube compilations surrounding the teenybopper fandom of the long-gone band. But for Scott, that’s just a testament of the impact they had. “I’m totally fine with that. I think we played a big part in their lives, and I think that’s great.”
Sadly, Scott says there isn’t much hope for a reunion. However, you may be able to cure your Moffatt fever with Scott’s new stuff. He says his first single, “Whenever Not Ever” will be released in May. “It’s really pop music, but there’s a lot of indie influences, R&B influences—I don’t know if it’s anything in particular.” Based off of a sample track posted to his Facebook page a few days ago, it’s a dynamic, funky sound, with Prince-like melodies and riffs. It’s more pop-y than Submodalities, but way less pop-y than everything before that. That’s not to say you’ll be disappointed. After all, how could it be disappointing hearing Scott Moffatt's voice for the first time in 15 years? It’s like having a time machine that forces you to confront your former Canadian popstar crush, but on his own terms. You're meeting him at what feels like eye-level, no longer looking up at him with childlike wonder. It's no longer about the worship, and that's just the was Scott Moffatt wants it to be. “I don’t want to be a celebrity—I don’t believe in being famous—but having people be aware of you so you can have a positive influence on people, I think that’s my goal.”
Hillary Windsor is a writer living in Halifax. - @hillarywindsor