Expert Interview with Juliet Pang of Polkadot + Moonbeam

by | Entertainment Wisdom, What Would They Know?, Wisdom

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ms Floral
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Today we’re chatting to the delightful and talented Juliet Pang, one half of Polkadot + Moonbeam! This pocket-sized acoustic duo performs jazz and timeless classics, luscious ballads, lively swing numbers and latin grooves. Popular with creative couples, they tailor arrangements of your chosen wedding ceremony songs in their own unique style. The result is so, so beautiful and incredibly moving (have a listen at the bottom of this post!). Juliet also spills on how Polkadot + Moonbeam got started, what songs work best for weddings, and how you can lock them in for your upcoming nuptials.

How did Polkadot + Moonbeam start and what has it become since then?
Polkadot + Moonbeam first started when Didi and I actually started dating! Our first gig in 2010 was in Berkelouw Bookstore in Leichhardt in NSW. That was the first time we shared our common vision for swing and Latin music on ukulele to a live audience. At the time, we performed on soprano ukuleles. That was before ukulele became a trend. In 2012, I moved on to playing the tenor ukulele, which boasted a slightly more robust sound, boosting the mids, and is perhaps reminiscent of a microscopic version of a thumbed D-hole guitar. That unassuming tone went beautifully with Moonbeam’s walking bass. As we toured various cities, including Sydney, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei and Tokyo over the next decade, we went between our tenor and soprano ukulele outfits (fewer baggage constraints!), and our main course, which is tenor ukulele and acoustic bass. Today, we have also thrown in some finger/hand percussion on our instruments as confetti for a happy occasion!

What’s the story behind your beautiful name?
The name comes from a love song from the 1940s known as ‘Polkadots and Moonbeams’ made popular by Frank Sinatra. It was also his first hit with the famous Tommy Dorset Orchestra. When we first were learning this tune individually, I was in Singapore playing with a five-piece band for a New Year’s Eve gig, and Didi was accompanying a singer! At the time, we were also dating long-distance, and the song connected us in a magical sort of way. I believe the title of the song actually refers to the magic of the moment, that flurry of butterflies in your tummy when you fall in love:

Now in a cottage built of lilacs and laughter
I know the meaning of the words “Ever after”
And I’ll always see polka dots and moonbeams
When I kiss the pug-nosed dream

On that note, it also explains our rather misunderstood social media handle ‘@apugnosedream’.

Do you play at receptions as well as ceremonies?
Polkadot + Moonbeam specialises in creating quality experiences for bespoke wedding ceremonies.

What kind of input do couples have in the set list?
We love that each couple has a unique love story, and often love songs that mean something intimately special for them. Naturally, we encourage them to select their ceremony tunes to walk down the aisle to. Recently we had a couple request for ‘Here Comes the Sun’ by The Beatles. And it was magical when the sun came through as the bride walked down by the glistening Freo waters. Even the guests who knew them well, sang along. Often, the couples book us for our unique duet arrangements of these classics, and really just would like us to play from our repertoire.

What songs work well for pre-ceremony?
As we provide live music, a large part of what we do is to observe the mood of the occasion, whether it is pre-, during or post-ceremony so we could respond with a suitable song performance. One thing we always make sure is that the song just before the ceremony commences is contrasted against the upcoming processional or walk-in song. We want the attention to be drawn to the moment when the bride walks down the aisle. So, often, we play instrumentals to keep the guests entertained, and as background music to set the mood for the grand entrance.

What about songs for canapés or cocktail hour?
Great question! We actually shared our top tips to spinning the perfect playlist, whether it is a live band or a DJ for your pre-dinner, cocktail and canapé set in our post for Polka Dot Bride last year.

Do you take requests from wedding guests?
We certainly do!

What are the benefits of having live music at a wedding?
We thought hard about answering this one. The obvious ones would be our ability to create new music and arrangements that respond to the mood of the occasion – even on the same classics in real time. For example, we played Elvis’ ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ as an upbeat bridal entrance for our couple early March this year, and as they continued into their tea ceremony, it felt natural for us to spontaneously coaxing the mood by blending gently into a slow, romantic ballad, and then into solely an instrumental so they could go into their speeches. And this was all on one single tune.

But an extremely well-prepared, and skilled DJ should be able to do somewhat the same. So, we think it boils down to the magic of having a real person bringing organic raw sounds that is breathed from the moment, and never before to this special occasion. It isn’t something for everyone, especially if the couple wishes to hear the exact same sound from the original singer. Then, perhaps, having a DJ or loading a playlist would be more suitable.

Have you noticed if your band plays at a particular style of wedding more than others?
Yes, we have! We love that our couples are so creative! Amongst the many spectacular, or curious, or rustic venues, we have played in art galleries, of which one had a mystical tiny rabbit hole (Kidogo Arthouse), a beautiful amphitheatre with extensive stairs for the bride and her father to walk down from (Quarry Amphitheatre), and a magical pine tree forest (Somerville Auditorium) where the bride and groom had their first dance to an old sweet song ‘It Had to Be You’. We never thought hard about it, but yes, now that we do – our couples tend to be from creative industries. Psst – the latter is an author of a bestselling book!

Do you work closely with any wedding venues in particular?
Not any in particular. We love the variety we get. But we can’t help that we are biased towards secret, enchanted, intimate settings.

What are some of your favourite wedding venues to play at and why?
Some of these include Kidogo Arthouse, Brookside Vineyard, Mandoon Estate, Barrett Lane, Moore & Moore Cafe. First of all, the people working at these venues are just legends. They go over and beyond because they genuinely love their jobs. Secondly, it really shows! It also helps that these rather magical venues seem to promise dreamy stories.

You’re WA based, but have and would you travel out of state or even overseas for a wedding?
Yes, we have done overseas as well as interstate weddings. We are always keen to bring our music over when expenses are covered, and/or that we haven’t yet been booked out!

What’s the process of booking you in for a wedding?
If the couple has a date, and a rough idea of how long they’d like to book us for, we would be able to offer our quote relevant to their needs. If they already have booked a venue, then really it boils down to taking a deposit to secure the date. There’s also a simple agreement they sign to help us process the booking. If a venue isn’t available yet, we could still offer a soft quote so they have a ballpark figure.  They could still book us, and make amendments nearer the date when they have nailed a venue. And although we only provide music on this one day, we do follow through with them all the way, to make sure they are feeling good about it.

What do you love about playing weddings?
Definitely, the couples’ stories and their vows. We still remember when we exchanged our own vows in 2013. Being a part of someone’s big day is a tremendous privilege, and often it still blows our minds how blessed we are that we get invited to celebrate this day with and for them and their loved ones.

Best testimonial you’ve ever received?
‘All morning long, family and friends asked: “Where did you find these guys? They’re amazing!”

My grandparents being the only exception, who apparently said: “I wish all these people would stop talking so we could better hear the band!” Ha! A hit with young and old, then.’

– Dominic + Rebecca (sexysobriety.com.au), Somerville Auditorium, UWA, Crawley WA

We were extremely blessed, because Rebecca is an author!

When you’re not performing gigs and at weddings, where would we find you?
Didi will be working at a local community centre, helping seniors recall forgotten passwords while they get up to mischief on their new iPads. Juliet is often spotted at life-drawing classes, bookstores, and cafes when she’s not at home playing and writing music, sometimes baking and always painting animals.

Thank you Juliet for chatting all things Polkadot + Moonbeam with us today! What a talented duo you are. To find out more about Polkadot + Moonbeam, head on over to their website or check them out on the Polka Dot Directory.

All images: Rachel Puan Photography

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