P.A.-born and raised music duo premiere stick puppet musical while in U.K. lockdown

Jamie April and Jason Moon worked on the musical for nine months

April Moon released a 20-minute musical on YouTube on Tuesday (Screen capture/April Moon)

Music duo April Moon has been keeping busy over lockdown, bringing a childhood idea to life.

April Moon is comprised of Jamie April and Jason Moon, both born and raised in Prince Albert. The duo has travelled and lived in many European countries and currently reside in Liverpool.

Moon said a couple of years ago he was explaining a character to April that he had thought of as a child while walking to school in the West Flat. The character is named Johnny West.

“He would just do all the same things you would expect a kind of a movie cowboy to do, he’d ride a horse and beat up the bad guys,” Moon explained.

April was inspired and wrote a couple of songs about the character. The plan was to use the idea for a concept or story album, like the Who’s album Tommy.

The duo didn’t end up doing anything with the character, until lockdown began in the United Kingdom.

April and Moon were trying to come up with a creative project that didn’t involve performing in front of people. The idea of West came back up and April suggested they create stick puppets to act as characters.

The Ballad of Johnny West premiered on Tuesday afternoon. The 20-minute video can be found on YouTube.

Moon and April voiced most of the characters except for the character of Penelope who was voiced by their friend Rosie Ashton and smaller parts voiced by Fearghus O’Sullivan. Both friends are in the duo’s social bubble.

Moon estimates they worked on the project for about 600 to 700 hours.

The first step was writing the songs and then deciding which characters would appear on screen, and then creating the puppets.

“I’m not really a natural artist when it comes to drawing, I’m a musician so doing that was a bit of an uphill struggle to be drawing them,” April added she had to get help with the art.

April and Moon used a green screen to bring the characters into the background. Moon edited the piece using video software that allowed him to move things around a bit.

The dance sequences had to be done live and were more difficult than they were expecting.

“We had to tie little strings to their feet so they could dance,” Moon explained.

The project was no easy feat.

“It was really, really difficult and I’ll never do another one,” Moon joked.

Family and friends who watched the premiere have already asked when a sequel will be out.

The most challenging part to create was a “psychedelic section” that lasts for two minutes. In the scene, West goes into his own mind in a “crazy mental journey”.

The scene was shot first and then music had to be added in after.

“We’re standing in the flat and Jamie’s got her guitar and I’m sitting behind the drums and we’re watching it on video and trying to play along with it,” Moon explained.

The duo had to carefully match the music with the scene and create sound effects, such as when West moved his head.

“That’s the part we were dreading and it took us a full two days to kind of get it,” Moon said.

April added a challenge for her was staying motivated, especially when summer began. The duo is used to learning songs and practicing around multiple deadlines when they have live gigs. Working on this project on their own schedule was more difficult.

“We’re working kind of on our own, creating our own projects, creating our work with no real audience in sight. We’re doing it more for ourselves than for anything else and so keeping motivated day to day I find sometimes was a bit challenging,” April said.

Moon added they had to be “quite passionate about it” to complete it.

He says the best way to describe the musical is “Footloose on mushrooms,” and the idea of authoritarianism vs. Hedonism.

“On the one side you’ve got people that want law and order. They want things to be the way they are, they want the lockdown. On the other side you’ve got people that just want to have fun and just want to have a good time and they don’t care about anything,” Moon explained.

He added when they started working on the musical they didn’t know it would be a metaphor for lockdown.

“Maybe it isn’t, I don’t know, that’s for the people to decide.”