FERN Ford laughs as she recalls the moment her band were told they were in the running for the country’s most prestigious award.

News The Big Moon’s album Love in the 4th Dimension had been nominated for the Mercury Prize left the all-female four-piece in disbelief.

“We didn’t believe it and couldn’t understand why it had happened,” she says. “It was nuts. We didn’t know what to say to anyone; we couldn’t speak.

“It was never on our radar. It was always for big bands and we never thought about it. In fact we asked them to check three times before we mentioned it to anyone, as it would have been incredibly embarrassing!”

The London band – Fern, Juliett Jackson, Soph Nathann and Celia Archer – found themselves up against the likes of Stormzy, Ed Sheeran, The XX, Oxford’s Glass Animals and, ultimate winner, Sampha. Not that they were sore about missing out to the South London singer-producer’s debut album Process.

“The awards dinner was enough,” laughs Fern, who drums and, interestingly, plays the organ. “The atmosphere felt like a wedding and everyone got on so well. It was like a festival – only posher. I mean, we had starter, main and dessert and even fancy bread and butter,” she chuckles again.

“But we never considered we’d be there. When we found out about the Mercury nomination, we thought things were slowing down. We were wrapping up playing these songs which we had been playing for two and a half years. Then that happened and now we have a second wind.”

She adds: “It’s nice to know people listened to the record though, as we put a lot of effort into it.”

They also avoided the folkloric Mercury winners’ curse, which sees some laureates fail to capitalise on their win, and slide into obscurity.

“Juliette was worried it was cursed,” she says. “Anyway, no one felt they had lost, because there was only one award.”

The band began life when Juliette, who was working in a London cocktail bar while writing songs, set out to blind-date potential members in an Islington pub.

Fern was the first to join, then guitarist – and sometime graffiti artist – Soph. Celia joined last.

They have gone on to punch their way into the limelight in a riot of noisy guitars, scatty rhythms, lush harmonies, zany videos and intelligent real life lyrics – with a fun, message.

And they have had a phenomenal few months – since we saw them last, playing what turned out to be a wet and muddy Truck Festival.

There was a string of storming live shows culminating in an off-the-hook Reading Festival set – which eclipsed even their Glastonbury show at the start of the summer. And then came that nomination.

Now they are back, playing The Bullingdon, Cowley Road, on Wednesday.

So who are The Big Moon, and why is there so much love for them?

“We are just playing loud, noisy, rocky, pop songs,” says Fern. “There’s definitely a pop element, but it is heavy.”

And they are striking a blow for female artists too, in a genre where women sometimes under-represented.

“There are not that many bands in the indie world entirely made up of women, and in the mainstream they are very few and far between. But we do come across many women and things are happening and changing.”

And, she says, it’s important they do change, and that female-fronted bands get the billing they deserve at festivals.

“When young girls don’t see bands made up of women, they’ll think there’s no place for them either and won’t play. it’s a vicious circle.

“If when I was growing up there were no role models, I would have just thought ‘forget it’.

“Maybe little bands starting now might be inspired. Perhaps we are encouraging the next generation of bands.”

When we chat, Fern is recovering from a bout of flu, not that she is prepared to let that get in the way.

“We do like to party hard,” she says. “But you can’t keep that up for long and have to find a balance. After shows we’ll have a few beers but, more often than not, we’ll be like ‘let’s have a cup of tea and go to bed’.

“It’s fun touring but gets very tiring – but because you’re having fun you don’t stop. You get into a bit of a mindset and keep going.”

And, she admits, at times it’s hard to remember where they are at all. “Sometimes I have no idea where I am. The inside of every venue looks the same.

“I try and make sure I get a bit of space and go out for a breather, but a lot of the time, we get there, sound check, play the show and then get back in the van.”

So what next?

“Our game plan was to do as well as we could,” she says. “We just want people to know us – and to be the band we want to be. And we want to get cracking on with the second album.”

She also encouraged fans to come along to the show. “Please do come down,” she deadpans. “After all, it would be rather awkward if nobody came.”

  • The Big Moon play The Bullingdon, Oxford on Wednesday. Tickets from wegottickets.com