R E V I E W
The Scones – The Greasy EP
By Ian Duggan
‘The Scones’ are back with a shiny new release, ‘The Greasy EP’. It’s been just on a year and a half since The Scones released their last EP, ‘The Trouble with Thompson’, which got plenty of play in my home and car. But while I loved the quality of the songs on that EP, ‘Greasy’ is a huge progression for the band. It has better lyrics, better musicianship, better cover art, and it sounds just so much more lush. Straight up; this is a great EP!
The EP starts with the quasi-title track, ‘Greasy Meal (A Song about Trains)’, which was one of two songs on the EP that had not been released amongst the band’s early demos. The most recently composed track, this song is a big leap forward for the band lyrically. Complex, amusing and far more cryptic than in their previous releases, I hope this is an indication of things to come. Another highlight on the EP is the upbeat ‘Ode to the Mountains’, with its perfect pop sensibilities; highly danceable, it made for a perfect set finisher at their last gig. The final track, ‘Roller Coaster’, begins more downbeat, but the sound builds through the song, highlighting Greg Edward’s increasingly skilled guitaring and excellent backing vocals, and introduces a melodica that really helps fill out the sound; this is a song that as a listener really sneaks up on you, such that by the end you are totally immersed in it.
Overall this is a brilliant EP, full of excellently crafted and well produced songs, which will reward any lovers of New Zealand indie-pop who give it a whirl.
I N T E R V I E W
Greasy Meals and Contentious Tambourines: An Interview with The Scones
By Ian Duggan
'The Scones' have not long released their second effort, ‘The Greasy EP’, following on from last year’s debut effort ‘The Trouble with Thompson’. And the HUP staff think it’s a goodie! On the back of the new EP, and ahead of a couple of Scones (or Scones-related) gigs, we had a chat with Julian White (guitar, vocals) and Greg Edwards (guitar) about the bands musical progression, songs that sound like trains, cryptic lyric inspirations, and the introduction of some (contentious) new sounds!
HUP: The quasi-title track, ‘Greasy Meal (A Song about Trains)’, was one of two on the EP that had not been released amongst your early demos. It is also lyrically fascinating! Is this a more recent song, and am I supposed to be able to work it out what it all means?
Greg: Julian’s lyrics are increasingly becoming a source of enjoyment for the rest of the band. He has a great turn of phrase and I enjoy having the opportunity to mull over what it is he’s singing about, whenever a lull in practice or performance allows me to assign some spare brain cells to the Cipher Dept. Like you, I enjoyed mulling over Greasy Meal, there’s a lot going on. I also admire the sense of humour Julian brings to his work.
Julian: Greasy Meal is certainly a more recent song. Thanks for noticing the lyrics. Many of the earlier Scones songs had quite naïve lyrics, having been written in my youth. A lot more effort has gone into the lyrics in more recent songs. Some of them are just wordplay, and some may be a bit cryptic, but there is a story to all of them. I could write an essay on the lyrics to this song, but for now will give some clues. There are several musical references and one literary one. The literary one is from chapter 1 of Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, which I read this year and thoroughly enjoyed. There are brief descriptions of a couple of experiences I had with food on trains. Perhaps the lyric I am most proud of in that song is the reference to uplifting gourmandisers, which both relates to food and has a musical connotation. I could spell it out, but I think it might be more fun for you and any interested readers to look it up.
HUP: In ‘Greasy Meal’ you sing that you would like to hear a song about trains that doesn’t sound like a train. What are some songs about trains you can think of that do sound like trains?
Julian: Well, the opening verse refers to several such songs. There’s Midnight Train to Georgia by Gladys Knight and the Pips, where some of the backing vocals sound like a steam train, Naenae Express have a song called Overlander, Anthonie Tonnon has Railway Lines, and in the song Nowhere Fast by The Smiths there is a reference to a train, and at that point in the song it sounds like a train, to me anyway. Perhaps it is just the way I hear them, and to be fair it’s possible that any song with a regular beat might sound like a train. I might add that I really like that Gladys Knight song and am a big fan of the other three bands, so no disrespect is intended.
HUP: How was the making of this EP different from ‘Thompson’, your debut release?
Greg: We recorded ‘The Greasy EP’ at Depot Sound in Devonport (Auckland), which is where we also recorded our first EP, ‘Thompson is in Trouble’. Dave Rhodes is great to work with, and having one under our belt made everything easier this time around. The songs were all played live in studio, like the first EP. The bulk of the recording was finished in a couple of days, with another day or so taken with vocal and guitar overdubs. The mixing process is wonderful; listening as the songs evolve, as the engineer pushes, prods, pokes and tweaks the recorded raw material, and hearing the huge difference that subtle (and not-so-subtle) changes can make to a song.
The songs we selected to go on ‘The Greasy EP’ cover more ground than those on the first EP. You have ‘Weeds’ on one hand, with its light-hearted pop vibe (contrasting with the more heavy-hearted lyrics), and ‘Story of Montreal’ which is at the heavier end of the Scones spectrum. As a result, we had to work harder in the studio with guitar sounds, with these songs particularly requiring some experimentation.
We were keen to break new ground if possible, by looking at introducing new sounds. As a result, there’s a heavily-disguised (and contentious) passage of (contentious) tambourine, and the fabulous plastic Melodica, which Julian plays to great effect over the closing passages of ‘Roller Coaster’. We’ve had success in recent times incorporating some additional instruments into practices. Some of these really compliment the rest of the band, so we’re hoping we’re able to feature these in future recordings and on stage (note to self - enrol Julian in juggling school).
The recording process again threw us a few curve-balls. We picked up on a few things that should help us when we record again. In fact, we were learning right up to the very last day of the process, when we discovered the digital platforms won’t allow the word EP in a title; they use that to categorise the release.
So online, we’ve only managed to release ‘The Greasy’, which we’re hoping just makes our offering even more mysterious and enticing.
What’s greasy? I dunno – buy it now!!
HUP: How did the new EP come to be released on Gravel Streak Records?
Julian: Rob [Shirlow] from Gravel Streak has always been supportive of the band’s efforts; something we are very grateful for. He mentioned Gravel Streak last year after Thompson was released, offering to release our next one on the label. We had a song on the compilation ‘Life Beneath Gravel Streak’. I believe the only other prior release on the label was a lathe-cut release by ‘Sora Shima’. I think Rob’s initial idea was that ours would be released in a similar format. We have only released it online and as a CD so far, but both EPs have been mastered for vinyl, so this remains an option for the future.
HUP: Two of the songs, 'Weeds' and 'Ode to the Mountains', are derived from when you two [Julian and Greg] played together in Yorkie the Bricklayer. So this EP contains a real mix of the old and the new. You have talked about your next release featuring all new songs. Have you now exhausted the back-catalogue, and have a collection of shiny new ones all ready to go?
Julian: Yes, we have exhausted the supply of songs written for previous bands. Which doesn’t mean all the others are necessarily that new, shiny, or ready to go. The Scones is a slow-moving project. Some of the remaining songs have been in and out of the set-list for years. Others have never been played live and need to be tidied up before they can be. But we think they are pretty good songs and do want to get them out there. Recording helps focus everyone on finalising how the songs are going to go.
HUP: Where to from here for The Scones?
Julian: We’ve got a gig coming up at Nivara Lounge with Loudhailer, on October 28. We are looking forward to being able to play for 40 minutes, which is a longer set than we’ve played for a while. Greg and I will be playing a short acoustic set as ‘Kitchenette’, as part of the HUP show at Creative Waikato on November 23. This will be something different for us, but an exciting opportunity to give different treatment to some of the songs. We’ve got a few Scones songs planned, along with a cover.
We’ve got a couple of new songs in the pipeline, with a handful of older ones still needing a tweak before being ready for primetime. We plan to give them some attention and intend to do some more recording at some stage.
HUP: How do people get hold of the EP?
Julian: The EP is available on Bandcamp, Spotify, Google Play, iTunes/Apple Music and YouTube. CDs are available to order on the Hamilton Underground Press shop page, and of course at our gigs.
I N T E R V I E W
The Resurrection of the Goth & the Pixie
By Ian Duggan
We have seen The Goth and the Pixie play their final, and final final gigs, but now they are back with their debut album, ready for release (at a gig) on 3 November! We caught up with the Pixie to talk about the album, her shift to Melbourne, and the misinformation circling regarding the album's name!
HUP: You are releasing your debut album on 3 November! What can you tell us about the album?
Pixie: IT WAS MADE WITH SLAVE LABOUR. Voluntary slave labour of course. We're not thugs. A HUGE thank you to Jacob Tait from the Volume Collective. The majority of the recording was done one sunny Sunday at [drummer] Lott [Larsson]'s house in Oparau. We took the Volume Collective computer and all the recording gear for a big road trip and recorded most of the electric guitar, drums and bass all at once live. When Pixie realised she was wearing the same t-shirt as Pretty Albert [Bannister], she just about fainted in excitement and then fell asleep on the shoulder of an onlooker. After this we took it all back to The Fridge where the recordings were frozen, gear and all, put in stasis for numerous years, and then thawed for release. It was then that the majority of vocal and violin tracks were overlaid, including the addition of Alec Forbe’s most wondrous voice. Pip [Smith] and the Goth wrote a spoken poem which he intoned rather marvellously to introduce an improvised one-take instrumental (violin added later) currently titled 'Broken Piano Song'. And, somewhere amidst this, the recordings were put onto an electronic transfer device and brought to Aaron [Gott] and Amy [Maynard]'s house (Looking for Alaska duo). We utilised the power of Aaron's Mad piano skills for State Highway Number Two. We utilised his Mad xylophone skills. We each took turns on Pip Smith’s theremin. The Goth spent many, many hours editing. When Pixie was in Hamilton she tried to help. Lott made a really cool promo video about the sort of confusion that Bag of Ants was named from; 'BaggerVance'. Pretty Albert almost drowned whilst surfing. And thus, the album was born. I'd like to say there's an overarching theme or story through the songs... Really, I think the binding theme is madness.
HUP: In July and October last year, you played what were described as possibly your last gig, followed by your “final FINAL” gig. Why did you choose to finish your live performances then, and how have you come to be active once again?
Pixie: There were actually three of them. A quite possibly last gig ever, a final gig, and then a FINAL final gig. I think. Maybe I remembered wrongly. Maybe there were just two.
We actually had broken up, we thought. When the Goth and the Pixie — the couple I mean, Wairehu [Grant] and Macaila [Pescud], their relationship ceased to be one of explicitly romantic nature — and then they were reconfigurating — when Albert was told that the band was breaking up he said, "you mean we're on hiatus". A fortune teller perhaps.
A few months later Wairehu and Macaila happened to be at the same open mic and thought for ye olde days, let's play some songs together. That was fun so, hey, let's have a final show. That went really well, so let's do some recordings, so we know what was. So it's preserved in some way. And isn't lost to memory. Hey that wasn't absolute Hell. Before Macaila, Pixie, splits for Melbourne, let's do a final FINAL gig. And we did.
Then of course in the Pixie's multiple visits to New Zealand the album was a priority. And, why not have a tour? We were getting inspired now, let's fulfil that "one year from now" goal we made in a previous HUP interview; put on a real theatrical show. And we are, Friday the 3rd of November at the Meteor (including Glass Shards, Halcyon Birds, Battlecat, and guest appearance *wink wink*), and I truly, truly wouldn't miss it if I were you. Not a thing to simply throw away. One night only folks. And who knows if it'll happen again? Certainly we don't.
HUP: I note you have described the album on your Facebook page as your “first”. Does that mean we should expect more albums to come? What does the future look like now for TG&TP?
Pixie: The future looks like aliens and hover crafts. And giant ball pits. Rumours of our bass player's imminent departure to Deutschland show that there are at least some changes in the air. Did you know that before we got Albert involved we wanted to find a Tuba player? We put these little posters everywhere saying things like: 'Do you like to dance with the faeries and moan in goth-like fashion?'. Welllll, the Goth got a nervous little phone call a month or two back and what d'ya know! Two years after putting those notices up (and then totally forgetting about them) we've found ourselves a Tuba player! Perhaps that's what the future looks like!
HUP: How is music going for you in Melbourne? Are you based there long-term?
Pixie: I planned to move to Melbourne but got caught up and ended up exploring a bit; it was my first time overseas after all. I rather enjoy planes, they're like roller-coasters. So I haven't really settled but I would like to, maybe in a couple of years, be here permanently. I love how artsy the culture is; when the Council put these big concrete blocks down everywhere the public just began decorating them. They became another canvas. That's so unlikely to happen in any other city I've been to, cos when it does it gets removed. The Council doesn't remove it here. It's accepted and even encouraged. And there are lots of very cool organisations doing very cool things; support for rainbow community, support for mental health, restaurants run on a pay-what-you-can basis, awesome initiatives that really thrive in a space with high population. Unfortunately, in NZ a lot of these things don't work as well simply because we don't have the population. Though I really do get overwhelmed by how overcrowded central Melbourne is!
I have been playing a few gigs in Melbourne, and accompanying other bands and artists on the violin. And that's been really fun. I wasn't really brave enough to try and get solo gigs until very recently. That's very new to me, performing alone. So I'm growing, in the ways I thought going to a new city where I knew no one would force me to grow. And that's a journey and it's great. Next year I want to go to Canada and do some gigs there. We'll see how that plan goes!! haha
HUP: Does the album have a name?
Pixie: Ha ha… not sure yet. Various sources have claimed that it has various names. Our own Facebook page declared it to be 'Hoity Toity Tea Party', whilst a promo video proclaimed it to be self-titled. A close friend recently informed me our albums name is 'S Club 7’s Greatest Hits'. All this misinformation has made us rather perplexed. If you happen to know what its title is please tell us!
HUP: You are undertaking a North Island tour. Where is this taking you?
Pixie: I'll tell you where it's not taking us. Not to mars. Or Melbourne. Not to Blenheim either. And not in Northland. Or Coromandel. So, fill the blanks?
Okay, we'll play nice.
Hamilton - The Meteor: 03/11, 7pm; Album launch featuring Glass Shards, Halcyon Birds, Battlecat and special guest Wink Wink Nudge Nudge, $10 door charge, $15 with album
Hamilton - Creative Waikato: 23/11, 7.30pm; Acoustic support act for Shibby Pictures (US) & Whitney Flynn (US), $5 minimum door charge
Oparau - Oparau Acoustic Festival: 10/11 – 12/11; An acoustic set as part of this super fun folk festival
Auckland - The Bunker: 26/11, 7.30pm; Acoustic set as part of the Bunker Acoustic Showcase.
Auckland - UFO: 02/12, 8pm; With The Biscuits and TBC, $10 entry.
Wellington- Valhalla: 14/12; With Radar Angel, Sicari, and Horizon a.d
We suggest following our Facebook page or subscribing to Pixie's website for secret and spontaneous shows soon to be announced.
I N T E R V I E W
'Messed Around and Meat Raffles': An Interview with Galveston
by Ian Duggan
‘Galveston’ is an Auckland band with pedigree. Featuring Jeremy Eade, Rick McShane and Sean Reid, late of Garageland, Chainsaw Masochist and Psychodaisies, respectively, the band played their first gig in December 2016 (alongside HUP favourites ‘The Scones’, no less!). Hot on the heels of the release of their debut recording, ‘Messed Around’, we talked to Jeremy Eade about Galveston; their sound, aspirations, and the terrible names the band could have had if sanity hadn’t prevailed!
HUP: Your band features members of old Hamilton favourite Garageland, Chainsaw Masochist and Psychodaisies. Where in that spectrum does Galveston’s sound lie, or are you something different again? How do you describe your sound, and who are your influences?
Jeremy: We are trying to bring a casual energy to this band; make a set that can be played tight and/or loose. Everyone wants to play their way, so we kind of let it happen. We have three pop songs, three sonic pieces, three inbetweeners and a whole lot of loose threads and ideas. We are playing live shows, ten in ten months, just to build that energy. We recorded some demos which are fun tasters, but yeah, [we] would like to build something deeper and denser. Still, everyone likes the demos.
HUP: How did the three of you come together?
Jeremy: I know Rick from way back and Sean knows Rick, so we all hooked up about 18 months ago. [Sean and Rick are] Guys with big record collections, but not as good as mine.
HUP: What are your aspirations for the band?
Jeremy: To have immense fun.
HUP: You have stated, “if you can't win over Hamilton, you don't have it. It's the litmus test of rock ‘n’ roll”. When can we expect you to come down and take the test?
Jeremy: I think, to be fair, to win over Hamilton and further afield we need to build a little bit more presence. So that’s what we are doing. It’s slowly building, but it all takes time. Still, Hamilton is the logical first point of call and I think the live set would go down well in the Waikato rock ‘n’ roll world. Its good beer drinking music.
HUP: Where does the name Galveston come from?
Jeremy: The Glen Campbell song by Jimmy Webb. Rick saw the Glen Campbell documentary and it moved him to suggest the song for a name. Up to then we had 'Meat Raffle' and 'Beer Supply' as the only other choices, so Rick won.
Galveston's Bandcamp: https://galveston.bandcamp.com/releases
R E V I E W
Shonen Knife, Nivara Lounge
4 October 2017
by Ian Duggan
Have I ever been to a happier feeling gig? I think not!
Japanese pop-punk band Shonen Knife played Hamilton’s Nivara Lounge on Wednesday night, and the venue was near capacity. The band were there to have fun, and so were the crowd. Although everyone was happy, no one seemed happier than recently added drummer Risa Kawano; she was incredible to watch, both for the style and quality of her drumming, but also for her infectious perma-smile. My face would have ached after such a performance. Despite the wall-to-wall crowd, everyone was happy. People danced, and despite the numbers in attendance everyone had their own personal space.
As expected from Shonen Knife, there were plenty of songs about food. 1998 single ‘Banana Chips’ was played very early on, and was followed later by the likes of ‘Sushi Bar Song’, ‘All You can Eat’ and ‘Ramen Rock’. “Are you feeling hungry yet?” they asked. Some of these songs sound something of a novelty, but others were more serious with their punk-driven chord progressions; I tended to prefer it when they played the latter. A good number of songs were also mixed in from the new album, ‘Adventure’.
On this tour Shonen Knife included both Yamano sisters, Naoko and Atsuko, two of the bands original 1982 members. With their moves commonly synched, and with their silver sequined glam-like costumes, it was difficult to not see them sometimes as a kind of mix between The Ramones and The Osmonds. For the encore the band came out wearing white Shonen Knife t-shirts, and started out with their excellent cover of the Monkees ‘Daydream Believer’. Overall, a fantastic set from start to finish.
Support band on the night was the recently reformed Hamilton band ‘5 Girls’. Active in the mid-1990s, their previously more punk sound has mellowed with age to now having more of a country edge. It was the first time I had the opportunity to see them since their reformation, and I look forward to getting more acquainted with their new direction.
At the conclusion of the night, many people bought vinyl, t-shirts and other paraphernalia. Many took the opportunity to meet the band, get their vinyl signed and have photos taken with them. This just extended the happy vibe beyond the gig itself. With fantastic music, and seemingly without even a hint of there being a dickhead element to the crowd, this was hands down one of the best gigs I have ever been to.