I N T E R V I E W
SURE TO RISE:
Julian White and Greg Edwards of The Scones
By Ian Duggan
Photos by Ngamihi Pawa
Hamilton Underground Press last interviewed The Scones in April 2016, immediately following the release of their debut EP ‘The Trouble with Thompson’. Since then, the band have played Hamilton a number of times to increasingly appreciative crowds, and in early November they appeared on bFM’s ‘Fancy New Band’ slot. We caught up with Julian White (guitar, vocals) and Greg Edwards (guitar) to talk about the bFM gig, their history together, and the bands future plans.
HUP: In early November you played an awesome set live-to-air on Auckland’s bFM, in their ‘Fancy New Band’ slot. How did that opportunity come about, and how did you find the experience?
Greg: That was a spot of good luck. Julian and I went to The Others Way festival in Auckland earlier this year and were queuing for a show, discussing the virtues of [Auckland musician] Anthonie Tonnon with two women ahead of us. One turned out to be Hannah [Renwick], the host of bFM’s breakfast show. She mentioned the Fancy New Band slot, and we asked if The Scones could play. Julian and I both went through Auckland University, so it was cool being back there with the band. Playing live-to-air was a new experience for all of us. Bit of a challenge squeezing the gear into the studio, and it was a bit hit-and-miss setting up the mics, etc, but it was a great morning that we really enjoyed, and would love to repeat.
HUP: Since the release of ‘Thompson’, you have been playing in front of increasingly larger crowds. Are you getting a feeling for songs that are becoming crowd favourites?
Julian: It’s hard to say. We had a really good reception the last time we played live, which was at the Bandfandango at Nivara [Lounge] in August. I felt like the best response was to Ode [to the Mountains], which was interesting as it’s not on anything we’ve released or put on the net. It’s a lively, upbeat song, which I think is pretty accessible to a discerning crowd like the ones at HUP shows. Must put it on the next release. I think Thompson has also gone down well.
Greg: It was great seeing people enjoying the HUP shows. Nivara Lounge is a great place to play, and deservedly well supported. I heard some lyrics being sung by folks down the front. Nice surprise. I think it was ‘Thompson’.
HUP: The pair of you met at Northcote College. You first played together in a high school band called Limited Western Art, and another while at university in Auckland named Yorkie the Bricklayer. Julian noted in our last interview that a few of The Scones’ songs originated from those ‘Yorkie’ days. Which are the songs that date from that time, do you perform them similarly now as then, and do you see a change in your overall style, sound or capabilities since these times?
Julian: Thompson, the title track to the EP, was one. Weeds, a rough version of which is on Soundcloud, was also a Yorkie song. Ode to the Mountains is another one. I actually wrote the guts of Scones even earlier, but kept it secret until the current band got together. As far as playing them goes, of course we have a different bass player and drummer now, who bring their own styles. The structures of the songs are unchanged. I think we have kept some of the original bass lines, but Dave [Colborn] has added some bits. I think the major change is that Greg has come up with some much stronger lead guitar.
Greg: Once we got together again after a long hiatus it was back to the start for me. I couldn’t recall most of the earlier guitar parts. I’ve enjoyed building things up again. Mike [Paterson]’s arrival and his intensity on the drums has ramped things up, which has been great.
HUP: There was a gap between the two of you playing together in Yorkie and The Scones. What musical projects were each of you involved with in-between?
Julian: Greg and I went on a legendary — at least in our own minds — busking tour of North America one Kiwi summer/Northern Hemisphere winter, singing mostly Flying Nun and related songs. Apart from that, I really did nothing for many years, except for writing a handful of songs. I had moved away from Auckland and didn't spend more than a couple of years in any one place for a long time. I was in another band around the same time as Yorkie. Probably just before, actually. The band was called The People's Popular Band of New Zealand, led by Steven Sacatos, who is now an artist in Auckland. I just came along for the ride, playing guitar and doing a little backing vocals. Thompson Is in Trouble originated in that band, as an instrumental.
Greg: I’ve loved listening to and playing the guitar for ages, but have precious little to show for it. That’s what makes playing in The Scones with Julian, Mike and Dave extra special. Sometime in the ‘90s I played with Auckland band The Plaster Saints for a bit. Also about this time I was in a band fronted by unknown singer [and current ‘Fair Go’ reporter] Garth Bray, who quickly ditched us for the bright lights of broadcasting, and never looked back. There is one song of mine recorded between Yorkie and The Scones that survives on the net; Grim Theo, off The Milker Disc (thanks to Milker bandmate Stu for the upload). It’s really low-fi, and is accompanied by a baffling video which features amongst other treasures my first car, a teal Wolseley. It got shunted through a wall at a band practice by an Audi doing donuts in the carpark. Shame.
HUP: I note you have been adding new songs to the live repertoire. Do you think your style is changing relative to that on ‘Thompson’?
Julian: The songs on 'Thompson' are really pretty old, and mostly my original ideas with embellishment from the rest of the band. Some of the newer songs started with ideas from other band members. Also, more effort has been made with the lyrics and song structures in the newer songs, so hopefully they're a bit more interesting. But the overall sound is one we like and hasn't really changed much.
Greg: Hats off to Dave Rhodes at Depot Sound for helping create the Thompson EP. It was our first studio recording, and it’s fair to say it exceeded our expectations. There are some newer songs in the set now that have a different sound. We have a bit more confidence with the EP behind us, and that might have loosened the shackles a little. I think to date we’ve approached most of the songs in a similar manner. After a while you start looking for a different way in, so that you’re not repeating yourself – perhaps that’s where we’re at.
HUP: While you have been playing regularly and developing a name for yourselves in Hamilton, three-quarters of the band are actually based in Auckland. I don’t think you have played there since 2013, but I see you have a gig lined up there on 14 December. How are you feeling ahead of that gig?
Julian: Really good. It seems there are quite a few people who are keen to see us again, or for the first time. I understand The Clare Inn is an intimate venue, so hopefully we can get a good crowd and a good vibe. The other acts look very worth seeing, too.
Greg: Darren McShane (of Auckland band Superturtle, and ex-Chainsaw Masochist) runs a fun gig at The Clare on Wednesday nights. He attracts an eclectic range of local, and not-so local, bands and singer-songwriters. It’s going to be great to finally join in. The line-up looks really promising; it should be a great night.
HUP: What are your future plans for the band, both short and long-term?
Greg: Short term we’re back into the studio come January to record another EP. We debated whether to crack on with new tunes or record the older tunes that didn’t make the first EP. I’m pleased to say we’re going to complete the original batch, and are planning to follow that up recording the newer songs in the middle of the year. Other items on The Scones medium term to-do list include putting something out on vinyl, and heading off down-country for the first time. Long term we talk about playing in Japan, which we’re pretty keen on.
The Scones Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheSconesBandNZ
The Scones on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/superscone
I N T E R V I E W
By Ian Duggan
Hamilton has long been recognised for the strength of its metal bands. One that is continuing this trend, and growing in its popularity nationally, is melodic thrash metal band Deathnir. We talked to the band about touring, building a fan-base, merchandise and the bands future plans.
HUP: Deathnir have been touring over the last couple of months, which has included performances in Rotorua, Tauranga, Levin, New Plymouth, Napier, Auckland and of course Hamilton. How did the tour go, and what were your highlights?
Deathnir: The tour went really well. We played at a lot of new places we hadn’t played before and met some really cool musicians from other bands. The night we played in Tauranga we were at a venue called Krazy Jack’s which was actually shutting down that night so we got to play at the last show ever there which meant a lot to us. A lot of cool people came and we made a lot of new friends. Other highlights were playing at The Mayfair in New Plymouth and finishing it all off in Auckland at Ding Dong Lounge.
HUP: Where did your love of metal come from, and who are the bands major influences?
Deathnir: We all got into metal from early ages; a lot of our love for it comes from the attitude and musical skill it demonstrates. Our major influences include Metallica, Megadeth, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Anthrax, W.A.S.P and Slayer.
HUP: Your album ‘Die by the Axe’ was released just over a year ago now. Are you writing new songs, and has the band’s sound evolved since the debut release?
Deathnir: We have been writing new songs over the past few months and are looking at recording a second album sometime next year. The sound has gotten a lot faster and thrashier with some of our new songs getting up to 200 beats per minute. We are working on using more double kick, bass solos, duel guitar solos and harmonies. All-in-all we are getting heavier and faster while still staying true to our roots.
HUP: Do you have long term goals for Deathnir? What would you like to achieve?
Deathnir: At this stage we are working on writing new songs for a second album which we are planning on recording next year. We are also looking at the possibilities of international touring and performing with bands from outside of New Zealand.
HUP: On Facebook the band has close to 1200 likes, which gives some indication of the strength of your following. How have you gone about building this fan-base?
Deathnir: Our main activities for building a fan-base are performing live and utilising social media websites like Facebook. These are really important because if you want people to like your music then they need to hear it. Your main goal as a band is to get people to your shows, but they won’t come if they don’t know where you’re playing, or even IF you’re playing. Promotion on social media as well as mainstream media like radio and television is really useful for getting your name out there so people come, and if they like your music then they usually come back.
HUP: I love that besides the album, you have an array of merchandise including t-shirts, guitar picks and badges. What was the motivation for producing the picks and badges, and have they been popular items?
Deathnir: We have been asked numerous times in the past by people at our shows if we had patches. The answer was always no which usually disappointed people who really wanted them. This year we decided we needed to get some because they always seemed to be in demand. Since we got them we have sold quite a few so I guess you could say they have been popular. The picks on the other hand we ordered specially for ourselves so they are not for sale. Sometimes, however, there are fans in the crowd who go really hard in the mosh pit and it’s fun to reward them by chucking a pick their way.
Deathnir Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/deathnir
Deathnir Bandcamp: https://deathnir.bandcamp.com
I N T E R V I E W
By Arpie Shirehorse
Polyester play tonight at Nivara Lounge, Saturday 19th November, along with Skux, The Biscuits and Ancient Tapes. HUP caught up with the Auckland groop ahead of the show!
You’re coming to Hamilton! Have you played here before at all, in any other bands?
It’s the first time for most, if not all, of us. We’re keen as! We almost played a Hamilton show last year but it didn’t happen.
What was the catalyst for starting the band? Tim and Sylvia were keen to do a band and they pulled Michael and old drummer Joe together for that. Tane came later when they decided an extra guitar would make it a cooler time. Finally, we got the sweet changeover to new drummer Keria!
Who chose that awesome name!? We’ve just changed our name to Polyester this month. We wanted to release our album under a name that doesn’t get massively out-Googled by a global education organisation I guess. Kip McGrath was a fun name that Sylvia came up with at the very start.
What is your writing process typically? Tim writes the majority of the songs for the band. He brings them in a very rough format to practice and we see where they go. We think we’ve found a method that works; take the solid foundation of chords and lyrics and we add to them with our own parts. We do the same thing for songs not written by Tim too; the end products are definitely a result of everyone’s input.
What does 2017 hold in store for Polyester? Our main priority is working on an album. The single we’re releasing this month is the last of our old material we wanted to put out and now we’re writing the new stuff. Aside from that we’re just keen to see what happens. We’ve got a few gigs lined up for the start of the year and will probably do a tour or two.
What’s your favourite song to play live? Probably Ordinary Day or Strange Emotion (a new one). Bouncy fast guys are always a fun time for the time.
Any current favourite NZ bands? The Beths, Milk, NIISA, Peach Milk, LSJ, Brandn Shiraz... so many hits! Too many to name!
Which member of Polyester is…
- the sportiest?! 110% Tane
- the best cook?! Sylvia and Grelj. Tim has spent enough hours making toast though that he is technically an expert.
- most likely to get arrested (what for?) ?! Don't know about arrested but I wouldn't be surprised if Tim got sectioned.
If you had the opportunity to curate a show anywhere in the world with any three bands, dead or alive, and there was only one thing to drink…who/where/what are we quaffing?! So out of enthusiasm alone Tane gets his answer for this one put forward. Picture this: a hot summer night, we're drinking wine, eating from a cheese tray. Tane is generally holding court and doing hilarious gags. Around the driftwood fire we have the golden triangle. The hot combo. That triumvirate of hits. We got Mr. Jack Johnson. We got Mr. Lenny Kravitz. We got that good good boy, only bloody Mr. Ben Harper. We got, my friends, a good, good time.
I N T E R V I E W
Indira Neville of The Biscuits
By Terianne Grady
Auckland‘s The Biscuits are bringing their unique array of noise to Hamilton! The trio take a new spin on the traditional blend of pop and rock, adding an extra thick layer of obnoxious punky racket with heavy lashings of attitude and energy. They will be joining Ancient Tapes, Skux, and Polyester on stage at Nivara Lounge tonight. Terianne caught up with Guitarist Indira Neville to find out what The Biscuits are up to, and what we can expect from them in the near future.
When did you guys start making music together? The Biscuits formed a really long time ago in 2004. Our first show was that same year at my birthday party (it was a great party - bands, sunshine, bathtub full of ice, cheap beer, and some late night jumping out of windows). In 2006 I went off to live on Great Barrier Island, so we pretty much stopped existing until 2012, which is when I moved back to Auckland. We have been together consistently as a band for these past five years. Brent and Brenda did come over to Great Barrier once and we played at the Tryphena Sports Club. On the part of the lovely locals there was some screwing up of faces, and a few polite inquiries as to whether our gear was working properly. It was fun to tell them that we sounded the way we did on purpose.
What was the inspiration for creating the band? I think it’s fair to say the Biscuits started as kind of a good-friends-community-service-type project. Brent and Brenda were experienced musicians, and had separately been in heaps of great bands like Fake Purr (Brenda) and the Ho’Dogs (Brent). I was a beginner guitarist desperate to get better, and thought playing regularly with my talented pals might do the trick. Luckily for me Brent and Brenda were into it!
What is your favourite Biscuits song? The Biscuits pretty much write songs in the following configurations - me alone, Brenda alone, me and Brent together, all three of us together. My favourite written-alone song is ‘Jumping’ from the early Biscuits period, a song we don’t currently play. I wanted to try and make a song like one off that Wire album ‘Pink Flag’ but girlier. So sweeter and prettier than the Wire tunes, but similarly small, catchy and repetitive, containing as little as possible, but still feeling complete. And I feel like I achieved this. I also like ‘Jumping’ because it is joyful, completely angst-free. One song that the three of us wrote together pretty recently that we all like is ‘Trick’. It has a nice small twangy guitar bit, and then a big growly guitar bit, and some slightly sad speculative love-story lyrics. Also Brenda and I sing it together, and even do harmonies - which is really nice. Brenda is usually legitimately busy concentrating on raising hell with her guitar, so whenever she feels like she can sing I am happy.
Are you guys looking forward to the gig you’re playing at Nivara Lounge? And have you ever played with any of the bands on the bill before? We are very much looking forward to playing at Nivara Lounge (thanks so much for asking) and hearing the other bands, none of whom we know. Also I always love visiting Hamilton. I spent significant parts of my life there and had many important and formative experiences. Hamilton permanently has a little piece of my heart.
What’s with the biscuits thing? Where did it originate from? I can’t remember much, except that we thought it was cute and hilarious when we came up with it as a name. Also I did and do like band names that begin with ‘the’ - so that was probably a factor. The name has kind of warped the reality of the world around it though, making biscuits strangely significant to the band members. About seven years ago I was diagnosed with coeliac disease, so I stay away from all conventional gluten-filled biscuits - because they make me sick. However, Brenda and Brent (especially) are hard core biscuit, cake, and dessert connoisseurs, both making and consuming numerous quantities of baked goods. Between us we represent some extreme biscuit-related attitudes and experiences. This preoccupation is I guess reflected in some of our band stuff.
What are the key elements that define The Biscuits sound? I think both Brent and Brenda’s playing is important and magnificent. Brent is a completely reliable thug drummer. He makes a heavy, perfectly timed beat that holds everything together and has just enough fancy fills. Brenda is the most powerful, unexpected, beautiful, ugly, big, interesting guitarist. She can make the most incredible sounds, and never ever plays a song the same way twice. I feel very lucky to be in a band with them. Otherwise there is a catchy noisy duality that is important. We want to make good, toe-tappy pop music with a layer of obnoxious racket.
Under what circumstances / conditions do you find you are most creative? We muck around and play with sounds and tunes - many of our collective songs emerge from this approach. We also really like each other, enjoy spending time together, and have heaps of fun being the Biscuits. This seems to make for a generally creative and productive time. I also individually like regular band practice times and deadlines. I am much happier and more creative when I have routines, boundaries, and defined periods in which to achieve stuff. In a complete freedom situation, I really crap out.
If you could listen to only 3 artists for the rest of your life - who would they be? As a band, and after much tortured backwards-and-forwards discussion we have decided that at this EXACT MOMENT IN TIME we choose:
- Glamours: for their intricate and pretty pop songs, their humbleness, and because we like bands where the drummer sings.
- The Doll: for her relentless domestic noise, because she is so unique and entertaining, and because somehow she is simultaneously both cheeky and ART.
- Dean: for their rich Casio tone guitar infinity, extensive back catalogue, and because with instrumental music you can make up your own stories.
What’s on the horizon for The Biscuits? In the next few months we are playing a bunch of choice gigs including Hamilton (yay), our very first in Dunedin, and Tauranga Music Sux’s Woodcock festival in February. Heavy Space Records are also releasing a Biscuits 7” some time pretty soon. All exciting!
I N T E R V I E W
Ayisha Jaffer of SKUX
By Arpie Shirehorse
Auckland garage punks SKUX are just one of four neat bands playing this coming Saturday, 19th November at Nivara Lounge. HUP caught up with singer/songwriter and Milwaukee native Ayisha Jaffer ahead of the show!
You’re coming to Hamilton! Have you played here before at all, in any other bands? No I have not! Although some of the other guys might have come through. We’re looking forward to it!
What was the catalyst for starting Skux? I’d been in a band in New York called I Eat Paint and just before I left the USA, Universal mentioned signing us. That was a dream of mine but I was not ready for it then. Since, I have worked on other people’s careers and had forgotten about my own. All this time I have been urged by previous fans and friends to get into the studio so on a 1-week break in New York, I was shoved into a studio to make something already! And hence came The Two Sides of She.
What is your writing process typically? Initially I started the project in a studio with Dan Walker from the Death Set and wrote three songs. From there I’ve now got this epic band full of the guys from Trust Punks, Kip McGrath (now Polyester - Ed), and Surf City who culminate my band and we all have been writing songs together, just jamming them out and have created some tizzies for the set.
What does 2017 hold in store for Skux? We are currently working on an EP and then playing all the shows. We have a festival lined up, kind of the new Chrono type show called A Gathering in the Forrest that we are playing in Feb and a few other summer festivals under wraps. I’d also like to get us overseas in the US + Europe doing some road warrior summer tours for the other hemisphere.
What’s your favourite song to play live? Personally, I love “Waiting for the Bathroom” because I think everyone can relate to how frustrating it is and I get to scream a lot. Just wait, you’ll know which one I’m talking about.
Any current favourite NZ bands? Loveeeeee Kane Strang (yussss! – Ed) and I just saw this band called The Magic Factory that as explained to me is The Raw Nerves doubled and they were super fun live! I was wooed at least.
Which member of Skux is…
- the sportiest?! We are not a very sporty group… Tim’s great at the sport of guitar & his tolerance of getting marshmallows thrown at him.
- the best cook?! Definitely our bass player Paul who has a double life where he part owns and runs a bistro in an epic surf town. He makes the best fried chicken sandwiches of ever.
- most likely to get arrested (what for?) ?! Maybe Mikey – silent but clever
If you had the opportunity to curate a show anywhere in the world with any three bands, dead or alive, and there was only one thing to drink…who/where/what are we quaffing?! David Bowie, Blondie, Santigold (all idols + bands I’ve never seen live), drinking Sazerac (because absinthe & being classic), at Jim Henson’s Studio because there is no-where more fun!
I N T E R V I E W
Looking For Alaska
By Arpie Shirehorse
Hamilton based pop-folk duo Looking For Alaska's debut LP reached number 12 in the NZ charts this week, possibly the highest charting debut LP by a band from this city. The band is currently in the middle of an extensive North Island tour to support the release, and will play this coming Thursday Nov 10th at Nivara Lounge. HUP caught up with the band to discuss their plans for the future, and lay down an Absinthe challenge. Remember, drink responsibly kids!
How long has LFA been a thing? Since 2013 as a duo (according to our Facebook page), we first met Stephen Daniell (our Bass extraordinaire from Dinsdale) the same year but didn't start playing with him until early 2015, and we only found Jeremy Hantler (the happiest drummer/bird caller) and Regan McKinnon (our guitarist-producing-mixing-mastermind) this year.
Any major influences, either musically or spiritually? The Decemberists, Civil Wars, The Staves and Sufjan Stevens (musically) and mostly influenced by relationships (the good and the ugly) and the mundane workings of everyday life.
What is your writing process typically? Because LFA started out as a duo, all of the songs were pre-written before the rest of the band came into play, but even then only a couple of tracks from the album were actually written cohesively. More often than not, we will come up with the initial idea for a song separately before playing it to the others and tweaking it together from there, or one of us will play through a set of chords and the other will write out some lyrics. Most of our songs tend to flow easily and write themselves in the process.
Congrats on the album! What’s the general feeling in camp…relief/exhaustion/joy/something else!? It's both a huge relief to have it all finally finished and out in the world, but at the same time it is also incredibly daunting to have released anything into the ether for the very first time. The whole recording/mixing/mastering process happened in such a blur that we haven't really had a second to really celebrate the amount of work that went into it all. It's been going pretty well though - made it to number 12 in the NZ album charts this week!
You’re off on a fairly huge tour…is it a full band thing? Any plans to go to the South Island? Its the first time for us setting out on our own tour so we had no idea how it would be received in other cities, but the response we have had so far has been incredible! The majority of the dates are with the full band so it has been an exciting new challenge for us experimenting with new arrangements and learning about each other as the tour progresses, and yes, we are definitely hoping to find some south island venues to play next year (fingers crossed).
What does 2017 hold in store for LFA? We are looking at doing an Australian Tour next year hopefully with a bunch of awesome Aussie musos we have met in Hamilton on their own tours and we have been lucky enough to open for them. We also think it would be the absolute coolest thing to do a small tour through the US with the final gig ending in Alaska!
How do you find being based in Hamilton helps or hinders LFA? Hamilton is such a central city in the North Island that it actually makes it incredibly easy to tour from, and it's the birthplace of our beloved Nivara Lounge which is home to the coolest, friendliest and some of the most talented bunch of musical weirdos that you'll ever meet this side of the Waikato river.
What’s your favourite song to play live? You only see me when you're sleeping
The best show you’ve ever played is…? Our first stop of the tour in Rotorua with the Rogue Stage (It was only our second gig together as a band and it was magical)
Current favourite NZ bands? Marlon Williams (his album has been on repeat since buying it) and Brendon Thomas and The Vibes (because not only are they amazing live, but they're some of the most genuine dudes you'll ever meet).
Which member of LFA is…
- the sportiest?! Definitely Stephen (as in he actually watches sports, the rest of us arent bothered haha)
- the best cook?! Also Stephen (he makes the best takeaway curry or store bought cheesecake ever!)
- most likely to get arrested (what for?)?! Regan McKinnon without a doubt (for being drunk and disorderly or for indecent exposure)
You can curate a show anywhere in the world with any three bands, dead or alive, and there’s only one thing to drink…who/where/what are we quaffing?! Well, The Doors (because, Jim Morrison...), Paramore (because Hayley Williams is a tiny pocket rocket), and Sufjan Stevens (so we can pick his lyrical brain), this could literally take place in an elevator and it would still feel like cloud 9, and absinthe so we can all trip balls. Lets make it happen.
Stream Looking For Alaska's debut album HERE!