I N T E R V I E W
If it Ain’t Broken: An Interview with Martin Phillips of REPAIRS
with Ian Duggan
Auckland band ‘REPAIRS’ are returning to Hamilton in mid-November, playing with Landlords and Cartoon Villain at Nivara Lounge! We had a talk to guitarist/vocalist Martin Phillips about what happened to his other band, ‘God Bows To Math’, where REPAIRS are at with the recording of their debut album, and whether sharing a name with a New Zealand music icon has led to any cases of mistaken identity!
HUP: How would you describe the band’s sound to the uninitiated?
Martin: This is something that I've struggled to define myself. We've spent the last year or so learning and figuring out what our sound is but I'm still not confident that I can really put my finger on it. Our music is energetic and emotional and loud and comes from a place of love. It's something we do for fun and to spend time together. It's also very cathartic.
HUP: Martin, you were formally the front-person for ‘God Bows To Math’. How did that band cease to be?
Martin: We're technically still a band! We're just separated by about as great a distance as it's possible to be. Tom moved over to Edinburgh in 2016 and him and his wonderful family are settled there now. Me and Sam are still kicking around Auckland — Sam plays in an amazing band called How Get — and we've flirted with trying to write some new songs. One day, when everyone's schedules line up, we'll definitely play some shows again!
HUP: REPAIRS released their debut EP in January 2018, and I understand you are currently recording an album? When will that be out, and should we expect any change in direction from the ‘Repairs! The Band!’ EP released earlier this year?
Martin: We've been trying to record something for a while now but it's been a pretty slow process. There's been a lot of learning, how we react in the studio and working through songs. We ended up recording the EP completely live in the practice room so we could have some recordings out, and since then we've been figuring out what the next steps are. We've actually just been down to a friend's place in Tauranga and managed to record the bulk of an album. If everything goes well it should be finished early next year and then we just need to figure out the release stuff. Ideally it will see the light of day late next year (looking at August/September) once all our schedules line up and we can do some shows around the country. We're hopefully releasing a split 7" with a band called FADOHT earlier in the year on acetate as well.
There'll be a bit of a change in direction from the EP - we've refined a couple of the tracks from that release, and written a lot of new songs since then. Once we started playing a lot more shows it really helped clarify what our strengths are as a band and what sort of music we want to be playing and releasing. Plus we've all become IDLES super-fans, so expect a decent amount of influence from that! In general the album is looking a bit noisier and heavier than the EP but with some poppier elements thrown in as well.
HUP: We interviewed Martin Phillipps of The Chills a few weeks ago. Has sharing a name (albeit with a slightly different spelling) with a New Zealand icon affected your path in music, and has it led to any cases of mistaken identity?
Martin: I love this question! I don't think anyone has legitimately confused us but it certainly hasn't hurt my chances of booking venues! Most of the time it's an easy way to break the ice with people and it helps to identify people with shared musical taste (it can lead to some great conversations in random places like taxis or workplaces). I have a good friend in Dunedin who used to live next door to Martin and always wanted to try and introduce us. I love The Chills and would still really like to meet him someday.
HUP: What part, if any, does being part of a married couple in the band (bass player Nicola and Martin) play in how you write music (in terms of subject matter and or how you sound)?
Martin: Haha, unfortunately the answer to this is pretty boring. The only difference that being married makes is that Nic was already aware of how my brain works prior to joining the band, so came into it fully aware of how I can be sometimes. With REPAIRS there's a good dynamic between the three of us and it's definitely its own unique relationship. Usually it's more likely that Nic and [drummer] James will be in agreement if there's something that divides us; a combination of my sometimes crazy ideas and the bond that all rhythm sections generally share. We don't have any set approach to how we write music, but it's pretty collaborative. All three of us have written songs that'll likely appear on the album and we share lyric writing duties as well. It helps that James is a talented guitarist and Nic is learning to play drums - I'm the only one confined to a single instrument).
HUP: Your first gig was only in August 2017. How have you managed to gain such a good following in such a short time?
Martin: We're still a very young band and still figuring out our way in the world. We haven't really built up a following as such yet but we've certainly been blessed with some amazing friends and an incredible local music community that have supported us. Before our first show it'd been a while since I'd last played and it's been amazing to get to be back playing gigs again, seeing old friends and making new connections. Music is an incredible tool for building community and I feel very privileged to be able to play in a band in NZ right now.
HUP: Do you have aspirations for REPAIRS?
Martin: I have many aspirations that range from the absolutely unrealistic to more pragmatic ones. At the core though we want to be able to keep making music together and keep enjoying it. The best part of being in a band is the connections with other people. As long as I'm able to make those connections and share a passion for music then I'll be more than happy.
HUP: When and where are you playing in Hamilton?
Martin: We're playing on Thursday 15th November — it's the first show of our tour! — at Nivara Lounge. Landlords and Cartoon Villain are also playing, and both of those bands are amazing!