I N T E R V I E W
Leighton Edwards of Cowboy Dan
HUP caught up with Leighton Edwards a few days after the release of their new single 'You and I' from their forthcoming EP 'Sentimental Now That We're Leaving'.
Kia ora Leighton! Hey congrats on the new material! We thought you guys had disappeared never to be seen again. What’s been happening these last few years?
Cheers! It’s nice to have some fresh tunes! We played a ‘final show’ in Feb 2019, before I headed off to Vancouver, Canada for a couple of years. I was living and working over there, so Cowboy Dan took a break. To pass the time, I did a little self-released album under the name ‘Basement Suite’; my brother Jared (Drums) also released one under the name ‘Pretty Blur’. However, the intention was always to get the band back together upon my return to Aotearoa, and now here we are.
Now that you’re back up and running is it the same lineup as before?
It is. Sean Timlin on bass & BVs, Chris Warne on guitar & BVs, Jared Edwards on drums & BVs, and myself singing & playing guitar. Being back together feels great, a couple of slightly rough run throughs of the tunes and we have started to find the sweet spot again.
How did you guys get together originally?
We’ve known each other forever – Jared and I, quite literally. Sean, Jared and I had played together in a previous band, Nomadic Snails, with Sean’s brother Liam on Bass, and Sean on guitar; we’d also played shows with Chris’s band too. Jared and Chris later played together in a band that Chris fronted, called Summer Haunts. In 2015, I had just come back from living in Dublin and I remember Jared, Chris and I we’re hanging at a gig at Whammy Bar, I forget who was playing. But we just looked at each other after a great set and said, ‘hey, we should start a band’. It was a few beers in, but seemed like a no-brainer. We set up a jam and it clicked instantly. We needed a bassist, Sean played guitar (better than any of us) so we asked him to switch to bass, and that was us.
Tell us about the new EP – where did the songs come from – who does what - and how do they get from an idea to a recorded final track?
The new EP is called ‘Sentimental Now That We’re Leaving’ and will be out 16th April. We had
recorded an EPs worth of material before I left for Vancouver, toyed with releasing it throughout the couple of years, but settled on holding it back for a more purposeful release when we could play shows again. We were stoked to get Rohan Evans (Wine Cellar, Arcade Recordings) to mix and master it. The songs were all written in Auckland, and generally speak to searching for a sense of fulfillment. Anxieties and uncertainties creep through and muddy the search. These tunes were all written and bought to the band in various forms. Then everyone adds their parts and flourishes, and we tweak structures and the like to make them pop. We then tend to spend some time figuring out different harmonies that will add a nice touch, although sometimes we have better luck with this in a mad panic in the studio as our session time is running away from us. Pressure and harmonies seem to go hand in hand.
A couple of the tunes on it, including the first single, ‘You and I’, were written when Chris was living in Wellington, so were originally played as a 3 piece under the name ‘Tipneys’. Without Chris’s guitar, I was forced to play with a little more intent, and Sean had to fill more space too. Jared hit the kit a little harder too – we made our sound a little grittier to make up for the space Chris usually occupied. Tipneys was short lived, as Chris returned after a short stint away. We decided to head into the studio pretty soon after. We kept our parts essentially the same with the added intensity of the Tipneys feel, and Chris got creative in a short amount of time and added his flair on top. As a whole this has given the EP a slightly heavier and fuller feel compared to our first, ‘We Will Hesitate, When We Eventually Wake’, whilst we made sure we were maintaining our usual focus on ‘jangle’.
Other than the Auckland show are you heading off around Aotearoa to play shows any time soon?
The intention is there for sure. Settling back into Auckland life has been a busy time, so it just hasn’t been able to happen to coincide with the release of this EP unfortunately. We are especially keen for another Hamilton gig again. We had such a blast the last couple of shows we played there. In the foreseeable future, we will look to jump on a couple of festival bills outside of Auckland ideally, then head back again with our own dates once we have a new single and an album on the horizon.
What motivates you to be in a band these days?
Playing live is just such a buzz. When a room is full and we are on form, it’s just a perfect feeling. I recorded in Vancouver, and that was great, but fuck I missed playing live. To start with it was bearable, lots of incredible shows to go to, new gigs being announced every week, cheap tickets, live music everywhere. However, when the music scene shut down because of COVID, the feeling of no sound hitting the ears, compiled with the lack of playing music with others, was super tough to deal with. Being back in NZ, and the fact that we can get in a room again and play tunes, and then actually consider playing a show, is so magical. Writing and recording are such a blast too. At their best, they let you lose yourself. Writing and recording, and you are in the moment, it really doesn’t matter if only 50 people listen to it when it’s finally out in the world. Of course you want more to hear it, but it’s the process that drives you. The
anxiety, self doubt and all that bullshit will come once its done, but fuck it – the good moments are worth it.
What does success look like for a band such as Cowboy Dan?
Success for us is a full room, and great songs. The first one, thankfully, we have achieved a bunch. The second, we’ll I guess if we got the first, then we must have at least gotten close to the second? We do have little motivations and goals too. One memorable one was to play a Whammy/Wine Cellar festival here in Auckland, and that happened when we were invited to play Borderline in 2018. It was a great feeling of recognition to be invited to play alongside peers that were making incredible music and putting on inspiring shows. There are always musical goals too. After this EP, we are going to work towards a full album and press it on vinyl.
Tell us about the best and worst shows Cowboy Dan has ever played. I remember you at Future City Festival a few years back and it was a fantastic set.
Future City was such a good buzz for us. What amazing bands to play with. We had been having some success getting decent crowds back home, familiar faces, friends, a few unknown people too. Future City was the first show where we didn’t have our usual support base to rely on. We had to get the room going and into it all by ourselves. Kinda daunting, the unknown. We played pretty well though, and once that room was going, it was just this feeling of validation - the tunes, our performance- that’s what has got these stranger’s watching, having a good time – that’s a real buzz. Opening for the Jordan Luck Band was a great night too. Playing a show then drinking your bar tab way too quickly listening to classic tunes before unknowingly drinking a bunch of the Jordan Luck Band’s tab too (and getting away with it) - good times.
Our debut EP release show at the Wine Cellar in 2017 was a real highlight too. Just a night with a real purpose, a full room, and a great atmosphere. I’m picking our release show on 16 th of April will be another. The worst show was at this shitty bar in Auckland that we had never heard off. I honestly can’t even remember the name of it. It was a punky kinda night, and we aren’t particularly punk. There were some cool bands playing though, so we were in. Basically the issue was the owner of the bar was garbage. He was a misogynist, arrogant prick, who was outwardly offensive and creepy to our friends and others at the show. Once we realized this we were fucking pissed. Our set was about to start and the other bands on the bill were nice, so we didn’t want to pull the plug on our slot and mess the others around. So we played our set, and by the end of it, a bottle of onstage whiskey was finished and the words I was screaming into the microphone were no longer lyrics, but pointed critiques of the proprietor and how shitty his venue was. We never played there again, and the shit hole closed down. For us, it was actually pretty punk.
What have you been listening to of late, any hot tips for us?
I’ve been thrashing a couple of my favourite records from last year again lately. They take me back to winter in Vancouver; it’s a nice nostalgic feeling. ‘St Cloud’ by Waxahatchee and ‘Foothills’ by the Bats. Waxahatchee is fucking incredible, and this might be her best yet. The Bats just occupy this space that is so special, ‘Foothills’ is effortlessly good. My obscure choice from last year would be ‘The Microphones in 2020’. It is Phil Elverum (Mount Eerie) at his absoloute best on a single 44 minute track. It is absolutely mesmerising. I’ve been getting familiar with Kane Strang’s latest release too, ‘Happy To Perform’. He’s an incredible kiwi songwriter - and this new one has a lot of cool stuff going on.
A few light hearted Qs to finish…Which member of CD is likely to get arrested on a night out, and for what?
We are all upstanding citizens…
Who is the best cook in the band?
I reckon Chris would fancy himself as the best. That’s just a hunch. However, I recall a hot debate amongst the band in regards to herbs. The details are hazy, but Chris dismissed basil (I think it was basil) in favour of some inferior herb, and the band never forgave him. It was at once both trivial and extremely important. If this herb ranking is a reflection on his cooking, then perhaps he’s out of step…
Which member of CD is the sportiest?
I think its fair to say sports is not at the forefront of the bands bonding. Although cricket is given a pass. If we had a casual game of backyard, I am confident I would win.
If you could curate a show anywhere in the world, where would it be, what are we drinking, and which three bands (dead or alive) are playing?
I could get carried away, but I think I would have to right the wrong of some missed opportunities from recent times. I had tickets to a bunch of shows in Vancouver and across the border in Washington that naturally got postponed while I was there, due to some pretty significant COVID numbers. So I’d probably schedule a run of show featuring the shows I was supposed to see.
Waxahatchee, Weyes Blood, Nick Cave and Jason Isbell in Vancouver, followed by a road trip to
Tacoma, Washington to see Bright Eyes. Picklebacks would be on the menu - a shot of Jameson chased with a shot of pickle juice - so much better than it sounds.
Catch Cowboy Dan w/Treenurse at The Wine Cellar on April 16th - grab a presale ticket HERE