I N T E R V I E W
No Comic-Book Superheroes: An Interview with Cartoon Villain
with Ian Duggan
Coming up on 14 December, Hamilton Underground Press celebrates the end of the year with their ‘Third Annual HUP Xmas Party’. One of the five bands appearing on the night will two-piece ‘Cartoon Villain’, who had their debut track ‘Don't Blink’ make an appearance on the HUP/The Hum 106.7FM’s Top 10 this month! We talked to Wairehu Grant and Albert Bannister about the band; who are their influences, what are the advantages of being a duo, and which cartoon villain would each of them be?
HUP: For the uninitiated, what do Cartoon Villain sound like? Are there any bands you would compare your sound to, or that have influenced your sound?
Albert: We aim for a hybrid of prog, post-hardcore and stoner rock. We were heavily inspired by some of the recent grungey New Zealand bands like Earth Tongue and Mermaidens, and post-hardcore classics such as At The Drive In and Mars Volta.
Wai: We’ve definitely got a strong influence from other kiwi indie bands both past and present. Don’t tell anybody but I’ve been stealing pedalboard ideas from Gussie’s Instagram since we started. shhh! Writing-wise, I also take a lot of cues from acts like Melvins, IDLES and Jack White. Between the two of us there’s a lot of crossover in influences but the exciting stuff kind of comes from the occasional differences in our musical backgrounds.
HUP: If I am correct, your first gig was supporting The Changing Same only in September. You have already had a number of gigs since this time, with more planned. How long had you been together before that first performance, and has the band changed in direction, focus or sound since your debut?
Albert: We formed the band about a week before the first gig. Our sound is starting to smooth out. It’s just a matter of churning out a good volume of material and then figuring out which stuff works and which doesn’t.
Wai: What he said. We basically started the band as soon as I bought a pitch shifter pedal. We’d been seeing a lot of bands like Carb on Carb, Skinny Hobos and Earth Tongue doing the two-piece thing and we thought it could be worth a shot. We’ve played together for a few years in various other acts, so we have a good level of familiarity with each other’s styles.
HUP: How did you come up with the name Cartoon Villain? And the obvious question, which cartoon villain would each of you be?
Albert: Wai looks kinda like a stereotype Anime villain. Being realistic, I’d probably be Prince Charming from Shrek.
Wai: Yeah, I can roll with generic Anime villain. Maybe James from Pokemon. The name Cartoon Villain was one I was using beforehand for a solo recording project I was working on. Given how fast our first few gigs came around we had to decide on a name quick-smart and this one just seemed to stick.
HUP: Being part a six-piece band, and finding it difficult to have everyone available for practices, let alone gigs, I can see the appeal of being in a two-piece. What advantages and disadvantages do you see in being a duo?
Albert: Pros: Churn out material quick. We’re both on the same page about what kind of music we want to be playing. Lots of bands we’ve been in have suffered from identity crises, where everyone was trying to pull the sound in different directions.
Cons: Hard to build depth and complexity into songs.
Wai: All of the above. There’s definitely a lot of things that make duo set ups logistically easier, but you really have to think outside the box to get enough development and variety in your songs with such a simple set up. But it does give me an excuse to shop around for weird effects pedals. Big plus.
HUP: I know you have already made your way into the studio and made some recordings (e.g., ‘Don't Blink’). What are your aspirations for this band?
Albert: We’re both gonna stick around for the next year or two and see where it takes us, gigging and recording as much as possible.
Wai: Definitely want to keep gigging fairly consistently and refining the set that we have. It’s exciting to think how much our sound could develop over the next year or so.