Liz Stokes of The Beths
In October 2016, when HUP was putting on shows by bands we liked more or less every month, we were fortunate enough to have The Beths headline a show at Nivara Lounge. Ahead of that show we talked to Liz Stokes, the band's main songwriter, for a HUP interview which is still available to read here.
It's now almost exactly five years on from that show and it's fair to say a lot of very good things have happened to The Beths since then, not least a hard-earned but much-deserved triple-whammy of awards at last year's Aotearoa Music Awards - Best Album, (for Jump Rope Gazers), Best Group, and Best Alternative Act for a second consecutive year. We caught up with Liz as she and the rest of Auckland came out of their latest level 4 lockdown, almost five years on from that 2016 show.
Kia ora Liz! I hope you are all doing well. I’m typing this a few hours after the announcement that level 3 kicks in tomorrow evening…hurrah for you all! What things have you missed the most and what are you going to looking forward to doing most with your new found freedom?
Kia ora. It’s been a week at level 3 now. I’ve enjoyed the hell out of some hot chips. Not much else has changed though to be honest.
How has this lockdown been different from previous ones? Have you been productive at all, musically or otherwise?
They’ve all felt different. We were bang in the middle of tracking a new album when this one started. For the first few weeks Jono and I were able to keep some productivity going from home. Some tracking, some writing, some mixing. But as the weeks have gone by that’s dropped away a lot, to be honest. For me anyway. It comes in waves though.
Congratulations on the release of the live album! It sounds brilliant, I don’t think enough people release live albums these days. How did the idea for that come about?
The show at the town hall in November last year had a lot of emotional weight for us. For all the obvious reasons to do with the global pandemic. We recorded it and filmed it, with a short term aim of streaming the concert for people overseas. Once we had it in hand, it just made sense. We had the time to put it together.
The thing that struck me most about the record is how absolutely stunningly solid you sound as a band these days. I remember the earlier shows here in Hamilton and it was clear you were a special band back then but you’ve gone stellar since then and it is of course much deserved. Have you always believed this was possible, or was there a point where it dawned on you that this was really taking off?
We’ve always tried really hard to be a good live band. But it’s a whole different level being able to play like 250 shows in 18 months, we were able to really push ourselves. We’re still working on it, it’s still a difficult set to get through for us instrumentally, vocally, and energetically. I think in late 2017 we had a small confidence that Future Me Hates Me was a good album and that we would bet on ourselves for the next year. A lot of things lined up and we got really lucky.
How are you finding the song-writing process a couple of albums in? Has it changed much since Warm Blood, either in terms of subject matter or the way the songs come together? Years ago, you told us that you (Liz) typically record a demo and bring it to the band to arrange the parts.
It’s still really difficult. I’ve written a lot of songs now, so trying to keep writing ‘Beths’ songs, which have particular… characteristics? or that have a particular feeling to them, is hard to do without repeating yourself. The process once a demo is made is still pretty similar. I send it out and we work out an arrangement together as a group. The main difference now is that back in 2017 we would learn a song to play it live in the set, then record it later, whereas now we learn a song, record it and then add it to the set. It’s a big difference.
Is there anything you do to try and keep things fresh or challenge yourself musically, maybe include chords or instruments or perhaps structures that you haven’t used before?
Yeah, I think I’ve learned that when it comes to writing, having at least a trickle of new information coming into your brain is pretty important in having new things come out. Whether it’s some music that’s new to you, or a book, or going somewhere new, or meeting someone new and having a conversation you haven’t had before. It seems obvious but it’s easy to reach for comfortable things that you know, particularly when things are hard. I do this a lot.
Is there any new material planned for release in the next year or so and what can you tell us about that – EP/LP when etc.
We’re trying haha.
There’s a US tour coming up soon, how have you enjoyed playing there in the past, and are there any fundamental differences in the way a tour works there compared to here in NZ?
Yeah it’s a super strange place. It’s so so big. And people love music there. It’s our biggest audience, and like I said before, being able to play a whole lot of shows and settle into a groove is really satisfying.
I’m not sure how much time you have spent in the US in the past but have you felt at home in any particular city or state? Is there a city you particularly look forward to playing over there?
The big cities are the biggest shows, NYC, Chicago, LA... and they are awesome and usually kind of fly by in a surge of adrenaline. We played three shows in Wisconsin in 2019 though, and one sticking in my memory today is when we played at this tiny venue called ‘Shitty Barn’ in a town called Spring Green. We played cricket in the parking lot and they showered us in cheese and it was a really fun night.
Can we expect a NZ tour sometime in the next year or so? Covid pending of course.
We’ll see about next year. We’ve played pretty heavily in NZ in the last two years so if international touring goes ahead next year then we’ll certainly be doing as much of that as we can. But we love it here too much to not plan something fun.
A few non musical questions...
Back in 2016 you informed us that Ben is the best cook in the band, and that all he talks about is seasoning pans. Five years on, does Ben retain the title and has the food chat moved on passed seasoning?
Now that Tristan has joined the band on drums, there is some competition in this department. Actually I take that back, it’s not a competition. It’s a loving shared interest. Ben and Tristan have made numerous marmalades together.
Also back in 2016, you told us that Jonathan was the sportiest Beth with his love of cricket. Is that still the case or has a new sporting interest developed amongst the band?
Yeah we all kind of joined Jonathan in the end. It started with a mini cricket bat that Katie (our then drummer) bought from a supermarket in the UK in 2018, that we would play with at rest stops. Then we were pretty homesick in 2019 and the cricket world cup was on, and that’s when the interest became full-blown for us I think. But Jonathan is still the biggest cricket-head. (Editor's note: Check out this tremendous Beths Cricket Tee Shirt)
According to Bandcamp, the new record is ‘Housed in a wide spine single sleeve jacket’. Two questions, both equally nonsensical…the first is this...Which Beth has the widest spine? (Bit weird that, but I’ll leave it in.)
No clue haha.
Which NZ city or town would you most expect to see someone wearing a single-sleeve jacket as a fashion statement, and why that place?
I dunno, but it sounds cool.
Who is the most famous person you have met that has made you a little overwhelmed. Like a real OMG moment?
Probably Rick Astley. He was a total sweetheart and I would die to protect him.
What does your ideal NZ holiday look like/consist of?
I’d love to go to Stewart Island one day.
Finally, are you feeling confident about the Blackcaps winning the T20 world cup?
Big thanks to Liz for taking the time to talk to us. The Beths Live at Auckland Town Hall is out now and available via the band's bandcamp page and all good record stores.
I N T E R V I E W
Naughty Beethoven: A Q&A with Luke Buda
with Ian Duggan
Luke Buda is releasing his latest solo album – BUDA – on 15 October, and with it comes an eleven date tour of the country. We caught up with Luke to find out why it has been such a long wait since 2008s ‘Vesuvius’, his collaboration with novelist and poet Damien Wilkins, whether there is any lingering influence of his early years in Poland, and more!
HUP: This is your first solo album since 2008s ‘Vesuvius’. Why so long between drinks?
Luke: Just got very busy with The Phoenix Foundation after [the 2010 album] ‘Buffalo’ came out. We did lots of touring in Europe and the UK off the back of that album. Then we wanted to carry on going hard so there was no time really for other stuff. Then we all felt a like we needed a break after 'Give Up Your Dreams', which is why it was five years between that and 'Friend Ship'. But naturally I was still making music so the solo album slowly materialised. I actually thought it was going to be finished and out BEFORE Friend Ship.
HUP: What do you think are the differences between a Luke Buda penned solo song versus one that ends up on a Phoenix Foundation album?
Luke: Ah shit, I dunno really. It’s just about the process right? I am not sure if it is up to me to try to define the sounds. But definitely it is nice to have some time to just chip away at some music without having to deal with anyone else’s opinions and ideas! Even though in The Phoenix Foundation it is that very mix of opinions and ideas that makes the music.
HUP: You are a multi-instrumentalist, but as a keyboards player, I’m most interested in the keys you play. What do you use, and what is it about that one that suits your needs?
Luke: Well in my studio I have a Rhodes, a Roland Juno 60 and a Prophet 600. But live I just use MainStage and software synths, because the vintage keyboards are huge, heavy and easily broken on tour. The choice of MainStage is purely down to the fact that Ableton seemed to crash my ancient laptop.
HUP: Three of the tracks are co-written by novelist and poet Damien Wilkins. How did that collaboration come about, and what role does he play in the collaboration?
Luke: He wrote the lyrics! When I played on his 2014 album ‘The Lines Are Open’, I was whingeing about how hard I find lyrics to write and he said he’d write some for me if I wanted. It took me a long time to give that a go, probably just out of fear of the new / unknown. In the end it was desperation that made me ask him and I am glad I did. Basically I couldn’t get any lyrics going for the track that ended up being ‘Here Comes The Wind’ at all. It was mostly recorded. Because it was originally made for an older version of the opening of the movie ‘This Town’. I sent him the track and the next day he sent back the lyrics. It usually takes me a few years to “finish” a song, so I was mightily impressed and thus I sent him two more.
HUP: One of the songs for which he has writing credit is one of the teasers, ‘Here Comes the Wind’, which I’m particularly enjoying. With lyrics like “about the planet and its future direction”, is this a particular concern of yours – or is this part of Wilkins’ influence?
Luke: I didn’t try to influence the lyrical content in any way. But I certainly agree with his concerns.
HUP: The other teaser to date, ‘Candy’, was co-written by yourself and the other Phoenix Foundation originals, Samuel Scott and Conrad Wedde. Was this one that didn’t quite make the last album?
Luke: Well actually this one also originated as a track for the movie ‘This Town’. It was a sincere attempt at a fully sweet pop number. An interesting exercise in trying to turn off my “child of the ‘90s” cynical killjoy instincts.
HUP: You spent the first few years of your life in Poland. Do you think this has had any lasting influence on your music? Perhaps not just the influence of music you were exposed to there, but by missing out on the releases of, say, Patea Maori Club’s 1984 hit "Poi E" or Dave Dobbyn and Herbs’ anthem "Slice of Heaven" in 1986?
Luke: I think it’s had as much of an influence on my music as most people’s musical listening from before they were 8 years old has on them… Apparently I listened to a lot of Dire Straits, Genesis and Phil Collins, which obviously shines through in my own musical expressionz.
HUP: One thing that seemingly wasn’t stunted by your formative years outside of New Zealand was a love of Cricket. How did this develop?
Luke: Man, people seem so amused by the idea that you can like art AND sport. Full disclosure is that Cricket is a recent thing for me. At high school I wasn’t into sports at all, although in some ways I think the lack of a jock culture at Wellington High School is also why I don’t have an ingrained animosity toward sports. I got into watching Rugby in 1999, not a great time to get into it from a NZ point of view, but hey! I got into cricket in 2019. Mostly I like having old mates over to watch a game and drink beers and shoot the shit about something that is ultimately utterly meaningless. And I dunno… I guess I enjoy lying on the couch in a semi-conscious state watching a ball roll around a field, so?
HUP: A huge array of musicians contributed to the recording of ‘Buda’. Following the album release you are on tour. What should we expect there? Will you have a full band together, or are you doing it all alone?
Luke: Yes I have an awesome band. Anita Clarke (who is Motte) on violin, keys and vocals. Jacqui Nyman (who is also playing in Bret McKenzie’s band) on bass and Olivia Campion (of Yumi Zouma and countless others) on drums. Expect us to play ALL the songs from Buda as that is what we are excited about, and maybe a couple of songs from the oooooooold albums.
Visit Luke's Bandcamp, Spotify, Instagram, and Facebook pages, and check out the 'BUDA' tour dates below:
I N T E R V I E W
‘Trash Dynasty’: An Interview with Empress
by Trevor Faville
Empress is a two-piece band who evolved out of Hamilton’s Cheshire Grimm in 2019, following the departure of Kat Waswo from that band. With the release of their new EP, ‘Trash Dynasty’, on the 10th of September, Trevor Faville caught up with Lora and Craig and talked about the transition from Cheshire Grimm to Empress, the challenging aspects of working as a two-piece, the new release, and more!
HUP: The journey from Cheshire Grimm to now, what were some of the important steps and/or decisions you made?
Lora: Personally, for me, being in the band with Kat (Waswo, Cheshire Grimm bassist) for seven years… that was quite a change. Quite a difficult adjustment. We’re still really close friends. Earlier this year we worked on Grrrlfest which was really fun. That was a festival that ran over three days and had more than 30 artists.
It was more of a natural progression for me and Craig - that's how I feel about it, anyway. I'm really stoked with the re-brand and the change of sound that we’ve got, because it feels really authentic.
Craig: Probably the biggest step we didn’t make was actually Kat leaving the band. She was wanting to focus on her own stuff, which was obviously the right decision for her. We kind of rolled with it initially and thought we would carry on the same as before - as a two piece instead - but I think we pretty quickly decided that the music we wrote with Kat was different to what me and Lora wrote. It became a kind of natural progression. We decided we needed to change up from Cheshire Grimm and become our own thing.
HUP: That's what I was curious about, because it looked like a dynamic change. Things are being done differently because one person isn’t there. So, it evolved as a result of that.
Craig: Yeah, and I think partly it's the mechanics of being a two piece versus a three piece. We tried for quite a while to play some of the same songs, but just mechanically it doesn't quite work the same. We kind of... reinvented a little bit, and then we sort of thought, “actually, maybe we need to move away from what Cheshire Grimm was, and be its own thing”.
Lora: I feel like, personally, we were probably leaning towards the rebrand anyway, after seven years, two drummers, two albums… like we were sort of leaning towards a different sound than what it was at the start anyway, and I think I’m kind of stoked with what we’re doing now because it's not like we have to play stuff that we wrote that long ago - that we don't like playing any more! And, also, that Craig doesn't have to play things he did not write... that's a big plus, y’know?
HUP: Both of you are experienced musicians. What's your balance between contemporary and formative musical influences? Is it older music that still inspires you, or is there a lot of new music around that you are learning from?
Craig: I guess, for me, music peaked at my emotionally most vulnerable (age), and it's all been downhill from there! But I listen to a lot of contemporary stuff, but to be honest I’ve moved away from a lot of the genres that I grew up listening exclusively to. Like, I was really into heavy metal almost exclusively up to my mid-twenties. Now I am in my mid-thirties the contemporary music I listen to tends to be much more diverse. It's a lot more electronic. A lot of rap and hip hop. Still quite a lot of metal, but nowhere near as exclusive as it used to be, and I think honestly 90% of my influence comes from the stuff I was listening to when I was thirteen to twenty. It's not a deliberate thing by any stretch, but it's hard wired in my brain.
Lora: Yeah, I’m the same as Craig, actually. I played in loads of death metal bands and things as a youngster - sort of grindcore and heavy metal was pretty big for me as well as ‘90s Grunge. The Melvins, Hole, and punk music and stuff. But recently, I’ve kind of been getting into St Vincent, Holly Herndon, Run the Jewels. I also had many friends that inspire me. One of the big inspirations for the way I write songs - the songs in particular that I write for Empress - is New Zealand band Left or Right. I love the heavy reggae sort of vibe and that's what gives some of our songs - not all them! - but that was an inspiration for a long time... so big shout to them. They are a band from Dunedin.
Craig: I guess I could throw in there quickly one of the big influences that I - interestingly - had is… and a lot of it has come from joining a band that already existed, but, Cheshire Grimm was actually a really big influence on what I play, because that's where I made my entrance into the band. I copied previous drummers and Sam’s (Holdom) style straight away because I had to learn it. That has kind of just naturally flowed into what I was writing, I think.
Lora: Chelsea Wolfe is another big one for some of the songs on this EP for me but... older Chelsea Wolfe, like when she had the Doomy kind of heavy distorted sound.
HUP: Your next release: What have you done? What is it? How did you do it?
Lora: heaps of crying! Loads of crying… Blood, sweat, tears. Craig had to indulge in some intoxicants….! That's what we have done! The actual answer is we have a six-track record. It may be slightly longer than an EP. I don't know, but I don’t think it's quite an album. It's all very super-DIY -we did it all ourselves. We intended to finish it last year but the previous lockdown made that pretty tough. We are supposed to have a six-date tour coming up... Dates might change (due to covid restrictions). It's our first EP as this band- so that's pretty cool.
HUP: Is the previous Empress single ‘Sailing the Seas of Grease’ on it?
Lora; Yep! Both singles are on it, plus four other tracks. One of them that we only added at the last minute earlier this year.
Craig: ‘Cos we decided that Lora needed more to do! I would just like to add to that - massive shout out to Lora because she's done all the technical stuff… well, ALL the stuff! I showed up and sucked at drums for a few hours, and she’s turned the whole thing into an amazing set of tracks.
Lora: I'm really happy with them, actually, because I think part of the thing about it taking so long led to the advantage of lots of listening, and lots of tweaking, and I’m pretty happy with the production that we’ve got on it. And the performances I think are really good.
HUP: What are some of the positives, challenges and interesting aspects of working as a two piece?
Lora: I guess, at a gig, if somebody stops playing, it's pretty challenging! It's pretty easy to organise, I reckon. We can just be like “hey, do you want to do this?” “yeah/ nah? Cool?” Give them an answer straight away.
Craig: I've never been in a band that has practiced every time that we said we would practice and this band has been the first one that basically like… there's never any problems. We just… we literally sometimes organise a practice in an hour! “Are you free this afternoon?” “sweet, swing over, we’ll jam”. That's fantastic. I guess in terms of challenges, I wouldn't say there are too many really. The big one is probably we've still got a lot of crap! Having a full size drum kit to haul about with the two of us…
Lora: A giant pedalboard that weighs 20 kgs. That's gonna be fun for the tour!
HUP: What about the sound? It has not proved to be much of a worry, filling it out live?
Lora: Filling it out is not an issue. I think the issue is looping sometimes can suck if we don't have someone who is good on monitors with us, you know? It's a challenge for Craig because he’s playing drums to a loop that's coming through a guitar amp, or bass amp and a guitar amp. That sometimes can be a challenge.
Craig: Lora’s done a huge amount in terms of filling out the sound. We were jamming out at my house a while ago, and the first time Lora brought an extra amp to use, which is a bass cab, with - I think it was a guitar amp - but she’d used her splitter and had the two signals going, and my neighbour showed up complaining thinking that there was a four or five piece band in the back shed! “It was fine when it was a two piece, but now there is a whole band, it's just too much noise!” I think (Lora) has done an amazing job of filling that out.
Lora: That's how we measure our achievements. I’m hiding in the back there and she's going “oh, but we didn't know you were gonna have whole bands here!” Mission succeeds!
HUP: When I saw you live, it was definitely working. I am always reminded of Robert Fripp (King Crimson guitarist) who talked about bands being ‘small, mobile, intelligent units’ and it's a curious thing when you get down to two people. It's interesting hearing how you deal with that.
Lora: On that note, I’m a huge King Crimson fan too. So that's pretty important, all that kind of background.
HUP: You operate like a lot of bands do now, with a self-managed, independent approach. So when it comes to setting up a tour, it seems an epic amount of work. Is it? How does that work for you?
Lora: It's pretty easy I think now, because we've sort of been playing for a bit - a couple of years. So people ask us to play. I think the hardest thing is probably when we are going to a place where we haven't been before, which for this tour was going to be Wellington and Tauranga. I think the issue we've had this time is methods of transportation - booking flights and stuff. I think at one point we were gonna catch the Interislander… then we weren't... it's always interesting booking all of that.
HUP: It's a big change, and that whole thing (touring) would have been handled by someone else, once. Now it's not unusual to see bands like yourself handling all of that internally… and it becomes a normal part of being a functionaking musician now. That you have to handle all of this yourself.
Lora: Yeah, with some of our gigs too, like the Tauranga one, that's not organised by us, so we do outsource some of them where possible. We’ve got a festival coming up called Sanctuary Sounds that we are supposed to be playing in too-. It's a bit of a mixed bag.
Craig: I would say Lora makes it sound easy. But she's incredibly organised as I would assume - as a general person, but in terms of band stuff she just knows what to do in terms of everything. So she makes it sound simple, but it doesn't look like it from the outside!
HUP: So then! EP, tour, is it presumptuous to ask if you have plans after that?
Craig: Like Lora said we’ve got the festival that we are playing in December, and I guess hopefully as we go through the tour we would pick up more momentum for tours and shows as we go. At the moment we are all in this weird kind of holding pattern to see what happens anyway (with Covid restrictions). It's a strange world we live in at the moment.
HUP: For each of you, name a favourite piece of musical equipment and tell us why you like it?
Lora: Pick the chimes!
Craig: I would probably have to say, my ride cymbal. My HH Sabian. It's really versatile, you can use it for nearly anything. And I have thrashed the shit out of it. For a couple of years now and it's still... still not a dent on it… somehow!
HUP: Good cymbals are for life...
Craig: Yeah, that's the plan! Typically with me, not so much. They tend to last 2-3 years, but this ones been going a while.
Lora: I have narrowed it down to - when we made this EP - it was that TC electronics Sub ‘n Up, which is a pedal I have. One of many. I don't even know how many I have. And it's got this tone print that sort of sounds like an organ. I think I've used it on four out of six tracks on the EP. I totally recommend it. It's quite affordable as well, and quite compact. It's basically a three times Octave creator with these kind of weird tone prints, but I just use it on the setting that sounds like an organ, cos we don't have keys or anything, and that kinds fills it out a bit. Sounds really good!
HUP: For each of you, what's a favourite on stage/ touring story?
Craig: I think probably for me, we played a show in… I think it was Napier, back when we were Cheshire Grimm, and I was quite sick. So we got a bit jacked up on caffeine… and stuff…(!). I was a bit sick and I think Lora was a bit under the weather as well, so we got all jazzed up on caffeine and we played this show, and it went really well. We were playing a couple of shows with the Skinny Hobos. The show went great, we got off stage, me and Lora were pumped. Thought it went absolutely mint… and Kat got off the stage and she was a little less than impressed because we apparently played everything about 20 percent faster than it should have been.
Craig: …causing Kat grief to even sing the songs! But you know, the crowd went nuts. It was a really great show... as far as everyone else seemed to be concerned! I feel bad about it for Kat, but it was one of those times when you just really got into the moment. I think it was a hell of a lot of a fun performance.
Lora: Yeah, it was a good show! I think the thing about being a two piece is that it's quite easy to get on the same level, because there is only one other person to get on the level with. It’s good.
Lora: Funny that you mention Skinny Hobos because I think - I'm not sure - but one of these stories might be a Skinny Hobos tour. Something about a bar of soap that had been shoved in the smoke alarm at the hotel… when we pulled off the cover. That was kind of funny ‘cos we were worrying about covering the smoke detectors so someone could smoke in a room and then it was like… cool, there's a bar of soap in the battery hole.
And then the other one was, last time we went to Takaka and played Roots bar, which we are hopefully gonna go back to again soon. I think I was a bit out of it and I made this young dude scull a bottle of tomato sauce. It was quite a rowdy crowd, and we played quite late, and he was quite rowdy up the front, so I was like “Oh yeah, yeah come up here”, and then I don't know what I said actually… but I made him scull this bottle of tomato sauce that was sitting on the sub next to me. I don't know why it was there….
HUP: Did he take the lot?
Lora: Yeah, at the time, at the time he did. But then apparently he went and spewed up and went home, which I felt really bad about… but he was kind of heckling us, so...
Craig: It was probably the alcohol to be fair, rather than the T sauce!
‘Trash Dynasty’ is available at Bandcamp and all major streaming services. Tapes and CDs will be available from gig venues.
‘Drag’: An interview with Reuben Hudson
With Arpie Shirlow
On 20 August, Tāmaki Makaurau’s Reuben Hudson released his latest single ‘Drag’, featuring Jade Lewis on vocals – and it’s currently #1 on ‘The 95bFM Top Ten’! The song represents the last of his DIY releases before a collaborative studio recorded EP. Arpie spoke to Reuben about the project, his transition to an alternative/indie rock, and more!
HUP: Tell us about your band – who/where from/where based/how long been together?
Reuben: I have been running with this project in terms of releasing music since I first began properly writing songs as a teenager (teen heartbreak songs - haha), as well as my involvement in the webseries’ ‘Nothing Much To Do’ and ‘Lovely Little Losers’. The first EP, ‘When I Was Sixteen’, was acoustic folk, and I’ve transitioned through beat-making and writing raps, and being super Frank Ocean influenced to now making alternative/indie rock.
It's really just me telling my story, writing and recording music in my room and it’s become my most honest form of self-expression.
I’m from Sandringham and have been playing music with friends from around-ish where I grew up my whole life. I’ve been actively gigging this project since I was about 21 - and am currently rolling with Adam Staples, David Harris, Bridget McArthur, Jin Song and myself.
HUP: What brought you together/how did you come to be in this band?
Reuben: I’ve known some of them from as early as Playcentre, met others through high school, and different friend groups, and now I’m studying at the University of Auckland which is where I met my latest bandmate Jin. They’ve been people who have remained constant that I vibe with and enjoy playing music with.
HUP: Who does what? Writes the songs/plays what instruments/books shows/designs your artwork, etc.
Reuben: I’ve always been writing songs for this project, involving bandmates when the time comes for shows – and being lucky enough that they are down! I used to rely on others for artwork, but I’ve been getting really into visual art and graphic design. So I recently got photoshop and have been playing with it all myself since, making my artwork and posters for shows I organise. For the live shows Adam plays keys, Jin bass, David drums and Bridget's on drum machines.
HUP: What does the song writing process look like? Does one person bring ideas and then jam it out or something else.
Reuben: Usually it starts with me having a little harmonic/melodic idea on keys or guitar and then fleshing that out in logic – looping and layering different instruments and sounds. Lyrics kinda spill out as to whatever feels right or I think sounds cool. Then I’ll come back to them and realise there’s quite a lot of meaning in there. If I’m trying too hard to say something specific it doesn’t feel natural and I usually end up leaving those songs be. For live stuff I bring the songs, and we’re playing them pretty much as is – but I’m always open to anything being altered to feel better for live performance.
HUP: How often do you practice and where does that happen?
Reuben: Lucky enough to still have a space to rehearse at my mum and dad’s place – we’ll do a couple before gigs. Shout out to my mum and dad.
HUP: Tell us about your recording process to date/latest music – where did you do it, with who, etc. Was it a cool experience or something else?
Reuben: My latest release ‘Drag’ features Jade Lewis on vocals and Jin Song did the mixing and mastering. I started recording it in 2019 – I was unwell with kidney failure at the time, and you can definitely hear that in some of the sentiments of the song. I got to freshen it all up this year, taking my laptop to Jade’s and recording her vocals, then taking the project to Jin to mix/master. It was cool to give this song new life with my renewed energy, and to involve friends on it. For a song like ‘Drag’ it was fun to keep the final part light-hearted.
HUP: What is the scene like in your hometown these days?
Reuben: Poppin’ off! So many good bands. I’m such a big fan of so many acts in Tāmaki at the moment. Go see them all at the Others Way!
HUP: What are you listening to at the moment? What was the last band you heard for the first time that stopped you in your tracks?
Reuben: COBRAH, haha, Leith Sye Towers’s New EP ‘No Farm, No Fowl’ – and I stumbled on this band called Armlock who make great - sad indie songs. Their songs ‘Turf War’ and ‘April’ definitely caught me in my feels. I'm a big fan of other Tāmaki bands like Sulfate, Phoebe Rings and Pocket Money too.
HUP: When did you think ‘I can be in a band’ for the first time and how did that turn out?
Reuben: Me and my primary school friends made a band called DNA and won some intermediate/school band competitions. Had a really good run until the New Zealand Chilli Fest in 2011 at the Kings Arms.
HUP: Which of the band is the sportiest?
Reuben: I literally have no idea, haha. Haven’t found the mid-20s to be super sporty - Yoga’s good though - I could definitely get back into some cricket.
HUP: If you could organise a show anywhere in the world - which three bands are playing, where is it, and what are we drinking?
Reuben: This is one specific vibe - but something festival-like in Norway, near a fiord with some snow capped mountains in sight somewhere - orca’s splashing about - night time - but everyone’s dressed super warm. Beery ales watching Alex G as the sun goes down, lemony, icy and sparkly gins to Weyes Blood as the northern lights appear, and then a Frank Ocean set starts. That’d be pretty dreamy.
Alex Hudson of Last Place
Although Kirikiriroa is Aotearoa’s fourth largest city, it is often avoided by touring bands as if it were a Covid hotspot. This has improved in recent times but it still happens far too often. There must be reasons why this is so and many will have different views.
There is, to a degree, a fairly commonly held view that it is due to a paucity of venues. I’m not so sure on this. Don't get me wrong, we don't have anything like Mount Maunganui's world-class venue Totara Street, and that is a great pity, but Hamilton’s 170,000-ish people are served by the excellent Nivara Lounge as well as Biddy Mulligans, (the only two bespoke music venues in town), along with larger venues such as The Meteor and Clarence Street Theatre. Shows in the thousands are catered for by Claudelands Arena, and at the other end of the scale the rise of the excellent Never Project Space in Frankton and its more intimate shows suggest that, in fact, there is actually a reasonable variety of live music venues in the city right now. That's not to say more aren't welcome of course.
Some will point to poorly-attended shows perhaps enhancing Hamilton's ‘cow town’ reputation and in turn putting off some bands, artists and indeed promoters from organising shows here. There could be something in this but in the last few years recent times Nivara Lounge has hosted many sold-out shows such as, off the top of my head, Tiny Ruins, The Bats, The Wedding Present and Shonen Knife amongst many others. A couple of weeks ago Courtney Barnett’s show at Clarence Street Theatre was very well attended even if the 500 pax venue did not sell out. The audiences are out there, there can be little doubt of that.
Others may claim there isn’t the right mid-range venue to cater to certain shows – close to 200 in capacity, in-house PA, highly experienced sound engineers, great drink and food options, a stage allowing a full view of performers, amazing atmosphere, and importantly, a place to go when bands aren't playing and hear good music.
If that last reason resonates with you, then good news, there’s a new bar and venue in town. It is called Last Place and it is located on Collingwood Street just off the main drag in the CBD.
Last Place is the brainchild of a group of people who are responsible for getting hospitality very right in Hamilton for a little while now – Alex of Wonder Horse bar, Mat and Maurice of Mr.Pickles Bar & Eatery, and John formerly of Mizzoni Pizza. HUP caught up with Alex to get up-to-date on all things ‘Last Place’.
Kia ora Alex, tell us how Last Place came to be!
We’d all been talking about it, the idea of starting a new bar and venue for a while, and I had been looking for the right place for a few months. Then we found this place for lease.
And it’s a joint venture of sorts, right?
It is. Wonder Horse and Mr.Pickles are separate businesses but weare friends and have worked on events together in the past, and it helps to have people you know and trust when starting something new like this.
Is Last Place going to be a weekend venue or will it be open more regularly than that?
It’s going to be open Tuesday to Saturday every week, from 4pm to around 1am, with maybe some Sunday sessions happening in the future.
What’s the vibe of the place?
I’ve been describing it as 1980’s New Zealand RSA mixed with classic American dive bar which is moderately fitting - a little bit gross but pretty fun and cool. No cocktails or anything, but you can get a beer and a shot and a nice burger and some pub style food, that kind of thing, and of course see some amazing bands playing too.
That sounds tremendous. Is it one space or is there a venue space and a bar space?
Yes, it’s one space, a long, moderately narrow room, some seating at the bar, leaners, and some booth seating.
What is the capacity of Last Place?
At the moment it’s around 150.
I have to ask – does it have a nice high stage?
Yes, (checks sizing), it’s actually 650mm high.
Woohoo! It's a pet hate, being at busy gigs and only seeing the tops of the heads of the bands performing. Is the ‘target market’ musicians and music fans?
No, there’s no target market other than ‘no dickheads’. We have a mix of people working in the area - tradies, accountants, students at Wintec up the road – a real mix. So it should be a pretty broad spectrum. They’d just need to be happy to be in a place like this - the RSA/dive bar type place, a fairly relaxed, carpeted, low lit bar.
In terms of the music, will it be limited to any genre?
We will do the curating early on and keep an eye on the quality – but I see it being more high energy kind of punk bands, maybe some mellower stuff now and then, but definitely no covers bands or solo acoustic sets, unless you’re really fucking cool. You know, if Bruce Springsteen wanted to come and do a solo set, I would probably let him. We also need to figure out what works and what doesn’t so there might be some sort of learning early on.
We’re just starting to take expressions of interest from bands at the moment. We have our sound team in place, some really good experienced people involved, and some younger people learning the ropes too. Ultimately, we want to create a space that the New Zealand music scene can get something from and give something to, as well as creating a bar that everyone wants to come to, whether there is a gig on or not.
So probably more towards the alternative guitar-based music, that kind of stuff?
So how will it work for bands, what’s the process? There’s an in-house PA and you’ll have in-house engineers.
Yes, we’ll have good experienced engineers doing the sound, an in-house PA with monitors etc but no cabs or drum kit. That’s how we are going to start out anyway, it could change though in the future. We can call on people we know if we need anything so we will see how it goes. Booking enquiries can be done by emailing email@example.com
It sounds great, Alex. Tell us a bit about yourself, did you grow up in this city?
No, I was born in Taranaki and grew up in Tauranga, then I moved here and went to Uni for a year and half and decided I didn’t like it, so got into hospitality.
And what kind of music are you into?
I think I’ve got a reasonably broad palate, we play lots of jazz and 70s and 80s guitar rock at Wonder Horse, I love Hip Hop, I’ve been to several Iron Maiden concerts...
Really? Far out! So pretty much everything?
No not everything, there’s definitely music I don’t like. For this setting, Last Place, there’s probably going to be some stuff that’s right on the fringes of what I’d be into, but that’s exciting.
What are you listening to at the moment, any stand outs right now?
I feel like all I’ve done for the last three months is work and obsess about how I’m going to get this venue going, but umm, I have really enjoyed Pillcutter’s album, hopefully we will get them playing here soon.
All the best with it, I’ll see you there when the doors are open. When might that be?
At the moment we’re aiming for Wednesday 18th August.
So there you go, Kirikiriroa, a cool new bar and music venue for us all to enjoy. Gigs confirmed to date include Wellington garage punks Dartz on Sept 16th and local noiseniks Easy Off on Sept 18th.
HUP had a natter with Penelope and Robin of Wellington existential folk band Grawlixes. They have just released a new LP ' Love You To Death', and are about to embark on a twelve-date tour of the country.
Kia ora Grawlixes, tell us who you are and how you came to be!
Robin: Grawlixes is Penelope Esplin (accordion, vox), Robin Cederman (guitar, vox), Hikurangi
Schaverien-Kaa (drums) Emma Minor (bass) and Alex Vaatstra (violin). Penelope and I formed Grawlixes back in Dunedin when we were dating and living together in a two bedroom flat above the octagon. Now we live separately in the suburbs of Wellington, but the band lives on.
Tell us how Grawlixes songs are usually formed.
Robin: I usually come up with an initial draft for a song on my acoustic or keyboard, and then Penelope and I will nut out the final details together, especially for the songs she sings.
Congratulations on the release of the new LP! Where did you record it?
Robin: We recorded ‘Love You To Death’ at The Surgery, (in Wellington), with Lee Prebble. It was amazing and expensive in equal measure. Lee is a total wizard and a lovely supportive presence in the studio. We learned a huge amount, and definitely became better musicians in the process. Tip: practice along to a metronome ahead of recording!
(Ed: It was obviously worth it, as album opener, the beautiful 'Honey Bees' has charted at number one on NZ Student Radio Network charts.)
How does this LP compare to your previous work, do you feel the songwriting has changed, maybe the content or the way of working?
Penelope: I think this record is quite a big departure from our previous work. For the first album, we wrote a lot of love songs, being a couple and madly in love. And we wrote in our living room sporadically, when the mood called for it (which was honestly most days, as it was the thing we both loved to do). But towards the end of our relationship, it got a lot harder to enjoy being around each other. We were fighting a lot and honestly kind of hating each other (as a lot of the songs on the second album reflect). It was hard for either of us to make the decision to break up, knowing it could mean the end of the band, so we stayed together longer than we should have, which is funny looking back now.
We had to completely take a break from each other for 6 months, to establish a better way of interacting. During that time, we each individually wrote the crux of the break up songs for the album, to purge ourselves of our demons in a way. We decided to bring in a band as well to break bad habits. We have to write songs differently now. We usually message each other song clips and suggest rewrites virtually.
Sometimes we will tack on a songwriting session onto a practice, but it's better for us not to be in a room together alone for too long. One of the reasons we stayed together in a musical partnership is because we write great songs and are very compatible and creative musically. And we tend to have the same vision for videos too. It's just almost everything else we disagree on.
The tour is fairly extensive, is this the biggest tour you've done to date?
Penelope: Yes this is the biggest NZ tour we've organised to date. We organised a 10 date tour around NZ in 2017 and toured with French for Rabbits around Europe for 3 months in 2015 (but we were not the organisers for that one luckily). It was an incredible experience, without any of the stress of being an organiser.
Do you look forward to touring or is it a bit of a grind?
Penelope: Personally I find touring a very mixed experience. I love the interactions with the audience and being on stage performing. I love having time with the band as well, having chats. And I love the driving - seeing the beautiful countryside. But I find the sleep deprivation pretty taxing.
What have you been listening to lately, and is there anything you've heard that has really stopped you in your tracks?
Robin: I’m listening to the new albums by Faye Webster, Tyler, the Creator and black midi. All are very special in their own ways. black midi always amazes me when I first hear it because there’s so much intricacy and I really struggle to imagine how they even write their songs.
Penelope: Adrianne Lenker - Simulation Swarm. The guitar playing and vocal melody in the breakdown is simply incredible. Her lyrics don't initially stand out, but her lyrics are divine I think she might be one of the best songwriters of our generation
When did you think 'I can be in a band' for the first time and how did that turn out?
Robin: My first band was a high school rock band called Blue Rivets (named after the screensaver). We did a couple of school assemblies, and a talent contest where I performed a triumphant flute solo (years ahead of the Lizzo curve ha). We didn’t place.
A few light-hearted questions to give us a glimpse behind the Grawlixes curtain...
Who is the best cook in the band?
Robin: Penelope would have to be the best cook in the band. She can cook a whole range of amazing goodies.
Which of the Grawlixes is the sportiest?
Penelope: Robin or Emma, they do yoga. I plan to do yoga, then I don't.
And the least likely to get arrested?
Robin: Emma would have to be the least likely to get arrested because she is a very sensible young woman.
Any memorable shows you're willing to share with us, good or bad?!
Robin : Our worst ever show was during a previous national tour when we played at Titirangi on a horrible stormy night and nobody came, except for this one guy on psychedelics who paid us $50 and had the time of his life. Sadly, the owner called off the performance after a few songs, and spent the next half hour making us feel guilty about the turnout despite him not promoting the show. Here’s hoping that never happens again!
If you could organise a show anywhere in the world, where would it be, what 3 bands would be playing, and what are we drinking?
Penelope: That's a really good question. Probably Switzerland, with Radiohead, Moses Sumney or Lianne La Havas and Sabrina Claudio. I've never seen any of those bands live but they're on my bucket list. I would say Adrianne Lenker, but I watched so many of her live videos on YouTube, I probably don't need to anymore.
Catch Grawlixes on tour throughout July and August, click HERE to grab yourself a ticket!
I N T E R V I E W
HUP caught up with New Plymouth-based psychedelic bedroom-pop artist Kayleb Duckett aka The Tiz to talk about his songwriting process, releases to date and plans for the future.
Kia ora Kayleb! Tell us all about The Tiz...
The Tiz is what I like to call my imaginary band, it's a home recording project created by myself and anybody else that would like to contribute. Essentially anyone can be in The Tiz. The idea was spawned from a desire to collaborate with other musicians without the restraint of a fixed band lineup.
When did you think ‘I can be in a band’ for the first time and how did that turn out?
When I was about 12 I started a band with a few friends and whilst trying to perform an epic guitar solo my friend's mum came in and screamed "Please just SHUT UP!"
Who does what – writes the songs/plays what instruments/books shows/designs your artwork etc.
I do most things in The Tiz by myself. It's a really creatively fulfilling project because it can encompass any of my creative whims. For instance, visual art when I'm creating the single/album art and obviously the music itself too.
What is your song writing process?
My writing process these days is to go somewhere in nature with a guitar, record a bunch of spontaneous ideas into my phone and then sift through them later. Then I'll take my favourite ideas and flesh them out until they are ready to record.
Tell us about your recording process...
I spend most days recording at home. I'm currently recording an album which I hope will be finished by the end of the year. The way I record is by recording drums with someone first and then adding my rhythm guitar. Then after that I have a nice little bed to lay the rest of the instruments over. I'm always reaching out to different musicians to add parts to these rhythm tracks, it's usually musicians that play things that I don't know how to eg. Violin, harp, saxophone.
What's coming up for The Tiz, any shows or releases planned?
I will be putting on an album release show which I hope will be in November. That's the deadline I've given myself to get the album finished. It'll be one huge show with most of the people that contributed to the recordings so it's looking to be roughly a 20 piece band give or take. That's going to be at Common Good which is a space run by my good friends Sophie and Eve for yoga, music events and a whole variety of different things.
What is the scene like in your hometown these days?
New Plymouth is interesting because there are a lot of musicians here, I've been really amazed this year by what a huge variety of musicians there are here. There is a serious lack of music venues here which is a shame though we do have some great events like our monthly Singer Songwriters night.
What are you listening to at the moment? What was the last band you heard for the first time that stopped you in your tracks?
Lately I've been listening to the first Ramones albums a lot, that's a favourite. I tend to listen to a lot of older music but the most recent band I really enjoyed is probably Altin Gun. Cool turkish psych rock stuff.
Finally, if you could organise a show anywhere in the world - which three bands are playing, where is it, and what are we drinking?
We're down at the local pub and it's just me and my mates. We're watching classic AC/DC Bon Scott era. The Beatles are the opening act. The Mama's and The Papa's are there too just so I can say what's up to a young Michelle Phillips. We're drinking Absinthe 'cause I've always wanted to try it.
I N T E R V I E W
HUP caught up with Matt and Lisa of tremendous Oamaru-based indie noiseniks Cuticles ahead of their show at Tāmaki Makaurau's Wine Cellar, (with The Biscuits and Kraus), this coming Saturday, 17th July.
How did Cuticles come to be?
Myself and Austen were in a band called the Trendees which became inoperable for various reasons. We still had a hankering for playing music though. Previously I had played the odd song on guitar in Trendees but was mainly doing singing and lyrics. With no apparent band anymore I started playing more guitar and these rough songs kept tumbling out. We were friends with Lisa and I knew that she was a great guitarist and songwriter - she played a memorable set of original songs in my lounge once. She was in various Christchurch bands in the 80’s and 90’s including Nux Vomica, Portage, stints in Spacedust, a drummer in Snort and also played in Lo-Liners from 2003-2012.
Anyways when she agreed to have a go at making music with us we called ourselves ‘Foot Foot’ referencing that classic old Shaggs song. This version of the band played for a few practices and it felt good but it was pretty rough and wild we always felt on the verge of going off the rails. Austen suggested Tom on bass to try and hold it all together a bit more. It still feels like we might lurch off the rails at any moment teehee but I guess the bass player cemented the rhythm section for me and Lisa to get into the deep wonk within the songs. Around this point the name was changed to Cuticles for some reason and we started regular weekly practices out at Lisa’s place.
How does the songwriting process happen in Cuticles?
I have done almost all of the lyrics but Lisa can also write and will hopefully do more of this in the future. I bring in songs which are sometimes worked out beforehand and sometimes just one melodic line. I will normally have some lines tied to the song but I also have piles of other lyrics on random pages/ backs of envelopes ready to adapt to anything.
This is what happened for Steal My Statue when Lisa played her pretty composition on guitar and those words fell into place. I love language and making up songs. Lisa tends to have compositions sorted before she brings them to us also - some of the songs were a few years old I believe. But then a couple of the songs she plays main guitar on - Post Office and Farmer Jones- were just made up on the spot at practice as well. All the artwork/videos have been done by me just out of necessity and time allowances.
And the recording process – how has that happened to date?
We have been super lucky with recording our songs because Tom works at a recording studio called Sublime and we have been able to slip in between bookings for the professional bands for Tom to speed-record us on the fly.
Tell us about your releases so far.
At the moment we have released eight songs but have another album’s worth of unreleased material pretty much ready to go. We have five videos out there for our songs so far and there’s a 7” coming out soon on Spik and Span records which will have artwork by my daughter Ori. DIY is an ethos which I think we all like - trying to do everything ourselves seems best.
What's the music scene like down in Oamaru?
There isn’t one. The large majority of bands in Oamaru are covers bands. We do have Mads Harrop who is cool and has done well recently on student radio but despite having many great musicians not many other bands seem to want to play original music. We have got a venue there called Settler Theatre where we host bands coming through Oamaru and this is an attempt to create a DIY space where a scene could potentially occur.
At this point I posed a few optional light-hearted questions to the band, several of which were answered…
Who is the sportiest member of Cuticles?
Tom. He likes cycling.
Tell us about your best/worst gig experiences?
Matt - as young idiot man playing at being a destructive arsehole with first band Poison Arrow at Kings Arms.
Lisa – An infamous Nux Vomica / Axemen tour of the top of the South Island and we played to
six angry rednecks in Motueka who ran us off the stage when no one would or could oblige
with anything off Dark Side of the Moon.
If you could arrange a show anywhere in the world with any three bands, where is it, who is playing and what are we drinking?
Lisa - Raincoats / Can / Dead Moon – tequila.
Matt - I agree with Lisa but now I can add in three more teehee… Nina Simone / Bo Diddley / Swell Maps - herbal tea or beer probably.
R E V I E W
Bathysphere - Heaven Is Other People (trace / untrace)
By Barnaby Greebles
Our knowledge of the deep sea has crept forward at a trickle. Recent documentaries give us glimpses of diaphanous, oxygen-conserving creatures lurking at Cimmerian depths, feeding opportunistically off sunken whales. But in the 1930s less was known. Off the coast of Nonsuch Island, Bermuda, the naturalist, William Beebe, and engineer, Otis Barton, broke records, reaching the twilight zone at a time when trade and fishing dominated. Cramming themselves into their “Bathysphere,” a small steel orb with fused-quartz windows in which they waved fans made of palm leaves for circulation, they sighted shrimp and jellyfish at depths never before traversed.
“Heaven is Other People,” the title of Dunedin band Bathysphere’s debut album, decries the isolation evoked by their band name’s hydrous depths. Instead, it derives the flipside of Jean-Paul Sartre’s famous “hell is other people” quip, which is taken as a criticism of our tendency to scrutinise or compartmentalise each other.
Admittedly, I’m a little late in cottoning onto this gem which was obscured by the ever-burgeoning Ōtepoti music scene. With the addition of Bathysphere frontperson Julie Dunn’s label, Trace/Untrace Records, the southern city has begun spewing out even more than its usual quotient. Obviously, platforming a swathe of local artists was not enough for Dunn who honed her soporific drawl at solo shows around the city, drawing in musicians from bands such as Asta Rangu, Fazed on a Pony, Koizilla, Males, and Space Bats, Attack! to provide a musical juggernaut as ballast for her tunes. The lineup injects a neuroleptic tension that carries Dunn’s well developed asseverations to a state of transcendent inertia.
I enjoy music that strives for novelty. Of course, there’s always a middle ground between otherworldly and familiar ideas, but it seems a given, that as a musician develops, they will venture into bygone soundscapes searching for fresh inspiration. While Shoegaze branched into Blackgaze and the more mainstream, electro-inspired Nu Gaze, Bathysphere evoke the genre’s origins, throwing in elements of other traditions (such as Noise Rock) along the way, but bringing a raw intensity and a sense of spontaneity that push deeper than where "The Scene That Celebrates Itself” kicked off thirty-odd years ago.
Live tracked in a hallway, Heaven is Other People is a crisp listen. It plays like an on-the-spot blat, unforced, heartfelt, and brimming with the vicissitudes of winter. Bathysphere set the clock ticking, tasseling the listener to a pulse, hypnotic enough to endure, one reasons, at very least for the three minutes or so on the count. But rerunning a trodden groove was never the intention. Instead, spontaneous swerves, harmonic curveballs, riffing off on a tangent are the routine. Sunken and indecipherable vocals could be interpreted as avoiding a socially defined role, which, according to Sartre, is what objectifies a person and deprives them of freedom. The few audible lyric snippets point to personal or relational themes (It feels the same as it did before / I built a shelter while you were gone to sleep in). The formula allows the music to rise and encompass the listener in a wonderous world, as if being plunged into the murky depths, peering out through fused-quartz windows, struggling to catch flickers of life, the embodiment of heaven glimmering through the darkness.
I N T E R V I E W
Carb on Carb
It's an early winter Friday evening and here at HUP HQ, the females of the house are transfixed to Gilmore Girls as I sit in the corner pretending not to watch while thinking of good questions to put to James and Nicole a.k.a. Carb on Carb, who, this very morn, released their first single in quite a long time. They are currently mid-tour, taking a jaunt around Aotearoa with shannengeorgiapetersen - the wheels of all things Carb seem to be well and truly back in motion so there should be lots of things to ask about...
Kia ora Kōrua! How are you both? How has the last 18 months been, were you stuck in Tāmaki Makaurau the whole time? Did anything good come out of the lockdowns for you - rest/opportunities for writing/recording etc?
We are good but also hectically busy! Nicole is studying full-time and I am working full-time and we're still doing all the music/label/Girls Rock stuff. Last year was a good reset for us to stay at home and reassess things. We did dive into writing in the all the bizarreness of the first lockdown and got heaps done, but then lost it after that haha.
Huge congrats on the new single 'Here Comes The Best Bit' it's a real banger and reminds me of the songs on your first LP (2015's 'Carb on Carb" LP) more than 2018's 'For Ages' and I don't think it's just the 'best your worst' lyrical reference. Is that a conscious thing or just how it turned out?
Nah it wasn't a conscious move back towards the first album - although I wouldn't be surprised if the new album ends up somewhere between the self-titled and For Ages in terms of vibe.
It seems to be a reflective song on your previous experiences as a band - 'painted sheets for backdrops', 'take a breath between the sets' - is there a yearning for something that once was? And if so, do you feel it's gone forever or is it something that's temporarily on hold?
It's definitely us reflecting on highlights of the band so far. At the time we were having a lot of discussions about what the next steps of the band would be, would we should aim for and what we should forget about. And we kept coming back to the DIY community and house shows as the most special parts. It's something that has been temporarily on hold over the past year, but it's been back on and it was an absolute treat to play that recent run of three shows.
How has your songwriting process changed since 2015 and what is the process? I seem to remember something about there being a strict 'no jam' policy in the band. Is that still in place?
You remember right haha. It has definitely changed, now for almost every song we write the guitars together first, then Nicole works on a vocal and we add drums last and adjust.
Where did you record the new music? Is there an EP or LP to follow?
At The Stomach in Palmerston North. I (James) have recorded other projects there in the past. Our friend Harry Lilley took over a few years back and has transformed it from being a friendly and adequate community studio to one of the best in the country. Here Comes the Best Bit, and the next single Be My Mirror, (coming out at the end of July), are the first two songs we have finished in writing for the next album. So that's in the works - out 2022.
Hurrah! Tell us about the shows with shannengeorgiapetersen - how did they come to be?
We really wanted to tour NZ this year and it happened that this was the best timing for it. Then I was invited to play in shannengeorgiapetersen and they wanted to tour and they're great friends so I wanted to tour with them anyway so it was a done deal from the start.
You've toured quite a bit in the past, are you hoping to head overseas to play anytime in the next year or so?
We've decided with all the uncertainty and also with the album to be finished we'll focus on NZ and the album this year and then look overseas for the album release tour in 2022.
I noticed the other day that Nicole is playing in Deb5000 - tell us about that.
Yeah, she's loving it! She's enjoying just playing bass - not having to worry about songwriting or carrying that burden of it being your creation - just rocking out! They played a Halloween show last year where the band was made up of a giant cockroach, Edward Cullen, Mr. Bean and Dave Grohl - it was out of it haha. They're putting out an EP this coming Friday too!
James, any more plans to do more Capsul or How Get music/shows?
Capsul...nah I'm letting that one lie. How Get on the other hand is coming back - we have an EP recorded which we are going to release and play some shows around. All of the lyrics are in Te Reo which is an exciting new journey for me. Has been delayed due to an injury but expect that the second half of the year.
A bit more light-hearted stuff if you're up for it...what have you guys been listening to lately, anything we absolutely need to be listening to?
My highlights of the year so far have been Babyteeth's EP, the EP from Canadians Arm's Length and the Kudaranai 1nichi/Anorak! split.
Which of you is the best cook and what's the speciality?
Ooh...definitely used to be me but I have gotten a bit lazy. Nicole makes a vegan butter chicken that is quite renowned.
Who is the sportiest Carb?
I don't think either of us would qualify as sporty, but we're both pretty into tramping now.
What's the best show you've played?
I thought this was a very hard question, thinking of my favourite, but actually its easy because its the objective best rather than my favourite - its gotta be Camp A Low Hum! We weren't even very good back then haha but damn what a festival.
And same question but the weirdest gigs (if it's not playing HUPs first show that afternoon in 2015 to very young kids I'll be amazed!)
Haha that was funny show to be sure, definitely in the top 10. Perhaps our show in Changsha, China - at that point (and maybe still) the biggest venue with the craziest light show we've ever played, with an audience of just the staff. Our cardinal rule was broken that night, we jammed on stage with God Bows to Math (the band we were touring with) and the sound guy who was just standing on stage doing the sound on an ipad. Pretty fun though.
Last one - if you could arrange a show anywhere in the world which three bands would play, where would it be and what would are we all drinking?
Ok...this is a fun question....its in Canberra...with The Hotelier and Attic Sky's and we are drinking Cole's Express coffee.