If absence makes the heart grow fonder, there's going to be a very loving crowd joining Cowboy Dan at Nivara Lounge on the 22nd. Five or six years since they last played here, and with their two sharp-as EPs freshly pressed as a new LP, there'll be a lot to celebrate. Leighton Edwards fielded a few pre-tour questions and told us about new songs, a new bassist (Steve), and old memories of Future City Festival 2018.
HUP: It’s official: Cowboy Dan’s on vinyl! Congratulations! What inspired you to press your two digital EPs into a real-life LP?
Leighton Edwards: Thanks! We love the format. We are collectors and love the record buzz. It’s long been a dream to have something of our own spin on a turntable and the time felt right to take the step. We still love the songs and feels of both EPs - having them together on the same record feels right.
The EPs are from 2017 and 2021. Has it been long enough for the LP to feel nostalgic?
LE: Yeah it does feel a little nostalgic for sure. I love looking back. I often find the purest joy in something when looking back on it, this feels a little like that. At the same time, the songs still feel fresh. We still love playing them too.
So whilst we are looking back, we are reaching forward with the release a little. Like we are blowing a little freshness back into them. We expect these songs to continue being a big part of our live sets.
You’re bringing the release mini-tour to Hamilton on December 22. It’s been a few years for us here in Kirikiriroa, so what can we expect from the live show?
LE: We have aged a touch, but I don’t think we have slowed down too much. We have a blast playing live, and we want the energy to reflect that. We play happy sad music, and the live show leans into the happy side. Last time we were in Kirikiriroa was for the Future City Festival - we look back on that show very fondly. We felt connected to the room in a real special way that night - something about being away from home, perhaps. I’m hoping we can create that sort of a feeling again.
Cowboy Dan has been a bit on-again, off-again over the years. It’s great that you’re gigging again now. How has this latest get-back-together felt for you all?
LE: I’d say we are feeling energised by it all for sure. We are sort of in this great balance where the old songs are feeling fresh, and the new songs are coming together in exciting different ways. Together, these two elements are motivating. We also have a new member on Bass, Steve - and having him around has energised us too. He constantly reminds us that we have a great thing going - little things that may have been taken for granted can come back into focus with a fresh set of eyes and ears - and it's a pleasure to respond to his playing and energy.
Are you a goal-setting, plan-making kind of a band? What do you want 2024 to look like?
LE: Loosely, yeah. There are little ambitions in amongst it all for sure. I think the main goal is to work towards a full album in 2024. We have half of one written and a few more ideas kicking about.
As music-makers with a few years behind you now, do things feel as bleak as recent commentary suggests? RNZ says that music-focused media is near-dead, which means no reviews or critical analysis of deserving bands like yours. That cuts rungs out of the ladder to recognition and sales, which The Spinoff covered under the headline The sound is off for New Zealand music. What’s your take? Is the end nigh?
LE: As a loyal listener to RNZ, I’d tend to agree with whatever they say. I'm inclined to think the Spinoff is usually right too. Having said that, I thought their latest rankings of canned coffee was trash. So who knows.
No more gloomy questions. Who’s impressed your ears this year? What have you been listening to?
LE: Best find this year has probably been ‘Rat Saw God’ by Wednesday. The perfect blend of raucous and refined. Most importantly, it’s full of stunning melodies. A bunch of favs released great albums this year too. Slowdive, Jenny Lewis, Yo La Tengo and Jason Isbell all released special little albums.
Locally, I have really enjoyed ‘Feed Me to the Doves’ by Guardian Singles. I picked up a copy of Justin Townes Earle’s ‘Yuma’ which was reissued for Record Store Day too, which is currency on my turntable. I can’t get enough of JTE, and the feel and rawness of this debut EP still blows my mind.
Is there anything else we should have asked? Anything you want the world to know?
LE: We are super excited to have The Changing Same playing with us at both our upcoming Auckland and Hamilton shows. It’s pretty wild to think we will share the stage with the legendary Matthew Bannister - what an incredible songwriter. He wrote literally my favourite Kiwi song of all time in ‘Husband House’. The Changing Same are wonderful, and we are pretty chuffed.
Catch the second and final stop of Cowboy Dan's "Two EPs" Vinyl Release Mini-tour at Nivara Lounge, Friday December 22. Tickets (including very reasonably-priced vinyl pre-sales) at Under the Radar.