1. Growing Up
Both my father and mother wrote and performed music; Dad was in a touring band called The Weight and both were a part of the folk music movement – jug bands around NZ. I have three older brothers who all play music also – Will played drums in my other band Motocade and Jol has his own band titled Mulholland. We have played together in a band called The Mots. We pretty much learned to play by ear, the emphasis on playing music growing up was to write your own songs, improvisation and jamming together. Music became a compulsion rather than a calling.
My choreographer friends, especially my best friend Malia Johnston, play a huge role in my approach to composition. The work we create together and the music born from collaboration is such a rich source of inspiration. Working with dancers and directors challenges me to explore different writing practices and new ways to approach what I think could be a pop song.
3. Your Band
The core of the band is me and drummer Ricky Birmingham. We spent a few months playing as a duo. We now also have close friend Geordie McCallum (Motocade), a guitarist who adds another layer of complexity, gives us scope for a much bigger sound. I met Ricky B at a Mushroom writers’ evening; I was scoping for a drummer and one thing led to another.
4. The Music You Make
Neil Baldock from Roundhead Studios in Auckland produced the new record Feed The Beast – he was awarded Engineer of the Year for 2012 in the NZ Music Awards. I’ve worked with Neil since the Motocade days. He has a passionate, intense approach to production and will work for as long as it takes. I recorded most of the parts myself at home and in the studio. The trick after recording is to figure out how the hell I’m gonna make it sound like that live. It generally involves triggering textures and samples on a traditional guitar/drums/vox/bass framework.
5. Music, Right Here, Right Now
The biggest obstacle is the challenge of getting distracted. My favourite achievements so far are always the ones that totally absorbed me, that I had to work for and weren’t necessarily commercially successful. I figure if I’m totally into what I’m writing, then if someone else is too, it’s a real bonus.
I saw Beirut play in Auckland. Best gig I’ve ever seen. They played their encore outside the venue, unamplified, standing on a park bench totally surrounded by an enraptured audience. It was almost a religious experience.