Emerging Artists #33 – NZCA/LINES

March 20, 2012 by  


Standard first question; how did you start up the band, where are you from and what compelled you to make music together?

NZCA/LINES is more like a solo project for me. I’ve been playing in different bands for years, follow the guitar pop dream, and have always wanted to try something by myself. The opportunity came when I moved in with Charlie Alex March, who I played with in Your Twenties. We decided to try re-recording some existing demos of mine using Charlie’s studio setup and the synths he had – basically a Minimoog and a Polymoog, so not a bad selection! That was the beginning of NZCA/LINES, really. As we started taking more of my demos into this process, I began writing more material in a different way to before, and the project gradually evolved over a year and a half, or so. When we live NZCA/LINES is a three piece, consisting of myself, Leo Stamps on drums and Adrian Acolatse on bass.

How did decide on your sound/direction, and what was behind the decision?

I’ve always loved pop music, especially R ‘n B or that which is influenced by it. As we started pulling apart these tracks of mine, it became clear that I was pushing towards this sound but the ‘band’ format was holding it back. When I started writing from a purely soul-inspired starting point, things started to come together naturally. The approach to writing vocal parts was an important transition. After listening to lots of Aaliyah and Ciara I realized how dense these arrangements are, rhythmically and harmonically. Conceptually, I’d been wanting to approach music like I’d approach a visual art project for quite some time. When I was studying at Edinburgh College of Art I accumulated these stories and narrative ideas, which I thought could make a good concept album. I’m glad it came together in the end.

What equipment are you using for recording, and is there any particular reason behind those choices?

As I’ve said, the Moog synths were used because there was (thankfully) little else around. We always assumed we’d put some guitars and live drums on the record, but it gradually became apparent that this wasn’t going to work. So Charlie and I went halves on an MPC-60, which is behind most of the drums on NZCA/LINES. It’s a Roger Linn-designed 12-bit sampler from the 1980s with an amazing swing. No two beats are ever in exactly the same place. Two synths of my own feature quite a bit on the recording, an ESQ-1 and a Korg monosynth, but the album’s saving grace is probably Charlie’s Yamaha CS-60, a similar instrument to what Vangelis uses on Blade Runner. The key reason behind all of these choices was to keep it analog. We wanted the record to sound warm, organic – those kind of adjectives. Wanting to use this old equipment isn’t ‘retro’ – the thing is, these synths really are alive, not like your Micro-Korg or softsynths; they’re unpredictable, with the depth and richness of acoustic instruments.

Where was your first show and what was was it like?

The very first show was before the project was called NZCA/LINES, and before I’d finished the record. It was at Lo’s offices, and consisted of me with four backing singers and lots of laptop. At that point, I was considering more of a Walker Brothers thing for live – a long way from the current 3-piece, cowbell heavy configuration.

What’s the most high profile show you’ve done and how did it compare

The Albert Hall is certainly the most famous place we’ve played. We did a Hush night there last month. But, it wasn’t really in the Albert Hall – it was in the Elgar Room, which is a lot smaller. The highlight was getting to watch the Royal Philharmonic rehearse in the empty concert space. The lowlight was how so many people sat on the (thickly carpeted) floor, not just for our set but for Outfit and Maria Minerva too.

How do you get around on tour?

So far, we only tour by Eurostar. Flat out. If you want us to play in Manchester, it better be possible by Eurostar. We might need to think of a better solution though. The idea was to keep NZCA live as light as possible, and to fit inside a Robin Reliant (tax reasons), but we seem to have accumulated unknown quantities of crap. Getting to gigs is a workout.

What bands/artists are you into at the moment, old or new?

I’m really enjoying Cheryl Lynn at the moment – there’s more to her than just ‘Got To Be Real’. Also some other soul stuff like Billy Griffin is really pleasing me right now. I’ve been reintroduced to Biggie Smalls recently, beyond all the legend/tragedy stuff he’s just got an incredible flow. My favourite new artists are probably Shabazz Palaces and THEESatisfaction, who are vaguely related I believe.

If you could change one thing about the music industry what would it be?

Making all the dreams, naïve ideas and preconceptions about the music industry you hold prior to your own involvement in it, true.

What can people expect when they come to your live shows?

Expect the songs from the record to be given a slightly different spin in places. Expect alternating cowbell and woodblock. Expect dazzling visual displays. Expect to attend with caution if you suffer adverse symptoms from flashing/strobing lights. This is a genuine warning.

Final question: what’s coming up next for nzca/lines?

Our next show is actually in Romania, so we’ll probably be trying to barter safe passage up until that point. We’re going to be rehearsing, preparing for an all-too-short but incredibly exciting 3-day tour with Of Montreal, spanning London Koko, Paris Trianon and Nantes. Hopefully you’ll catch us at some summer festivals too, hopefully somewhere hot. And, finally, just a heads up – the record’s coming out on vinyl for Record Store Day, so look out.


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