Post-Progressive Instrumental Dunedin  Shoegaze

Post-Progressive Instrumental Dunedin Shoegaze

A Chat with Battle of the Bands winners A Distant City

What better way to finish up New Zealand Music Month than the grand final of the OUSA Battle of the Bands. With so much talent on show, and the extreme diversity of the line-up, from ska-punk to metal to “dance music for the insane”, the judges must have had a hell of a time crowning a victor. While there can only be one winner, all of the bands performing deserve recognition for their eclecticism and general stage antics. Aside from being drunkenly accosted by the venerable Jamie Green regarding a typo in my previous Critic article, the night went exceedingly smoothly.

After the event, I caught up with newly crowned Battle of the Bands winners: the Idiot Prayer-obsessed, Six60-damning A Distant City.

I’m pretty sure that according to law I have to make sure it’s ok that I record this conversation, so…is it ok?
All – [Laughs] Yeah it’s fine.

Cool, so just to get the formalities out of the way, can you please all state your names and instruments for the record.
J – I’m Josh, I play drums. (Editor’s note: This will be the last we hear from Josh)
CJ – I’m CJ, I play bass.
N – I’m Nick and I play guitar and sing.
Z – I’m Zach and I play guitar.

Well it’s a pleasure meeting you guys. You played excellently tonight. How long have you all been playing together?
N – Cheers. We’ve been together for about two years now…

And did you know each other before then?
N – Well Josh and Zach are brothers, and I met them a while ago. And we needed a bassist, and we knew that CJ played bass.
Z – She played bass in a band with Astro Children (came runner-up at Battle of Bands).

Were you in high school then?
N – Yeah, we were at Otago Boys.

And are you still in school?
CJ – I’m first year at uni.
N & Z – We’re still at high school [chuckles].

So how long have you been gigging for? Where and how often do you perform?
CJ – Well for ages we played at the Muso’s Club Open Night. We did that a lot…
N – Yeah, we got reasonably tight doing that… And we’ve played quite a few gigs around Dunedin.

What are your views on the Dunedin music scene?
N – I think it’s generally pretty good. Everyone kind of knows each other.
CJ – As long as you know people it’s fine… That’s how you make it in Dunedin, it’s about who you know.

Have you released any recorded material? EPs or LPs or anything?
CJ – We released an EP under our previous band name…

What were you called?
CJ – It doesn’t need to be mentioned…
N – It was very different to what we are now.

So have you released anything as A Distant City?
CJ – No, not yet.
N – We have a couple of recordings, and we want to put something together soon.
Z – Especially now that we have a lot of recording time!

Yes you do, and congratulations again for that!
Ok, so here’s a few more generic, yet necessary questions…
Who do you consider your musical influences to be?

CJ — [without any hesitation] Idiot Prayer!
N & Z – Yes, Idiot Prayer!

Well that was easy… So what kind of stuff do you recreationally listen to?
N – I really like Paolo Nutini, Chris Cornell, and Jeff Buckley.
CJ – Idiot Prayer, man!
N – Oh, and Two Cartoons. We love Two Cartoons!

Oh yeah, Two Cartoons are great… So what are your immediate plans as a band? Say, in the next month?
CJ – We’re playing a gig with The Great Jali and Two Cartoons on Wednesday.
N – And then Friday we have a gig with Kilmog.

And then you’ll be going into the studio at some point soon?
N – Definitely.
CJ – Fo shizzle!

So what are some of your favourite records that have been released this year?
Z – Idiot Prayer Live.
N – Jack White’s new album is really cool…

You were billed as “pseudo-post-rock, post-progressive, shoegaze”. Can you tell me about that?
CJ – It was kind of a joke. In one of our reviews, we were called pseudo-post-rock, and then when we were playing acoustically at the library, they called us…
Z – ...“Post-Progressive Instrumental Dunedin Shoegaze”.

Fair enough... Though you did look at your shoes quite a bit tonight.
N – Well that’s less us trying to be “shoegaze”, and more like, we have nowhere else to look.
Z – Yeah, we’re pretty scared of people [laughs].

So we all hear about the Dunedin Sound a lot – any thoughts on that?
N – Well we all have jangly guitars… But seriously, it’s a very “do whatever you want” kind of vibe that is unique to Dunedin I think. No pressure to be anybody but yourself. It’s very personal.

Yeah for sure. So what Dunedin bands do you look up to?
CJ – Idiot Prayer.
Z – HDU… And, of course, Idiot Prayer.

Ok then, moving on… How do you feel about the Internet’s effect on the contemporary music scene?
CJ – It definitely has helped us.
N – It’s a great way to quickly get your music out there. Especially coming from Dunedin, it’s hard to get radio airtime, and any kind of international recognition. The Internet becomes essential.

So do you think CDs should even be kept around?
N – Definitely… Same reason vinyl should be kept around.

Ok, if you were to rank CDs, Vinyl and MP3…
All – Vinyl, CDs, MP3!

No hesitations there… So how do you plan to use the money that you won tonight?
N – I want to put it towards a new amp.
CJ – I want a new bass… I’ve had mine since I was 13.

So are there any bands that you model yourselves on, or aspire to be like?
CJ – I would have to say Idiot Prayer again… Except for the fact that they broke up. Or Alizarin Lizard…
N – Yeah, that would be cool. Paul Cathro seems too awesome to be real.

How do you feel about the New Zealand music scene as a whole? Is it an easy place for a band to make it?
Z – I don’t know that it’s easy. I think you have to have a certain sound to do well. You have to sound like… Six60.
CJ – Oh my God, don’t even mention them.
N – That didn’t happen! We didn’t just slag off Dunedin’s favourite band.
CJ – Yes we did!

This is good. This is the kind of dirt Critic readers want to see. So, what do you honestly think about Six60? Why are they so popular?
N – Six60 is not representative of the Dunedin Sound.
CJ – Yeah, that’s a good quote.
N – Whatsoever!

But they’re like the Dunedin success story!
N – Oh aren’t they just… It’s great… so great.
CJ – WHY! WHY!?!?!

So why do you think people are so into it?
Z – Because they sound the same, all the time…
N – Because most people don’t like to think.

Ok, let’s go deeper into this. This is a scab I want to break open.
CJ – I think that people are ignorant. And need to listen to better music.
N – Oh hey, you know if someone genuinely likes Six60 it’s their taste… I think we should change the subject.

Yeah, we probably should. Ok, so if you do continue to succeed and grow as band, do you think you will leave Dunedin, and New Zealand? Or do you feel pretty loyal to this place?
N – We would have to leave eventually. At least for a bit. But we will definitely come back to Dunedin. I love it here.
CJ – I disagree. I definitely want to leave New Zealand.
N – I definitely do not want to leave New Zealand!

Well this is awkward… We should move on. In fact, we’re all pretty tired. Let’s finish this up. One final question – what do you think of Critic?
N – I don’t really read the Critic.
CJ – Bring the glossy paper back!
This article first appeared in Issue 14, 2012.
Posted 8:39pm Sunday 3rd June 2012 by Lukas Clark-Memler.