Don’t Look Back

Photo credit: James Woollerton

Well, that’s what they say. But at the end of 2017, it would be remiss of me not to reflect on the last year— especially on the support I received from so many friends and musical colleagues, both in and out of the biz. It was an oft-times gruelling, but ultimately joyous experience to finally release my L.P Lesser Stars into the world. I think it’s probably the best album I’ve made. Partly that comes down to finding fresh angles and subjects for the kind of narrative/not narrative lyrics I’ve been trying to write since I put out my first album Pre-Pill Love a little over a decade ago (bloody hell!). Another factor is I got to record it with John Vanderslice at Tiny Telephone Studios in San Francisco. I knew John’s work well, both as a songwriter and producer, and I had a hunch his fiercely analogue recording aesthetic might be a good fit for my songs. Turns out I was right. From the distorted acoustic guitar on Learning Not To Talk, to the backwards vocals floating through the outro of The Beggar, JV’s sonic touches really brought these songs alive, and I’ll always cherish the experience of trying to keep my jet-lagged shit together and play a decent guitar take at the same time.

Needless to say, I took the album on the road across New Zealand (as well as a super-fun solo jaunt in Australia). It was a joy playing with my band mates Stu Harwood and Dave Flyger, who gave a hell of a lot of time to mid week rehearsals and weekends  on the road. Hell, they even signed up for a midday out-of-town Radio N.Z live performance—and I reckon we did okay! I can’t thank them enough really.

I also enjoyed talking to Marty Duda at the 13th Floor and playing solo versions of some of my favourite tracks from the record.

What the? I look a little . . . stoned . . .or something (?) in that screen grab, but you can’t win them all.

It was great to see a few members of the local press getting behind the record. Especially gratifying was Nick Bollinger’s response to the album,  which aside from digging the songs and being attentive to some of their reference points, even seemed to ‘get’ my track listing choices (oh how I agonised), and the role of the instrumental interludes throughout the album.

I’d also like to note:

-The tireless Sarah Illingworth interviewed me for her wonderful website Impolitkal, and I was grateful for the chance to take some time writing answers that didn’t get edited into soundbites.

-The Pantograph Punch indulged my essay writing tendencies and published a piece I wrote about coming up with the song ‘The Beggar.’ I basically used it as an excuse to write about RAK Mason and Robin Hyde, two New Zealand poets I have an affinity for.

-My band got to open the 2017 Going Global showcase held in Auckland in early September. I wrote about the experience for NZ Musician.

-Gareth Shute wrote a piece on how songs are made for The Spinoff, and included me in a truly diverse range of artists speaking to their respective crafts.

-Rohan Evans, who runs longstanding live music venue the Wine Cellar in Auckland, is also the man behind vinyl micro-label Arcade Recordings. It’s Rohan I have to thank for the beautiful 12″ L.P version of Lesser Stars.

-For the first time, I branched out into non-musical merch. My partner Taarati designed  the coolest Herriot Row tote bag, and they bloody well sold out. We hope to do another run of these early in the new year.

photo credit: Taarati Taiaroa















Rohan and Taarati are also in the “can’t be thanked enough” category, along with the long-suffering Comber family, and my buddies Tom Healy and Eddie Castelow, who always gave our band somewhere to rehearse.

-Both Radio New Zealand and Under The Radar put a track from the record on their year end playlists.

-I made an actual “year end” list (well, more of a round up than a list really.) Thanks Hawkes Bay Today!

My first show of the new year is a solo set on January 3rd with Melbourne-based N.Z songwriters Jono Aidney (Quail State) and Lisa Crawley. It’s a while since I’ve played a solo set at the Wine Cellar (or “home” as Jono calls it), and I can’t wait. Get pre sales here! And finally, thanks to every one who listened to the album, paid real money for whatever format, came to the shows,  played support sets, or hosted me and my bandmates out of town. I hope to be back at some point, in some way, with new songs and, more importantly, new lyrics. What else am I going to put on a tote bag?

Photo credit: Simon Comber