Sidestage: Issue 002
Sidestage Zine: Issue 002
sidestage I still haven’t come up with a tagline for this damned zine. #002: Sophomore Slump, or Comeback of the year? Cut Off Your Hands Empires Kaiser Chiefs The Futureheads Young & Restless The Presets Cut Copy Sigur Ros Cobra Starship The Academy Is... Panic At The Disco Fleet Foxes The Kills Holly Throsby My Disco Love Will Tear Us Apart Desert Island Discs Memphis Three Fangirlism Belle & Sebastian Sidestage #002: October 2008 So, here we are once more. As you may have gathered, we went with the option of publishing bi-monthly rather than monthly. Well.. this time around it was bi-monthlyand-a-few-more-days-on-top-of-that, but you get the idea. In this issue, you’ll notice that we’ve actually interviewed a few bands! Exciting and progressive stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree. We spoke to the Chicago-based Empires, the Leeds-originating Kaiser Chiefs, and the New Zealand-exports Cut Off Your Hands. We’ve also got a variety of other musically-inclined articles that discuss everything from discovering how twee you really are to the music scene of the Solomon Islands. But oh no, that’s not all. Our photographers have trained their cameras on gigs from all over the world, shooting bands like The Presets, Sigur Ros, Fleet Foxes, Holly Throsby and The Kills. So we hope you enjoy issue number two. We might actually be on time next issue. Check back mid-December or sign up for our mailing list - link’s on the home page, kids! And lastly, we’re always looking for contributors, especially writers. So if you’re interested, hit us up on firstname.lastname@example.org. Love, Kate and Natasha xo Co-founder and Art Director: Natasha Theoharous Co-founder and Contents Editor: Kate Walton Contributors: Zoe Alderton Olga Bas Jorge Cerda-Vargas Chrissy Gee Megan McIsaac Roanna Manlutac Patty Quiggin Lorna Severn Kate Walton contents click on an article to go to its page 4 6 18 20 25 26 28 34 36 40 44 51 56 60 63 69 74 80 82 90 INSIGHT: NOT THOSE DESERT ISLAND DISCS PHOTOGRAPHY: PANIC AT THE DISCO ET AL. “I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU DON’T OWN THIS FUCKING RECORD”: IF YOU’RE FEELING SINISTER PHOTOGRAPHY: SIGUR ROS AND NOW FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT: FREE THE WEST MEMPHIS THREE EXPERIENCE: LOVE WILL TEAR US APART PHOTOGRAPHY: THE FUTUREHEADS IN REVIEW: THE FUTUREHEADS INSIGHT: THE FANGIRL PHENOMENON PHOTOGRAPHY: MY DISCO INTERVIEW: KAISER CHIEFS - HEADS WILL ROLL PHOTOGRAPHY: FLEET FOXES PHOTOGRAPHY: HOLLY THROSBY & THE HELLO TIGERS INTERVIEW: EMPIRES - HOWL ALL NIGHT LONG PHOTOGRAPHY: THE KILLS INTERVIEW: YOU AND I AND CUT OFF YOUR HANDS PHOTOGRAPHY: YOUNG & RESTLESS IN REVIEW: CUT OFF YOUR HANDS’ YOU AND I PHOTOGRAPHY: CUT COPY & THE PRESETS SEE+LISTEN+FOLLOW 3 insight: These are not the Desert Island Discs you are looking for. by Paddy Quiggin It was raining when I touched down after midnight at the Henderson Airﬁeld in Honiara, the capital of the Solomon Islands. The Solomons are a small nation east of Indonesia and Papua New Guinea, famous for their pivotal role in WWII and not much else. I was excited about the trip, but hesitant about turning the radio on for fear that nothing much would have changed since last time. The Solomons have three radio stations, and they all play pretty much the same thing. On my last trip here, I was treated to Weird Al Yankovic’s White and Nerdy, Sean Kingston’s Beautiful Girls and 50 Cent’s 21 Questions, all playing on high rotation. As we left the airport in my dad’s Hilux, I was welcomed back to the tropics with 99.3 ZFM blasting “silent revolution - got a reputation”, which felt rather too upbeat after I’d found my luggage had been sent via Nauru and that I wouldn’t get it until the next day. This then turned into Who Let The Dogs Out by the Baha Men, a ﬂashback to my high school socials and surprisingly cheering in a cheesy, I-Can’t-Believe-I-Danced-ToThis kind of way. For the main part, music in the islands is reggae and reggae-inﬂuenced RnB. Bob Marley t-shirts are everywhere. The RnB is usually about ﬁve years - or more - out of date, with names like R Kelly, TLC and Usher still getting a lot of airplay. The most played song on radio at the moment is Sean Kingston’s Me Love, which needless to say prompted a quick station change whenever it came on. There are also occasional blasts of rap, such as 50 Cent, Dr Dre and other gansgsta rap, but fortunately they are fairly restricted in their play. Oddly enough, you get ‘80s Aussie rock like Daryl Braithwaite and AC/DC playing in between reggae songs, as well as ‘90s pop. I caught Tina Arena’s Now I Can Dance at one point, something I wish I hadn’t had to suffer through. 4 The music produced in the Solomon Islands falls into three categories: reggae, cheesy reggae-dance and gospel. The reggae is actually remarkably good for a country this small and underdeveloped, with some quite good basslines and excellent mixing. The vocal work is superb, with lovely harmonies over slow rhythms that make for a very relaxing experience as you drive through the town. On the other hand, the music I have placed into cheesy category is just that. It has very few actually recorded instruments, usually just bass, with horrible, tacky, synthesized melody and sampled drums. It’s very fast, often up around 140-160bpm, a big step away from anything else on air. It is boring, painful to listen to, and completely ruins the relaxed mood established by the reggae. The gospel is equally horrendous, ranging from country western gospel to reggae gospel with a sprinkling of pop gospel just to liven things up. I did my best to avoid it. I managed to check out some live local talent while I was over there. I found the bar I was drinking at turning into some inaugural swimsuit competition (I wasn’t worried by this), but when the Solo [Solomon Islands] Idol winner, judged by former Australian Idol contestant Hayley Jensen, walked out, I was very worried. What followed was a surprisingly professional and creatively voiced cover of Angels Brought Me Here, which was very well received. As I checked in for my ﬂight home, I left knowing a few things: that not much has changed on the music front, if anything, since I ﬁrst came to the Islands in 2006; that I’m glad we have choice in our radio stations; and that, given what I’ve heard from both locals and expats working over there, I am likely removing most of the alternative music in the Solomons as I leave, having brought it all into the country in the ﬁrst place. It’s been fun, but I hope that if I go back, I’ll hear something different next time I tune into the radio. 5 photography: panic at the disco acer arena 22th august, 2008 Cobra Starship: pages 9 to 11 The Academy Is: pages 12 to 15 Panic at the Disco: pages 16 to 20 the academy is... & cobra starship sydney, NSW 6 photos by Kate Walton 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 “I can’t believe you don’t own this fucking record”: If You’re Feeling Sinister by Zoe Alderton Recently I came to the conclusion that I’m one of those awful people who likes twee and reading second-hand books on public transport. I can justify half of that cliché via my lack of income. But no amount of disinfectant and hand scrubbing will free me from the shame of enjoying Connor Oberst. A taste for twee suited me in my teen years. Architecture in Helsinki and The Decemberists featured prominently in my ﬁnal year of high school. I developed a taste for The Magnetic Fields and represented my homeland with The Lucksmiths. Surrounded by seventeen-year-old boys who still thought NOFX was the epitome of cool, I decided I was stunningly original and avantgarde in my tastes. I was wrong. When I walked into my ﬁrst Art History lecture in 2005, I was surrounded by a sea of owl badges, canvas messenger bags, and black-framed reading glasses. Something was wrong. Where had my individuality gone? Where were the girls in Supré tank tops and sneakers? Where were the Roxy backpacks? Where were the boys with Eminem merchandise and a distaste for literature? They were gone. In their absence, my clichéd hipster ways grew stronger. Now days I have self-cut hair, a fringe, and chipped nail polish. I ﬁnd it hard to get through the day without Jens Lekman. People are laughing. Sometimes I look down at my discount vinyl court shoes and scream. 18 But who can we blame for my downfall? As per usual, it’s the dirty Scots. Belle & Sebastian got me into this mess, and it doesn’t look like they’ll be getting me out. Every time I try to ween myself off their violins and charming harmonies, I’m dragged back into the depth of my addiction by the sweet opiate that they call ‘If You’re Feeling Sinister’. Trust Stuart Murdoch to write a cheerful melody about the melancholy triumph of naivety and mournful letters to ex-lovers. We hear of starving foxes, discontent youth, unfulﬁlled dreams, shame, and juvenile romance. Every song is ﬁlled with emptiness and alienation, frequently involving Murdoch’s pleas to keep dreaming and ﬂee.The anxiety and desperation is almost suffocating as we hear the story of another hopeless case who walks through the world misunderstood and disconnected. Characters seem to be hovering about a precipice, tossing up suicide or life-long boredom. But there’s a certain level of sweetness and simplicity in the songs that elevates them from a mundane exercise in middle-class woe. Cute and dawdling, it’s easy to miss the pathos of the lyrics in favour of the sound. While the words are strikingly painful, the music contains a positive beauty that halts the decent into self-absorbed pity. These aren’t the songs that brooding thirteen-year-olds paint onto their walls. They’re charming and they’re smart, and they won’t let you give up your devotion to twee without a ﬁght. 19 photography: ﬁllmore auditorium detroit, MI 23th september, 2008 photos by Megan McIsaac 20 sigur ros 21 22 23 24 and now for something different: Free the West Memphis Three by Lorna Severn In 1993 three young men were convicted of brutally murdering three young boys. The evidence? There is not any. Without any physical evidence, murder weapon, motive or connection to the victim the police pathetically presented black clothing, heavy metal music and Steven King novels as proof that the boys had been murdered in a Satanic ritual. Shockingly, the men were convicted and sentenced. Jesse Misskelley and Jason Baldwin got life. Inconceivably Damien Echols was sentenced to death. The campaign to bring them justice has been going on a long time, with many supporters including Henry Rollins and Winona Ryder. For over 15 years support has been given to the men as they ﬁght for their freedom. Recently the same judge that sentenced them rejected Echols’ request for a re-trial which would use DNA evidence to prove his innocence. It is expected the same rejection will be given to Misskelley and Baldwin when their appeals reach hearing. Then the cases will go to the supreme and federal courts. Educate yourself about this case – go to www.wm3.org , read Devil’s Knot by Mara Leveritt, watch Paradise Lost. Become offended as fellow music fans that someone can be so shockingly judged on their lifestyle choice. Become horriﬁed that this happened in our lifetime. Do something about it – educate others. The fact is, whether Missekelly, Baldwin and Echols’ are guilty or not (and I am absolutely convinced that they are innocent) is not actually the issue. The issue is that three men were denied the right to a fair trial. They were convicted on a coerced confession from a mentally handicapped young man and condemned by their heavy metal music collection, poor defence, and the outrageous judgements of their fellow citizens. 25 experience: Love will tear us apart. by Chrissy Gee I remember the ﬁrst time I heard Joy Division. My friend Ashleigh and I were the impressionable age of ﬁfteen, sitting in the darkness of the wrong end of a Sunday morning, staring at rage like zombies. It was one of those nights when you ﬂick to ABC after watching a movie, just to see who’s guest-programming. Usually you see one good video and it’s enough to hold you in place for the next ten. Trapped in the headlights of clip after clip of pretentious mid 90s wank.You think, Oh, god this song is shite, I should just go to bed, but it’s almost over, maybe the next one will be good. It happens over and over and over, and just when you’ve resolved to peel your arse off the couch and pass out under the covers, you’re hooked back in by a song you either haven’t heard in years, or one that you’ve spent the last week listening to obsessively on repeat. That fateful night was one of those nights. Except instead of a current obsession or one I hadn’t heard in years, I was slapped out of my stupor by the beguiling opening strains of ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. It was like hearing ice cracking beneath my feet, beginning with one simple ﬁssure, snapping me to attention, before exploding into a chasm of confusion and delight. Oh my god, what is this song? Who is this voice? Why don’t I know this? It was clear from the video it was a fairly old song, and I was absolutely horriﬁed I had never heard it before. Not so for my friend Ashleigh, who gazed at the screen and sighed, “Oh Ian”. At the time, I had no way of comprehending such words, but I’d later ﬁnd myself repeating the same sentiments. Many times. I couldn’t take in what she said. I just demanded, “Who is this?” and that was that. Many people will argue that it is only because of what happened to Ian Curtis that Joy Division are so popular. While I don’t deny that his status as something of 26 a musical martyr hasn’t had inﬂuence over people’s perceptions, I couldn’t disagree more that that is the sole reason for their legendary status. Even at the tender age of 15, not knowing a thing about Ian Curtis, Joy Division or their legacy, even then I knew that there was something undeniably, inexplicably special about ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’. It holds within it such mutability. It’s a song that grabs you from the outset, pulls you in by the hand with guitars driving and drums demanding to be heard. The synth and bass lines are cheeky and make you want to dance, and it’s almost like nodding your head and tapping your feet were invented purely for this beat alone. But the whole time you’re nodding your head, or dancing in the club, or singing along in your room, there is no avoiding the crushing, beautiful, overwhelming vocal performance. Curtis bares all, and strips us down in the process. It is not just all of his failings exposed, but ours too. We all have that fear: that love really will tear us apart. But as much as the anxiety penetrates us, so too does the hope held in the song. The horrifying aspects of life are on display, but so too is life’s most naïve hope. The duality of Love Will Tear Us Apart is manifest in its thoughtful lyrics and catchy tune; in Ian Curtis’ tragic suicide; in New Order’s rise from the ashes; and in the song’s ability to suit every black dog mood and yet still keep you listening. Because isn’t that the point? To keep listening? To everything? So go. Listen. And I mean really listen. I don’t care if you’re over it, or if it’s like, so mainstream now, or you think it’s totally lame after the Wombats wrote a song about it. Go. Turn it on. Close your eyes. Dance. Listen. 27 photography: the futureheads the gaelic club sydney, NSW 3th october, 2008 photos by Roanna Manlutac 28 29 30 31 32 33 in review: the futureheads at the gaelic club. Review by Jorge Cerda-Vargas Moments before The Futureheads blazed out onto stage, I had a chance to observe the crowd. The British indie rock sensation had attracted a heterogeneous mix of old and new and in between. The band came out demanding attention and certainly alerting us to their presence, kicking off the night with “Walking Backwards”, the second track off their new album This Is Not The World. The eager crowd responded well, and the energy the band put into their performance was intense, much more memorable than the song itself. It was slightly repetitive, to say the least. Followed by an array of new songs The Futureheads churned out their classic anthem “Decent Days And Nights” from their self-titled debut album. If this catchy tune didn’t break the awkward stance of onlookers, nothing would. The song would have been stupendous if the guys had loosened up a little and had fun with the upbeat track, but we had to settle for frontman Barry Hyde’s fancy and highly amusing footwork. “Decent Days And Nights” and “Skip To The End” proved to be standout favourites of the night – evidently so to one woman in particular. Having mounted her partner in piggyback fashion, she managed to make her way to the front and persuaded to thrust her arms about to post punk awesomeness. The band’s cover of Kate Bush’s “Hounds Of Love” was a superb sight to see, with interaction between all band members. The vocal harmonies sounded lovely and timed synchronously with the guitars. The full use of backing vocals gives these guys a distinctive ﬂavour that separate them from bands that have a streamline sound. I couldn’t help but grin and sing along. As the night drew to a close, I found the last portion of the set sounded the same. I would have appreciated contrasting and conﬂicting tones to maintain some spontaneity. I felt like skipping to the end, however it was worth going through. The Futureheads had reached a high and played their standout tracks. I departed, feeling satisﬁed with my pop indie ﬁx. 34 35 insight: the fangirl phenomenon by Lorna Severn When I was 14, my mum took me to see Savage Garden. It was amazing. I remember spending most the night in a state of utter joy, and then the encore happened and Darren Hayes walked out in a pair of gold leather trousers. I swear, I nearly fainted. I thought he was gorgeous, and gold leather trousers? I wasn’t really sure what my body was experiencing, but I sure as hell liked it. I left the show with a newly purchased t-shirt and a sore throat that was the result of all the singing along to Afﬁrmation but mainly from the screaming I did at the aforementioned gold leather trousers. See, I’ve always been a bit of a fan girl. Before Savage Garden there was East 17 and Ricky Martin. Then, shamefully, there was an unprecedented obsession with Westlife. Eminem led me to believe I could be a rapper before I ﬁnally discovered the wonder of Blink-182 and pop punk. Pop punk lead to real punk and then at college I saw a picture of Manic Street Preachers where Nicky Wire was wearing a dress and the one who had disappeared was smothered in eyeliner and leopard print. A whole new world was revealed to me, and I dived into it full force. University led me into an attempt to understand indie, and I have ﬁnally settled into a kind of punk rock main with a side of Simon and Garfunkel. 36 The one constant through all these different musical lessons is the utter fangirliness of the all the bands I liked. I admit, reaching the ripe old age of 22, I have calmed down a bit now and rarely feel the need to hang around for two hours to meet my favourite singer, and am quite content to just listen to the music rather than obsessively ﬁnd out every minute detail about the musician’s life. Saying that, at Reading this year after their set Anti-Flag’s Justin Sane came and shook my hand and I was like “OMG OMG I LOVE YOU THANK YOU” or something similar, and it was all rather embarrassing on both our parts. So the point of this long and rambly introduction is that it’s not really that bad being a fan girl. Or rather, I’m here to defend the fan girl. See, throughout the history of pop culture, female music fans have been portrayed either in superﬁcial relation to their male counterparts, or as shallow followers of their idols who have no real credibility when it comes to being critics of music. And whilst my introduction to this piece may not really do much to counter act that opinion, in all seriousness I ﬁnd that assumption insulting and naive. And even though I am now in my early twenties and therefore not really on the receiving ends of these accusations anymore, it still upsets me when I see review after review in the music press and in blogs where the writer makes off-hand and derogatory remarks about the screaming girls in the audience and by doing so writing off collectively their opinions and presence. The ﬁrst assumption I would like to address is that young female music fans do not have any credibility when it comes to being music listeners. There’s an underlying understanding that give a girl a good looking boy with some dodgy dance moves and a crappy pop song for him to mime and they will be smitten. Well, maybe. But there was a reason why Take That were the biggest boy group on the planet for a while, and yes they were good looking (to some; I still preferred the bomber jacket, baseball cap balanced on the top of the head look of East 17) and yes they had some really dodgy dance moves, but they also had some hella catchy pop songs. And without those they would be nothing. Anyone remember One True Voice? Thought not. And it’s no coincidence that the reason they failed so dismally is due to their songs being more boring than Sunday afternoon TV. Girls are not stupid and passive; they’re perceptive, they’re critical and they want songs they can dance to with their girlfriends in their room, at the under 18’s club nights and at the venue where they can see their idols perform. When Panic At The Disco released Pretty.Odd. earlier this year, the internet was inundated with girls giving their very passionate reactions to the new record. Believe me, these reactions were more extreme than when [guitarist & lyricist] Ryan Ross ditched the rose vest and had some of epiphany with silk scarves. Because whilst [drummer] Spencer’s hips, [bassist] Jon’s facial hair, Ryan’s accessories and [lead singer & guitarist] Brendon’s general existence might play a big part being a fan of the band, it was the direction their new musical style went that really divided the fans. 37 With one half crying betrayal and deserting the group because of the lack of beeps and the other half crying ‘yessss’ to the hand claps and discovery of The Beatles, it is ridiculous to say that girls are deafened by the screams and don’t actually hear the music, because they do. And whilst their opinion may not be the same as yours, if they don’t like the songs, they don’t like the band. And [the obsession over] Jon Walker’s facial hair leads me nicely onto my next point – it is OK for girls to fancy boys in bands. And in some cases, like those of Jon Walker or indeed Darren Hayes in his gold leather trousers, I challenge any warm blooded female to not be at least a little bit excited. Because, like it or not, these people are attractive to fans. Whether it is because they are just good looking (and no one should apologise for that) or if because due their role as a musician they’ve become attractive (I’m sorry, but [Fall Out Boy’s] Patrick Stump? Really? It must be his voice...) the fact is if you’re sexually aware, you’re going to be sexually aware of the men singing you your favourite songs. Having a crush on a pop star is also a signiﬁcant and important part of the transition from childhood to adulthood for young girls. A girl’s idol is someone ‘safe’ for them to fall in love with. They can admire their pictures of Pete Wentz, Gerard Way or Ryan Ross from the comfort of their own bedroom. Sexual maturity and puberty are approaching during early adolescence and young girls are not normally ready to enter into a sexual relationship ‘for real’. Instead, all feelings are projected onto an inaccessible person – normally a pop star – and there is no risk that the infatuation will become a reality for which they will have to take responsibility. And ﬁnally – the screaming at shows. It’s kind of annoying isn’t it? The thing is, I really cannot preach on this subject - I’m a screamer. I see [The Academy Is...’s] William Beckett in the ﬂesh, I scream. Manic Street Preachers open with Faster, I scream. MXPX cover “Should I Stay or Should I Go”, I scream. Jimmy Eat World exist, I scream. In all fairness, my screaming nowadays isn’t so much the high pitched wail emitted when I saw the Gold Trousers of Joy and Wonder, it’s more a “woohoo I appreciate this” kind of noise. Still, it’s a noise and apparently this is pretty irritating for everyone else in the audience and also for their ear drums. But let me explain the screaming. How many situations in everyday life allow you to throw off politeness and passivity in the way that gigs do? If I started screaming “OH MY GOD I LOVE THIS SONG OH MY GOD OH MY GOD” whilst walking past McDonald’s in Woking I would probably be asked if I was on day release. Gigs are an opportunity for young girls to be uninhibited and wild, and to be liberated from the restraints of the outside world. Encouraged by the fact that other girls around them are doing the same things, girls are given the chance to express all the feelings the music and the boys give them in a way that seems accepted by their peers. The screaming, crying and general loss of abandon at shows is also a public display of collective power and a sense of group solidarity. It’s a subconscious understanding and exhibition of their place and role in the fandom. 38 To conclude, if I’m honest, I’m kind of jealous of young girls these days. They get the chance to ﬂail over bands who not only write their own songs, but play their own instruments and crucially introduce them to a world of music away from the Top 40. I had Ricky Martin and “Living La Vida Loca”; I know who I’d rather my younger sister was listening to. [Editor’s note: Lorna left a note for me that I feel deserves to be added here. She said: “I feel inclined to put a disclaimer here. I’m writing this from the stand point that the majority of fan girls are in fact young, straight girls. I’m not oblivious to the fact that a lot of the audience could be gay boys, gay girls, straight boys etc. I don’t want to exclude and ignore those groups of fans, but for the sake of this article it was easier to collectively assume the gender and sexuality of the girls as straight and female. It would be beyond the realms of this article to study the role and portrayal and inclusion of homosexual fans within fandom.”] 39 photography: the annandale hotel sydney, NSW 10th october, 2008 40 my disco photos by Roanna Manlutac 41 42 43 interview: Kaiser Chiefs: heads will roll. On the eve of the release of their third album, Off With Their Heads, Sidestage’s Kate Walton caught up Kaiser Chiefs’ guitarist, Andrew “Whitey” White, about recording with Mark Ronson, being a business, and the difference between selling out and selling a lot of records. 44 Sidestage: How’s it going, Andrew? Whitey: Not bad, not bad. Sidestage: Where are you today? Whitey: I’m at home, I’m just getting out of bed. It’s 9 o’clock in the morning, so it’s not really a very good time to talk about anything rock’n’roll [laughs], but you know, we’ll give it a go. I stayed in [last night] and I had a stew. A vegetable stew. Sidestage: Did you make it yourself? Whitey: Yes, I did [laughs]. Sidestage: Nice. So, to start off I wanted to go back in time a bit, if that’s alright with you. I wanted to talk about the time around 2004 to 2006.You guys were quite a prominent part of the UK music indie scene, after things exploded after The Libertines and bands like that. Do you think the scene has changed much since then? Whitey: I don’t know if there really was a scene, but [if there was, then] deﬁnitely, I think it has changed, yeah. Just [in terms of] the sheer number of bands out there now, really. Maybe thats due to the fact that technology-wise - you know, with the internet and stuff now - any band can be heard. Even in 2004, 2005, there really wasn’t anything like that. I mean obviously you had the internet, but bands didn’t really take it seriously. I think it’s deﬁnitely shifted. I don’t know whether musically it’s changed or anything like that, but there’s deﬁnitely more bands out there now. Sidestage: I remember downloading your demos way back before your ﬁrst album, even back then. Whitey: Well deﬁnitely yeah, but we never really pushed it. It was like a magical feature or something, almost like a gimmick. But now, it’s ridiculous.You can download anything. Sidestage: What do you think of the bands coming out of the UK these days? Is there anyone in particular that you’re following? Whitey: Not really. Late of the Pier, they’re a very good live band. Sidestage: You’ve announced them as one of your support bands for your UK arena tour in February next year, right? Whitey: Yeah. We tour with anyone we like, we always ask them to come on tour with us. Especially if they’re a new band, you try and give them a bit of help. If it is 45 help. Give them the opportunity to play in front of a lot of people, because other bands gave that to us and we like to pass that on. Generally[the UK scene’s] okay, but it’s getting a bit too much about what kind of jeans and haircut you wear, but I guess rock ‘n’ roll’s always been like that. Sidestage: What about the criticisms that a lot of UK bands at the moment sound the same? When you ﬁrst broke onto the scene, do you think the bands sounded more different to each other? Whitey: We deﬁnitely tried to sound different, whether we were or not. Obviously, now, I do believe that pretty much everythning has been done. Not to the full extent but every kind of music genre has been played. [Now,] it’s just variations on different things. We obviously nick stuff from the ‘60s and other bands now tend to be taking a lot from the ‘80s, which is ﬁne if you take the right things. People tend to forget there was a lot of crap in the ‘80s. Sidestage: Do you think you have the same fans today that you did back when you started? Or have you gained a lot of new fans? Whitey: Yeah, there’s deﬁnitely a lot of different fans, but hopefully we’ve got the same fans, too [laughs]. Our gigs are ridiculous.You’ve got six year old kids wearing tshirts that are too big for them, and then the cool kids with the tight jeans and funny haircuts, and you’ve got your 30 year old blokes and 50 year old women. Our age range is ridiculous. Obviously we try and go for fresh blood, that kind of thing. We try to get as many 14 and 15 year olds in, because that’s when you’re really developing your music taste. So we do try to encourage them to come along. Sidestage: Is that something you’re quite proud of? Having such a broad appreal? Whitey: [sounding thoughtful] Yeah? Deﬁnitely. I mean, yeah, of course. Just because someone’s 60 years old doesn’t mean they’ve got no music taste. [pauses and laughs] Actually, no, it usually does mean that, so.. Maybe it’s a bad thing. People do kind of have a go at use because we have such a broad appeal. But it’s not as if they’re stupid or the uncool 60 year olds; these 60 year olds are pretty cool. The thing with selling records is that to sell a lot of records you have to sell beyond university kids, beyind the “alternative” thing. We just try and write different original-sounding stuff and obvsiously it has an appeal to everyone, really. Well, not literally everyone, but a lot of people. Sidestage: A lot of bands these days are very afraid of selling out, of having mainstream success.You just announced your arena tour for next year, including a show at Wembley. Do you enjoy playing such large gigs? Whitey: Yeah, yeah, it’s great. It’s all got a different kind of appeal. We like the small 46 shows because of the atmosphere, but we like the big shows because it’s a challenge for us to recreate that club feeling. But playing big gigs, you’re playing to ﬁve times as many people at once, so it’s like ﬁve gigs in one night, and that saves us some work [laughs]. It’s a good chance for us to have some great lights and to have a great show. We do like both small and big gigs, but we are leaning towards big gigs. We’ve never really shied away from being successful. I think there’s a mssive difference between selling out and selling a lot of records. We’re one of those bands, I think.You can delve quite deeply into our history - we’ve never actually sold out, we’ve never done it for the money. We’ve always done it for the msuic. We want to be successful not because of the money; we want to be succesful so that people can hear our records.You can manage it but it’s quite a ﬁne line. Sidestage: You recently scrapped almost all of your US tour.What happened there? Whitey: I think, basically, it was all pretty hectic towards the end of the year and we’d had a pretty full-on year, we’d got pretty tired touring the same songs for 18 months or whatever. One day we had a rehearsal and we kind of had a quick idea, just going “let’s record something and let’s get it out there”, just to freshen it up. We started recording but we weren’t fast enough to get anything out there. So we just started recording the album instead. 47 Sidestage: You had originally planned to take the year off. Did you decide to keep going and do an album because you’d got a lot of momentum going once you’d started recording those demos? Whitey: Yeah, yeah deﬁnitely. It was quite a good feeling, really.We went to practice after a couple of weeks off and thought, “let’s just keep writing”. We came up with “Never Miss A Beat” and we thought we’d got something there. We just kept on writing more songs. It was going to be a mini-album, and then we were gonna release in the summer but that was never really going to happen, because when you’re with a record label you have to go and do all these other things. Then we wanted to release it as a surprise, but it just turned out to be a [normal] release in October, which is a shame. Sidestage: Mark Ronson produced your new album. How did you get in touch with him? Whitey: On his crappy album,Version, he did a cover version of [our song] “Oh My God” with Lily Allen. We’d never met him, but he was shooting the video for it, and he asked us to come along, to do a cameo in the video. So we met him and we kind of became loose friends and then he asked [lead singer] Ricky [Wilson] to come and sing “Oh My God” at some of his live gigs. Basically, when we were thinking about recording the album, we just thought “Who’s the not obvious choice?” For a band like us, people tend to go for big names: “Oh we recorded with a man who made tea for the Beatles”, that sort of thing. We don’t really do stuff like that, so we thought, “Who’s never really done a band like us before?” We wanted someone different, someone who’s quite new face, who’s got ideas, who doesn’t really care what it sounds like. We justed wanted to record, so we kind of thought of [mark ronson]. Sidestage: What about Andy Wallace, who mixed the album? Why did you decide to work with him? Whitey: Well, he’s cheap [laughs]. No, no, he just mixed our album, so I’ve never actually met him because he works from new york. But speciﬁcally because he mixed [Nirvana’s] Nevermind, that’s why we worked with him. End of. He’s done a lot of stuff, but we only went with him because he did Nevermind. We also recorded the album with a guy called Eliot James, who was a co-producer - it wasn’t just Mark Ronson. He’s a young lad who’s just coming out onto the scene. We wanted someone unknown, who’s never done a band like us. I think everyone would’ve expected us to come out with a miserable third album. Not miserable, but kind of downbeat, like the second album. A very mature, kind of old album. And we wanted to shock people, orr at least do the opposite [of the second album] and come out with a young, exciting album, so we wanted to use young, exciting, fresh people. Sidestage: The album does sound quite different to your earlier work. 48 Whitey: Yeah, that was the whole emphasis for the album, to sound different and maybe for a band like us - maybe a little bit risky, in terms of new sounds.You do get trapped.You can get trapped into churning out the same rubbish and a lot of bands have done that for their third or fourth or ﬁve albums, and we wanted to be different. We’re not trying to break new ground. Hopefully we might’ve done [that], but we never tried to create new songs. For us, we were just trying to take a little sidestep from where we could’ve gone. Sidestage: You got a bit of a mixed critical reaction for the second album. Did you keep that in mind this time around? Whitey: We didn’t really get a mixed reaction, did we? I don’t know, but yeah, I suppose you do always remember the bad stuff, you never remember the good stuff. I think people just maybe were a little disappointed because the ﬁrst album was a little bit in your face. And then maybe people were hoping for the same [with the second album]. It is a great album, but I think it was maybe more like a fourth or ﬁfth album. Maybe too mature for what we [should’ve been] trying to achieve. Sidestage: Lily Allen did some of the vocals for your new album.Was it through her covering your song for Mark Ronson how you got in contact with her? Whitey: Yeah, through working with Mark and her doing our song we’d met her a few times. When we were recording, though, she’d basically just turn up [at the studio], beccause she was obviously bored [laughs]. Sidestage: Obviously. Whitey: She’d just kind of hang out in the studio, really, and it was Mark’s idea. He thought we needed a female voice, some kind of slightly pissed-off female voice, and Lily Allen was obviously the perfect choice. [laughs] You can deﬁnitely hear it. It was off the cuff, but it really worked. Sidestage: “Never Miss A Beat” has some interesting lyrics and an equally interseting video in which all these kids sort of run rampant in weird costumes. Do they tie in? What’s the song really about? Whitey: To be honset, I don’t do the lyrics. I can tell you about what the guitar’s about [laughs]. Sidestage: Okay, tell me what the guitar’s about. Whitey: Nah, I’m joking [laughs]. Obviously with our videos we do try and tie them in, tie in the lyrics with the video. My interpreation of it is that its’ just about innocence -- there’s a line in it that goes, “What do you want for tea? / I want crisps” 49 -- a lot of people say to me, “That’s what I always said”. Sidestage: It’s a bit of a commentary piece on the youth today, it seems. It has a sense of detachment. Whitey: Yeah, deﬁnitely. But the youth have always been detached. Everyone always thinks the youth’s changing, but it’s always been like that. The kids’ve always been little shits. Sidestage: NME was originally a big supported of Kaiser Chiefs. How are they treating you these days? Whitey: It’s part of the business, I guess. [They’re treating us] ﬁne.We’re due a review from them, anyway. I don’t know if they’ll slag us off or not. We’re quite lucky that we’ve kind of outgrown them anyway, but the NME is still very important for breaking artists, it’s still a pretty important paper. We’re always kind of nice to them, but they’re just journalists at the end of the day. Sidestage: Do you think you’ve learnt a lot since you started out? Whitey: I mean, we don’t have a little book that we write stuff in, but you always remember how to do stuff and how not to do stuff. We’re not even a tenth into what a band can experience, but you always learn from your mistakes. A simple thing like not drinking before a gig, we’ve learnt from that. We always used to get drunk before our gigs, and we used to think “We’re having fun. Why isn’t anyone else enjoying our gigs?”, and it was because they weren’t drunk. We’re a business now, you know what i mean? It’s hard to say it, but.. we’re obvsiously a business, we obviously make money. We can’t just turn up and do a gig anymore. We have to tell the police, have a crew. All the big bands do that now - Kings of Leon, bands like that. We don’t have to do it, obviously, but you can’t just really turn up and do stuff anymore. Sidestage: Finally, “Never Miss A Beat” has been the number one most-requested song on Triple J over here in Australia recently, and you’re on the cover of JMag soon too. Are you coming back to Australia any time soon? Whitey: I think so. We wanted to do Big Day Out but apparently they don’t want us to play there. Hopefully we can still do Big Day Out, but I don’t know. I thought we were all set for it. Hopefully we can do that, otherwise we’ll have to come over and do our own big tour. Off With Their Heads is out on October 18 in Australia. 50 photography: ﬂeet foxes webster hall new york city, NY 5th october, 2008 photos by Olga Bas 51 52 53 54 55 photography: holly throsby &the hello tigers anu bar canberra, ACT 9th october, 2008 photos by Kate Walton 56 57 58 59 interview: Empires: howl all night long It’s not just huge bands with established fanbases like Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and GirlTalk who are releasing albums for free on the internet. Empires, a little-known Chicago-based indie rock band, have kick-started their own career by doing the unthinkable – allowing listeners to download their debut album, Howl, for free online. A gamble? Maybe, but it seems to have paid off for the band, with over 15,000 downloads of the album in the ﬁrst week and a subsequent sell-out tour. Sidestage’s Kate Walton sat down for a chat with Empires’ guitarist, the internet infamous Tom Conrad. 60 Sidestage: ‘Howl’ is an album that encompasses a wide variety of musical genres.Who would you say your inﬂuences are, as a band? Tom Conrad: Typically, we pull our inﬂuences from speciﬁc songs. Not so much from one artist and their career. For us, inspiration comes from anything like Nirvana to Curtis Mayﬁeld. Sidestage: What’s the writing process like for you guys? Who comes up with what? Do you tend to build a song off lyrics ﬁrst, or music ﬁrst? Tom: Sean [van Vleet, lead singer & lyricist] is a pretty proliﬁc writer. He’ll record about a dozen rough demos to get the idea across at a given time. Max [Steger, guitarist] and I then shufﬂe through and ﬁnd the ones that tend to stick. We begin as a band to ﬂesh out a skeleton of the song and ﬁne-tune it as much as possible. Sean usually ﬁnishes lyrics soon after. Sidestage: Empires just ﬁnished their ﬁrst tour. How did it go? Do you have any plans for other tours in the near future? Tom: Our ﬁrst time out east could not have gone better. We’ll be taking part in a few Steel Train and Dear & the Headlights Midwest dates this November. Sidestage: Obviously the internet has played a signiﬁcant part of Empires’ success so far. What made the band decide to go down the route you did, in terms of releasing the album for free online? Tom: It made the most sense being the position Empires was in. Howl was conceived entirely on our own and we could do whatever we wanted with its release. Being such a new band, the most important thing for us was to get our music out as easy as possible. Sidestage: Do you think you would have done things differently if you,Tom, didn’t already have a substantial online following? [Tom has his own photography blog and website, and a legion of hardcore followers, mostly because of his previous role as guitarist for The Academy Is...] Tom: Not really. That has not affected our decisions on what’s right for Empires. Sidestage: Are Empires aiming to get signed any time soon? Tom: Our focus is growing Empires organically and as naturally as possible right now. There is no rush to get into a contract when it’s not stopping us from writing, recording or performing live. The more we can do on our own, the stronger we will be, but I think we’ll want to ﬁnd a home soon. 61 Sidestage: What’s your opinion on the Chicago-based scene these days? Any up-andcoming bands we should be paying attention to? Tom: Mark Rose and the Cool Kids are deﬁnitely worth checking out if you haven’t already. There’s always something going on within the Chicago music scene. Sidestage: How have your live shows developed since you started playing as Empires? Do you feel you’ve been able to accomplish what you set out to do with your shows? What do you want to work on in the future? Tom: Empires has not performed much since we are still a relatively new band. We’re always striving to bring our live performance to the next level with what we have to work with. Sidestage: You mentioned in an interview recently, that by the time you were able to release Howl, you were already working on a second album. Is this still the case? Can you tell us a bit about it? Tom: Yes, we begin tracking drums at Smart Studios next week for a few new songs. I’m not sure what will come from these. Since our formation, Empires has always been a machine for new songs and recording them when we see ﬁt. With how much Sean brings to the table and Max’s gift of recording ability, music is always being worked on. Sidestage: You’re also a photographer,Tom. How did you ﬁrst get into photography? What sort of photography interests you most? Tom: I’ve been ﬁddling around with a camera for over seven years now. My father gave me his 35mm and haven’t put it down since. I primarily focus on photojournalism. Sidestage: You seem very passionate about Chicago.What is it about the city that you love so much? Tom: The blue-collar ethic and the diversity of the city and weather keeps you on our toes. Download Empires’ album Howl for free from their website: http://www.weareempires.com 62 photography: the kills music hall of williamsburg brooklyn, NY photos by Olga Bas 63 4th october, 2008 64 65 66 67 68 interview: You and I and Cut Oﬀ Your Hands. The debut album from one of New Zealand’s mostloved bands, Cut Off Your Hands, is ﬁnally upon us. It’s been a long wait, and a lot has changed since they ﬁrst burst onto the scene over two years ago. Sidestage’s Kate Walton has a chat to the band about their place in the Antipodean scene today, their new-found love for the music of the 1960s and how they’ve coped with the hype foisted upon them from bloggers all over the globe. 69 “We’re living in Hackney [in London] at the moment,” bassist Phil Hadﬁeld says down the line from somewhere north of Manchester. “We’ve been there since February. It’s a bit shit,” he laughs. “It’s a cheap area, but it’s also kind of up-and-coming, in terms of there’s a lot of shows being put on, Olympic Park being built. It’s still pretty rough, though. Our house is in need of a few repairs - our toilet blocked the other day.” A perfect time to release an album and make a few quid, then. Upping to Hackney must have been a bit of a change for the four boys from New Zealand that make up Cut Off Your Hands. With two EPs under their collective belts and having already played both CMJ Music Festival in New York and South by Southwest in Austin, Texas, why the change of scenery? “The only real reason [for relocating to London] was to record the record. We ﬁgured that if we were over here anyway, we may as well move here,” Phil explains.“It was a good chance for us, because obviously it’s a lot easier to tour around the UK if we’re living here, rather than ﬂying over all the time.” The album, You and I, was recorded with ex-Suede member and current popular indie producer Bernard Butler, in a small studio owned by Edwyn Collins, who, Phil gushes, “wrote that I never met a girl like you before song [“A Girl Like You”]”. Famous for recently producing bands like The Libertines and Manic Street Preachers, Bernard had also worked on Cut Off Your Hands’ Blue on Blue EP, so the band “knew what to expect”. “[Being in that studio] was like being in primary school,” Phil laughs. “Heaps of percussion [instruments] and synths and drums all over the place. It was an amazing place to record.” You and I is the culmination of over two years of fairly-constant touring. Despite being signed to Speak ‘n’ Spell records in Australia and 679 Records in the UK fairly early on, the band were forced to put off recording their full-length debut. “It’s just how things turned out,” Phil says. “We were actually hoping to record our album just before we ended up doing Blue on Blue, but then Levity came along and offered us the grant to put out the EP instead. We didn’t have a lot of money at the time, so it just made sense. As soon as we were ready, we wanted to record an album. But we’re not dissatisﬁed [that it took this long].” However, the band also harboured concerns about becoming the next big indie band. I put forward to them the idea that they were purposefully trying to hold back a bit and avoid the hype after being touted in blogs as up-and-coming talents alongside bands such as Black Kids and MGMT, and Phil responds enthusiastically. “Yeah, that’s almost exactly it,” he says. “I guess there’s two things to that. The ﬁrst 70 thing is that ... they got built up. See, Black Kids released their album virtually straight away after they recorded it. They needed the hype, you know? My opinion of that band is that they don’t have much substance. They’re just writing to be successful, and you can tell that. It’s like an album for album’s sake. Whereas with us,” Phil continues, “We didn’t want to just write an album full of number one hits. We wanted to do it the old way, like a whole record, so that you can listen to it from start to ﬁnish.We only [now] just ﬁnished recording the record, and with it not being released [yet], the rest of the world hasn’t heard of us yet. The intention is that it’ll be released everywhere at once, so Germany and France and everywhere will get it at the same time, as well as America and Canada, so hopefully by then, things will be going well.” Recording in what they call “the old way” seems to be an important point for Cut Off Your Hands. Their MySpace lists only one inﬂuence - that of Phil Spector. It’s not quite what you’d expect from a band whose press release describes lead singer Nick Johnson as an “Iggy-like, whirling dervish of a front man”. “When you hear the record, that might make more sense,” Phil laughs. “It’s kind of all about the Sixties way of treating a song. If you can imagine, back then, there were no pop-punk bands, no emo bands. All there were were guys writing songs and getting a band to play them, and trying to make them sound as good as possible. And in a way that’s how we feel and how we tried to do it. We recorded [the album] in that style, where it’s all very big and lush.” A lot of listening to Sixties girl groups, then? “All of it, really. The Ronettes, The Crystals. All the way through to Roy Orbison and the Beach Boys. It’s just how it ended up. One of us got the Phil Spector boxset or something for Christmas, so we all listened to that,” Phil laughs. “We just got really excited about that era of music.” Despite the new inﬂuences, the band’s musical leanings remain hard to pin down.“I don’t think we ﬁt into any sort of genre,” Phil muses.“We don’t want to be called an emo band because obviously we’re not. We’re not really a punk band either, although sometimes we like to think we are. I don’t know, it’s hard to say. What I hope is that all different types of people get to hear the record and enjoy it. It’s all songs we’ve written-- you know, from the heart. It’s quite a broad array of songs.” “I guess most of my annoyance with the labeling thing is that most people don’t really know what they’re talking about. We do have one song, it’s a b-side...” Phil trails off, sounding hesitant. “It sounds emo-ish,” he explains. “we don’t like to play it at all. I think we last played it at Big Day Out [in January/February 2008]. It’s just... I hate most genres, like those ones, because some people just focus on one thing, like “emo” or “French”. Like, emo bands come from way back. Now all people see is My Chemical Romance or bands like that.” 71 Of the twelve songs on You and I, four are older songs that anyone who has seen Cut Off Your Hands play live will instantly recognise, including favourites “Oh Girl”, “Expectations” and “Still Fond”. “Expectations” has been entirely re-recorded, with the other oldies having been “tweaked”. “It just made sense to have [the old songs] on there, to document where we’ve been with our sound,” he explains. “I think your ﬁrst record should represent where you are at the time, and those songs are what we are.” A few changes will be taking place on the gig front, however. Lead singer Nick will begin playing guitar for some of the new, slower songs, most of which have never been played live before. With Cut Off Your Hands’ reputation as a vitriolic indie punk band, and with a front man who regularly leaps into the crowds, hangs off lighting rigs and climbs walls, it will be interesting to see how the new Spector inﬂuence will alter the live dynamic. “Hopefully it won’t change too much,” Phil says. “[Nick’s antics are] always very spontaneous, it’s never planned. Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. For the slower songs that Nick’ll be playing guitar in, I can’t imagine him climbing up the walls anyway. But when the guitar’s off, it all happens,” he laughs. There won’t be any more band-wide outﬁt aesthetic, either. Gone are the black skivvies (according to Wikipedia, that’s polo necks for the Brits and turtle necks for the Americans) and matching t-shirts. “We’ve kind of forgotten about that,” Phil admits. “At the moment we’re just dressing how we want to dress.You’ve got to understand, the reason why we would wear matching things was because we were a new band, and we wanted to be like The Hives or The Buzzcocks or something like that, and we were just kind of mimicking that. It was a trend in New Zealand, too,” he adds. “Where bands would all dress up like each other. We were probably the least of it; there were some bands dressing up in matching colourful suits. For me, if someone goes to see a band, [wearing matching outﬁts] makes it seem like they’re more of a unit, more of a band. Especially when you’re playing, too - if you’re in a uniform, it plays you play better. Now we’re not worried about that anymore.” With the band heading back to New Zealand and their second (third?) home of Australia shortly for another tour, how do they feel about the Antipodean scene today? “You can’t really get known in New Zealand or Australia or places like that, which is what I always tell bands if they ask me how to go about doing things,” Phil says. “If you can imagine a record label wanting to sign a band, they’re never going to sign a band from New Zealand, because what’s the point? I guess if they were good enough they 72 could go to Australia [to tour, but that’s it]. The worst thing [for a band] to do would be to sign a record deal in New Zealand. The good thing about Australia [for Australian bands] is that there is actually an A&R scene over there.” What about Flight of the Conchords? They’re a huge success in the US now. Phil laughs. “Yeah, we’re always getting asked if we know them. We met Murray once! He MCed a New Zealand show at CMJ last year. But [otherwise], there’s deﬁnitely quite a few bands leaving New Zealand and trying to make it overseas now. I think it’s easier to do that these days. We’ve only played with a few of them back home, though. Bands like The Brunettes, Liam Finn, and The Ruby Suns.” Not that the band will be sticking around to ﬁnd out further: they’ve just inked a US record deal with Frenchkiss Records, home to Les Savy Fav and The Hold Steady, and are keen to head back to the States to do a full tour. “Breaking into the US is a big thing for me - for all of us, really. [Frenchkiss] have some amazing bands [on their roster], bands like Ex Models, so I can’t wait to start working that territory. We’ve only really done one tour [in the US] - we did a west coast tour with We Are Scientists, and we’ve played in New York and LA a couple of times. We’re looking at CMJ again, and we’re releasing the record in January in America next year.” But don’t worry, New Zealanders, you haven’t lost the band for good. A recent blog of theirs explains that, “Our motivation to leave these shores from the beginning was primarily to do with our desire to play as many shows as we possibly could. Auckland, NZ is very much what we still call ‘home’.” Cut Off Your Hands play the CMJ Music Festival in New York this October, and return to the southern hemisphere for a run of shows in New Zealand and Australia in October and November.The band will also be playing at Falls Festival and Southbound.Their debut album, You and I, is out now in Australia and New Zealand on Speak ‘n’ Spell. 73 photography: young & restless transit bar canberra, ACT 19th september, 2008 photos by Paddy Quiggin & Kate Walton 74 75 76 78 79 in review: Cut Oﬀ Your Hands You and I 9/10 by Kate Walton Under the leadership and steady hand of producer and former Suede member Bernard Butler, Cut Off Your Hands’ debut album is ﬁnally here. Coming in at twelve tracks and just under 40 minutes,You and I sees the New Zealand quartet hitting their stride. Live favourite and apparent title track “You and I” is oddly missing from the record, but with four other tracks from earlier EPs being included, established fans of the band shouldn’t worry. “Expectations” has been re-recorded and lives up to its reputation as the band’s indie punk nexus, while “Oh Girl” and “Still Fond” slide in surprisingly seamlessly alongside the new songs. The ﬁnal oldie,“Closed Eyes”, is one of the album’s standouts. Backed by a driving drum beat, the fuzzy, soaring guitar sounds almost haunting when overlaid with singer Nick Johnson’s lyrics of “there’s no way I can move on from this” and background harmonies of “say, say”. Bernard Butler’s production is immediately obvious and really helps the track to shine. But for the newer songs, such as the opening track, “Happy As Can Be”, the direction of the album is clear - swelling, grandiose semi-pop laden with Spector-esque melodies and layered vocal harmonies. Romance and nostalgia are at the core of the album, with fourth track “Turn Cold” a prime example here. It’s immediately danceable, its handclaps and swirling early Libertines-esque guitar making it appear cheerful on the surface. Then you pay attention to the lyrics - gorgeously-sung lines such as “I must admit I’m still so young / still trying to ﬁnd my feet” and a chorus of “if these walls never cease to close in / don’t let me turn cold”. It’s possibly the band’s most progressive and deep song so far, and will undoubtedly provide the perfect opportunity for a heartfelt singalong at future gigs. 80 The theme of nostalgia continues on “It Doesn’t Matter”, albeit with an added dash of maturity and, surprisingly, a bridge lead almost entirely by handclaps and whistling. Its chorus reﬂects a feeling surely familiar to many:“Lately, I’ve been forgetful / waking up with a handful of regrets I can’t get past / it’s just normal, I know / but I can’t bear to be sober / it doesn’t matter, I’m sure that I’ll be alright”. The record’s pace is turned down a notch for “Heartbreak”, a ‘60s-inﬂuenced sway-along almost-ballad that sounds as if Cut Off Your Hands have suddenly turned into the Ronettes. Jugding by this track, this, apparently, is a good thing. The album’s third major theme, religion, is an interesting yet unexpected one. Only hinted at during the ﬁrst half of the record, it’s not until “In the Name of Jesus Christ” that the motif is completely apparent. It’s the band’s ﬁrst proper ballad, with Nick’s vocals sounding nothing like the sharp, raw yelps many are used to from their live shows. He’s genuinely singing here, and it’s altogether a pleasure to hear, especially when backed up by the harmonies underlying the reminiscing chorus of “we were all about singing hallelujah to him / in the name of Jesus Christ”. The eighth track, “Let’s Get Out of Here”, brings us immediately back to more familiar territory. The segue from “In the Name of Jesus Christ” is a little sudden, but the song’s stamp-along beat and ever-favoured handclaps allow it to be quickly forgiven. The spoken word piece two-thirds of the way through is another new element for the band, and subsequently makes this one of the best tracks on the album. “Nostalgia”, on the other hand, sees Cut Off Your Hands heading back into Phil Spector territory. It sounds like the music for the closing scene of a ﬁlm, and is probably the song that singularly sums up the album - lyrically, thematically, and stylistically. The double guitars - one electric and one acoustic - and the soaring ooh’s gradually fade out, before coming back in with TV voiceover snippets and static to lead into the ﬁnal track,“Someone Like Daniel”.A reference to the biblical ﬁgure, it’s an interesting choice for the closer, and with lyrics like “if someone like Daniel could shed some light / well that’d be great, I think we’d all agree”, it initially sounds rather simple until Nick grounds the song with references to illness and tragedy, questioning “how someone like Daniel can be saved from the lions / and yet the people we love and know are just left to die”. It’s certainly a brave song, to say the least. You and I has been a long time coming, as fans would all attest, but ultimately, the wait’s been worth it. By putting off recording their ﬁrst full-length, Cut Off Your Hands have been able to grow as a band and shape their musical direction to where they really want it to be. And it shows. There’s a depth and maturity to the band’s new material that we’ve not seen from them before. This is without a doubt one of the most thoughtful and considered albums to come out of New Zealand for years. You and I is out now on Speak ‘n’ Spell in Australia and New Zealand. 81 photography: cut copy & the presets new york city, NY 21st september, 2008 photos by Olga Bas 82 webster hall 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 see: 16th October: Foals (with Holy Fuck and Dananananaykroyd) – Carling Academy Brixton, London Why don’t I live in London? Soon,Yannis, soon. 29th October: of Montreal (with Gang Gang Dance) – Metropolis, Montreal Maybe Kevin’ll get naked, maybe he won’t, but at least the music’s bound to be great. 8th November: Cut Off Your Hands – Hi-Fi Bar, Melbourne Everyone’s favourite Kiwi-bandthat-could head out in support of their debut album. listen: Jenny Lewis Acid Toungue Hello Saferide More Modern Short Stories From Hello Saferide High Places High Places 90 follow: Follow on tumblr: All worthwhile, for various reasons of hilarity, inspiration and procrastination. Mostly for the hilarity, though. Pete Wentz: Katy Perry: Ryan Adams & The Cardinals: http://www.petewentz.com/ http://katyperryblog.tumblr.com/ http://cave.cardinology.com/ 91 sidestage sidestage magazine · issue #002· october 2008 · sidestagezine.com i’ll be back.