Monday, June 27, 2011

Slow Burn Winter Tour 2: The least rock’n’roll car crash

Anybody who knows me will tell you that if you want to get a moment’s peace around here then the last thing you want to do is ask me to start talking about myself. As a consequence, therefore, I don’t usually get the chance.  For some reason though when you put out an album the convention is for people to ask you to talk about yourself, and often they tape you doing it  and put stories on the internet or in the newspaper.  It is fashionable during this process to pretend that you don’t like all of the promotional nonsense and the interviews and so forth, and you only go along with it all because it is how the game is played or because you are made to, perhaps by the man.  I’m generally out of step with fashion though, and I find being given a chance to talk about myself in public really quite exciting.

St Peter's Hall - sweet gig.

So on Saturday afternoon, the day after a fine gig at St Peter’s Hall in Paekakariki, I was in Wellington, looking forward to the show at the Garden Club that night.  I was feeling pretty chuffed because I had just been up to the radio station to talk to a nice man about my album and play a song, and then I had sat for quite a pleasant half an hour in a car-park talking to another nice man from a newspaper about what some of the songs on my album mean (again – usually not much, they just sound good), and before that I had done a fascinating questionnaire for a website (fascinating, obviously, because it was all about me), and the whole thing was making me feel like kind of a big deal.  I was born in the eighties of course, and my teachers, following the educational style of the time, spent most of my primary-school years doing their utmost to build up my ‘self-esteem’ to borderline psychopathic levels. Like most people of my generation, then, it doesn’t take much external stimulus to make me feel like I’m kind of a big deal.

In and of itself this may not necessarily be a bad thing, but as Narcissus drowned in his own reflection (at least I think he did – remember, my teachers were too busy telling me I could be whatever I wanted to be to properly teach me the classics) so was my inflated sense of self-worth my undoing on this day. As I exited the car park, having finished discoursing at some length on the subject of me, and mentally congratulating myself on what I was deciding to call my lucidity and erudition, I somehow lost track of where my vehicle ended and other parts of the world began. Specifically, the parts of the world attached to other people’s cars.

‘Gosh!’ (You may recall I only say that when things start to go a bit wrong.) ‘Did I hit you?’
‘Well. My car wasn’t moving, and yours, I think, was. So yes.  You hit me.’
‘Ah. Ok. And… your bumper.  Was your bumper like that before all this happened?’
‘I see.  It was… shinier? Less sort of scratchy? And more firmly attached to your car?’

This was fine.  This was sort of OK.  This is what we have insurance for, to make these things go away.  So we exchanged names, the way people do.

‘Prebble?’  She seemed aghast, or at least surprised. What was this? Was I being recognised, in a carpark, by a member of the public whose car I had gently nudged with my car?  I was still thinking that I was kind of a big deal at this time, so you never know.  I felt simultaneously awesome and not awesome.

‘Which Prebbles?’ She asked.  I told her, as light began to dawn. This was going to be one of those ‘only in Wellington’ scenarios.

‘Young man, your uncle is a colleague of my husband. How are your parents?’
The awesome part of how I felt went away, leaving behind only the ‘not awesome’ component.

‘Ah.  Well, actually.  Yes.  Quite well, thanks.  Um.  They own this car, in fact.  I’m looking forward to telling them that I have driven it into a friend of the family.’

This is what touring in New Zealand is like.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Slow Burn Winter Tour part 1: And I haven't even left Auckland yet

For the duration of the NZ album release tour, I'm doing a sort of a tour blog for New Zealand Musician over on their site here - here's the first post from that series:

There's probably a lot of reasons why you might go on tour if you're a musician.  Undoubtedly some people do it for fun, and I'm sure there are people who find the money attractive.  There are all sorts of promotional benefits and so on also, but the main reason I go on tour is so that I have stuff to write about on my blog.  I'm not sure what it is about touring, but for some reason things just seem to happen more when you're charging around different parts of the world trying to play shows. Maybe it's the momentum; when things happen on tour they happen harder because you're moving faster than you normally would.  They also usually turn out to be funnier, these things that happen, I suppose because most things are funny with hindsight and when you're touring you move around a lot, so everything is hindsight.

I haven't left Auckland yet - that's going to happen at an ungodly hour tomorrow morning, by bus, of which no doubt more later - but already things are happening on this tour.  I should make it clear here that when I say 'happening' I tend to mean 'going wrong,' often with reportable consequences.  The main thing that's happened so far - and obviously, given that the tour hasn't properly started yet, it's early days - is that when I sent an email to the crew at the Wunderbar after this last round of aftershocks to say 'hope you guys are all sweet and stuff and also are you still, you know, open?' Debs replied pretty smartly saying essentially no, they aren't still open, because these plate tectonics just won't quit and this last hit has knocked them back into February.  I cannot imagine what that must feel like for them.

The Wunderbar is hands down my favourite venue in the South Island. I was pretty excited when they re-opened after the last quake, I knew it was a big deal for Lyttelton to have iconic venues popping back up.  I was even more excited when I found out that they had a free Saturday right when the Slow Burn Winter Tour featuring Rosy Tin Teacaddy and Bond Street Bridge Bringing Their New Albums To Life For The People Of New Zealand was planning to be in the neighbourhood, so of course I booked a show there. With the Wunderbar now closed for the duration, we now find ourselves casting around for a new venue.  This is ten days out from the show, in a town where most places have already shut up shop.

I've found over the past few years that if I ever have any kind of Christchurch-related touring problem, I adopt one and only one problem-solving strategy.  I continue to resort to this strategy because it is very simple, and it works every time.  The strategy is this:  When something goes wrong, get in touch with The Eastern, tell them your problem, and they will solve it.  Have you accidentally double-booked yourself with The Feelers in the front bar of some horrendous meat-market downtown?  Call the Eastern, tell them your problem, and they will take you down the road to the Media Club where there is an audience of nice people who actually want to hear music.  Have you written off your car at the Sockburn roundabout, seven hours out from a show in Oamaru that is looking less and less likely to happen now as you sit on the side of the road nursing whiplash and surrounded by cracked guitar cases?  Call the Eastern, and they will arrive at the roadside, wait with you for the towtruck, then lend you their van for the rest of your tour.  Has the venue you were going to play at been stickered off the road?  You know what to do.

So at press time,  Adam McGrath is stomping around Lyttelton trying to find a venue for the show next weekend, and I must say I like his chances.  I'm pretty confident that if a venue is to be found in that town, he's the guy to find it, and a fine venue it will be as well.  For now, though, we have a bit of anticipation and tension happening, which I think is healthy.

Once I heard from Adam that he was on the case, I started to relax a bit.  Then my phone beeped, and it turned out that Mr Nigel Wright, who is supposed to be adding his layers of sonic wizardry to the Bond Street shows in Wellington this weekend, is in line to get his flight down there pretty severely delayed or even canceled by this apocalyptic airplane-eating ash cloud we seem to be having on top of everything else.  It may even turn out that he can't play one of the shows, which is very sad because he makes everything sound awesome and St Peter's Hall at Paekakariki would have worked a treat.  I'm not too worried though - I called Adam again and he's having a word to the volcano, so it should all be sweet.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Spring Summer Awesome Winter Cover Art

One day soon I'm going to release a new album, the second long player from this thing I call Bond Street Bridge. That day will be the 20th of June 2011, which is why I said 'soon.' I've been working on it on and off for a quite a while, in between things like sleeping in, feeding the cat, and cleaning out the fishtank, which keep me quite busy. It's going to be nice to have it out in the world, or at least out of the house.

The album, as I may have mentioned before, is called Spring Summer Awesome Winter.  If I told you in the past that it was going to be called something else, it's only because I tend to just say things out loud as they occur to me and often they turn out to not be correct.  Fortunately things don't occur to me that often, or I would talk even more than I do, and I don't think we need that.  Anyway, I think you'll agree that Spring Summer Awesome Winter is a better name than whatever I might have said before - the only problem was trying to think of something to put in the press release about why it's called that, because people will ask.  I can't remember what I said on that front, but the real reason is that it sounds cool.  The rest is just hype.

Making albums.  Really the best thing about making albums is that you get cover art, and if you need cover art the best person to go to is Ms. Millicent Crow.  She's supposed to be writing a thesis at the moment, which you will probably be aware is reasonably time-consuming, but we have invented a machine that makes a couple more hours in the day. (We called them 12a and 12b o'clock, in case you were wondering.  The best thing about these extra hours is that phone never rings during them, and the only other people on the internet seem to be experimental physicists).  We use one of those hours for general relaxing, and the other one is for things like making awesome cover art for albums.  Here's what Ms. Crow came up with for this one, using watercolours, ink and gouache:

This is the front cover. The red leaf has a halo because of how awesome it is. 

This is the inside, the bit you see when you open it up. Each picture illustrates something from one of the songs, so for example one song has a line about a cigarette lighter, and one has a line about a feather and so on and so on.  Incidentally, not many of the songs make a lot of sense now that I come to listen to them, but that will probably not come as a massive surprise to regular readers of this blog. People sometimes ask whether, given that the songs don't make a lot of sense in themselves, perhaps the things like feathers and cigarette lighters and so on might be metaphors for other things?  Possibly more sort of significant things, like beauty or truth or the nature of love?  The answer is no, they usually aren't.  They're only in there because they sound cool.  The rest is just hype.

This is the inside of the booklet that you pull out and have a look at while you're standing at the merch table in a dimly-lit bar after a show, trying to figure out whether I will shut the hell up and stop talking at you if you just give me the twenty bucks for the album, or whether that would only encourage me.  The answer is almost certainly the latter, but you should buy it anyway because of the awesome cover art.

This here is the back of the album (on the left) and the bit that goes under the tray that the cd sits in (on the right).  Now would be good time to reflect on how good the layouts are, which I think is this: pretty good. And I would say that, because I did them.  I don't think they're necessarily so good that you'd be surprised that I did them, but I also think that they're just about good enough that you'd wonder whether maybe I did about half a semester of design school part-time at one stage and then realised that it was too much work and dropped out. Which is pretty good, cos I didn't even. Look, there's even crop marks and a 3mm bleed and stuff, cripes.  If you pay me, I will do the layouts for your next record.  You will probably not even need to pay me very much; for somebody who has spent such an inordinately long time getting educated it is amazing how little I will work for.