Collapsing Cities have taken four years to release their new album Strangers Again, which came out last Friday 13th July. In that time they've taken their chances in London, become disillusioned with the industry and returned home to find themselves as people, and as a band. UTR caught up with Collapsing Cities to discuss all that led them to this latest release.
The new album has been a while in the making, does it feel good to finally have it out?
Yeah well today is the day I suppose. I actually went down to JB Hi-Fi for other reasons - not just to check out the album - but while I was there I did make sure it had a decent amount of visibility. It was on the new releases board which was cool.
Tell us a little bit about the process for Strangers Again, it was quite elongated yeah?
Yeah. I donít want to describe it in too much reference to the last album, but itís a good place to start. The first album we recorded very, very quickly on a shoestring budget and Steve would pen a melody and we would write songs around them, whereas this album was entirely the other way around: we all brought songs to the table, weíve been living in different cities, weíve all been doing heaps of things outside of the band. Itís been a long process and because itís been so collaborative and weíve put so much effort into it itís been interesting because itís also been influenced by the amount of time that has passed during this process. Itís been a really different process and the result is completely separate from any of our individual tastes or anything any of us would make individually. Itís definitely been a process, thatís for sure, and itís darker and more melancholic I would say.
I suppose thereís always been a bit of a heaviness to the lyrics and the music has been bright and catchy. Iíve always been impressed with Steve's lyrics and thatís the thing that a lot of people pick up on, but I canít say too much about how he comes up with them. I wrote the lyrics to a couple of them and itís pretty obvious when you compare them that Steveís lyrics are quite dark and personal and even blunt at times. I tried to bring something a bit lighter into the mix and just hope that they gel with his and arenít too out of place.
You mention you all brought parts of songs to the table? Were you all on the same wavelength when everything came together?
To be honest when we were in the UK Steve was pretty burnt out and I guess honestly, I think we all had some pretty dark times over there. While we were over there we took it upon ourselves to write music and lyrics here and there and that was kind of exciting because it opened the door for us to try different things that we might bring. All songs previously had been filtered through an idea that Steve had.
In terms of everything gelling, weíve just been playing together for so long that we make it work. We obviously had conflict over the path that certain songs would take but weíve always been the same old band and because we had funding from NZ on Air we were able to spend more time mixing and making videos and bringing the whole thing together pretty well.
I think weíre all really happy with the way it fits together.
Now itís a finished body of work: are there any obvious thematic lines? Do you notice anything you perhaps didnít notice at the time?
Well itís not really a coincidence that the songs that are pretty mellow and morose were largely written or came out of our times in London and the ones that are happier and more upbeat came out while we were in Auckland, thatís not really a surprise. In saying that I donít really know if there was any conscious themes across the songs. I guess itís just a reflection of the relationships and ideas weíve had over the past four years.
It sounds like things got pretty heavy in London and you guys had to reassess the whole band? Is it fair to say that youíve been going through some personal stuff outside of the band that has affected the band?
Yeah totally. I mean any band will tell you that when you go over to the UK there are a bunch of people who have ideas about what your band is and what it should be doing or what the next song should be like. So we did battle with that and those kind of people. It was nice to come back to Auckland and exclude everyone else entirely and take a really long time to get the album together. It was a way for us to keep everyone elseís noses out of everything and get us back on track.We spent a shit load of time together when we were in London: we shared a mattress in a lounge for about three months and it was a huge experience. I think now weíve reached an equilibrium in terms of a lot of things. We all feel very comfortable about the songwriting process, we all feel very comfortable in our friendships, and we have found that balance between the band and the rest of our lives. Even the members of the band who were pushing for bigger things to happen on an international level previously are happy with this being a really enjoyable part of our lives in New Zealand.
So youíre priorities have changed?
Yeah definitely. Thereís a narrative about what youíre meant to do when you play in a band and some people tell you Ďgo to the UK and you can get a contractí. But the funny thing about the UK is there is so much hype and dross, but the most enjoyable, best thing about the UK were other New Zealand bands: these are the people you really respect as musicians and these are the people you hang out with on a Friday night.
The attitude of New Zealanders is that New Zealand is shit and that New Zealand product is crap, but thatís not the case at all: New Zealand bands are great and weíre really proud to be a part of that over here.
I think thereís this opinion that when New Zealand bands go overseas they must be really driven and intent on making music their full time job, but that was not the expectations we were going over with at all. We had an invitation asking us if we would like to come over and play some shows in the UK and we of course, were stoked on a free trip to the UK. Other members of the bands have spoken about having those dreams and making music their full time thing but I think thereís this misconception that every band that goes overseas must have really wanted to make it, when really we just goy the opportunity to go to Europe and travel around and play a bunch of shows, which of course we jumped at the opportunity to do. But now we're happy being back in New Zealand, balancing the band with the rest of our lives.
Strangers Again it out now and you can celebrate the release this Friday at the Kings Arms Tavern - click here for more details and to book your tickets.