Christchurch trio The Transistors will be releasing their second album Is This Anything? this Friday, August 2nd, via Arch Hill Recordings. Last week had a catch up with drummer/vocalist Olly Crawford-Ellis to find out what the band has been up to in what has turned out to be a very long lead-up to the record's release....
You said around two years ago that your new album Is This Anything? was about to be put out - but the reason it's only just coming out now is the band have been up to a lot of other things since then, including your tour of America with Guitar Wolf. How was that?
The American trip was amazing - probably the best thing we've done yet as a band. It was the kind of thing that I reckon anyone who has the opportunity to play somewhere as big as that should definitely do. It felt like being proper musicians. We were playing every day and eating crappy food, playing awesome shows to lots of people and stuff - and strangers, rather than just our friends.
Do you think playing in the US was a similar experience to in New Zealand, or was it different?
I reckon it was quite different. They were a really positive crowd and we had them talking to us afterwards - and I think part of it would have been just the novelty of the fact we're from New Zealand. So many people didn't even know where New Zealand was, and it was just like if a band from Guam came and played in New Zealand - we'd all be like, "whooa, weird!". They got into it and wanted to buy records and stuff, so, it was really cool.
How was it performing every day?
It was good, actually. It just meant we got super road-hardened and fit, so every show was just really easy to do and we just felt like we were on form, so I reckon performing every day was one of the best things about it.
Did you miss the pace of touring in New Zealand, or did you like what the US brought you?
It seemed pretty different everywhere we were in the States, so it's sort of like it wasn't ever very static - the vibe of different places. It was different enough to New Zealand that it was fun the whole time, wherever you go.
You and the rest of the band have been together for quite a while now. Was the tour of America a test of your friendships, or did it prove how productive a relationship you have in the band?
Definitely the latter. I reckon it was just proof of how we all get along, because I don't remember having any disagreements on that tour, and we were pretty much living in each other's pockets for six weeks, and so I reckon it wouldn't have worked had we not been the way we are. I mean, I've known these guys since I was 12 years old, and so I think it was just fun the whole time. That's fantastic, because it can be real testing for some bands. Definitely, you hear about road stories and you can see how it happens, it's such an intense environment, but I think we just try and make the most of everything and have as much fun as we can.
Recently you've toured with the Buzzcocks and King Cannons. How were those experiences?
Well, Buzzcocks was just in New Zealand, and so that was pretty cool, I mean we like playing in New Zealand so we were just Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, and playing places that we've played a number of times, so that was pretty cool. And the King Cannons... we were playing with them in Australia, and that was alright. I mean, we went to play on the Gold Coast and stuff, and the Gold Coast seems like a pretty horrible place to be honest...
Did playing with such bands as Buzzcocks encourage you to hone your stage personalities and also your sound, in the lead up to releasing Is This Anything?
Because we recorded it so long ago, a lot of stuff's happened in between us recording this album and it actually being released, so our next album will be the one that sort of is a major reflection of what happened over the last few years - whereas this second album Is This Anything? sort of feels like it's more of an insular record, and more about an earlier time in the band, and more about life in Christchurch and Rangiora. So the next album will be the one that reflects a lot of those new experiences we've had.
Had you finished recording the album when you said it was almost ready a couple of years ago?
The basic tracks took not very long at all, and then it took us a while to do the vocals, because we do that up in Auckland with Bob [Frisbee], and so when we're up there playing shows we have to go in there for a couple of hours. So we try and steal some time every now and then to do the vocals and that, which definitely took a while, and then it's a long period of getting the mix right, getting the sound right, and then organising all the stuff like the vinyl and the artwork, and all that stuff takes so long to eventually get done. There's so much red tape and bureaucracy in releasing an album.
Have you been writing any more material since you finished the album?
Absolutely. We've probably got around 25 new songs for a new album, that we've been working on at the moment, so we'll be looking forward to getting that out as quick as possible.
Would you be able to sum up how Is This Anything? sounds?
It's one of those things that, to me, probably sounds quite diverse and disparate, but maybe to the listener it'll sound more homogenous than that. There's a mix between poppier songs and the harder-edged ones - the more aggressive sounding songs. It's kind of garagey, kind of that '80s sound like Hüsker Dü. I think it's a fun record to listen to.
What does the name of the album mean?
Well, it's actually a reference to the segment they used to have on Letterman where someone would come out and perform something quite esoteric and bizarre, and then the question at the end of it would be "Is This Anything?", and they'd sort of determine whether that act counted as something or was in fact nothing. The album got that title because when we were recording, we were trying to work out what we were and what the album sounded like, so more and more that question became apt, and so we decided to call it Is This Anything?, release it and let people make their own mind up.
What do The Transistors plan to do after your New Zealand album release tour?
We're doing demos at the moment, for a new record hopefully - just writing the songs and doing real rough recordings of them - so we'll work out what we're going to do with that. And the album's going to be released in Australia so we might be playing some shows over there. We'd love to get back overseas and do some more shows - some in the US or Europe or something like that - but whenever you ask me, that's always something I'd like to do.