Interview

Piece War

Piece War

By Danielle Street

Wednesday 23rd April, 2014 1:14PM

If you have been listening to bNet radio lately you may have heard a sweet garage-punk track  by the name of ‘We Are At War’ playing on repeat. The song is by lo-fi female duo Piece War, which is made up of Tina Pihema (The Coolies) on guitar and Barbara Rocha on drums. It is not a new pairing, but a band that got together, recorded and then had a kind of forced hiatus while Rocha went overseas for a couple of years. Now she is back in the country and Piece War have released their long-shelved album Apathy to the delight of loads of enduring fans. We had a chat with Pihema about how things are coming together now that the two of them are back on the same side of the globe and have started playing shows again...


So Piece War haven't been around much lately, but you actually formed a couple of years ago, how did you guys end up playing music together?

We met in 2006, after Barbs got back from Brazil she just arrived in Auckland and was visiting her friends that I knew as well. We got on really well instantly. There was a shed full of instruments at the flat and so we started messing around with our good friend Renee.

I talked Barbs into playing the drums even though she’d never played before, because we got on so well and she’s super cool I knew it would work out fine. I don't like playing music with people that I'm not friends with. The first part of playing together we pretty much wanted to sound like a girl group doing a Jesus and Mary Chain kinda thing... but that didn’t really happen.

At some point Barbs moved over to England for a couple of years… How did that play out?

Barbs left last minute mid-2010. She did her thing in the UK travelled around and she arrived back at the end of last year after she got kicked out for overstaying and working for a bi-polar dude in Edinburgh. We didn't talk about the band at all before or while she was away. It wasn’t really a big deal, we have so much other stuff going on and other things we are just as interested in.

Apathy was recorded before this hiatus, why didn’t you get it out earlier?

Recording forced us to write songs, we probably wouldn't have done if it was just practicing for a show or whatever. It's more fun to think of making songs for a fake album or something, giving yourself a challenge or constraints to work with is important to us otherwise we wouldn't get anything done. We didn't talk about putting it out, we were just happy to have it done.

Tell me about the recording process...

The second side of the album was recorded first with our friend Tom Healy, we did it in bits and it took us a few months worth of days here and there. We didn't really know if the songs were any good, but recording it was a good idea because we could listen to the songs and experiment with different things we probably wouldn't have done in a band practice.

The first side of the album was recorded in Dunedin. Die! Die! Die! were demoing songs at Chicks Hotel, so we went away with them and did some recordings in Port Chalmers at our friends house up the road with Tex Houston in a day. That was perfect for us to be recording in such a beautiful place with our friends hanging out.

The recording sounds really untainted by layered recording and overmixing - was it intentional to keep it so raw sounding?

We didn’t have much of a plan with recording, but we know what we like the sound of. We don't have the attention span to spend a long time recording, so just go with something close to real. We like it pretty stripped back. Vocals are important, I don’t use any pedals and it’s only guitar and drums. We like the guitar to sound stereo and big, the drums are a simple set up so we like the floor tom to be really deep and loud.

Musically, I would say that you have a melodic sound, but it’s still gritty. Is that something you consciously decided when you came to make music together, or is that a sound that emerged?

We talked a lot about how we wanted it to sound. We have pretty similar taste. We wanted it to be really simple songs and we wanted to both be singing. If it sounded too cheesy we added something a little bit rough or noisy over it to not be too embarrassed by it, you know?

Are there any themes that string Apathy together in terms of song-writing?

A reflection of where we were at in life and just looking at everything around us observing, and then critiquing it. Some were about dreams and who we used to be. And also how we think people should be and act, in our perfect loyal world, haha...

Apathy is out on a very limited acetate record, why did you choose that format?

I emailed Teneti [Epic Sweep Records] to ask if he had any Maxine Funke Lace records to buy... I had listened to it like a thousand times on Bandcamp while I was working so I thought I should buy it. He replied saying “no” and then asked if we wanted to put something out, so yeah. It was perfect that it fit on a 10 inch. I love 10 inch and 12 inch record sizes so that was awesome.

And why did you choose Apathy as the album title?

It was the last song we played together that we recorded in one go before Barbs left. It really sums up how it sat on the computer that whole time, haha.

While we’re on the subject of names, Piece War is a great name for the band, where did that come from?

I really don't remember... Just put two words together, bits of chaos.

The video for ‘We Are At War’ almost seems at odds with the subject of war, where did the visual themes for that video come from?

My friend Duck chatted to me and asked what I wanted on the video and I said “flowers” and she was thinking the same thing and she liked that idea. I thought it would be a good juxtaposition. Everything always opposites.


The video was made by your friend in just a day right? Does that DIY methodology speak to the ethos of you guys as a band?

Yeah, when we started we didn't make an effort to book shows or anything we just opened for our friends band we weren't associated with any scene which we liked. We wanted to play music but be invisible, you know, no internet or faces or anything. Nothing too real.

The way we operate will always be the same. Just do whatever you wanna do when you wanna do it, on your terms. Then you can’t really fuck anything up.

How does it feel to hear the music you wrote and recorded so long ago re-emerge on the radio?

I don't listen to the radio, but yeah it's not that bad because I don't really think we have changed that much musically, but it is kinda strange in a way because we are really different people now.

And you have started playing it again... how is that?

Well, it's like we left off cuz Barbs wasn't here and now she is. We didn't play music in between really so it's not a thing. We don't really wanna play the songs off the record. We have played a few shows, one good, one bad. It is how it is. We can only do our best but yeah we find it boring to practice.

Any favourite songs to perform live...?

‘Past is Dead’... that's not on the album because we couldn't fit it in. It’s really simple and about destruction/reaction.

Are you guys working on some new material? Will it sound like Apathy, or after such a long break are you developing a new sound?

We have new songs and are writing more. We like it simple but wanna include more layers.

We have been listening to a lot of Swell Maps, Faust and the Pussy Galore Historia De La Musica rock album, so that’s the winter vibe. We are going to experiment with some pedals our friend Kraus makes from the Musical Electronics Library.




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