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Interviewed by
Nich Cunningham
Wednesday 11th March, 2015 9:41AM

This month sees the return of singular Auckland band Xanadu. Originally active in the early 2000ís, the band pioneered a distinctive style of guitar music that was fresh and helped reinvigorate a faltering local scene. They were exciting. And people noticed. But luck was never with Xanadu. Despite great music, a passionate fan base and excellent supports slots with bands like Mercury Rev, The Editors and Trans Am, the band struggled to achieve momentum. A sense of frustration, stoking interpersonal friction, and the inability to capture their sound in the studio caused the rot to set in: the band finally dissolved in 2003.

Leaving little in their wake but their reputation, Xanadu became something of an enigma. But the three original members, Bruce Wurr, Luke Stemson and Tim Lewton have remained friends. And to celebrate the release of Xanaduís much anticipated long-player 1999-2002, the band will be touring the nation this month. UnderTheRadar managed to corner Xanadu to demand an explanation...

UTR: If someone had never heard Xanadu, how would you describe your music?

T: Itís really noisy guitar music but thereís also a focus on songs as well. Itís kinda both. Itís a cross between Lukeís aesthetic and mine and Bruce is the middle ground. He keeps it together.

B: I think kinda fun, exciting, dangerous. Itís hard to say: Iíve only ever heard it from one side of the stage.

L: I think itís pretty poppy and melodic. But I donít know: I think lots of things are pop that arenít necessarily consideredÖ

So is there something the music was trying to get across? Something Xanadu is trying to say?

B: I guess for us, weíre not really trying to impart anything in particular. Itís more about us playing songs we really like and us having a good time. And hopefully a by-product of that is the songs come across well outside. We just wanna really enjoy it.

L: Itís essentially pretty simple: We just wanna do stuff thatís just honest and earnest and not trying to be clever.

Itís been a little over a decade since Xanadu broke up. What prompted a reunion?

T: Luke and I met at Verona about a year and a half ago. And Bruce happened to be there as well so we kind of had a meeting. We just talked. And we decided that we wanted to put the old tracks online somehow. And that grew.

B: Weíd had an offer from a couple of guys to put out some stuff. That didnít quite work out so we just decided to do it ourselves.

T: And out of that, we were only going to do a vinyl album if we were going to do some shows. So, thatís how it happened.

At what point did Xanadu start jamming again?

T: We were just meeting up about once a month but weíve been jamming pretty consistently for the last six months.

L: Has it been that long? Fuck...And I still donít know the songs.

T: Weíve got four practices left...

B: Then the shit hits the fan.

So you guys were planning all this anyway, how did Blink get involved?

T: Yep, absolutely. I booked the show for Chicks Hotel. And then I basically just got a call from Blink. I canít remember his exact words but he said he had heard about it and was excited. He asked if we wanted to do a whole tour in conjunction with his Movement thing. It was fucking perfect timing.

B: He came and said heíd do all the shows in the other cities. He basically said all we had to do was turn up. And Blink knows how to do tours.

T: Weíre stoked - it was really, really awesome.

So the vinyl: Do you think Xanadu has finally made the record it always wanted to? Do you see this as an album or compilation?

T: Well, Iíd say that itís a compilation. It was a really democratic way weíve put it together and weíre really happy with it. And thatís really all there is to it. I mean, cos weíve never really intentionally gone 'lets make an albumí and so this is a way of collating that has a bit of brevity. Songs that we all agree we like. There are other tracks that didnít quite fit in. But this is just a collection. And at some point we might put more songs online just so theyíre there.

L: I donít think this is the record we always wanted to make but itís a really good record. And I donít say that lightly. Iím probably my own worse critic. Itís not the album Xanadu would have done in itís prime. Itís very very different. Itís arguable whether itís better or worse. But I think possibly itís better because itís more raw and honest because if weíd been in a studio with the hi-fi capabilities that we would have wanted, it would have been a completely different album, and Iím not sure if it would have been as true.

B: From my perspective, I think itís got really good cohesion. Itís a bit difficult to talk about something youíre part of but it does actually keep your interest. It takes on a life of its own when you listen to it. Simon Gooding did a really great job mastering it for vinyl too.

L: Yeah the mastering sounds really good. Mind you, my stereo is pretty shitty...

The records look great. Who did the artwork?

T: Luke directed it and I did the technical support for it. I was in photoshop and heíd be like Ďlet's try somethings like this, put that over there..í

L: It was a collaboration. But I drew the logo. We both did the layout.

T: It was mainly youÖI just...

B: Tim just put it where Luke wanted it.

Is it nice that people are still excited about Xanadu?

T: Oh fuck yeah. Iím surprised by that. I was expecting to play to ten people.

L: Yeah, hard out. In fact, it almost seems like people are more excited now than they used to be. Personally, Iím thrilled. Thereís been a lot of good feedback.

B: We just wanna go out and have fun.Hopefully other people have fun too.

So what's the plan post tour? Will this be it for Xanadu?

T: Thereís nothing planned. The idea was to put the album together, get it released and do some shows and give 100% and we donít have any other plans.

L: One thing at a timeÖ

T: Thereís a possibility that we may do a show from time-to-time if weíre all into it, but we all have other projects.

L: Itís up in the air and weíll see when we get there.

T: Iím just really happy to be playing with these guys again cos of the songs and itís just fun and cool and it means something to us. It was just like we started out like Ďlets do something!í. And we created something that we wanted to see and hear.

B: And weíre actually doing it rather than just talking about it.

Xanadu are playing the following dates, head over here for tickets:

Sunday 15th March, RPM, Cuba Street, Wellington
Friday 20th March, The Kings Arms, Auckland
Friday 27th March, Wunderbar, Lyttelton
Saturday 28th March, Chicks Hotel, Port Chalmers
Also at CAMP A MOVEMENT, Wainuiomata - see for details

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related gigs
Fri 20th Mar
Kings Arms Tavern, Auckland
Fri 27th Mar
Wunderbar, Lyttelton
Sat 28th Mar
Chicks Hotel , Port Chalmers

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