The Dance Asthmatics

The Dance Asthmatics

By Sam Longmore

Thursday 3rd March, 2016 5:00PM

Ahead of their four-date tour to support the release of last year's Lifetime Of Secretion EP, Sam Longmore caught up with Christchurch musicians Brian Feary and Joe Sampson of The Dance Asthmatics to have a chat about the genre-defying band, impending releases from their label Melted Ice-Cream, and the current state of affairs in the Christchurch music scene...

UTR: Could you, introduce yourselves, and the band? And we'll start with that.

B: Well, I’m Brian, I’m the drummer in Dance Asthmatics.

J: And I’m Joe, the guitar player.

And there is also Ben who plays the Bass, and Steve, who does vocals.

I’ve seen you music described in a few ways online, for example one reviewer described a song as something which “seethes with pain,” another described you guys as being “more Kraut than punk,” and another pegged you guys somewhat-simply as being “abrasive.” And I was wondering what you guys think of these descriptions, or if you'd care to elaborate or explain what you think of the sound of the band?

J: You want us to comment on those descriptions? Umm, I don’t really know, to be honest. I don’t think we sound like we are copying any other band, but at the same time I’m not sure if it is a completely original sound.

B: When we started off, way back in the day, we were right into Krautrock and Public Image Limited. More the Public Image Limited. But since then I think we just sort of played with each other, and then found some more interesting instruments and stuff like that to fuck around with. From that we just… I dunno where it comes from, really, like, Krautrock is the cornerstone, but I wouldn’t want us to be called a Krautrock band…

J: Yeah, I think when the four of us play together we tend to focus on the stranger sides of our style, the way we play our instruments and things like that. Like, obviously me being in the Salad Boys is pretty different to Dance Asthmatics. It's comparatively more straight-laced, middle of the road, whereas this is, obviously indulging in the weirder things we want to do. And, I think the same of Brian’s drumming as well. And, Steve, if you compare Steve’s vocals in Dance Asthmatics, compared to his other band, BnP, it's again…

B: He sort of tells stories in Dance Asthmatics, whereas he’s written punk songs in BnP, I think…

J: Yeah, basically, our approach of the Dance Asthmatics is that we do what we think we shouldn’t do...

With other groups?

J: Just in general. But with the Dance Asthmatics, I think where we start doing things the way we think we should, that’s where it's, uhhh, not good.

Yeah, right. Do you think anything in particular informs the sound of Dance Asthmatics, or is quite an experimental process for you guys?

B: The sound of the drum machine, or, like, the old sort of technology that [Joe has] found has, I don’t know if “inform” is the right word for it, but we’ve found these old things, and we’re kinda trying to get something creative out of them. Is that fair to say?

J: Yeah, I think that is definitely part of it. But I also think a lot of it has to do with the four different personality types in the band and that it comes back the approach. Like, we’ve all got reasonably different opinions and, in a strange way that is actually what unites us, and enables us to make one decision together, you know? Silly as that sounds, I think is that approach more than anything else.

B: It is a totally different song writing approach to any of the other projects.

J: Yeah, definitely.

To jump from quite a specific question to a much broader question; why play music? Or, more particularly, why play music that isn’t going to go out of its way to be commercially appealing, or appealing in a populist sense?

J: Well that’s the thing, that is actually my intention – to make The Dance Asthmatics commercially appealing, and that has pretty much been my intention all along. If you think about the way the songs are structured and things like that, they are structured in the same ways Nirvana would structure a song. They all have hooks, they all have different little parts.

B: With a few exceptions, like 'Wicker' which is a noise jam.

J: Yeah, that one is a bit different. Ummm, sooo, that is like the intent.

B: I dunno, we’re not trying to follow a trend or anything like that, but at the same time...

J: To my ears, the music is pretty accessible. Like that EP that we put recently, Lifetime of Secretion, I think that’s all pretty accessible within that style of music. Not to compare us to the level of the Pixies or anything, that would be crazy, but what I mean is, like, the Pixies were sort of like the spice girls of 80s underground american music.

And they stretched what was commercially admissible/popular in a way...

J: If you look at it from a commercial point of view, then yeah they did, but if you look at it from an underground point of view, they are, really, the most successful, 'spice girls version' of that.

I was going to ask this a bit later on but, seeing as we’ve sort of gotten to that territory already, it might be nice as I’m talking to both of you guys if you could talk a little about your relationship to the record label Melted Ice-cream?

J: [laughs] Its a pretty deep-rooted relationship because, you know, it's me and Brian, and of course Michael [McClelland], [laughs]. Is there anything in particular that you'd like to know, or...?

I dunno, just a bit about it, like, how did it start out?

J: Oh, I see, yeah. You go Brian.

B: Well, Joe started it in 2011 and was living with me at the time so I sort of questioned what the point was at the start. Then, Joe put out some bootlegs, and then the compilation, Sickest Smashes from Arson City, once you’d maybe formed a few ideas about what you were wanting to do with the label.

J: That was actually Luke Towart's idea. I had not plans for it at all, then one day Luke, who plays in the band Wurld Series, said “I reckon someone should do a compilation,” or “you should do a compilation", or something like that. And yeah, I thought it was a great idea ‘cause it is so incredibly easy. All I had to do was ask my friends, and in a few weeks it was ready to go.

B: So, once that happened, got heaps of downloads, and became popular, then you started releasing other stuff like… what was it? Thrill Collins? Or was that before...?

J: Ahh, no, that was March 2014.

B: Na, na, the live at your place...

J: That was 2011/2012

B: Then you released uhh…

J: Well the cassette releases came pretty much around that same time as that compilation. like, the '83 Girls cassette came out at the same time.

B: Oh, and the Christian rock and Salad Boys split! Uhh... that was then...?

J: Oh that’s right, we did that tour. That was August. We’re looking at the discography right now, by the way.

B: And fairly shortly after Joe started doing cassettes, you [Joe] asked me if I wanted to help out basically.

J: And yeah, then it was me and Brian for a while, and then I was kinda at the point where I thought, “well, you’re either going to give it up, or do something” and Michael McClelland was talking about starting his own label up there [in Auckland], so I thought, “well fucken Michael’s dead-keen, he loves the bands on Melted Ice-Cream,” and it just made total sense. I’m glad 'cause Michael is awesome - he’s incredibly proactive and passionate. In fact, he’s so proactive and passionate that I’m constantly troubled, smothered in guilt that I’m not doing it justice. Which I’m not. I’m not doing it justice. *laughs*

Is he holding down the North Island branch?

B:[laughs] Yeah, yeah, yeah, the North lsand branch.

J: [laughs] That makes it sound like we’re actually, like, profitable…

B: Oh yeah, and we’re putting out records, soon! I don’t know if we’ve announced them...

J: Ah, I don’t think we have announced them... Had you heard that?

I’d heard sort of whispers.

J: 'Whispers'? [laughs] Was it a like cloak and dagger sort of conversation?

Ah, well, I'd heard a master of the Civil Union album, and a master of the Opposite Sex stuff, and then there was some talk about the three-way release of the Opposite Sex album, sort of cassette, vinyl and CD, all handled by different labels or something…..?

B:Yep, that sounds about right…

And I'd heard talk of a similar sort of scenario with respect to Civil Union,

J: Yeah, that’s basically the gist of it.

Is there anyone else that you’ve been eyeing up?

J: Yeah, we’re about to release Invisible Threads from Auckland. We're doing their cassette. So, that’s coming out I think in May.

B: We’ve got Wormstar coming out as well. Wormstar’s Turning Red cassette

J:And then some others sort of reissues, like X-Ray Charles, that's coming out on a UK label as well, Edil's Recordings who did that latest Shocking Pinks. And, actually we’ve just teed up with an American label. I haven’t told you [Brian] this [laughs], but they’re doing a run of that Transistor’s EP that came out last September in the States.

B: On cassette?

J: Yeah, on cassette, and we’re doing the Transistors vinyl as well, so there’s another record that’s coming out!

Is that representative of people in New Zealand that you feel are doin' particularly worthwhile things at the moment, or is there anyone else that you would like to add to that list…? Do you have any dream releases?

B:Yeah, there are a couple of bands. Girls pissing On Girls Pissing who we've approached before.

J: Yeah! they’re ahh.. definitely one...

B: Except they’re umm…

Spoken for…?

B: They're on Muzai, and they like Muzai.

J: I really like Anthony Pascoe. I think he’s really fucking awesome but he’s struggled a bit, so I've always been keen to back his stuff. We've released a few of his tapes before, three actually, and Brian and I are in the process of making another little EP with him which we're actually playing drums and bass on, [and] recording, and essentially producing, so it’ll be interesting to see how that comes out. I’m pretty excited about it. Like I said, I’m a big fan of his music so it's exciting for me to have the opportunity to present it how I would my own..

Cool! Could we back-track a bit to “why should anyone play music, and why do you play music?”?

J: Yeah, we didn't really think we answered that one as well as we could of...

Okay, cool. So, why do you guys play music, and why should anyone?

J: I can’t really answer that, sorry. [laughs] Ummm, why should anyone? I don't know why other people play music. I know why I play music, but really, I can't define it. It's... It's not... It's.... [sighs] The only way I could describe it would sound like clichés. It's the fact that I enjoy doing it. It gives me a sense of purpose, it feels like I've accomplished something, ya know? That's basically my goal in life, accomplishing something that can last... To create something that can outlast me. I think everyone should have that drive, and it bothers me when... people don't. [laughs]

B: That is exactly how I feel, except you put it far more... aptly than I possibly could.

J: I'd put it far more... I can't really... Like I said before, people do things for different reasons, and I get that...

B: I wish could be happy not playing music, but I fucking can't. I gotta do it. Like it's an itch that has to be scratched...

J: Same here. I honestly would have no idea what I would do with myself if I didn't play music. I don't think wouldn't be any reason for me to be here.

Also, as a tangent, it seems like interesting times down there in Christchurch, what with significant aftershocks and a five year anniversary all in the same... same week?

J: Yeah, it's amazing. You'd have to think it was planned.

B: I'm so blasé about earthquakes now that when that 5.9 struck on Valentine's Day in February, when I was right by the sea, I watched the sea for a little bit to see if it was rushing out because of the tsunami [laughs]. And then, when I saw that there was not a tsunami, I went straight to Sumner, where the cliffs had collapsed, and then went for a swim.

Perhaps it is a little trite these days, but how do you feel that the original earthquakes affected the scene in Christchurch?

J:The what? The earthquakes you mean?

 How do you feel that the earthquakes affected the music scene? I mean, one thing I've noticed since moving up to Auckland in 2014 is how many people from Christchurch are living up here and playing in bands.

J: Honestly, it would have happened anyway. Really, I think people like that are probably itching to get out anyway, and the earthquake was just an excuse, a proper reason, ya know?

B: I think that Luke, who we were talking about before, put it quite nicely. He reckoned that all the extroverts left Christchurch and that the introverts stayed here and did cool shit. [laughs] Probably under a bit of stress which is always good for creativity. What's a better word than stress? Sort of ummm...

J: Extreme anxiety?

B: Ummm... hardship. Hardship forms creativity I guess. But that sounds a bit pretentious saying that...

J: Personally, I don't think you really sum it up very easily. Like with anything, there is a lot of contributing factors so it is really hard to say how things would be different now if the earthquakes didn't happen. There's no way of telling, but I can't imagine they would be that different, because I don't really feel really like my life has changed that much.

B: I'd still be playing music.

J: I'm still doing the same things I did 4 years ago.

B: Possibly would have been slightly better off musically, cause Goodbye Blue Monday, a bar that I used to play at all the time, fell down in the earthquake. And I was playing in band that was doing pretty well, and sort of...that and a number of other factors meant that it kinda lost momentum. But that's a bit an excuse cause it was probably losing momentum anyway...

Who's to say..

J: But it was a while ago now, man. It was, what, 5 years ago now, 5-and-a-half years ago. It's a long time...

I was just going to say, that I'd heard from many people (I suppose they must be the extroverts) that it was still a bit dire down there, in the central city at least, in terms of the...

J: But it all depends on the the people that you're speaking to, you know? Like, it depends what they enjoy in life, really. It depends on what they think makes the city have something about it. What I love about Christchurch is still the same. It all depends on what you think is good.

Right, yeah. It's interesting. Anyway, all I was going to say was I was quite taken aback when I last visited last October 2015 seeing, you know, nought but carparks in the central city.

J: It's good, there are plenty of parks.. [laughs]

A driver's dream, except that the roads are still very bumpy!

J: Some of them are pretty bad, yeah. Especially around here in Richmond.

B: Actually, a good plus side of that is that the boy racers moved out to the Hornby.

J: Yeah! You're right! That killed the boy racers! That was one fucking terrible thing before the earthquake, and yeah, honestly, it's a difference of night and day...

Sounds like there is more than one silver lining to it then...

B & J: Yeah! [laughs]

J: Yeah, and they haven't come back.

B: Oh, they probably will once the roads are fixed, but that's probably still like five years away. Or 25 years...

J: Maybe its a coming-of-age thing as well. The generation that were teenagers when Fast And Furious came out, they're all 24 with two kids now.

The Dance Asthmatics are touring around the country this week in support of the Lifetime of Secretion EP beginning tonight at the Wunderbar in Lyttelton. Here's the full details...

Thursday 3rd March, Wunderbar, Lyttelton
Friday 4th March, Meow, Wellington
Saturday 5th March, Golden Dawn, Auckland
Sunday 6th Audio Foundation, Auckland (day show)

related gigs
The Dance Asthmatics with Invisible Threads
Sat 5th Mar, Golden Dawn: Tavern of Power, Auckland

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