Interview: Fantails

Interview: Fantails

Friday 6th June, 2014 12:19PM

Political pop punk trio Fantails have been active on the Wellington live scene for the last four years and in that time have managed to push out two albums, Shake Your Tail Feather (2011) and Matariki Mayhem (2012). The two releases are packed tight with lean, fast-paced tracks that utilise a multi-lingual approach to songwriting, waxing lyrical in English, French and Maori to get the band's message across. Fantails approach to delivering a power packed statement has proved them to be a good fit to play support for next week's White Lung and Upset show at capital venue Bodega. With that in mind, we thought it might be a good time to catch up with the trio and ask them Seven Quick Questions...

Hi Fantails, can you tell me a bit about yourselves and how you got together?

Fantails started out as a two-piece with Sarsha on guitar and vocals and Charlie on drums. We'd known each other for quite a while, going to the same shows for a few years and all so decided we should start a band together. We pretty much decided to get a bassist after the first album, just to fill out the sound a bit. We met Anna very soon after deciding this and we were stoked that she was keen to join Fantails. We've been a three-piece for a couple of years now and Anna helps out on backing vocals too.

Your songs are performed in Maori, French and English... why those three languages?

Sarsha: I chose to use Maori and French lyrics in addition to English mainly to continue using Maori and French languages that I'd started learning when Fantails had just begun. I have both Maori and French heritage so in that regard their usage for Fantails is on a personal level. I also wondered why so few punk bands in Aotearoa don't used Maori lyrics. I've always thought of punk as a more inclusive scene and a space that challenged mainstream norms so I think using Maori lyrics fits well with that kaupapa. Also some of my favourite punk bands are French so French lyrics are a nod to that too.

The songs you write have elements of activism, can you tell us a bit about your political ideologies?

Sarsha: For me my politics is loosely based on the premise of respect and equality. This comes from my anarchist background, being involved in the Wellington anarchist scene for the past 10 years or so. But with all political ideologies I think there can be mismatches between its theory and practice. I feel a little uncomfortable these days with aligning to any one political ideology. I think political thought and bases should have room for revision in order that individual and community needs are considered and prioritised. I find music really helpful in exploring political and community desires and I tend to involve myself more in music than activist organisation these days to express political sentiment.

What was the musical turning point that influenced you to write songs that went beyond a catchy hook and actually have deeper meaning?

Sarsha: I think punk music is littered with political and activist thought. Sure there's the mindless, hedonistic strain of punk but I find myself more attracted to music with a little more depth. Influences for me when Fantails were first starting out included La Fraction and The Assassinators – both European bands. They both have catchy as melodic songs with anarchist/activist leanings. I always draw inspiration for playing music from my friends and their bands including The DILFs, Johnny and the Felchers, Influence, Hex, Canine, name a few. They make me excited about playing music and being involved in punk communities.

Charlie: Even though there are those bands that play simple melodies with not a lot of substance to it I tend to deviate towards the more complex rhythms and melodies with in punk. Lyrically Sarsha is in charge. I usually get put on the spot a bit with Fantails and have to come up with something relatively quickly. I think the more we play the faster the process happens and being passionate about what we are doing adds to the depth of our Music. Influences for me are definitely Gorilla Angreb, X, Zounds, Generation Suicida to name a few but listening to my friends play in their bands and being involved with in the community surrounding punk is probably the most influential.

As a band consisting of all women, do you think you get treated differently on the punk scene from your male counterparts?

There's some positivity to being an all women punk band. It's a point of difference that makes us stand out. But we don't just rely on that factor. We are passionate about music and playing and we think that comes across in our performances. The Wellington punk scene is one of the few places where being a female in a band isn't seen as unusual. Most shows organised in the scene will naturally include female members. The only times we cop slack is when we play shows in bars that are not use to punk bands and seeing females holding their own musically. Don't see why this should be surprising but unfortunately mainstream societal norms groom sexism and we sometimes get “Jonos” out on the piss on a Saturday night who happen upon our shows end up saying shit like “whoa you play alright for chicks” or say something about girls playing music being hot. Yuck. That shit doesn't fly for the most part in punk scenes we've participated in.

How do you find the live scene in Wellington, and what would make it better?

It's pretty small but close-knit. There's a lot of support from friends in the scene and in other bands. There's a lack of music venues in Wellington at the moment. We'd love ones that are more band-oriented rather than being focused on making a buck. A higher number of places that are more inclusive of alternative and underground scenes would be awesome too. The few that are like this are great, but it would be good to have a few more of them! Also having a greater cross-over between genres at shows would be pretty mean.

You’re last release was Matariki Mayhem in 2012. What future plans do you have for Fantails?

We're planning an Australian tour for the end of this year and hope to do some recording before then as well. We've also had some new t-shirts designed and printed recently. They were designed by Xoe Hall and we're real stoked with them. Also really excited to be playing support for White Lung and Upset. And we also have No Future Fest which we will be performing at on 14th June at Valhalla as a send off for our friends' band The Methadonnas from Palmerston North. At some point we'd like to head over to Europe to travel around and play shows but that will be a bit further down the track.

Fantails is a bit of a labour of love and like most musicians we have to fund things ourselves and have day jobs so don't always have time and money to do all the things we want to musically. But we're all pretty happy with the pace things are going at the moment for Fantails and enjoy the DIY, grassroots nature of punk scenes.

Fantails are supporting White Lung and Upset for their show on 12th June at Bodega, Wellington. Head over here for more details and ticketing for the tour.

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