Interview

The Family Cactus

The Family Cactus

Monday, 9th August 2010 12:28PM

Interview with Adam Ladley of Wellington band The Family Cactus who have just released their debut album Come Howling.

Been around since?

The end of 2007!

Current line up?

Adam Ladley: guitars, keys, vocals
Peter Smith: guitar, bass
Sam Norton: rhodes, synths, pianos, organs
Kris Taylor: drums, percussion
Nina Siegler: vocals, accordian box, percussion
Max Walker: guitars, synths, bv's
Graeme Cummack: guitar, keys

Where are you based?

Wellington.

Musical history?

What started off as a flippant idea between Nina and me became a proper and rather serious band! It just happened that Kris (drummer, formally in Pig Out) and Peter (bassist formally in The Cosbys, and numerous Lil’Chief bands at various stages) both moved down to Wellington. I was in Grand Prix and Graeme (guitarist) was in The Accelerants formally also. Then all seven members somehow met if they didn’t know each other previously, and started making music and then playing shows. It all happened rather organically really.

The seven members bring a whole bag of references to play once we get writing music – far too many to list!

How would you describe your sound?

Indie and melodramatic most probably. Full of dynamics – troughs and peaks!

What are you listening to at the moment?

I’ve has been listening to: Lawrence Arabia’s ‘Chant Darling’, Neko Case’s ‘Middle Cyclone”, Wild Bill Rickett’s ‘John Dryden’, Grizzly Bear’s ‘Veckatimest’, The National’s ‘Cherry Tree EP’, Animal Collective’s ‘Merriment Weather Post Pavilion’, Sunset Rubdown’s ‘Dragon Slayer’, Mint Chick’s ‘Screens’, Dirty Projector’s ‘Bitte Orca’, and Bob Dylan’s ‘Together Through Life’. And Danger Mouse and Sparklehorse’s ‘Dark Night of the Soul’… amazing.

What were you listing to in High School?

Lots, but Tom Waits, Sparklehorse, The Pixies, and Radiohead stand out. (But, Nina - because she’s German - would probably say Hasselhoff).

What is your writing/recording process?

Adam normally brings the bones of songs, and the band then talk about them/pull them apart/try different arrangements etc, and them fill them out together. When it comes to recording, Graeme and me usually demo the ideas around any lyrical ideas, before turning to a real non-lounge studio! We have been privileged to have recorded with Lee Prebble at The Surgery and more recently up at Neil Finn’s Roundhead Studios.

Your Dream Collaboration?

I think everyone on ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ or ‘Dark Was The Night’ would be great.

Tell us about your new album…

Come Howling was recorded towards the end of last year. So we’ve been sitting on it thinking about the best way to release it. We recorded the ten tracks that made the album over two weeks at The Surgery with the talented Dr Lee Prebble. Most of the songs we managed to cut as live takes, with some post-production in the form of sonic exploration or just exploration of other melodies or whatever. It’s quite a dense and headphonesy record, with many counter melodies and rhythmically interesting parts and instrumentation swirling about. But really it’s all based around cohesive (almost pop) songs. It also featured some guests on it, like Tom Watson from Cassette on trumpets and Will Ricketts from The Phoenix Foundation on percussion and vibraphone. Lee even sampled his Timpani chops!

“Kingmaker” has had a lot of airplay and rightly so – tell us about it?

Yeah, that’s odd. It’s a song about overcoming that creeping stagnation that sometimes comes on. That feeling that you aren’t doing enough on all fronts; that your time is running out. The whole living through answer phones / never checking answer phones analogy is about never completely coming to terms with what this feeling is, where it comes from, and being too caught up in the present to reflect on such things. You can’t control it or check it, but you feel there’s an important and potentially damaging message there – a bit Joseph K-esque, really! But musically, I guess it’s a little more upbeat than that!

If you could have any original vinyl release in the world what would it be?

Um…

Of all the instruments you own, or have owned, what is your favourite?

Probably my stock standard piece of wood Fender Tele or 1956 Watkins Dominator amp. Peter would probably say his old Squire Strat! We’ve nicknamed it ‘The Barbed Tounge’. He loves that thing.

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learnt musically in the last year?

Actually, quite a modest thing really. What amazed us being up at Roundhead Studios, was that although there was some unbelievable stuff there, it had all been accumulated and put to use in ways that served amazing song craft. Sure it’s awesome fun to screw around with 6 tape-delays and envelope filters (and we’ll always do that!), but the message or story in the songs, and how do you best musically impart that, has become more important now. We’re working on bettering our song craft!

What has been your favourite show to date?

That we’ve played? Supporting Okkervil River was pretty great. Or actually seeing? Humphrey Lyttleton Quartet, Sigur Ros, Supergrass, Beck and then Radiohead with four encores at South Park Oxford was quite a show.

If you could share the stage with anyone (band or person) who would it be?

The Band?

The future holds…?

More and more playing. Most immediately our album release, some summer shows, and hopefully overseas for a brief sojourn next year. But in the meantime, continue to cut our chops and do way more recordings.

The state of music in NZ is….

Financially, maybe not the best. Bills keep coming and coming, you know?! Who knows who might want to buy this record?! But creatively, I think it’s never been healthier! There are so many amazing records being pumped out here… way too many to list. I think we feel a bit odd and modest about chucking our debut in this lot! But there is also a very healthy scene – which I’m sure has always been there and will continue to grow – of NZ musicians helping each other out. We’ve benefited from this greatly.

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