Interview

Drab Doo Riffs

Drab Doo Riffs

Tuesday 6th September, 2011 1:45PM

The Drab Doo Riffs are about to release A Fist Full of Doo Riffs, their latest six track EP. To celebrate they are playing this Friday at The Winchester, followed by dates across the country. UTR caught up with Karl Steven to discuss the EP, the band more generally and all the other projects he has going on.

So, tell me about the EP:

Well it’s got six songs on it and an intro and an outro, and it’s our proudest one yet. We’re most proud of it and it’s going to be out on ten inch vinyl as well as CD. I guess it has a kind of a Western theme, too.

Tell me about writing and recording of it?

There’s a couple of really old ones that we’ve been playing live for at least a couple of years, including ‘Lunatic Fringe’ which is one of the earlier tracks we wrote. Also there’s some super duper fresh stuff like the song ‘Pour Vous’ which we’d recorded before we’d even played it live. ‘Scraps’ and ‘Juggernaut’ are relatively recent so there’s a real mixture which is what I like to try and have so people who know the band live get to hear a couple of songs they’re familiar with but also stuff that’s totally fresh. And the other song ‘Garden City Baby’ is pretty much the oldest song of the Drab Doo Riffs but it’s so difficult to play that while we’ve been playing for the last three years we’ve never been able to play it live or record it so that’s one that we’ve just been able to get our heads around and get on a record.

And I hear it’s about Christchurch?

Funnily enough, it’s not actually about Christchurch. There are garden cities all over this world and that one was written in Welwyn Garden City in England when I was living over there and I was on a train and it broke down and so I was stuck in Welwyn Garden City but it is particularly weird and interesting that with all the Christchurch stuff it makes it onto a record. We recently played that song a couple of times down in Christchurch and told the story to the audience and they all thought it was interesting. I guess it works on both levels.

You mentioned there was a Western theme going on, what made you want to do that?

Who knows! I guess partly that song ‘Garden City Baby’ has got a bit of a country sound to it or and we knew that was going to go on there and we knew ‘Lunatic Fringe’ was going to go on there and that has a kind of rootsy flavour as well. I think that’s what inspired it really. There’s a connection between that twangy surf guitar that we’ve always been interested in and that twangy 1960’s western movie guitar so it just kind of seems like there’s a family resemblance there so it seemed like something we could do. The scores for those Spaghetti Westerns are a bit inspiration for me and Marcus loves the art and he loves the imagery and iconography of those times.

You guys followed up the theme and the EP more generally with some really strong artwork and tactile inclusions – stickers, stamps, etc. This seems to be something you’re really interested in?

Yeah I think for us and certainly for me one of the really fun things about being in a band you get to make stuff, not just music but you get to create a whole little world of objects and an imagined world in which these objects express. So we’re really into that stuff - it’s a big part of the fun. I guess I’m not a fan of a lot of artwork that bands do. Sometimes it’s great but often you just feel like it takes the edge off the experience of buying the record because the music is incredible but the artwork is ‘so so’ so we’ve been really lucky having Marcus (Joyce) the bass-player in the band because he’s this amazing drawer and Mikey the drummer is a visual artist as well.

It seems that more generally you guys are a tactile band; playing live, releasing physical albums (and often vinyl) is a really big part of who you are, yeah?

Definitely. It’s really cool that this EP is coming up on 10" because that’s something we’ve always wanted to do and we’re so happy how the music sounds off that format. We were talking about it the other day and we feel in general that while a lot of good stuff comes along with this new technology, when you leave the old technologies behind like black and white still cameras and vinyl and typewritesr you lose a lot of good things as well and so we like to try and choose formats and choose processes that go with the art we’re making and the music we’re doing rather than just going ‘well everyone’s releasing on just digital now’ and just conform to the technology for the sake of being a slave to our robot overlords.

The Drab Doo Riffs are part of quite a strong movement in Auckland at the moment. You record and produce a lot of artists who are a part of it too. Does it seem like a special time up here at the moment?

I mean I feel like there’s definitely a realy strong artistic and creative and largely musical community in Auckland that we’re a part of. I think everyone is doing quite different things in a way. The Vietnam War whose record I produced, they seem in a way almost the opposite to the Drabs in some respect. There’s Tourettes as well who’s doing hip hop and I worked on his record so yeah there’s definitely an amazingly cool scene of friends and artists who are all working on their thing and I guess everyone is pursuing their own sound and their own vision, but we’re all very supportive of eachother and help with eachother's projects where we can.

You personally get involved in a lot of musical projects. Are you driven by the collaborative experience?

I quit music kind of when I was in my early twenties after Supergroove because I felt like the whole experience was a bit contaminated for me. I was studying in an academic sense and writing dissertations and whatnot and I did that for like twelve years and what I really missed was the collaborative side of it. When you’re writing philosophy articles it’s a solitary business and what’s great about producing records and writing music for picture and television - which is work I also do - is it’s so cool because you get to meet these new people and then sort of help out with their art projects for a few weeks and then you move onto the next one. You just get to meet lots of cool people and work on cool stuff it’s great.

What do you love about the Drab Doo Riffs in comparison to some of the other projects you do?

Well it’s a really awesome bunch of people. Like I just feel really lucky with the chemistry that the five of us have and it’s just really fun and we have a really good time working together. Also that it’s a whole world that we create when we’re together and that there’s the music and then related stuff like the artwork. And everyone’s just so energetic about the whole thing. It’s like a little family but it’s sort of the most harmonious and functional family I’ve ever been in.

And you’re having your EP release party this weekend?

That’s right we’re doing a bunch of release parties but the first one is in Auckland where we live of course at The Winchester on Friday night so that’s really exciting and then we’re going to do Hamilton and Leigh and Wellington.

And you love the live experience as the Drab Doo Riffs right? It looks like one of the cornerstones of the band?

For us playing live is the oxygen for the band. It’s just a huge part of it and in fact we’re a band that people have to try stop from playing live, we’re always into it. When we work with people they say you’ll have to play a few less gigs for a few weeks leading up to that show otherwise no-one will be there and we reluctantly put away the instruments but that’s what it’s all about and it’s where it all comes from. It’s just a very important thing in all of our lives I think, just being able to go nuts on stage with lots of loud music we created at the same time.

-Courtney Sanders




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