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Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Thursday 21st February, 2013 11:00AM

Popstrangers release their debut full length album, Antipodes, on Friday (via New York label Carpark Records and Rhythmethod here) and are playing an album release show at Flagship Studios. UTR caught up with front man Joel Flyger to discuss making the album, what it's about and how everything with Popstrangers is finally coming together.

Hey Joel! How does it feel to have the album out finally?

It’s really good aye. I got a box of the records and I think that set it in that it was finally done. Until this morning when I went to Kiwi FM and they had a copy of the album I hadn’t held a physical one. Today’s the day that it feels complete and finished and ready to release, and I’m really happy with the way it looks.

Yeah the artwork’s awesome: where did it come from?

I went to Spain last year and Lili Sumner took a couple of photos, and I took the one of the swimming pool and she let me use the photos for the artwork, so it’s just pictures that I took from overseas.

It’s kind of funny because I made the assumption that, because the album is called Antipodes, that those were summer snaps from New Zealand.

Yeah it is funny that. I guess it’s a bit contradictory but the themes on the album are more about being in New Zealand than anywhere else.

Are they?

Yeah it’s all about isolation and wanting to do something different. When we wrote these songs it was kind of a weird time: I’d been doing the same thing for like five years and it was definitely pretty tough at the time.

Did you not know what the future would hold for the band?

Yeah it wasn’t just the band, it was me as well. I didn’t know what I wanted to do and I wasn’t happy with what I was doing in everything: where I was living for example. I knew I wanted to do something but I didn’t know what it was. I still kind of don’t but I guess now I’m a bit more determined.

Yeah well you’ve been more focussed with Popstrangers right, because the band seems like it’s starting to go somewhere?

Yeah well at least I know what’s happening for at least the next three months, which is awesome.

So you were writing these songs about isolation: how did you go about getting those themes across sonically?

Yeah I guess I always usually come up with a guitar part before the lyrics and I guess it’s more about finding a song to match the lyrics. And there are some songs on the album that are a bit more instrumental and the ideas come across in the music more directly. A song like “Heaven’ has lots of lyrics but they definitely fit the music, too. We had more songs than those on the album. We cut it down to ten to get the best songs that fitted together.

This is your debut full length: was it quite daunting putting an album together? How did you go about it?

Well we’ve changed our drummers before and that's always just screwed up the rhythm of the band and what we were doing, and we’ve always had to start again every time. Then we got funding for a single and we recorded every weekend as much as we could and we managed to finish the final five songs for the album. It didn’t feel like we were struggling to make an album: it more felt like we were recording all our songs and they just became an album.

I guess we didn’t put much thought into the tracklisting on the album and when we went to release it Carpark asked us to move the songs around and re-look at how we had put the tracklisting together. We hadn’t even thought about that before because we knew the songs so intimately: that’s the way we’d practised them, the way we recorded them, that’s the order they’ll be in. We changed it around over a weekend. We tossed around some ideas and we sent it back to Carpark and they were happy with it and now I can see it flows better. Also it’s better in terms of having Side A and Side B.

It’s pretty awesome that you got signed to Carpark: how did all of that come about?

Basically Adam is the cued-up one on internet communication because he was working of all last year in a production suite so he was in an internet all day. He gave Carpark our album when things started getting a bit messy with Flying Nun and we didn’t hear back, and then he decided to try one more time a couple months later. They liked ‘Heaven’ and a couple of the poppier songs and were keen to release it. We skyped Todd who’s the head of the record company and he sent over a contract and we signed it. We’ve done a big group Skype with all the people who work at Carpark and when we went to CMJ in October we got to meet them all and they’re so good, like unbelievably good. From our past experiences to going to them they’re like managers and everything else too. Having five people you can contact about everything is awesome.

It sounds like they’ve given you advice that has been beneficial for the actual output of Popstrangers too?

Yeah because you go from being in a band, playing shows to having a bit more drive. You make more effort and there’s more pressure and that’s good.

Tell us a little bit about that: you mentioned that when you were writing these songs you felt isolated and lost, and now the album is out and you’ve been to CMJ: what are the future plans?

Well we’re doing the album release on Friday and then we’re going to the South Island and Wellington for some shows and then we’re doing a five or six date tour of Australia. Last year when I was wondering what to do I applied for a five year Visa to the UK and Adam and Dave can get the same Visa so when we get back from Australia they’ll be waiting for those to be processed. Fingers crossed those get approved and we can relocate to the UK in April.

Carpark suggested that to have any success you were going to have to be based in the Northern Hemisphere, yeah?

Yeah basically it’s around a booking agent. We want to play shows and we’d been talking to a booking agent and he was keen to work with us but he just couldn’t see how anyone could make any money from doing it from New Zealand. I guess it does make sense, we all want to do it now too. All three of us have never wanted to do the same thing before. Someone’s been keen to stay in NZ or someone’s keen to go to America or someone wants to travel but now we all want to do the same thing.

That must be nice because it’s been a few years of unfortunate circumstnaces for you guys right?

Yeah and I think that’s part of the thing that Dave brings to the band. We actually feel like a band and it hasn’t felt like that before. It’s always felt like we’ve been working with session musicians and the guys are great but there wasn’t that band feeling, and now it feels like it.


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