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Joe Blossom

Joe Blossom

Interviewed by
Courtney Sanders
Friday 26th April, 2013 8:50AM

Sean O'Brien A.K.A Joe Blossom released his critically acclaimed debut album, Nocturnes, back in 2011 and is preparing to follow that up with the release of a couple of singles over the next few weeks, plus a live performance at 95bFM's B-Street next Thursday, May 2nd. UTR caught up with Sean to find out what he's been up to in the interim between old and new material, and how those experiences have affected his new output.

Sean! What have you been up to since you released your last album?

A range of things... I lived in the USA for a spell, toured there last year with the band, came back to New Zealand, did a spell of farming at home and have been writing new music with me best mate and collaborator Chris Fawdray. Of late, I'd say I've been a hermit of sorts. Haven't rolled it down Cuba St much.

You've been working on new material, is this part of an EP or album? Tell me what you're working towards at the moment.

New album. For sure. Nothing surer. No title as of yet.

You've released the first single, 'Tyger Tyger' today: tell me about the writing and recording of this one.

Well, this song is a bit of a homage to the poets and sages through the ages. We were writing at Waitarere Beach and I stopped into a secondhand bookstore in Levin where I bought a heavy anthology called The New Golden Treasury of Verse. Lyrics for me always take time to come together and foreseeing this, I thought reading poetry might bring about some lyrical fluency. And so I began reading before I went to sleep and first thing when I woke up. That book is a real treasury because it reminds you of how the human condition is constant – perennial. You can go and read about it 400 years ago, but not in the language of historians... rather, the economy of verse. There's always something elusive about poetry. Good poetry is a glorious glimpse.

In terms of the arrival of the song, Chris and I were lucky enough to have a series of writing sessions at the beach and then on the home farm north of Feilding. 'Tyger Tyger' just arrived one evening after Regan got in from the shed. It's a little unusual in that it is a linear song. It doesn't repeat itself. I don't think we consciously set out to do that, it just seemed natural at the time.

By the way, I found that reading poetry before bedtime improves dreams by 67%. You should try it, Courtney.

Was there anything you were particularly influenced or inspired by while writing 'Tyger Tyger' and the new material?

William Blake would be a starter and the literary tradition as mentioned above.

Musically and sonically? The main drivers have been Chris and I deciding to commit to collaborating full time and therefore grappling with how to perform live in a downsized format. We started to look at tools and toys and this song is a direct result of that – it's in the bones of it. We have a good creative tension between us where we approach music in different, but complementary ways.

How would you compare the new single and output to earlier work? Was there anything you wanted to continue to achieve or anything you wanted to do differently?

What this song carries in common with the Nocturnes material is the desire to write pop. What will differentiate the new album is simple desire to improve and to explore. A mate described 'Tyger Tyger' as "neo-pop" and the next single has been described by another as "croon-hop." So I guess we're exploring new forms... insofar as them being new forms to us.

We've also had a line-up change, as Regan's now farming and so there's a new collaborative palette. We have Phill Jones from Urbantramper and Holly Beals from Family Cactus aboard - both gifted artists.

We just want to improve and I guess that can manifest itself in different ways. That's the enjoyment for us.

You've spent a fair bit of time overseas over the past couple of years: tell me about the musical experiences you had and how they impacted your sound and output?

Yep, I've been mainly in the USA. Last year we bought a van in San Francisco and drove across to New York performing as we went.

It's a stimulating place. It's big, you're anonymous, there's a lot going on and it's musically very diverse. We met some brilliant musicians and bands. I think being over there reaffirms your confidence to just do your thing artistically. Question things and be confident in your answers... they're the best answers you have at the time.

What are your plans for 2013?

Survive. Complete this album and take it to the USA with the support of a label based there. We'd also like to look at Europe... Might need to start up a finance company or something!