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Tiny Ruins

Tiny Ruins

Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Wednesday 4th June, 2014 2:00PM

When Hollie Fullbrook started making music under the moniker Tiny Ruins she was a one-woman show. Now with the release of her sophomore album, Brightly Painted One, Fullbrook has embraced a fuller sound that comes with the engagement of two more members, Cass and Alex, under the Tiny Ruins banner. The formula has worked and seen the charming album gain traction around the globe, being picked up by outfits such as BBC and the New York Times.

The talented musician has had little time to celebrate these successes, she has just returned from touring Europe where she opened for Neil Finn, as well as holding her own headline shows. And this week she is embarking on a nationwide tour, which will conclude with a special show at the defunct Crystal Palace Theatre in Mt Eden, before she heads to the States for even more touring. We managed to catch up with Fullbrook upon her arrival back in New Zealand, and had a chat about the upside of negative reviews and the challenges of making music videos...

UTR: Hi Hollie, how are you doing?

Hollie: Oh good, I’m at home in West Auckland. I just got home from Europe last night. It feels good to be back

So you were touring with Neil Finn in Europe. How was that?

It was cool. I got to experience touring with Neil Finn and then doing my own shows, which were the complete opposite. You know, going from being driven around in a beautiful tour bus and having amazing catering and staying in hotels, to driving our own tour van and doing everything very DIY. So it was a good contrast of the types of touring you can experience.

Were the crowds much different?

Totally different. Most of Neil’s shows had sold out and they were die hard Crowded House/Split Enz fans, who know all the words and by the end of the night they are standing up and singing along to everything. And then my shows, I never know what to expect anymore because it’s a real mixture of young people who have heard my music on BBC6 and blogs, to older people who have heard it through some other BBC thing. And it’s the same here in New Zealand. I’ve kind of been surprised over the years by the diverse array of my audience.

I guess that speaks to the music you are making, that is has a timeless quality…

Yeah I see it as a good thing. It’s been quite a long process of touring and releasing music and slowly chipping away, rather than a big hoo-ha about any of my stuff. I guess it’s a good testament that people are finding out about it of their own will, rather than it being forced down their throats.

When you started playing under the name Tiny Ruins it was just yourself, but now it is more of a three-piece scenario… how does that change things?

It feels more like a unified project, where the three of us are all invested in it. It’s asking other people to believe in your stuff, and the more that you play together the more that they are vested in it. It definitely complicates things because it means that I’m committed to trying to take them on tour with me, but at the end of the day the performances are way more interesting for the audiences. And the songs on new album are really enriched by having Cass and Alex play on them.

How are you feeling about the reception you’ve had for Brightly Painted One?

Well, because I’ve been on this very crazy tour schedule for the last six weeks I’ve only been catching up with it in these snatches of time I get at the end of a show. I was really relieved that I got positive reviews from Mojo and Rolling Stone, the big important reviews were really good. I have read some negative reviews as well, and that’s something you always kind of expect as an artist, before you put it out you brace yourself for them.

What were some of the negative reviews that hit home?

People have commented on it still being a really quiet album, and that there is not a lot of variation between songs. Those are two things I definitely take on board because I wanted this album to be more raucous, and I was trying to get the songs to contrast more from each other. We did try and have shades of contrast to the songs, so if people say they are all the same, then it makes me think maybe we didn’t go far enough. But you can’t really change the music you make at the end of the day. If I did suddenly break out and follow a punk aesthetic it would be confusing to people in that it wasn’t really Tiny Ruins anymore. But I do find negative reviews to be constructive, the gushy positive reviews, it’s like “well that’s really nice”, but you don’t really take anything from it.

I wanted to ask you about the video for ‘Carriages’, which has quite a tension filled concept. Where did that come from?

That was from the film director, Lucy [Luscombe]. I checked out her work and I really like her style, and so I contacted her and asked if she would be interested in making a music video. Her idea was of a stag-do gone wrong, and that it would be quite masculine and quite violent. I did take a bit of convincing, but I liked the fact she wanted to give a real contrast to the song and not make a folky video.

How do you see the concept fits with the song?

Well, the song is about longing to be somewhere else and I think that the video does relate to that, in that you feel the discomfort of the guy so acutely. It’s just so uncomfortable.

Is that how you felt when you saw the finished product?

I felt like “wow”, this is quite tense and quite different. But I liked that it provoked some kind of reaction in me rather than being some kind of boring video. I got a few people emailing me, saying “I hate the video what have you done?”, and other people were like, “this is amazing”. So overall I think that’s a good thing for a music video to provoke people to feel something. But to be honest, I have very mixed feelings about music videos in general, I can’t say I’m a huge fan of the concept, and I have refrained from making a music video until now.

Why’s that?

It’s not really my strong point to deliver something visual with my songs. I feel like music is something I understand, and film is something that I appreciate and love, but it’s a totally different medium and one I’d rather not be involved in. I resent the fact that we have to have music videos now. I think some bands are a really good have having an aesthetic that combines with their sound, and maybe I’m still in the process of getting there. But I would love it if people were just happy to listen to the music.

I guess you are a storyteller in a different medium. What inspires you to sit down and write a song?

Well, music for me is sitting down with your guitar and playing around and having fun. And then recording it again, is trying to capture a form of that song that does it justice, hopefully. And that’s quite a lot to be able to do, and do well. Maybe in the future if I have managment around me I would find it easier to get videos made.

Is that something you are looking to remedy in the future? Are you seeking management?

I’m definitely open to it, it’s about meeting the right person. I would really like a woman manager or someone who was my age. But a manager can make things more difficult. I like that I can directly talk to my labels and I kind of feel like I’ve learnt heaps about the music industry from doing it myself. It’s toughened me up and I’m not going to be fooled with by the industry, haha.

So the tour that you are kicking off this week will see you wrapping up at the Crystal Palace, which is a fascinating place…

Yeah, I thought it would be really cool to do a show in there if you could pull it off. It’s quite a big space and I think we are going to have to get in there with dehumidifiers and heating, because it will be the middle of winter, but I think it’s going to be really special. I'm actually really looking forward to that, it will actually be the biggest show we have ever attempted to put on.

See here on UTR for dates and ticketing details for the Tiny Ruins nationwide tour.



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