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Interview: So Laid Back Country China

Interview: So Laid Back Country China

Wednesday 3rd August, 2016 4:10PM

Ever since So Laid Back Country China released their singles 'Garden Lost Child Pt 1' and 'Pt 2' earlier this year, they've been on high rotation at the UnderTheRadar offices and so it was with great excitement that we were finally able to lay our ears on their brand album Sin Cristales last week.

Sin Cristales is a progression of the Wellington group's desert-rock sound which we first got a taste of on last year's debut album With Knees Of Honey in Goodbye Canyon. This latest offering pushes things out further with a big, sprawling and powerful sound that demands your attention and certifies the group as one of New Zealand’s most exciting new bands.

We wanted to catch up with the group before they head out on the road for their album release shows, so we dropped a line to guitarist and singer Michael Keane to find out everything we wanted to know - including how they got the name So Laid Back Country China....

UTR: Let’s kick things off by finding out a bit more about you guys. Can you tell us who you are and your roles in the band?

MK: Harriet Ferry plays the keys and sings, Kane Tippler plays the drum kit, James “Tequila” Bennett plays the four string bass guitar, and I (Michael Keane) play the guitar and sing. We live in Wellington.

What was your reason for forming and where did the name So Laid Back Country China come from? It’s an interesting one...

We formed four years ago, as a duo, exploring songs I had written. Harriet and I wanted a big, slow, bass heavy sound, inspired by country. It was somewhat of a reaction to the limited regions country music could be pushed. The name stuck after I used the phrase to try and explain to an early drummer how to play a part - long, confusing, fragile and a little bit country.

I feel like country music has been gaining momentum and inspiring NZ bands more over the past few years. Have you always been a fan of country and noticed this change?

I’ve always been a fan of country, as has Harriet. I feel less like it’s gaining momentum, more that it is changing, becoming part of a New Zealand (or even Southern Hemisphere) sound. The song style, raw lyrics, personal themes - Jack Ladder from Sydney comes to mind. You wouldn’t call his records country, but I love the same things about him I love about Randy Travis. It felt that only a few years ago there were a wagonload of New Zealand Americana acts touring, but maybe that’s something completely different - more theatre than music perhaps.

The first two singles off Sin Cristales, Garden Lost Child, Pt 1 and Garden Lost Child Pt 2 have a bigger and more cinematic feel than last year's album With Knees Of Honey in Goodbye Canyon. How did the writing of Sin Cristales differ to the first album?

We now have a larger body of material to work our sound off, and know how we work together much better. Sin Cristales, as with With Knees of Honey in Goodbye Canyon, was written mostly as a complete album, however we paced ourselves much more, pulling songs to pieces before deciding where they sat.

Is there any themes that string the album together?

El caer por una ventana sin cristales, falling out a window without glass. Someone once used the Spanish phrase to describe a song we had recorded, and the without glass/glassless term had always stuck with me. I stopped drinking this year, and glassless seemed to fit the period of writing.

Was drinking becoming a problem for you and giving you that falling/out of control feeling, hence why it stuck and seemed fitting?

Yeah - stopping needed to happen.

I get the feeling the band emphasis on visual aesthetic with video’s and artwork. It’s definitely haunting and steeped in a dark country way that reminds me of artists like Nick Cave and The Veils. Is this the case or does it just come through in an organic way?

We have used a lot of photography, both found and new, for our visual artwork, and definitely see it as a very important (if not equal to the music) part of producing our albums - the imagery is always being established as the songs are being written.

The album comes with an accompanying zine/booklet, can you tell me a little more about that?

It’s a collection of photography, early lyrics and score scans. It is a record of the imagery we collected while writing. There will be a limited number of physical copies available on our August tour, but the digital version is available here.

Are you looking forward to getting out and touring the album. How does playing live compare to the writing and recording side for you?

We’re really excited to take these songs on tour. Because we write and record as an album, the songs all become part of the live show at the same time. It’s great to feel the energy shift as they become a live performance.

What has the band got lined up for the rest of the year?

We have this August tour coming up and then another album no doubt. Hopefully we will make it around the country again in the summer. We would love to take the set down to the South Island.

UnderTheRadar Proudly Present...

So Laid Back Country China

Friday 5th August, Whammy Bar, Auckland w/ Greenfog + Oscar Dowling
Saturday 6th August, Nivara Lounge, Hamilton in support of Jakob w/ Desbot
Friday 12th August, San Fran, Wellington w/ prizegiving and Womb
Saturday 13th Snails, Palmerston North w/ Droid Rage + Fruit Juice Parade

Tickets to the Auckland and Wellington show available HERE at UTR


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So Laid Back Country China - Sin Cristales Tour
Fri 12th Aug
San Fran, Wellington
So Laid Back Country China - Sin Cristales Tour
Sat 13th Aug
Snails, Palmerston North