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Carb On Carb Share Album 'For Ages' + Interview

Carb On Carb Share Album 'For Ages' + Interview

Stevie Kaye / Friday 4th May, 2018 9:45AM

Auckland emo-revival / post-pop punk band carb on carb have dropped their sophomore album for ages, three years after their self-titled debut. The duo of Nicole Gaffney and James Stuteley combine yearning guitar and expressive drumming with heart-on-sleeve lyrics about everything from homesickness and assimilation to intergenerational memory - "overflowing, come of age, but keep growing." They're amongst New Zealand's finest exponents of get-in-the-van touring, so it seemed fitting that Stevie Kaye had a chat to them while they were stuck in traffic. Listen to for ages and read their conversation below…

The for ages New Zealand release tour starts today - are you off to Australia after that?

Nicole: We start an Australian tour on the 31st of May, and then we go for a few days and that's it. We're gonna go back in June.

James: A couple of little tours - one at the end of May and one in July.

for ages is coming out on Black Wire Records in Australia - what's happening in New Zealand?

Nicole: We just did the CDs and stuff for New Zealand ourselves, but they shipped us the records

James: It's a group effort - they handle the records over there; Flying Out is helping out with distribution as well. I'm working on it [as Papaiti Records], and Black Wire, and Flying Out.

Your self-titled album came out on a handful of different labels - as well as the Australian and New Zealand releases, it was released in the US on Ronald Records and in Malaysia on Toothache Splinter - was that the result of touring?

James: Pretty much - it was great doing that, but it was only because we were touring. It doesn't really make sense to do it otherwise.

Nicole: We contacted a few labels in the States and tried to get it out [there] as well, but it just wasn't the right timing. But if we did go back we'd try really hard to try and get someone to do it in, well, whatever country.

What's next on your tour agenda? You've played China and South-East Asia, the US twice, Australia a dozen times...

Nicole: I think Europe, probably - we've never been. We were gonna tour Europe last year but we got overwhelmed by [touring] the States and Australia and stuff, but I think it'd be really good. Everyone always says it's the best place to tour and they treat you really well.

How long has it been since you recorded for ages?

James: We started in like - I think it was June, and then finished in July, two or three weekends.

Nicole: But we wrote it over about a year and a half, I think.

James: We started writing it two years ago and recorded it one year ago.

Did you start writing new songs immediately after your last album?

James: We left it until we'd calmed down a little bit. We were still supposed to be doing a "year on, year off" thing, so 2016 was pretty quiet and that's when we started writing more.

Nicole: Whereas 2015 we did China - did we do China? - no, that's 2013. We just toured New Zealand and Australia heaps in 2015, and in 2016 we just worked.

James: We don't really write on tour or anything, we do it at home.

Nicole: We couldn't really write on tour, it's so chaotic! I'm not even thinking about anything except where my next meal is coming from and like, where I'm gonna sleep.

Compared to your debut, for ages sees you bringing on more instrumentation - do you see this as a natural progression in your songwriting, or is it something specific for this particular album?

Nicole: [It's a] natural progression, but we thought about this album a lot more as an album, we thought about it as a whole package, and how we could make it sound really interesting. With the last album... it was a bunch of songs I'd written over a long time and then shoved all together, whereas with this one we thought about what we wanted to say.

I thought about instrumentation a lot more, talked to Miles from prizegiving a lot - kinda had him as an advisor, talking about what we should do, his ideas of instrumentation to make it more interesting. We found a celloist, Olivia, from Wellington and got her to do two songs, and then we had fruit juice parade from Palmerston North also do backing vocals for a couple of songs. It just felt right to have more people involved with the instrumentation, I think, and also more people involved in advising what they thought would be cool for it - it was nice.

Will you be playing with any of them this tour? Is that something you've done before?

James: Nah, we never have before - we're playing with the cellist next Sunday in Wellington, so that'll be exciting, though a bit nervous because obviously we've never had anyone else in the band before. It'll be quite different, but we're real excited, I've always loved the cello.

Nicole: I think at the Palmerston North show we'll probably ask the fruit juice parade kids to come up if they want to sing - yeah, it'd be cool.

Is there anything you wrote or recorded that didn't make it onto the album? You had your 2017 split single with New York band For Everest with 'Practising for Retirement' / 'Ma' where the latter's on for ages, but the former isn't.

Nicole: I don't think we scrapped any songs - we were gonna scrap one but then I rewrote the lyrics, and it turned out to be a banger. I think because we wrote for ages in a shorter space of time than the first album it was really thematic, whereas we wrote 'Practising For Retirement' a lot earlier. 'Ma' is on the album because it really fit, and while I think it was recorded really well the first time round, we wanted to do more with it, and we wanted to have it working with the following song, 'Overcompensate'; it goes straight into that and that's how we play it live. I think we really wanted to put it on the album for that beautiful transition.

for ages was mixed by Chris Teti of US emo revival royalty The World Is A Beautiful Place & I Am No Longer Afraid To Die - was it different having your album mixed by someone so far away?

James: It was heaps different! The first one was really fun when we did it with James Goldsmith, we spent a bunch of days chatting and drinking coffee and doing the mixing and stuff, and that was really easy. But we really wanted to work with Chris Teti from The World Is... because he's just made so many records that we really like, and tonally is just right. We just wanted to make it sound a bit epic, and he did a really good job. Because he understood the music better than a lot of people, it was probably just as easy as doing it in person - or maybe even easier! - because he understood where we going with it.

You didn't have to explain Midwestern emo to everyone in New Zealand.

Nicole: It was super-easy!

Speaking of which, New Zealand doesn't really have a tradition of that late 90s Midwestern sound. You've got a song on the album called 'Home Again 2' - is 'Home Again' Shihad's most emo song? Is there a secret tradition of emo in New Zealand?

Nicole: That's exactly it!

James: I would love to find out - I was talking to a sound person the other night, and they said there were some emo bands in Wellington in the 90s, but they couldn't remember the names, and I was like, I really want to find out.

Nicole: We were like, what were the names, do you know what they sound like, and he was "I dunno..."

James: If you know anything, please let us know.

Nicole: We don't know, because we grew up with a lot of Shihad, and Elemeno P, and even Goodnight Nurse and 48May. New Zealand had a really overly-funded pop-punk scene - I loved it as a teenager, I thought it was the coolest thing ever, and it just doesn't exist anymore, really. There's Openside and nothing else, and I think we really wanted to align ourselves with that. I conceptually wanna be, "This is where we came from, I listened to 48May and I loved it, and now I'm in carb on carb."

There's a strong sense of the local on this album - you mention Mitimiti up in Northland, there's references to Grey Lynn and Glenfield - was that something that came to the fore while you were touring the US and Australia?

Nicole: I think we also mention Dargaville somewhere...

Oh yeah, "Dargaville before dark" on 'Mitimiti'!

James: I mean, you're right, it definitely did come from being away touring, and we actually wrote a lot of lyrics in Australia because we were there for a few months last year while we were recording. I think Nicole's always been very vocal about loving New Zealand, but since we've been away so much in the last couple of years it's even stronger; we got really homesick at the same time we were writing 'Mitimiti' and things so ...

Nicole: When you hear a lot of emo bands and pop-punk bands talk about their American Midwest-y hometowns and how they're real shit - I think we wanted to flip it and talk about our New Zealand hometowns and the places we have travelled around New Zealand that are tiny little towns and people don't really look at them that much, but they're actually amazing and like, New Zealand's sick!

James: While we were in America, I was thinking that Americans do really well at mythologising places - these places and meals and venues and things become mythologised and internationally popular, so I think it's like a way of presenting the value of -

Nicole: Dargaville!

James: - kinda random New Zealand places.

Nicole: It's the same with prizegiving, in 'Sarah (Snow)', they mention Picton and Taup? - I think it's just really cool, every time I go through there now I think of that song and go "yeah!", or with 'Today, Tomorrow, Timaru' by Deja Voodoo - "yeah, Timaru!" just cause of those songs.

There's also a lot of lyrical concerns about family, and different generations -

Nicole: About like, family pressure and things? Definitely a part of it.

James: A lot of it's to do with coming to terms with aging, and looking out for who to be as you become an older person; looking to family for examples.

You're got local poet Freya Daly Sadgrove at your Wellington album release show, and there's other local writers like Eamonn Marra who I feel are a little emo-influenced - was any poetry an influence on for ages?

James: I don't know if poetry was specifically an influence, but there's definitely more emphasis on making it more holistic, tying the words in to the theme, and to the rest of the songs; being more careful with the words and so on. I mean, it wasn't like we saw a poet and went like, Oh, we should make our songs more like poems, but we were definitely thinking about that stuff more; taking more care.

You're one of the hardest-touring bands in New Zealand, and you hit a lot of smaller towns - seen anyone great off the beaten track?

Nicole: Ooh yeah.

James: The best one that we've seen this year was a band called Queens of Beauty School in Napier.

Nicole: Probably the best band I've seen this year, full stop. They were amazing, with Sarah Mary Chadwick-style vocals but super ... it was really good, mind-blowing, and they were like "We've never played outside of Napier before, I'm too scared to go outside of Napier and we always play at this one venue with all our friends and just like hang out here and it's comfortable and whatever" and I'm like "Aaaargh, this is amazing, play somewhere else!" - that was super-cool.

James: Definitely the standout of recent times.

carb on carb's 'for ages' release tour kicks off tonight at Christchurch's Space Academy. Stevie Kaye is a Wellington-based music writer and DJ.


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