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Premiere: Kane Strang Shares Video 'It’s Not That Bad' + Interview

Premiere: Kane Strang Shares Video 'It’s Not That Bad' + Interview

Chris Cudby / Tuesday 31st July, 2018 10:16AM

Auckland via Dunedin songsmith Kane Strang's 2017 studio album Two Hearts and No Brain has been the gift that keeps giving, a high watermark collection of heartfelt yet zen guitar-pop which prompted an arresting run of eyebrow-raising singles and captivating video releases, earning the artist a well-deserved nomination for this year's Taite Music Prize. He's now unveiled the latest and possibly final clip from that record 'It’s Not That Bad' which we're thrilled to premiere here, a collaboration with director Julian Vares, pairing that song's cinematic riffage and opaque sentiment with evocative and slightly eerie footage of Strang's band cutting loose live.

The success of Two Hearts and No Brain saw Strang embark on an extensive international touring schedule with his band, and relocate his base of operations to leafy super city suburb Eden Terrace, where he's currently hard at work on a new collection of tunes. The artist kindly took time out to chat with Chris Cudby about his latest video, his thoughts around song-craft, upcoming plans and more. Wrap your eyes and ears around 'It’s Not That Bad' and read their conversation below...

Hi Kane, what have you been up to today?

Today, I’ve just been doing a little bit of writing, like songwriting and yeah, just not a whole lot really. I’m sort of in the midst of demo-ing and settling up up here still. It’s been good though.

My girlfriend moved here (Auckland) around a year ago for a job and I just saw… it was inevitable for me to move up here because of that. Once it all quietened down after all the touring and stuff last year, I finally made the move.

How are you finding it, living in Auckland?

I love it, to be honest. The change of scene has been really good for me and it’s been a really nice change. Lots of good food, which I like.

I’ve just been in Dunedin my whole life and was just feeling pretty uninspired there. Up here, I’ve just been feeling refreshed, which is good because I’m writing songs properly for the first time in years [laughs]. The last album I did, I wrote a lot of those songs straight after I finished my first album, which was around 2015, so that’s a long time ago now and a couple of tracks were even older then that. I redid a couple of tracks I wrote in 2013. So it’s really helped me get back into songwriting, being in this new environment.

Would you be able to tell us a little about your new video and how it came together?

It’s a very simple concept. Julian just happened to be coming down to Dunedin. I think he was doing some location scouting for another video he was working on. He had some free time and asked me if I wanted to do something for another track, because he’s been enjoying the album and had a few ideas. We wound up shooting just a performance video really in the panel beaters that my dad runs. Which was kinda weird, but he just asked like “do you have access to quite a big space?” because he wanted to try shooting us in the dark with a torch attached to the camera and things like that, and just muck around with a bunch of different lighting and stuff. That’s what we wound up doing. It was nice to do one with my band again because the last couple have been just me, by myself, being like a horrible actor or awkward or something.

I like the one where you’re a ghost in the mansion.

That was a strange shoot. We shot that around the same time as, actually this was even before that. We shot this months ago and we’ve just been waiting for the right time to put it out… because my album turned, it was like its one year birthday a couple of weeks ago, on the 30th of June, I think. So we decided we’d try to get it out around this time, before it gets too old. You can’t keep releasing videos more than a year after the album’s been out. That’s kinda milking it, right?

I don’t know what the rules are with music.

Yeah, there must be some kind of rule, I don’t know, but that's all good.

Were there anything specific that inspired the lyrics to ‘It’s Not That Bad’?

I’ve always kind of liked songs where the mood of the instrumentation contradicted the lyrics. A lot of times, these songs that I’m talking about often have really happy sounding music but incredibly sad lyrics. There’s something really powerful about that. This one I sort of tried to do the opposite I guess. It’s kind of an intense, sort of heavy, dark sounding song, instrumental but the lyrics are kinda positive. I’m not being sarcastic when I say “it’s not that bad.” I really mean it. It is meant to be a positive song lyrically. I dunno, that probably sounds really crazy.

No, that makes a tonne of sense. Your songs are very lyrically driven and carefully constructed, I remember being quite struck by the maze-like structure of ‘My Smile Is Extinct’, as well as how funny and sad that song is. I was wondering what kind of work is involved in the writing of your songs?

Quite a lot to be honest. It’s different every time. I definitely don’t have any kind of routine when it comes to songwriting, which comes about because I have a really short attention span and I have to do everything differently each time to stay interested in songwriting. Lyrically, I have sort of a stockpile of lyrics which I just pulled from for ages. Eventually that ran out and I had to start thinking on the spot again, which was really kind of scary at first but like I said it’s different every time, so it’s kind of hard for me to answer. I like lyrics that are quite blunt and straightforward. Once again, I like songs where there are contradictions or just clashing elements, like really blunt lyrics mixed in with really vague lyrics. It’s just a way to catch people off guard or keep people interested in the song.

Is it like reinventing the wheel each time, or is it not that crazy?

I definitely have my habits and ways of writing songs, that I don’t even realise I’m doing. They're so ingrained in the process that it just happens but one way I try to change things up each time is just mucking around with different instruments. Sometimes I’ll just start with a drum beat that I’ll just program, or I started writing on the bass a lot rather than with guitar, just because I’ve played guitar as my main instrument for so long. I know I have all these habits that I just go back to every time I pick one up. So yeah, definitely, mucking around with different instruments helps me a lot and helps keep things fresh for me.

I was wondering how much you feel the flavour of your previous work is tied to the context of Dunedin?

I don’t know if it’s tied to Dunedin that much. Even though I’ve lived In Dunedin my whole life, I have done a bit of travelling and that’s actually often when I’ve wound up writing the most, when Ive been removed from Dunedin. I’ve kind of realised that I’m most creative when I’m moving around and in a lot of different ways really, location-wise from city to city, but also I’ve realised that even just going out for a walk in a new place just really gets my mind going. Recently when I’ve been writing, I’ve written most just in my head when I’ve been out, rather then just sitting locked up in my room, slouched over a guitar. I just can't do that anymore, I can't write when I’m just sitting in the same old house. I think I almost need to be in a new city to be writing, which is strange because I don’t wanna walk around, walk down the street with my guitar, like some kind of travelling musician. But there’s something about moving that gets my brain going. Long story short, I don't think it’s tied to Dunedin that much, which might surprise some people.

What have you got planned for the coming year. Do you have any releases or tours coming up?

Not at this point in time, to be honest. I’m kind of just trying to write at the moment, like I said. That’s kind of the only thing on my mind. I think I did need a bit of a break from playing shows after last year, but I definitely am starting to miss it a little bit and I’ll try to tour as a soon as it makes sense to again.

Last year’s album was really well received, getting a nomination for the Taite Music Prize and all that. Have any interesting opportunities arisen from that reception?

The biggest opportunity is just the touring really. We just made so many contacts and met so many amazing people throughout those tours last years. I dunno, its strange, it wasn’t that long ago that the concept of touring internationally was like… I just didn't even consider it to be possible, and now I feel like we can go anywhere and make it work with the help of some person we’ve met along the way.

I’ve had a couple of random offers to write hooks for people and stuff but I haven’t gotten on it yet. I need to write my own shit first.

'Two Hearts and No Brain' is out now via Dead Oceans.


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