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Old Loaves Unleash New Album 'Banks' + Interview

Old Loaves Unleash New Album 'Banks' + Interview

C.C. / Interview by Fluffy / Friday 26th July, 2019 12:09PM

Old Loaves have made their triumphant return with Banks, the Auckland / Hamilton / Rotorua trio's emotionally and sonically intense first studio record since 2012's Drowser. Primarily recorded in Hamilton over four years, the hard-hitting long player delivers a cathartic reflection on the team of Ben Ward, Cameron Reid and John Strange's recent experiences with "strokes and death and birth” – Reid suffered from a stroke (thankfully he's since recovered) and re-learnt how to play the drums during the album's creation, and tragically original bass player Kalem O’Brien died by suicide after the bulk of Banks had been recorded. Ward opened up about the record and the band's challenging journey in an in-depth conversation with Fluffy you can read below. Listen to Banks and head along to their launch party happening this Saturday at Whammy Bar, with support from Tooms, Swallow The Rat and Repairs...

Old Loaves
Banks album release party
Saturday 27th July - Whammy Bar, Auckland w/ Tooms, Swallow The Rat, Repairs

Tickets available HERE via UTR

Fluffy: What inspired Banks – the concept and the genesis behind it?

Ben Ward: I guess that all ties into the lyrical content of it. The photo of the album cover is shot at a place called Banks Ave in Mt Maunganui and that’s where I grew up. Basically the album is going back and looking at a time where I was living there, when I was pretty unwell, [working] a dead end job and struggling with depression and stuff. I used this album as a way to go back and look at that time and basically put it behind me in a way, that was a good way to do that.

On the technical side, who recorded it and where?

It was recorded at a place called The Dank, which is out in Kelston, in a lockup / shed by this guy called Dave Hine. Dave’s a legend in the punk scene, he was in Missing Teeth and he’s in a band called Murderchord now. It was over two weekends we recorded it... all live but we had to go and redo the bass, because that messed up somehow in the live session then I went in and did vocals, cleaned those up as I could.

Being scattered across several cities must make writing somewhat challenging. How do you guys get around that? Do you email each other demos or is there lots of weekend driving?

That’s probably what took us so long to do. I was going back and looking at when we actually started... ‘Hounds’, I had written that in 2014 so it’s been sitting there for a while, but I think we actually got down to business in 2016. At the time both Cam and John were living in Hamilton so I would just drive down on a Sunday. We’d probably just do it like once a month. What made it really easy was Cam had an electric drum kit, so we basically just plugged everything into Garageband so we had these pretty good rough demos after each practice. We’d just spend a Sunday doing that and we’d take them away and put vocals on them, or if we wanted to rewrite parts of it that we didn’t like, we could do that. It was really cool to be able to do that, because we could just do it in the day and have that time away with it on our own to figure out if we needed to do something different. Rather then what we used to do, was put a phone in the middle of a loud band room and never really got anywhere with that.

That sounds like a good process.

It was actually kind of a master stroke, it made it so much easier. Especially when I went to write the melodies and the vocals, because obviously we do all the music first and then I’d take them away and write the vocals and stuff. It just made it a lot easier for me to write the melodies and actually work on different harmonies that I could then take back to the boys and get them to do them live. It was really helpful for that reason.

I read in the press release for Banks that it “immortalises the challenging and affirming experiences of strokes and death and birth”. The latter two I can envision with Cam being a recent father. If it’s not too personal, could you shed some light on the stroke part of that?

Yeah so, I got a text one morning from Cam’s partner Alex and he had had a stroke overnight. That was pretty crazy, he’s the same age as me. I’m not too sure of the full story but he went to physio, he was having a weird thing and the physio kind of noticed quite stroke-like symptoms and basically called him an ambulance. He had a couple of quite major strokes. It completely knocked him but he completely recovered and there was nothing physical in his face, but he basically had to relearn how to play the drums again and that was while we were writing this and recording it. We booked in two weekends even just to record the drums because we were just going to take it song by song and see how we went. I think he used the album to really make him relearn drums and kind of pull him out and use it as a recovery in a way. I know he holds this album quite dear.

That’s heavy, but with seemingly a positive outcome.

The birth stuff is, I had a son over that time. Which is amazing but challenging at the same time. The death side is our original bass player took his own life. We had done most of the album so there’s no direct reference to that. He had heard some of those songs because I was still in contact with him, but I think that was a huge shock and while the album doesn't have any reference to that, it’s a huge part of it, he was a huge part of the band. It was all just a huge hit to the whole band actually. When we play some of the songs that he was a part of, I think it will be forever something to remember him by, which is an awesome thing for us to have.

One of my most memorable times seeing you guys play was at Hamtown Smackdown last year which I think was not too long after Kalem’s passing. I thought that it was pretty evident in you guys’ performances that emotions were running high.

I think that was the first show we did after that had happened and I know that we played the song ‘Half Ounce’ that Kalem used to sing on. I think I had processed it a bit more than Cam had, but after we played that we went offstage and we were just cuddling and crying and it was a super emotional time. I think we couldn't play ‘Half Ounce’ again for a few sets because it was such a journey and it still is. I think we always really enjoyed playing that with Kalem, because he’d come in with his crazy vocals and his bass tone was always real evident in that. I think once we played that it was kind of quiet and it was like “whoa, this is crazy, this is huge” and I think we’ll always have that when we play that song now. Some nights we won't be able to play it because it is such an emotional and meaningful song to us.

I wanted to ask you more broadly about finding a balance between putting emotions into performances and doing so sustainably and genuinely. I always appreciate bands that put their whole selves into something but I found in myself that it’s challenging to do that consistently. What are your thoughts on that?

I guess we don’t play a lot and for me personally, all this new stuff on Banks is from a really emotional place. There’s definitely some lyrics on here that it is a struggle to deliver them, even live. I’m always big on if you’re feeling down on something, it’s really good to talk about it, and to be able to do that through song it’s quite good. On a live perspective, yeah, to be honest, every live performance takes it out of us. Not just physically but emotionally as well. I’d always call us an emotional, heavy band. The music is really rooted in emotion and that’s where it all comes from, I think. To keep it consistent maybe we don’t play as much as we should but as soon as we start playing it just takes us to a place where it just comes out.

I think there’s definitely merit to building suspense towards playing shows.

I think that’s a thing too. We became a band in the Wellington scene and there’s an awesome scene down there. We’ve always picked our shows, we never played too much because I want it to be special to those people that really enjoy our music. We do have some really loyal fans, I think. We often get people come up to us after shows, which is awesome that people really enjoy it and they probably want us to play more, but I think if we did do that too much, it probably would take away the specialness of the old performances. If you see someone every week, it tends to lose that specialness and it probably would lose that for us. So [not playing live often] makes every show really exciting and probably how we bring that emotion too.

Your album release show is [this Saturday]. Tell us a little about the occasion and the bands that you’re playing with.

I think Whammy is my favourite bar, talk to anyone who knows... I knew I wanted the album release to be there. The bands we’ve brought on is just based on personal preference. The Repairs guys we played with this year at The Vault. They’re lovely people. It was really cool for us, they were really thankful and Tooms is one of our drummer’s favourite bands at the moment, so he’s like “we must get them”. Swallow The Rat are a band that we’ve been meaning to play with. I haven’t seen them live yet but I’ve just really enjoyed their last few tracks so I’m really looking forward to it. It’s more party vibes. We’re gonna run through some new stuff and some old stuff and yeah, basically celebrate this album that we’ve been working on for four years.

If you are concerned about yourself or a friend please reach out to Lifeline at 0800 543 354.


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Old Loaves Album Release
Sat 27th Jul
Whammy Bar, Auckland