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Interview: Sit Down In Front Talk Jimmy Barnes, Accessibility + More

Interview: Sit Down In Front Talk Jimmy Barnes, Accessibility + More

Annabel Kean / Thursday 30th July, 2020 11:57AM

Sit Down In Front are masters of the punk-rock sentiment, big on crunchy guitars and cheeky lyrics. Most recently the teen Gisborne force of four are celebrating a single sitting in the Official NZ Music Charts, and landing themselves NZ On Air funding for 'Don't Push The Button', one of the standout tracks on their latest album Confessions Of A Pie Thief. Between high school, swimming lessons and earning St John Ambulance Cadets badges, singer and frontman Cory Newman is already busy writing new music with his band for a third album. Newman, who uses a wheelchair due to Cerebral Palsy, generously pulled himself away from a jam session the other day to have a yarn with UTR assistant editor Annabel Kean. They chat touring with Jimmy Barnes, favourite classic bands, and navigating the San Fran stairs with a wheelchair...

Annabel Kean: How was your day? Have you been at school?

Cory Newman: Good! Yeah I have, I came home about an hour ago. Wednesday is our band practice day and they’ve just thrown me out of the practice shed and locked me in another room.

Thank you for taking a break from practice to talk to me.

We were just getting started, but we’re a bit behind schedule anyway today so it doesn’t matter.

How’ve you been returning to playing after lockdown? Were you a bit rusty?

A little bit I guess. We hadn’t done much. Believe it or not, don’t want to sound like a douchebag here, but I’m one of those singers who does listen to his own music.

Haha, I think that’s a good practice!

Yeah, so I wasn’t that rusty because I’d listened to a lot of my own music over lockdown.

How do you balance all the band stuff, practices and writing songs with school? High school is a lot of work.

Yeah it is, it’s not easy. Particularly as I’m getting older it is getting more challenging, but I’ll manage. I’ve got a few other things on the side as well, you know, after school stuff like trips to the pool, St. Johns ambulance cadets in my case.

Oh cool, what do you do for that?

It’s on hold at the moment, but back in its heyday I used to go down to the local ambo base and hang out with some of the other young cadet guys and get badges and stuff. It’s almost like a scout thing.

Do you study music as a subject at school?

Yes I do, this year I have done at least. Last year I got my level one credits, well actually I got them two years ago, by doing it on Fridays during project time and in my lunch hour. I’m in the music room regularly, I’m wasting a lot of my free time in there.

Do you think you’ll study music after high school?

I might do a couple of elective papers, but I’ll probably go down the business degree track actually. But I’ll probably do a couple of music papers if I can fit them in, that might be fun.

Is the idea to learn how to run a successful band? And have the business knowledge for that?

More so I can run my own company you know, life after band, because, you know, it might not always be like this. Of course we’re gonna enjoy it like this while it lasts, but I’m too aware of young bands who never made it out of the pub circuit.

Who are some bands you’re listening to at the moment?

I’m a fairly mixed bag actually. Personal favourites include singers like Jimmy Barnes, who I’ve actually gone on the road with. Before I met him I loved his music. Airbourne, Hoodoo Gurus, The Cockroaches – who you’ve probably never heard of. A fairly mixed bag. I’m also into a lot of older stuff like The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, and I’ve been an AC/DC fan since I was about 12. I’ve always liked a lot of the older Kiwi performers, you know, we all grew up loving bands like Villainy and Shihad and Alien Weaponry. And I’ve discovered some of the older performers like Johnny Devlin and Max Merritt & The Meteors, both of whom I enjoy listening to.

I was gonna say, Sit Down In Front actually reminds me a bit of Stereogram. Are you a fan of them?

Yeah I like a few of their songs, they’ve got some good ones actually. 'White Trash' is a really good one.

What’s the live music scene like in Gisborne for people under 18 like yourself?

It’s really good in the sense that we’ve got one local venue that’s really looked after us, Smash Palace. Daryl the owner is a really nice guy and he gives us heaps of opportunities and he’s been in our corner pretty much from day one. The only thing is that his license is a little bit limiting, we do have to be out by 10pm. Being under 18 does have its challenges, but it’s still pretty good. As good as you can get for a small town anyway.

That’s great! There are lots of towns where there’s barely the option. I’d be really interested to hear about your experiences with accessibility in New Zealand venues. You’ve toured a bit, what’s that like as someone who uses a wheelchair?

It depends on the venue. When we toured with Jimmy Barnes it was really good, a lot of the venues were really well set up. Spark Arena in Auckland was really well done with their accessibility. I haven’t toured a lot in the South Island so I can’t really speak for that, it was just that one trip to Dunedin and Christchurch with Jimmy Barnes.

Most of the North Island venues we visited had quite good accessibility.

How was it in Christchurch and Dunedin?

Pretty good for the most part, there were a couple of missing ramps but nothing too major. The odd lift up a set of stairs can be managed.

Do you think that the lack of accessibility in smaller venues is a bit of a hurdle for people with disabilities?

Yeah, I think it is. I can’t really speak for a lot of those venues, because we haven’t been to them yet, but a couple that stand out to me there are San Fran in Wellington, they have about three flights of stairs – that was an interesting one! We left the wheelchair at the bottom, a buddy walked me up the stairs and someone would have to follow behind with the chair, and then we had to do it all again at the end of the night. Nivara Lounge was quite similar. Definitely not easy. For some people it can be managed, but for others it can suck. I can imagine if you had a big power wheelchair, which weighs a few hundred kilos, I could see how that could be a real problem.

And not everyone would even feel comfortable being picked up.

The logistics of getting a 200kg piece of steel up the stairs, that too!

Do you have preferred language when talking about disability? For me to think about when I write this out? I know it varies from person to person.

Not really. There’s one thing that annoys me though, is when people try to be too politically correct and refer to it as ‘differently abled’ and stuff, just call it what it is! You don’t have to be too soft about it. But yeah, it’s pretty good with the accessibility, and I realise in a lot of ways we’ve been really lucky, and there’s a lot of places we haven’t visited yet that we don’t know about.

So what’s next for Sit Down In Front? What’s coming up?

Good question. We’ve got some various interviews coming up, radio and possibly TV. We’re going to keep trying to get more gigs and keep it all going, and get back into it after all the disruptions cause by Covid-19. And we’re going to write a few more songs. We’re working on a third album at the moment, just in the very early stages of development.

Will this album be the same kind of sound?

It will probably be very similar to the last two, no distinct style changes or anything.

Don’t fix what ain’t broke.

Too soon to tell, we’re still writing most of that one.

For people who haven’t listened to your band before, what song should they start with?

Ohhh that’s a tough one. I would strongly recommend starting with our song ‘Rain’ and also our song ‘How Mean Would It Be’ from our first album. Those are the songs from each album I’d recommend they start with. And then just go from there. It’s good old fashioned punk music and good old fashioned rock ’n’ roll. If you’re into that sort of stuff, you will love us.

Sit Down In Front's 'Confessions Of A Pie Thief' is out now online.


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