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UTR Interview Relay: Amamelia Chats With Pickle Darling

UTR Interview Relay: Amamelia Chats With Pickle Darling

C.C. / Interviewer: Amelia Berry / Tuesday 4th August, 2020 12:05PM

Part two of our bold new four-part UTR Interview Relay series of artist-driven interviews has arrived. Picking up the baton from previous interviewer Pat Kraus, Tāmaki Makaurau electronic artist, songwriter and 95bFM Top 10 host Amelia Berry (Amamelia, Fimo, Polyester, Old Chips, Babyteeth, Princess Worm Baby) hit up Ōtautahi bedroom pop sensation Pickle Darling aka Lukas Mayo, for an eye-opening chat about his creative practice and finding unexpected international success with 2019's debut album Bigness.

Dive into their conversation below, listen to Amamelia's brand new mix for Related Articles here, catch her performing at The Others Way 2020 on the Sunreturn Stage this September [tickets here], and keep your eyes peeled for the next instalment in a fortnight's time – where Pickle Darling will interview a yet-to-be-revealed Aotearoa artist, and once again pass the interview baton onwards!

Amelia Berry / Amamelia: I'm going to start by being really nasty and ask you to describe the kind of music Pickle Darling makes. Nobody likes to answer this.

Pickle Darling: Hmmm. I guess it's like, baby music lol.

Obsessed with that! So, you’ve been making baby music as Pickle Darling since 2016, but when Bigness came out last year that seemed like a big moment. Suddenly everyone was talking about you. How did you feel about the reaction to that album?

I was pretty surprised at the reaction, I don't know if it felt like everyone was talking about me cause in the end it just ends up being more Twitter / Facebook / Bandcamp notifications lol. It got Bandcamp Album of the Day, sold a huge amount of records and tapes, and ended up charting in NZ and topping the Bandcamp charts! Which is wild cause I didn't really release it 'properly', I don't have distribution or PR and don't really know how to do anything. I think it was nice hearing that it was some people's favourite record, getting a lot of coverage is one thing, but receiving messages from people telling me how much they loved the record... That meant quite a lot. Especially as by the time it came out, I felt so disconnected from the album, so the response kind of made me love the album again.


Your voice and lyrics create such a sense of honesty and intimacy. Does that feel vulnerable? How much of your real life do you write into these songs?

I'm always writing notes on my phone, either real life observations, or stuff I've read or seen, or just nonsensical images, and when I write a song I'm just scrolling through notes and seeing what fits and then I kind of try and shape that into a narrative. So there are real experiences in there, but it's in more of a dreamlike way, and I can't even remember the real stories the songs came from because I've just turned them into fiction. I find it hard to write purely true stories from my life or just about my feelings, cause my life and my feelings are just kind of boring haha. I still feel embarrassed when people play my music in a room full of people though, my songs feel like nudes lol.

The other thing that really stands out for me about your songs is the mix of sonic textures. How do you approach arranging your songs? Is it something you think about early on in the writing process?

I don't really separate the arranging from the songwriting, and often the songwriting happens last, which is kind of like trying to slip a foundation under a house. I sit there on my computer with my guitar and just kind of toy around with little melodic ideas, and then layer them and then eventually I have a whole bunch of catchy melodies, and I try getting things sounding as colourful and meticulous as possible, and then I have to try and fit a song into it. 'Rinse Spin Cycle' and 'Mouthful' were huge instrumental pieces and it took me months before I could fit a natural sounding melody into it.


New Zealand has a kind of running theme of bedroom experimentalists, I’m thinking The Tall Dwarfs, The Brunettes. Do you see Pickle Darling in relation to that history?

I didn't really know a lot of Flying Nun stuff growing up, it was more Lil Chief Records that I was into. I think I've kind of accidentally slotted into the twee genre, I was mostly just trying to make big Brian Wilson-esque pop songs but only with instruments I knew how to play and recording gear I knew how to use. Weirdly, my biggest influences are probably like, Wilco and R.A.P. Ferreira (used to go under the name Milo). Sonically I guess my stuff is twee but in terms of chord progressions and melodies and phrasing, I'm drawing from country music and rap music a lot. I hope others see me as part of NZ music history though, that'd be cool haha.

I never would have guessed that, but now that you mention it there is a lot of hip hop in those floaty, cyclical chord progressions. What else have you been listening to recently? Do you have any shout-outs?

The stuff I have on rotation at the moment, I guess Pen Palindrome, Voom, Skirts, this emo-ish band called Frankie Valet that put out the best album of this year, Bedbug (I'm always listening to them), R.A.P Ferreira, Pink Navel, The Microphones, Drive-By Truckers, Gene Clark, Robyn, Stereolab, The Field album with the white cover, Vagabon, Ben Woods, and Charli XCX of course. Oh and the first Fontaines D.C. album! I always secretly wish I was making that sort of music.


That’s the philosophy of the world, huh? Now finally, tell me about your new album. What should we expect? Has the success of Bigness changed the way you've approached these songs?

My new album is probably coming out near the start of next year, I guess cause 2020 is a bit of a write off! It's finished though!! I've tried not to let the success of Bigness influence the new album... I'm kind of trying to make the opposite album to Bigness. It's tighter and shorter and more melodic and lyrical. There aren't any throwaway moments, and it feels more like one piece of music. I was inspired by lot of sci-fi during this album. Like Stalker and Solaris and all those old 'Journey to the...' moves and this weird UFO cult in America that I've just been watching videos about lol. The album is about communication and long-distance relationships so the sci-fi thing just works with that.

Links
facebook.com/pickledarlingmusic/
facebook.com/amamelianz/

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The Others Way 2020 - Cancelled
Fri 11th Sep
Various K Road Venues , Auckland