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Spotlight: Strange Universe with Parquet Courts, Marlin’s Dreaming, Mermaidens, Na Noise

Spotlight: Strange Universe with Parquet Courts, Marlin’s Dreaming, Mermaidens, Na Noise

Chris Cudby / Poster image: Callum Rooney / Tuesday 15th March, 2022 10:07AM

Like a musical Captain Planet, the hardworking folk at Banished Music and Strange News have combined their powers to give us something thrilling to look forward to this winter. Revealed late last week, the inaugural Strange Universe extravaganza stars widely beloved Brooklyn art punks Parquet Courts, performing tunes from their latest album Sympathy For Life, joined by local heroes Marlin’s Dreaming, Mermaidens and Na Noise. Originally announced in a different form in 2020 before it "fell into the black hole of pandemania," the arrival of Strange Universe to Tāmaki's The Powerstation in July will be the party payoff we've been waiting for.

With general public tickets for the fest on sale today, Strange News head honcho and all around local music icon Matthew Crawley (Thee Golden Geese) generously answered my nosey questions about the festival, his work with Banished Music founder Reuben Bonner in helping set up and promote the crucial Save Our Venues initiative, wider challenges facing our community once unrestricted shows get rolling again and more...

Strange Universe
Parquet Courts, Marlin’s Dreaming, Mermaidens, Na Noise
Friday 22nd July - The Powerstation, Auckland

General public tickets on sale HERE via AAA Ticketing

Chris Cudby: Congratulations on the big announcement! Strange Universe was originally planned to happen in a different shape in 2020, but was nixed by bloody Covid. What inspired Reuben and yourself to keep pushing forward with your vision for Strange Universe? Was it simply the desire to work together again?

Matthew Crawley: Thank you! We’ve definitely been wanting to revive our little dream since the DIIV idea rode off into the pandemic sunset! While we’re aware that Covid hasn’t magically vanished, we’re taking our cues from the trajectory of what’s happening in Australia, and making an educated guess that it’ll be safe / safer to daydream of putting on big shows again from around the middle of the year. The Parquet Courts opportunity arrived in our inbox at the perfect time, and thankfully they warmed to our concept quickly.

Is Strange Universe an ongoing series? How did you decide upon the synergy of bands for July's inaugural edition? Is there an official 'mission statement' for the concert series?

It’s already an ongoing series, it just doesn’t always actually happen! But seriously folks, if this one plays out as radically as it’s set to, we’ll be back with more for sure.

Once we had Parquet Courts it took about twenty nanoseconds to agree on which three local bands would complete the perfect party lineup.

Mission statement wise, it’s probably a cross between “Be excellent to each other” and “If you book them they will come,” with one of Jim Carrey’s old catch phrases thrown into the mix. But not “somebody stop me!” because somebody stopped us last time and that sucked.

Sounds smokin! Strange Universe will surely be a celebratory event following all the rigmarole our music community has been through over the past two years, and it'll be fantastic to welcome international artists back to Aotearoa's venues again.

Honestly we can’t wait. I’ve gone from jamming my summers full of events and fun ideas to twiddling my thumbs, and it’s so invigorating even just considering the possibilities for occasional cool shows again. It’s easy to think these dumb times are forever, but times will be less dumb one day soon. You have my personal (non-binding) guarantee on that.

How does it feel to be throwing your hat back into the showbiz ring? Is this the start of a fresh wave of activity for Strange News? Any more surprises up your sleeve for 2022?

Right now I think I’d be a stone cold fool to put all my eggs in the touring basket, but I’m my happiest when there’s a little variety in my calendar. There are a few other names being bandied around of varying shapes and sizes, but let’s wait and see how this show plays out first!

It’s not just a fun idea working with my old pal Reuben Bonner. He’s built Banished up from potato peels to a full-time life, and the pairing of our skills will hopefully mean we bring out the best in each other, while compensating for each other’s little tiny human flaws. What I’m trying to say is that I operate with full blown chaos, and he’s quite organised.

You were both involved in founding Save Our Venues, helping spearhead a crucial fundraising campaign and public awareness outreach. Two questions: are our live venues still facing perilous times? What’s the role of Save Our Venues moving forward?

The plan was to declare venues SAVED and then move into phase two with some new blood and energy, but with the sneak attack of Omicron and the mass uncertainty that comes with being technically allowed to open, but it being difficult to operate, there’s some rethinking that’s been required.

Both Reuben and I have full time jobs, and Save Our Venues was something Reb Fountain proposed in a moment of need, and at the time we just found the energy to go hard and do what needed doing, but thankfully now the talented Mr Steve Newall has stepped up to be the smiling face of SOV, and he’s steering that ship (collaboratively) in some really crucial new directions. Watch this space.

What challenges do you see facing Aotearoa's music community once unrestricted shows and international touring are finally back in action again?

The short term challenge is to give people the confidence to come out again, and to make it safe when they do. The psychological impact of the last two years is yet to be even remotely realised. It’s not just a platitude from the government to remind us to be kind to each other, I think it’s crucial. There will be a lot of fear and trepidation, and it’ll just take a bit of time for us to find our dancing feet again. But we will.

Setting the stage for July — what are your favourite Parquet Courts songs?

Well even though it’s obvious, I’ll always be happy to hear 'Total Football' but that might be the same as Alan Partridge saying his favourite Beatles album is The Best of the Beatles

I’m loving 'Homo Sapien' from Sympathy For Life, the new album will be so fun live! And I’d like to dance to 'Black and White' from Sunbathing Animal, thanks and please.


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Strange Universe with Parquet Courts, Marlin's Dreaming + More
Fri 22nd Jul 8:00pm
The Powerstation, Auckland