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Interview: Asta Rangu Talk About New Album 'ENTRTNMNT'

Interview: Asta Rangu Talk About New Album 'ENTRTNMNT'

Hahko / C.C. / Photo Credit: Alex Lovell-Smith / Friday 27th May, 2022 10:44AM

Hailing from Ōtepoti, student radio faves Asta Rangu have unveiled their debut album ENTRTNMNT ahead of a four date nationwide tour with fellow guitar-slingers Space Bats, Attack! Friend of the band Hahko (host of the Hahko Meets Humans podcast and formerly of Two Cartoons) caught up with songwriter Richard Ley-Hamilton for an insightful conversation about Asta Rangu's assuredly ambitious eight song record — touching on Ley-Hamilton's own long-term relationship with Dunedin's music community (including earlier groups Males and Mr. Biscuits), his work as co-founder of trace / untrace records who naturally released ENTRTNMNT and more. Out today digitally, on compact disc and limited edition cassette, score your own copy direct from the source HERE and join Ley-Hamilton, Julie Dunn, Josh Nicholls, and Angus McBryde in celebration of their long player's launch at the following dates...

Asta Rangu and Space Bats, Attack! NZ Tour

Friday 10th June - The Crown Hotel, Dunedin
Saturday 11th June - darkroom, Christchurch
Thursday 16th June - San Fran, Wellington
Friday 17th June - The Wine Cellar, Auckland

Tickets available HERE via UTR

Hahko: Mr. Biscuit, Males and now Asta Rangu. Is there a through line of what you as a guitar songwriter have been trying to achieve when you think about your bands? Where have you ended up along that trajectory with this new Asta Rangu album?

Richard Ley-Hamilton (Asta Rangu): I guess it all comes down to the relationship with order and chaos, between the two of them and how that fits within music. With Mr. Biscuits we were very much just chaotic, my role in the band was to try and make it gel, but it was generally chaotic you know, things would break down, the songs would fall apart sometimes, we were just hanging on the edge of a tether.

Whereas with Males it was far more controlled, with that propulsive, ordered energy pop mentality, even the way it was recorded it was very polished. When it comes to Asta Rangu it's very much a coming together of those two sides, as opposed to them being mutually exclusive, now coexisting within the music. There is some sense of an orderly pop song beneath it, but I love colouring it with chaotic tones and textures. For me that represents what it is to live.

Do you think that this kind of ‘balanced’ record could only have come out of you at this point of time in your life? Or was the process more detached and intentional?

Coming of age sounds a bit like ‘Catcher In The Rye’, a kind of teenage thing, but I feel like it is a record of growing into yourself, and it is very personal. The lyrics particularly are coming from a very honest place, even though they can be a bit abstract and sometimes confusing, I feel like that is life, often a bit more confusing than understandable.

There's been a pretty solid group of musicians around you for a while now, how much of an influence have your peers in Dunedin shaped where you are now musically?

Oh, it’s everything. It’s who you not only share your creative life with but your personal one too. You know, I went to school with both Zac and Josh (Nicholls — Koizilla, Space Bats Attack, Dale Kerrigan) and I'd be in the music room with Ben Madden and Sam Valentine (Males) and we’d be jamming something or playing Metallica and they would be in the room next door writing riffs as well. Now I’ve worked with Josh since 2013 when I joined Space Bats, Attack!, and Angus was at one of the first gigs my old band played with his band Ok! Crazy Fiction Lady, well over a decade ago. And now meeting De (Stevens - Marlins Dreaming, School Fair) to record the album seemed like another important relationship, kind of like a missing piece of the puzzle. I'd been looking for someone who could take what we do musically and fulfil the vision of what it could be and thats exactly what he brought to the record.

Speaking of fulfilling visions, you're putting the record out physically through trace / untrace which you co-founded with Julie Dunn. Can you explain the intentions behind the label itself, and the special role it plays in Dunedin?

What we were thinking about when it started was that we didn't necessarily have any expectations of any artists that would be on it, or any audacious goals for it, it was just a matter of getting the music out there, and representing in material form the sense of community that has always existed in this city. That's what trace / untrace represents, connecting a network of artists and bringing the scene together under an umbrella where competition is less important and the support of each other helps the whole. The stronger together approach.

Last time I saw you play was on the Asta Rangu / Males tour, where you were incredibly tight and powerful. Does touring in 2022 excite you?

My relationship with playing live has changed a lot over time, I think there was a frenzied excitement to get on stage at the beginning. Now I still feel excited, but also nervous because gigs are few and far between so there's more pressure to make the experience everything you want it be, for yourself and for the audience. I'm thinking a lot less about putting on a spectacle and far more about how to bring the audience into the music and making that connection. When the rest of our tour at the start of the year got canceled because of COVID-19 I was a bit nervous ahead of the standalone Dunedin show, unsure of how it was going to go, but it was so cathartic. I had forgotten how expressing yourself and having that received positively by people around you is such an affirming process.

OK, final question. Were you one of the people that broke into Sammies to play a show?!

Oh, no! I didn't even hear about that till after the fact! But I'm glad it happened, you know, breaking and entering — there’s few silver linings to that cloud, but in this case it was fantastic. I think the last time I went to Sammies was to see The Brian Jonestown Massacre play a twenty minute version of the song ‘She’s Gone’ from their first album and it was transcendental. I even played a song with you guys for The Veils show which was special, so yeah, hopefully I can be involved next time.

'ENTRTNMNT' is out today digitally, on CD and limited edition cassette via trace / untrace records — order yours HERE.


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Asta Rangu And Space Bats, Attack! NZ Tour
Fri 10th Jun 8:00pm
The Crown Hotel, Dunedin
Asta Rangu and Space Bats, Attack! NZ Tour
Sat 11th Jun 8:00pm
darkroom, Christchurch
Asta Rangu and Space Bats, Attack! NZ Tour
Thu 16th Jun 8:00pm
San Fran, Wellington
Asta Rangu And Space Bats, Attack! NZ Tour
Fri 17th Jun 8:00pm
The Wine Cellar, Auckland