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Sunday 2nd January, 2011 9:52AM

Hypercolour are a band who really think about what they do. That’s what I discovered as a few emails were flicked between myself and James Donaldson, the band’s guitarist who discussed the history, context and philosophy of Hypercolour’s music with some sharp insight. He (guitar, vocals), Julian Vares (drums) and Andrew Clarke (bass, vocals) are a Christchurch band - one of whom who have to compete to get noticed as easily as bands from Wellington and Auckland. Still, their music is showcased on Pressure To Be, an 18-and-under compilation released by Mammal Airlines’ James Stuteley as an opportunity to get their music heard in other parts of the country.

When did things start moving for Hypercolour?

I started this project when I was in another band, Rufffians. We were recording some demos sometime in early-2009 and I was waiting for Jordan to show up so I just demoed a riff that I had been jamming on for a while, and that eventually grew in to ‘The Clock Won’t Find You Here’. It was all improvised around this basic melody but it’s essentially dictated the aesthetic of the band so far. Since then I’ve had around four different people join and leave, including James Gibb of These Dancing Wolves so it’s cool to end up on the same compilation [Pressure To Be]. I’ve always liked the idea of super-processed drum sounds so we worked with a drum machine when playing live for a long time but since Julian has joined it’s been much more free-form. And it helps that he acts as a sort of in-house producer too.

Where are things at for the band right now?

We’re just finishing off our new single this month, and making a video to accompany it. It’s based on projections and weird manipulation of images so it should be pretty fun. After that I guess we’ll just get back in to playing more shows and parties, helping other kids come out of the woodwork. I’ve been sporadic with the band over the past two years; letting it float for a little while to release something and play shows then bob back down in the water. It’ll be good to have some continuity with a full line up and a release that we can back too. I’ve always had an issue with continuity with the band. There’s always been songs that take this singular, melancholic aspect of the sound and twisting it in to something that turns out alright but still doesn’t eventuate in to something. Hence why I picked ‘Crawl Out’ to go on Pressure To Be, it’s still got menace and glumness yet with a sense of urgency that does eventuate in to something in the outro. It’s essentially a climax...

What other bands do you hang out with?

I’ve sort of done my time hanging around with older bands in Christchurch. It just ends up being based on elitism and this weird sense that you have to prescribe to a certain sound in order to become vaguely popular. Some of the older ‘scene’ members seem to have an aversion to excitement or fun. I started a label, City Kids Records, recently and we tend to deal with bands my age or younger, and it’s frankly quite nice. Bands like Gigglepop and Villain are very unashamed about how they go about taking their music to the masses; there’s no excluding a particular group. It’s an open-ended invitation y’know?

Any recommendations?

Like I said, Gigglepop. The guitarist Andrew has just joined us as a bass player which is nice. He’s very charismatic and theatrical playing live which is something that’s been missing from some of the people I’ve had in Hypercolour previously. There’s Villain, who have this amazing juxtaposition of being really content and lovely and they come out with brilliant four-minute spurts of doom and gloom. In many ways I’m jealous of them because they execute the melancholic-yet-uplifting aesthetic so well. I play drums in another band called Sleeping With Students with my good friend Thom. He’s very confident in himself as a songwriter which I respect. Further down south in Timaru there’s Going Nowhere, which is Steven Marr’s project. Similar to Villain in the sense that it’s very ominous and still amazing. I signed a hip-hop group to the label the other week. It’s a bunch of white guys rapping, which is very cool in the way that they’re totally unashamed about what they do. Sandfly Bay are brilliant too. They used to be a hoedown country good-timin’ band but have come back recently sounding like a cross between everything good about mid-90’s rock’n’roll: My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Dandy Warhols, Brian Jonestown, y’know? There’s more, that’s pretty much the iceberg tip.

You’re featured on the ‘Pressure To Be’ under 18 compilation – is/was being under 18 a big part of your band identity? Or just a feature?

I’ve always been supportive of the music scene here, so when I was that age it seemed pretty important to be amongst it, even more so now that I can take a step back, look at it from a more mature (slightly) perspective. I guess in a way I am being slightly manipulative in the respect that kids take in so much music when they’re in their teenage years and I’d like to somehow have something that I’ve created from my heart and soul and it taken in by somebody who empathises and identifies with any emotion present. I’d like to think that’s a beautiful thing, that you can change someone or make them feel something purely by doing what you love. Christ, this is getting pretty deep early on.

Aside from the music itself, what are you trying to achieve with being in a band? Does empowering the young with efforts like ‘Pressure To Be’ play a large role in what you do? Or is there another kind of message you try to communicate?

It’s strange to have an ulterior motive as a band. I mean, you’re in a band and you create music. That should be what you do, stick to what you know and do best. I think it’s when you step out of that medium and take to the streets demanding something in particular, trying to gain support because you say you’re in a band....I guess it doesn’t mean much. The band and the music just become a vehicle for your conviction as opposed to the other way around.

So is having a conscience about something, at least in some small part, the responsibility of a musician? Or do you consider it also acceptable to produce music purely for the love of it and nothing else?

Good question. I think there is a responsibility. If you’re not doing what you’re doing for the love of it then intentions can be misconstrued. Most music that I write is very, very introverted and I’ve never had any interest in addressing issues around society or politics and the like. But in that same respect, I address my own issues and hassles and place it in a medium that is designed to be enjoyed by a lot of people. It’s strange that I’ve adopted an attitude of “life goes on” etc and yet I spend time writing lyrics and music that take in hand any sort of issue or feeling that I have, practicing these songs and singing them at shows, recording them – whatever. The last thing that I would want to happen would be to have my words lose meaning within myself because I repeat them over and over so often.

Where does a band go when it doesn’t align itself with a social purpose?

I guess then your music alone will have to be enough to go on. But if you look at all pop music today, it’s based on purely on a really futile sense of escapism instead of addressing anything really important socially, or raise any problems politically. I mean, juxtapose Bob Dylan and his protest songs with something like Katy Perry and her whimsical-ness. She will go away within a few years, and yet Bob has been going strong for almost 50 years now. Same goes for a band like Radiohead. Thom Yorke addressed issues he had with modern life and how he fits in to it and so on, and ‘OK Computer’ ended up being one of the most critically acclaimed album of the 90’s, which is phenomenal to think considering ‘Loveless’ [by My Bloody Valentine] was released that decade too. Um, so yeah. If introversion and introspection are part of social purpose then without these, you lose a sense of timelessness.

These are all pretty intellectual questions – is that a thing you’re comfortable with, or would you rather focus on the simplicities of being an artist rather than weighing yourself down with social contemplation?

Absolutely, I love talking about these kinda things. I don’t think you weigh yourself down, it’s providing explanation for something that would otherwise be taken at face value, taking it that one step further so others can understand it better, identify with it in different ways. I mean, one of my favourite bands is The National. Michael Stipe from REM said of them that they could never be commercially successful because they engage with their audience on an emotional and deeply personal level. I think that’s pretty admirable whether the intention is there or not.

Also on that note – any pretentiousness where you’re from in the music circle?

Like I said before, there’s a particular group of people in Christchurch that have been here all their life, have no desire to get out, and are more than happy to keep repeating the same formula over again, y’know, the exact same bands playing the exact same sets at the same two bars every weekend. It turns to a sense of over-advertisement or over-exposure. More often than not it’s the same people who are in all the bands too. They seem unwilling to accept anything that’s foreign which frustrates me. It gets tiring when you show up to a gig and it’s the same 20-30 people in the audience, not dancing and looking at everyone else as if expecting them to start doing something. And then it’s the same 20-30 people who go to parties and do the same thing. There’s very little appreciation. Especially when you look at bands as brilliant as The Transistors or O’Lovely who work so hard and receive very little credit in Christchurch. I find it much more invigorating to go to an all-ages show and see kids go nuts to their friend’s bands. It’s just such a contrast.


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