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Tuesday 20th September, 2011 9:39AM

A fixture in the Auckland live scene for the past couple of years, Meese have finally released their debut album Pieces of You, Pieces of Me.  Formerly known as Sidewalk Meese, they dropped the prefix and consolidated their lineup for a lengthy recording process with positive results.  We caught up with founding member Alex Angrignon who provided a very honest insight into the history of the band and NZ music generally.

First of all, why the long absence from live shows?

Right, so the band was originally formed with Sam Harper, Anthony Drent and I. Though Sam and Ant, at the time, were both sharing my band, Meese, with their band, Nevernudes. Does that make sense? Hope it does, cuz that’s usually how this story throws people. Due to differences that I can’t (honestly) really recall, just brewing tension I guess, Ant sacked Sam from Nevernudes and hence shit hitting the fan. Everywhere. The absence from live shows came when I replaced Sam and had a spell playing in Nevernudes. Despite it being fun, I realized I wasn’t doing anything with my own band, which wasn’t the way I wanted it to be and that it fucked my friendship up with Sam for a little while. Didn’t want that either. I realized what it was that I truly wanted and that was to make a record with my band, Meese, with whom, by now, hadn’t played a show in about 5 months. So I called it quits with Nevernudes and reconnected with Sam at our work at the Devonport cinema and we soon quickly began planning a record. We got our good friend Oscar Davies (from Rackets) to play bass on a few songs but because his schedule was so busy, Sam and I decided to take the matter in our own hands and share bass on a few songs.

How long have you been working on this album for?

We began recording in late May, though practicing and writing the newer songs was probably about two months before that. If you consider the album we attempted to record with Anthony months ago, it would probably add up to a year and a half but that includes the re-recording/shit-going-down for a few months impending on recording time.

What sound were you going for?

I wanted it to be a mixture of emotional, nostalgic songs but also keep a steady balance of slow and fast songs just to keep it fresh. I didn’t want it to be too lo-fi nor did I want it to be over produced. I think it captures that kind of balanced production well. Possibly because we recorded it in a studio and a bedroom. Guitar and drums were in studio and guitar overdubs, vocals, bass and other tidbits were done in Sam’s studio/bedroom: Red Panda Studios. The mixture of lo-fi and higher production wasn’t so much planned as much as it was economical. We could spend much more free time in a bedroom than we could in a studio.

Which tracks do you think you’re most proud of?

Waiting For A Holiday, Dead End Song, Rebound Playz, Qwell. Pretty much the entire B-side. It has a different sound to the A-side. The songs themselves, I feel, are simply better. Much more personal and up front. Some may find it a bit too ‘Heart On Your Sleeve’, but I believe that music is about feeling and emotion, and I guess that also answers the previous question again - we wanted an emotional sound with unpretentious feeling. We hope we conveyed that.

Did it end up sounding much like what you had envisioned?

We didn’t really have a clear vision to be honest which might be the downfall or maybe the best part… I don’t really know! I remember writing the newer songs real last minute and I didn’t envision those songs sounding like they do now. I recall quickly teaching the new songs to Sam. It’s all a bit of a blur now.

What kind of ideas were you trying to express?

I encourage fellow songwriters and bands to not be so innocuous and write these ultra happy and/or ironic indie bullshit songs that aren’t giving any sort of feeling or any kind of emotion. I can’t stress enough how important it is to not be afraid to sing the shit out of what you mean or what you’re writing, which is your poetry, your art, you know? I guess my main idea is honesty. I think honesty, not only in music but within life in general, is refreshing. I know people love to hear what they want to hear but sometimes it’s even more rewarding to be told what you don’t want to hear. ‘Honest’ is what the local musicians whom I looked up to were to me and still are. I hope that idea rubs off on other people too.

Who writes the songs, principally?

I write the melody and words and Sam usually gives the song surgery by giving it structure.

What was the recording process? Who recorded what?

I think I kinda answered bits of that question already but Mark Howden, who is a really brilliant producer, engineered it. I recommend him strongly. He really listened to what we had to say and wasn’t afraid to change it if we told him to. The process was just a lot of back and forwards, in and out of the studio. We’d come in about once a week for three months and listen to each new song’s mix. It was fun. Though took a little more time than we would’ve liked, but we’re all perfectionists so that’s probably why it took so long.

Who plays bass in the live lineup?

Sam’s girlfriend and my good friend, Sophie Vanderlinden. She’ still learning but getting way better since she first joined and I’m sure Sam and I are happy to be the people responsible for her being able to slay some bass.

Do you like how it’s working out as a three-piece?

Yeah I do. I don’t know how bands with 4 members do it! It’s hard enough to arrange practice with 3 people. I don’t really know any other way.

What inspired the name change?

Sam and I kind of cringing every time we said it was pretty strong inspiration.

Where’s that voice sample from at the end of ‘Waiting For A Holiday’?

Oh you want me to reveal secrets! It’s this poem called ‘Sharing A Coke With You’ by Frank O’Hara. My brother showed it to me. Then this girl I liked really liked him too and she gave me one of his books of collection of poems. So his poetry has had a profound impact on me lately. Don’t really know the meaning but I like his delivery and his choice of words. Things like that often expect meaning or interpretation but I can’t really answer either of those questions cuz I just like it regardless.

How much time do you spend constructing different parts of a song?

It depends, sometime it can all come at once and write itself and at other times I’ll have these guitar parts sitting around in my head for months and then it’ll finally ‘click’ and I’ll have a song. Lyrics, I always write after I’ve got the melody. Don’t really how to do it the other way around to be honest.

Any local bands you think are exceptionally unique in regards to songwriting?

For me it’s Thom Burton from Wilberforces. Brilliant songwriter. Innovative guitar playing. (Which I may have borrowed a bit from in some songs…) His latest effort, ‘Vipassana’ is a testament to his versatility as a singer too. He’s one of the ‘honest’ ones. Also Emily Littler from Street Chant, stellar songwriter too. Really admired her ability to come up with a good hook and one of the best bands in Auckland both musically and especially lyrically.

And finally, how do you feel about the bands from your scene and from NZ as a whole?

I think I have this special appreciation for the music community in Auckland, and this is by no means a greater appreciation or a better one but a special one because I moved here from Canada and I feel like maybe if I’d never have moved, I never would’ve picked up a guitar or even wrote a song. I never take all the musical discoveries and common interests with people for granted. They’ve all influenced this record in some ways. I learnt to play guitar by watching amazing musicians strum the shit out of their guitars and hold them accountable for my guitar playing abilities.

I seriously disagree with people who say that all music in Auckland is shit. It isn’t. There are so many great bands out there that untouched ears are yet to hear. I think MUZAI records played a significant part in forming a solid musical community in Auckland, and as it may seem hypocritical for me to say that since I quit the label, all prejudice aside, I think that it is an inherently healthy thing for Auckland music and that there isn’t really anything else like it for underage or even young adults who go to their shows or play in their bands.

Despite me having had altercations with it because I have quite an intense personality, I unashamedly hold that label responsible for me meeting and befriending amazing, talented young musicians. New Zealand music as a whole is awesome. When we went down to Christchurch, Wellington and Dunedin, we met so many cool dudes and incredible musicians. I think that’s also why music as opposed other art forms is so unique. Through music you can tour, travel and bring people together that you never would’ve met if it wasn’t for a nationally mutual love of music.

Michael McClelland


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