Wellington, New Zealand’s Black City Lights’ debut EP Parallels and current album, Another Life, on Stars and Letters Records, has already garnered the group critical acclaim, and put the group on stage with some of the most popular acts of the day (Grimes, anyone?) Their stellar output also saw them receiving (2) grants from the government to keep on making music. Yeah, try getting THAT here in the states.
I caught up with the duo to talk about their long trip to the U.S. for CMJ (even though they’ve been here for a little while touring,) their plans for the remainder of 2013, and what they’re most excited to see during their trip to the Big Apple.
G- Thank you very much for taking the time to speak with Live High Five! How’s everything going?
C- Great. Really good, thanks.
G- We’re here from CMJ, and for some of our readers who may not know who you are, I just want to get a quick introduction, so please introduce the members in the group… Who is everyone, what do they play, and where does everyone come from?
J- I’m Julia Catherine Parr, and it’s just the two of us and we’re from Wellington, NZ. Electronic pop music with a dark twist.
C- I’m Calum Robb and I’m originally from Scotland, but I moved to New Zealand 10 years ago, and started doing music 3 years ago now.
G- And how did you guys all meet up?
J- We met through a mutual friend in Wellington, and I’d been performing for a few years and Calum heard I could sing, and ummm…
C- MySpace stalked her.
J- (laugh) Yeah stalked me. He was in the middle of making his EP, which became our EP, and it started.
G- And you have been on the road for a month and a half now, correct?
G- Tell us about some of the places you’ve hit and some of the fun shows you’ve had so far.
J- We started in L.A., and we had a couple of shows there. The first show was interesting… It was kind of a small turn out, but we were expecting that for our very first show.
C- And it was a Monday.
J- And it was great because it was a good practice, and we were playing a couple of other shows with the bands playing, so it was fun,
C- So we played L.A. and everything in between to San Francisco for a few weeks, then we went to Chicago and saw the sites and played a big show there. It was pretty good.
I love Chicago. I love NY, as well.
G- Yeah, and did you have some of the deep dish pizza while you were there?
C- Yeah. It was too buttery, though.
G- Too buttery?
C- Too buttery. Yeah. I prefer NYC pizza.
G- Yeah there is a bit of a tug-o-war about who has the best, but I’m a NYC pizza guy myself.
C- Yeah. NYC pizza is the best.
G- Yes! So, you are currently touring in support of your latest release, Another Life. How has the reception been to the new songs, and have you noticed any fan favorites off of the record?
J- We’ve definitely seen a few people singing along in the audience, which is exciting.
C- We’ve had a few people come up to us, total strangers, which was humbling and really, really nice. It’s good to meet great people like that, great fans. Really cool!
G- Can you go into a bit about the recording process for the album? Where did you record it, how long did it take to get everything ready, and how you’re feeling about the finished product?
J- I took us about 8 months to write, and then maybe 3 months to record.
C- Yeah about a year, and we produced everything ourselves. It was a huge learning curve. We wanted to produce it, but had help from engineers who recorded Julia’s vocals.
J- And I mixed with a guy named Charlie Bronson, who’s a Wellington sound engineer, and we learned a lot from each other because he’d never done this type of music before and I hadn’t mixed an album worth of vocal tracks before. So, it was really great working with him and we learned so much off of each other.
C- It was a good process. The first EP was… We didn’t really work together hard on it, but for this album it was a full collaboration which is ours. We can say ‘That’s our album’ now. The EP was more my thing.
J- I came in after the fact and added vocal tracks, whereas the album is completely together.
So tell us, if you have one, what is your favorite song you have ever written so far, or if you could only give 1 song to someone who’d never heard of you before, to try and make a new fan, what song would you give them?
J- That’s a hard question. We had this favorite song when we’d just finished writing the album, and it was the title track “Another Life.” We were both like ‘That’s the best songs!’
But listening back to the album a few times, my favorite song from the album is called “Take Me Home,” which is different because it’s not quite as poppy. It’s got this big epic ending and the vocal has lots of delay and reverb, and it’s more instrumental. That’s definitely my favorite track.
C- My favorite track is definitely “Rivers” from the previous EP. It’s a little bit dark, but still really poppy as well.
G- Alright. And what are the rest of your plans for 2013? Are you guys going to stay in the states to do more touring?
J- We’re in the states until November 28th, and then we head back to New Zealand. But until the end of our stay, we’re looking at writing more music because we’re really inspired here. It’s such an amazing city and there’s so much good music, especially being here at CMJ. There are so many awesome bands to see and we’ve met so many creative people.
G- And while we’re on that topic, are their any bands you hope to see while you’re at CMJ?
C- Fuck Buttons. Definitely.
And just to finish up today, you traveled a long way to get here and your music is catching on. I mean, you have government grants to keep playing music, and that’s amazing! We do NOT have that here.
C- It’s like Canada where you apply to get a grant and hope you get it. NZ supports the creative arts.
G- That is awesome, because the US does not.
C- We’re a small country, so we can kinda do it I guess. (laughs)
G- But you’re still building, and given your successes, what advice can you give some of the young, up and coming musicians out here who want to make it in music, on the road, and from the US to NZ to play shows?
C- Don’t expect hand outs, and work really hard for it. If you love your music and love what you’re doing, there’s nothing embarrassing about emailing everybody, blogs, management. If you can do it yourself, but I think at this point it’d be nice to have management. That’s one of the reasons we’re here.
G- It’s the build!
J- Calum does most of the management things for us, but I love to perform and just getting up on stage and giving it everything I have every time is enough to captivate people and give people an interest in the music. I just give them everything and hope they get it.
G- Don’t flake out, kids! Go hard because people are going to be looking at you.
I want to say thanks again for taking the time to speak with Live High Five today.
C- Thank you.
G- You’re welcome. I’m looking for to the set and until next time, travel safe, play well, and enjoy yourselves in NYC during CMJ!
C- Cheers. Thank you very much!