Q&A with Street Chant
Auckland band Street Chant have been around for a while now, building their reputation on killer live shows and their ability to create songs worth using your internet bandwidth on. After a name and line up change, their highly anticipated debut album Means was released earlier this year on Arch Hill. Easily one of the most exciting bands to emerge from the Auckland underground in the last few years, 2010 has been a year of proud achievements for Street Chant, including supporting both the Fall and the Dead Weather on their local tours, and winning the Critics' Choice Award at this years' New Zealand Music Awards. Means has made it onto many 'Best Of 2010' lists, including the #1 spot on Amplifier's own list.
Street Chant are a band known for their high-energy live shows. What do you like about performing live?
Just the energy and that it's more of a gamble. There's only one chance to play and if you mess it up you can't just go to another take like with recording, so if it goes really well, it's really awesome.
Do you experiment much with your live show?
Sometimes, but mostly we're all pretty intense live. I think that's part of our live show, the intensity, because we're all so stressed and just stare at each other. There have been some songs that we jam out more, but it just depends on the situation, we'd probably jam out things a bit more at a house party or something.
Is there a song of your own that you're sick of playing yet?
Not really, no. We go through phases where we start playing some of our own songs really badly, so we stop playing them for a while. Then when we go back to play them again we're excited to play them and I think it probably shows. We perform them better after giving them a break.
I'm guessing that your album name 'Means' is a reference to your old name Mean Street...
That was because most people who've been watching us since the beginning, since we were Mean Street, would know that most of those songs on the album were written around that time. Some of them were written while we were recording the album as Street Chant. We wanted to make reference to the fact that the songs were old and they were from that time.
You've had those songs for a while now, are you ready to start putting together new material?
Yeah, we've already started doing some demos of some of these songs and I'm trying to write as much as I can at the moment. The new album is going to be a little bit different and hopefully we can record it ourselves as well. That'll be a fun learning experience.
What is your writing and recording process like?
The last album was kind of weird because we pretty much had the album and everything before we even went into the studio. It was also weird because Alex our drummer came in after most of those songs had been written and performed and some even recorded. I'm not really sure what's going to happen this time.
Most of the time I write the song - the verse and the chorus - and then bring it to the band and figure out how we're going to arrange it. We might do song by song this time and see what album we have at the end... but I think like the last album we might prefer to have everything ready and then record it so we know what kind of direction we're going in with the recordings.
What are some of the advantages to being a musician in New Zealand?
I guess it's a smaller scene so it's easier to get noticed, in a way. Having been overseas a little bit, I definitely think that in New Zealand people are less trendy about their music. Because it's so small, people don't rely on trends so much to get their sound heard. People are more individual and do their own things. Of course at the moment Flying Nun is so hot in terms of overseas bands.
The influences were everywhere we went. In America and in Australia, everywhere we went people were like, 'Oh you're from New Zealand, do you know the Clean?'
It's an advantage at the moment. New Zealand bands have a good track record.
What are some of the disadvantages?
It's expensive to travel overseas because we're so isolated. Also because the scene is smaller there is some of that bitchiness aspect which can come from that sometimes. The whole funding scheme is totally awesome, but there's only so much to go around so there's a competitive sort of vibe.
What are some of your proudest achievements this year?
That was pretty amazing, because we didn't expect to win, at all, it was a total surprise.
With that award and your album Means making it onto many Best Of 2010 lists [including scoring #1 on the Amplifier Top 20 for 2010], how important are things like that to you?
I stopped reading about ourselves on the internet, like I was saying before, about the small scene and the bitchiness it got a little bit too hard to handle, but it is nice to be on the best of 2010 lists and think those other albums are awesome, so it's cool that ours is on it as well.
Street Chant is pretty prolific on Twitter, what do you love about it?
It's kind of addictive because of the character limit, you can be prolific in a way of getting lots of small ideas out. I just like it because it's a good way to connect with people and I like reading other peoples' Twitters as well, other bands' Twitters. I think the same with Facebook, it's good to not have that sort of rock star attitude where you're untouchable. I don't like any bands that are like that and I think it's stupid a stupid attitude to have.
What do you hope to achieve in 2011?
We're going to go back over to the states and do SXSW and go to New York on the way back from that trip. Hopefully get means released in some other countries, wherever we can really. We want to record our next album and get that out. We want to at least try to do an album a year for as long as we can. I like the idea of being prolific in that sense as well, rather than being a band that puts out an album every three years and just play those songs for three years, though we have been playing our songs for three years and I'm not sick of them, our new songs are always our favourites to play.
- interview by Ellen Falconer