Review: The Dandy Warhols at the Powerstation

Dandy Warhols NZ tour poster
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The Dandy Warhols

w/ Ha The Unclear

The Powerstation, Auckland

Wednesday September 20 2017

 

You know those bands you’ve known “of” for years but only found a true connection with years later? Well The Dandy Warhols are one of those acts for me. While I well remember hearing “Bohemian Like You” in the early 2000s (and also on a Vodafone ad), I only really took a serious interest in the group after hearing “We Used to Be Friends” on Radio Hauraki a few years back. Now this was a track I became a little obsessed with which naturally resulted in me digging a little deeper into their discography. And while I discovered some more bangers I tended to find some of their work a little hit or miss. Yet when they hit, they really do hit.

So when I heard they were to be playing the Powerstation I was a little unsure if they were going to be worthwhile – they’re slightly past their prime and I got the impression they weren’t’ a hugely phenomenal live act. In fact frontman Courtney Taylor Taylor partly confirmed this in an interview with Radio Hauraki on September 14 – talking with Angelina Grey he said he’d recently been bluntly informed that the groups’ party antics at the 2004 Big Day Out resulted in a somewhat mediocre set. Yet there was no way I was going to miss those infectious Warhols hooks while they played them a few hundred metres up the road from my flat. And my expectations were certainly exceeded.

 

With Taylor Taylor having recently celebrated a 50th birthday, The Dandy’s are no spring chickens. Yet the mood in the Powerstation on this Wednesday in 2017 was fresh and vibrant as the four piece made their way through a set of roughly an hour and a half of, for the most part, banger after banger.

 

The Portlanders have always been phenomenal at insanely memorable and hooky choruses and these were pulled off well. Making their way through a majority of their esteemed tacks I found myself singing along very loudly to the likes of “Everyday Should Be A Holiday” and “Boys Better”.

 

Dandy Warhols Powersttion Auckland

Despite what I say about the band being hit or miss, they certainly had enough anthems to fill a set, including a few I hadn’t heard before. Influenced by psychedelic music, this was an outstanding aesthetic of their live context – a number of sections hit home with a wall of bright ambience. For instance “Holding Me Up”, a track I didn’t know prior, completely blew me away with its upbeat and driving grooves.

 

Another stellar aspect of the show was the stage presence of keyboardist and percussionist Zia McCabe. An original member, McCabe moved and grooved throughout and looked like she was having as much fun as parts of the audience. While Taylor Taylor can’t hit some of the higher notes, he sounded strong enough to carry a superb wall of powerpop noise behind him.

 

Formed in 1994 The Dandy Warhols are no longer an ‘in’ band – an idea the largely 30 plus demographic suggested. Yet their distinctive brand of euphoric alternative rock is sadly a bit of an anomaly these days – an approach more younger bands could draw from. This was a feel good show and one that left me feeling elated. It’s even gone so far as to inspire my own songwriting. Long live The Dandy Warhols.

Words and photos by Hugh Collins

The Lay Of The Land – An Interview With Lydia Cole

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Busy, busy

Auckland singer/songwriter Lydia Cole has just come home from a short Australian tour promoting her second album, The Lay Of The Land, which came out a few weeks ago. She’s in a weird state between excitement and exhaustion.

“On ­­­­­­Monday I flew back. I did three shows in four days. It was kind of insane. I have never been more tired or thoroughly exhausted in my mind and body than I was this weekend.

“It was awesome though. Totally pays off and definitely worth it.” she hastily adds.

Lydia Cole Live

Image: Josh Yong

Cole will continue the tour locally across our three main centres over the coming few weeks, before emigrating to Berlin in a couple of months. She has spent the day trying to organise the logistics and equipment for her next few shows.

“The stress has been pretty insane over the past month, but I’m learning to break it down. I’m not sure about the details for the Wellington show, because I’m just thinking about this weekend, you know? I’ll worry about Wellington next week, which is the only way for me to cope with everything.

“At the moment it’s literally too much work for me to do. I did the Kickstarter, and there’s something like 260 people that I have to send CD’s or different rewards to. I’m definitely not up with all of that. Maybe half of the rewards are in boxes waiting me to package and address and send out.

“But I figure if those people have waited 18 months than they won’t be bothered about another few weeks … hopefully” she chuckles.

“I’ve never been this busy before. It’s like full-time plus. But I’m really grateful for it, because I know it doesn’t always happen that way.”

A new album

The Lay Of The Land is a stunning follow-up to 2012’s Me & Moon. She’s pleased with the album. Me & Moon left her anxious about what people would think, whereas this time around Cole is has had long enough to sit on the songs and is happy that they represent her well at this moment of time, and realises that they don’t have to define her forever.

“In the studio when I was recording it I was very anxious. And I don’t know if it was because I was subconsciously thinking that there was 260 people hoping to like this. The grassroots support from an array of people – the Kickstarter people – was one of the big reasons why I decided to go that way. Firstly: it was financial, but secondly: I don’t have a label or a publicist or anything – it was just me at that stage, doing my own thing – and I realised that doing Kickstarter was a way to have a few hundred people aware that I was going to release something. They’re waiting, so you already have a bunch of people on your buzz already. They’re loyal. They’ve invested with their money already and they’re likely to tell their friends and follow what you’re doing, so it’s cool.”

Lydia Cole Lay Of The Land Album

Cole had quit her job and sought contributions from her fans via crowdfunding site Kickstarter to help her fund the recording process. She managed to raise the $15,000 within only five days, and since recording the album a year ago has worked hard to piece together the package that has become her album. This has involved finalising the album art, creating music videos, having band rehearsals and waiting for the CDs and vinyl records to get pressed

When you look at what she has put out, you can understand why it has taken so long. Take, for example, the incredible stop motion video for “Telepathise”. Cole teamed up with ex-pat animator Timothy Armstrong to create this brilliant clip that is not only visually stunning, but complements the song so well. It took Armstrong a whole month to make, and could have easily taken three times as long.

There are so many intricate details in the video. Armstrong discussed at length with Cole what types of trees she likes and what animals she wanted featured. He painstakingly created the layered images atop a Lazy Susan table and spent a lot of time manipulating small lights to create the different effects you see in the video [example here].

Cole is also super excited about having vinyl copies of the new album available.

“I was living at home a few years ago with Mum and Dad and they had an old record player. I’ve got a small collection: Louis Armstong, Sufjan Stevens, Ryan Adams, Phoenix Foundation (fun!). Since I’ve gone flatting I haven’t had a record player and have had to shelf them, but listening to records is like making coffee for me. It’s a physical routine: you chuck it on, put the needle down and it’s more of a tangible moment to enjoy.

“Look, I’m not a big sound-y person and don’t understand technical stuff very much but I did have an inkling that the warmth and the textures – a lot of the synth sounds on this album – would suit a vinyl sound. It was real cool when the test pressing arrived and I chucked it on. It sounded so good – I think it really suits it. I’m stoked with that.

“And they’re selling really well at shows and online as well. I sold a whole bunch to people in Germany and all through Europe, which is awesome! Hopefully they all make it in one piece!”

Nic MAnders plays keys for Lydia Cole

Nic Manders on keys. Image: Josh Yong

Moving abroad

Berlin represents a fresh start and new challenges. Going from support slots for big name artists and Silver Scroll award nominations to being a nobody on the opposite side of the planet.

“I’m very aware that I’ll become nobody. I’m excited to start afresh and meet people and go to gigs and busk and see who reacts to me on the street. I’ve always had Nic Manders produce my stuff, and he won’t be there. Over there I’ll be doing home recordings and stretching myself in that way as well.

“I’m a real big fan of sustainable and thorough growth. Like, chipping away at your character, chipping away at a project that means a lot to you instead of hoping for that overnight success that doesn’t actually mean anything. I apply that to my music and to my personal growth. I think that the slower you grow, then the more concrete that change will be.”

Connecting with musicians

We spend some time enthusiastically discussing the Sufjan Stevens shows we had each been to when he came last year. He embodies that type of musician Cole aspires to be like, just an upfront guy who is also a talented musician. She shares that these are the types of people she tries to share a stage with as well.

Luke Oram plays guitar for Lydia Cole

Luke Oram on guitar. Image: Josh Yong

“A guy called Chris from Christchurch is coming up to Auckland to support me. He messaged me on Facebook to say ‘Hi, here’s a link to my latest song on Soundcloud and I’d like to support you’. I really liked it. I’ve never met him and have seen no footage of him playing live so it’s like a fun little risk that I’m taking.

“In Australia it was real interesting trying to find people to support me. And I was lucky with that too. I got a couple of real cool people. I think musicians have pretty amazing stories a lot of the time so it was cool to bump into more people who have crazy stories.

“People who play music in similar genres to what I play – they’re writing from the heart and writing about stuff that matters to them. Usually when I click with someone like that it’s often on a personal level as well, so you make a really good friend out of that, which is nice.”

Success

Authenticity is something Cole values. She presents herself as she is, flaws and all. She chooses not to wear makeup and her personal lyrics can leave her feeling incredibly exposed, but she’d prefer to be seen as genuine than perfect.

“When I was younger I thought that not needing a day job meant you’ve made it, but I’ve changed my perspective on what success means.

“Success to me is balance and health. The past little while I’ve been working part-time in a café, and doing music the rest of the time. The café work helps keep me social and personally healthy, and not going all crazy in my head. And it pays the bills. And that to me is success.”

Lydia Cole has four more NZ shows before moving to Germany to continue her personal and musical growth. With hundreds of people paying to help fund her music and a likely three sold out shows on this tour, it’s hard not to agree that she has done well for herself. We wish her the best of luck starting afresh overseas.


Lydia Cole tour details

Auckland  – The Wine Cellar, March 2 – SOLD OUT

Christchurch  – Space Academy, March 3

Auckland – The Vic, March 10 – SOLD OUT

Wellington – Meow Bar, March 11


Links

Bandcamp: https://lydiacole.bandcamp.com/

Tumblr: http://www.lydiacole.tumblr.com/

Twitter: http://twitter.com/lydiacolemusic

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Lydia-Cole/24107578241

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/lydiaalice

Words by Joseph James

All photos taken by Josh Yong at the Wine Cellar on February 14 and provided by Lydia Cole

Live Review: Ty Dolla $ign at Shed 6, Wellington

Ty Dolla $ign Campaign Tour NZ poster
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Ty Dolla $ign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour

Ty Dolla $ign

w/ DJ Sir-Vere, TeeCee 4800 and DJ Dre Sinatra

Shed 6, Wellington

Tuesday 31 January 2017

Ty Dolla $ign began the NZ leg of his Campaign tour in Wellington off the back of his mixtape of the same name,

This show excited me for two reasons. Firstly (and more obviously) I am a fan of his and what better way to experience his music then performed live. Secondly, I was excited to contribute to Will Not Fade by writing about Hip Hop/RnB – a genre that may not get as much coverage on this site.

First coming into the spotlight on the track “Toot It and Boot It” by YG back in 2010, Ty Dolla $ign has since release 2 EP’s, 9 mixtapes and 2 albums, and founded a music production team (D.R.U.G.S). He has also contributed his song writing skills to hits like “FourFiveSeconds” (Kanye West/Rihanna/Paul McCartney), “Loyal” (Chris Brown/Lil Wayne/French Montana/Too Short/Tyga) and “Post to Be” (Omarion/Chris Brown/Jhene Aiko).

A standout in the ever-growing category of singer-rapper (think Drake, Future etc.),Ty Dolla $ign’s sound has elements of Hip-Hop, RnB and Soul. Among his influences are 2Pac, Prince and Stevie Wonder. Music production plays a big part in his artistry, being a multi-instrumentalist.

Ty Dolla $ign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour

We arrived at Shed 6 to see it roughly half full. Shed 6 is an underutilized venue that I would like to see more acts play. It reminds me of the now-defunct James Cabaret, although is twice as large. A DJ was walking around on stage trying to amp up the crowd.

Teecee 4800 Ty Dolla Sign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour

Ty Dolla $ign’s cousin Teecee 4800 succeeded in elevating the mood. The audience notably perked up in response to the live performance after having listened to prerecorded tracks through the PA for the past few hours.

Ty Dolla Sign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour

And as much as they loved Teecee, it was nothing compared to the star attraction. Ty Dolla $ign arrived onstage larger than life. He wore a Hawaiian styled jacket atop a black Gucci t-shirt – both of which were removed before long. His dreadlocked hair was tied back under a cap, and he wore round sunglasses to protect his eyes from the harsh red stage lights.

He was clearly excited to be in New Zealand. He commented on how much he had enjoyed Wellington since landing at the airport and complimented us on our potent strains of marijuana before lighting up a large blunt and taking a big drag before throwing it into the crowd. A risky move considering that it was an all-ages show, but I get the impression that this didn’t concern him too much.

It was a real buzz to run around in the photographers pit taking photos from all angles. It’s a shame that red lights – the bane of the photographer – dominated the entire show. Steam cannons lined the front edge of the stage to shoot geysers of steam into the air at certain moments.

Crowd Shot Ty Dolla Sign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour

Ty Dolla $ign treated us by playing all manner of tracks from his varied career, showcasing his strength as a collaborator. It’s a shame that autotune is so prevalent in many of his songs because he has great singing talent. It was terribly fun and it was clear that everyone in the building was having a blast.

It was interesting trying to figure out who the true Ty was. A large, heavily tattooed rapper drinking gin out of the bottle. A talented musician with illustrious credits to his name. He proudly brought his daughter and sister onstage, but then later let his DJ stop the set to pull girls up onstage to dance. Is it possible to be both a family man and womanizer? He brought TeeCee 4800 back out to tag team on some tracks with him.

Ty Dolla $ign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour Crowd Surf

The once-fun set got derailed and lost all momentum as DJ Dre Sinatra spent five minutes beckoning girls up onstage to dance for the final track before taking them backstage for the “after party”. As lame as it was halting the show to seek out groupies, Ty Dolla $ign did end on a fun note, with Fifth Harmony’s “Work“, and ventured into the audience to do a spot of crowd surfing.

Overall it was a fantastically fun gig – certainly worth staying up late on a Tuesday night for.

Ty Dolla $ign Shed 6 Wellington Campaign Tour

Words by Jayden Sulufaiga and Joseph James

Photos by Joseph James

Live Review: Alexisonfire at The Powerstation, Auckland

Alexisonfire Powerstation Auckland
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Alexisonfire

w/ Barracks

Powerstation, Auckland

Monday 23 January 2016

You’d think that with the amount of trouble I get into, I’d have learnt by now not to underestimate my ability to get lost in another city. But unfortunately I still find myself in situations like that today, in which I managed to get stranded on an island.

After an exciting day of exploring old army bunkers on Waiheke Island, I found the winding roads too hard to navigate, and managed to narrowly miss the ferry I needed to catch back to Auckland in time for the gig.

Sadly opening act Barracks had long finished their set by the time I got to the Powerstation, and Alexisonfire were already half way through their second song as I entered the venue.

I was kicking myself for showing up so late, but my excitement meant that I was soon caught up in the moment and forgot about the stress of trying to get there earlier. I’d been looking forward to this show for many months, and after an eventful drive up from Wellington I was finally here – albeit slightly late.

Alexisonfire are five piece post-hardcore act from Ontario, Canada. They released four albums between 2002-2009. One point of difference they boast is that they have three singers: George Pettit fronts the band on unclean vocals, Dallas Green sings clean vocals as well as playing guitar and piano, and Wade McNeil provides backing vocals whilst also playing guitar. In 2012 the band disbanded, with each singer going on to front other projects.

The Powerstation was well packed for a Monday night, with a generous turnout to see the newly reformed Canadians back in action. Here was a band that was most relevant a decade ago, but could still attract a decent audience on a work night.

And after seeing them play, I could see why. This was one of the more intense shows I’d been to in a while. The driving drums, high energy riffs and powerful roars all blended together to create a visceral experience.  I’m surprised that the mosh pit wasn’t more wild, between the music, Pettit shouting at us to “Fuck this place up” and McNeil telling us to punch Nazis in the face.

To be honest they could have said just about anything and the crowd would have lapped it up. People even tolerated  Green’s request for us to sing “Happy Birthday” to one of the roadies. In fact, if I remember correctly, he also asked us to sing “Happy Birthday” to his guitarist when City And Colour last played in Wellington as well. In my experience this seldom goes down well when a musician pulls this. But everyone was having a good time. People cheered when the band announced that the venue was a safe and tolerant space. People cheered when they heard that former local act The Bleeders lived near the band in Canada. People cheered when Pettit said he could see us all clearly after having had laser eye surgery.

The band covered a great cross section material, with tracks pulled from all four albums – predominantly 2006’s Crisis – and even the title track from their 2010 Dog’s Blood EP.

It was a dynamic set. The band ripped through popular hits and offered an all-out assault at first, but towards the end of the set they changed it up by introducing meandering instrumental sections and tender sing along moments. Encoring with some songs from the older two albums was met with favour, with many people noticeably running to the front to get closer during their old-time favourites.

Although the band’s punk pedigree was a big draw card, their slow burners and more melodic moments stood out. Green has enjoyed a fine career with his solo side project City and Colour, which is more folk/singer-songwriter styled. His strengths lie in vocal melodies and this was more than evident tonight, with his voice being far louder in the mix than the others. His voice is fantastic, and although he strained at times, his singing sections provided standout singalongs that brought balance to George and Wade’s double teamed shouting.

It was a brilliant gig. Varied, dynamic, and featuring all the expected hits. The band not only played their songs, but they put on a show. Nostalgia for well-written old songs were enough to draw the punters in, and excellent delivery kept them wanting more.

 

Joseph James

Live Review: Keith Ape at San Fran, Wellington

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Keith Ape and Bryan Cha$e (The Cohort)
w/ KVKA, Beach Boy, Jay Knight & FAR TOO KIND.
San Fran, Wellington
Friday November 11 2016

Keith Ape Bryan Chase San Fran Wellington Will Not Fade

I’ll start by admitting a few things. I don’t know the first thing about trap music. I don’t speak Korean. And I hadn’t even heard of Keith Ape before yesterday. But I could tell that this show was going to be a banger, even if it was out of my comfort zone.

I rate Guitar Wolf as one of the best live acts I’ve seen. I don’t understand most of what they’re saying, and I don’t usually listen to that kind of music. But when an artist puts that much energy into a performance, than you can begin to understand how they have managed to build a diehard underground following. I figure Keith Ape must be similar. He manged to sell out this NZ tour, and hasn’t even released an album yet! I guess an album isn’t even required when you’ve already managed to clock up over 30 million views on YouTube…

Keith Ape Bryan Chase San Fran Wellington Will Not Fade

Arriving at San Fran, the place was already packed. A handful of people throughout the crowd wore surgical masks over their faces – one of Ape’s trademarks. The general vibe was jovial, with people dancing and singing along to the songs that the DJ’s were playing. Things started to ramp up when KVKA took to the stage. He worked hard to hype up the crowd, offering free merch to those who went nuts during sections of his set. It made me think of a recent interview with Emanual Psathas (aka Name UL), in which Psathas was discussing how artists from our local scene should be able to  perform just as well as international acts they open for.  I think KVKA proved that point well, providing enough energy and talent to claim the stage as his own.

By the time Keith Ape and Bryan Cha$e came on for their set the place was humming. San Fran is my favourite Wellington venue and I’ve seen plenty of sold out shows here, but none quite on this scale. The sea of bodies was pulsating just in front of the stage, as you would expect. People were dancing and jumping and spilling their drinks as they mashed their sweaty bodies against each other. But what was different is that rather being contained to the front, this was also happening further back near the bar.

Keith Ape Bryan Chase San Fran Wellington Will Not Fade

As well as this, people were also standing on any higher space they could find – atop a shelf along the side of the wall, dancing on the tables at the bar area, one girl was even dancing on the end of the bar itself. I was watching the tables move and sway under the weight of dancing bodies and wondering if they would hold up under the added stress. One goth-looking figure even fell off at one point, but just climbed back up to continue the dancing.

Ape and Cha$e had a good partnership going, tagging off each other as they worked the stage. The crowd was already going before they came on, but their extra input of energy served as a catalyst to set the place ablaze. Many bottles of water were opened and thrown out over the front few rows of the pit just to give people some respite from the heat.

Keith Ape Bryan Chase San Fran Wellington Will Not Fade

Despite having no album to draw material from, Ape’s set lasted long enough. He’s had his share of hits, as well as collaborating with other big name American rappers like Waka Flocka Flame and A$AP Ferg, so it was clear that many people in the crowd were familiar with his material. One track had been written during the tour in Japan just a week earlier, and was received just as well, but the biggest hit of the night was predictably “It G Ma” – the big YouTube hit that Ape can attribute much of his success to.

I can’t pretend to be an expert on trap music. I can’t pretend that I understood much of what Keith Ape was rapping about. But I can testify that he lifted the roof in Wellington last night. There was a lot of hype around this sold-out show, and Keith Ape more than lived up to it and proved to himself that even a self-confessed “outsider” can be successful on an international stage.

 

Joseph James

Interview: Name UL [Emanuel Psathas]

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Name UL [real name Emanuel Psathas] is brimming with positive energy. He exudes enthusiasm, excitement and confidence. He actively fights the national mantra of tall poppy syndrome and attempts to prove that a small-time Wellington boy can bring his A-game and punch with the international heavyweights.

It has been almost a month since he dropped his debut album Choice(s) and held a sensational album release show with help from his friends in the band Drax Project. [Read my review of the album release show here]

I begin the interview with asking him if he if stoked on the final result of the album. He wholeheartedly agrees with the term.

Psathas: “I am stoked. I think stoked is a good way to put it. It’s definitely been a learning curve for me, putting it into a package so that it is recognisable and something that people associate with Wellington in mind when they hear it – it’s pretty awesome”

Psathas talks fast. You can almost hear his brain whirring as he speaks, trying to pump out the thoughts fast enough to keep up with his mouth. But he’s not just shooting his mouth off . I can tell that he is trying to communicate something worthwhile – which probably explains why he started rapping in the first place.

I think that Choice(s) is a good starting point for people wanting to hear my work, because I feel that this is where I really developed my voice. It’s the first time that I feel that I’ve really put something into my thoughts and specifically divided them to put into tracks, if that makes sense? Usually, with my past tracks I’d talk about girls, issues with drinking and depression, other issues, my parents, my friends… I’d try to fit it all into one track and it wouldn’t be so cohesive – it’d be a whole bunch of different thoughts and a stream of consciousness. So I feel like Choice(s) is a good place to start because everything is kind of divided up and there’s certain feels, and it means that I was able to create … like if I’m writing about a girl I’m able to create the mood and the music around what I’m talking about in the lyrics, so yeah – definitely a good place to start.”

It’s clear that Psathas has spent a lot of time in and around recording studios. His album release was a great combination of live and pre-recorded music, and he tells me about how he tries to achieve this sound in the studio.

“I like DJ-ing and the electronic side of things because it’s really crisp and you can really get things quite precise with your performance and in the studio it’s easier to make things more calculated. But in saying that, I think a lot of the really unique flavour that gives a track its energy and its heart and, you know, everything about it is from that stuff you can’t plan for. So I think it’s really good to have a balance of the two. And that’s why I like using live artists as well –because they bring that whole dimension and things that you can’t really plan for, but are really beautiful. So definitely has that touch to it. Also, playing off things that are actually from the earth (do you know what I mean?) … like playing off drums that are made of wood from the tree, and animal skin… there’s a whole bunch of things which add to it – There’s elements to it that you wouldn’t really think about, but I reckon they do have a bit of a play into how we listen to it and how we digest it.

And Psathas doesn’t just collab with talented musos, he plays some music himself. He laughs when I ask if he played any instruments on the album.

“Just the violins”, he grins, scratching his head to think if he played anything else. “Yeah, violins. But all the atmospheric sounds we made in the studio. All interludes, all the sounds of the town. The bottles smashing, phone calls – That was all made within a room with a few people.”

Name UL Choice(s).jpg

And, of course, there is more than just the music when it comes to releasing an album. I ask if others from KWOE (Kids With Open Ears, his collective) have also contributed to the album, noting that photographer Jeremy Hooper shot the pic on the album cover.

“ Yeah… Hoops with the visual stuff. Ben Murdock – Heist Beats – he’s had a lot to play with it in terms of the visuals on all of our platforms across Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and all of that… All of the core graphics that we put out, announcements of things we put together, some cool little posters or little photos – that’s all Ben, and he’s taken it under his belt, which is awesome. And he’s also been in the studio with me for all of the final recordings. I conceptualised everything on my own, but when it came to actually piecing it together in the studio, he had a big part in helping me with that. Also David Argue did that video for “Belong” the day of the drop, and he did a lot in supporting me in the making of the album, and filming me and documenting it.”

As well as the KWOE crew, Psathas also teamed up with his father, renown composer John Psathas. He seemed to really enjoy the process.

“It was pretty awesome, but it’s weird. My dad obviously works with a lot of people, but I’m his son, first and foremost. When we make music, it’s like, with your dad – like a go to play cricket on a Sunday, or kick a ball around at the park, or we got to make a table for your mum ‘let’s sit in the workshop and work on it together’ – kind of thing. It’s not like we’re going to make this table and sell it and make lots of money off it. It like that, you just do it because that just the way that you spend quality time together, and that’s what it’s like when my dad and I make music together. We’re not expecting some kind of outcome. We just do it because it’s a way to spend time that we both enjoy. It’s nothing like working with other artists. And dad loves it. Biggest fan, biggest supporter.”

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Image: Will Not Fade

It’s nice to see that someone experience a taste of success is keen to acknowledge his team – those who inspired and influenced him and helped him bring his goals to fruition.

“My previous DJ Denny Fackney. He was the person who made me want to rap about other stuff, and not just being cool and to blow up and all that. I remember we had a very big chat about two years ago (just before I started this album) about the whole thing. I vividly remember it – it was one of the more important conversations I’ve had ever. It was about two hours and we just sat and he just schooled me on why I should rap about this stuff. He remembers that and we reference that when we talk about this album as a reflection of understanding that conversation. Make your mark, I think he was the person who really taught me how to do that and how to harness the uniqueness of where I’m from as something that could help me more than I think. He has been a very, very big, significant impact on my musical life.

“Also my manager Pritesh had a massive impact on everything that I do with my work ethic and all of that.

“But, honestly man, the biggest person is just myself. I’m always keeping myself in check with just everything. I’ll always push myself and try new things.”

Name UL and Drax Project San Fran Wellington (8)

Image: Will Not Fade

 

And this theme of confident, but not cocky, shines through what Psathas is saying. He knows that he has the skills to carry him, and he’s not afraid to say that. He discusses the differences between working a support slot and headlining his own gig, noting that he carries the same passion for each, despite the different pressures of each scenario. I ask him how he tries to win over people who may not be interested in seeing him when he opens for big international acts.

“I don’t really but much thought into winning them over. I just have confidence in my set and I know that people like it, so that’s what I do, and I just play the best that I can, and I can’t put thought into anything else. If I started to think in those terms it would freak me out, and could affect it. They’ve obviously chosen me for a reason, so I come out here and I do what I do. I’ve been to shows, I’ve seen opening acts. I’ve seen what to do and what not to do from the crowd’s perspective. I understand that not trying to be too big out of your boots straight out of the gate, and letting your music speak for itself before you try and get the crowd to think that you’re really good. Let them decide, and just put it out there and understand that they might not like it because obviously they didn’t come to see you. But I have the confidence in our music that people really will like it and know that our sets are really, really on point. So I don’t get scared or nervous, I’m very understanding of the process from the audience’s point of view.”

“Headlining has more responsibility because people have paid money to come and see you. The ticket is not from the support act. Sometimes it is – but most of the time it’s not why people buy it. People didn’t pay to see Name UL, they came to see Action Bronson. So at the end of the day, I can be a shitty supporter, but it’s not going to leave people saying that it was a bad show – it’s only if the headliner was really bad that people would say that. It comes back to what we were talking about before in terms of confidence. Exact same show in terms of entertainment value, musical value, in terms of an overall night – we can bring all of that just as well as any other American artist you can think of. Whether that be… uh… anyone! Anyone I’ve opened for, I genuinely believe that our live set is just as good – if not better – than theirs, it’s just that we lack the money and the fanbase. But those two things will come. I feel that in terms of headlining – I have no doubts in our ability. Looking back we killed it. We did kill it, and it was great! In terms of an experience or a show, sure you could put Kendrick Lamar aside, next to me on that stage right? But if we stripped back people knowing those songs –if it was a completely fresh thing –I genuinely believe that we could perform just as good a show. I want people to see that when they come to the show. I want them to see that we have international class acts in Wellington that will perform Wellington. Just because we’re from Wellington, and we’re in Wellington doesn’t mean that people have to see anything less in terms of production value, performance value – and that’s what we’re bringing, what we’re trying to push and get people to understand.”

 

This ethic has opened doors for Psathas, leading him to  Los Angeles to record, and undertake an internship writing for Warner Music. He explains that as incredible as traveling to America to  work within the music scene sounds, he still needs to stay grounded.

“It’s pretty awesome. I think that prior to doing a lot of the work it felt like something that would be pretty surreal, but it’s interesting, because once you get onto the other side of the work and you get there, it feels like it’s pretty much what should be happening. It doesn’t feel weird, it feels like it’s part of the plan. If you work hard enough, you get to a certain place, you have a bunch of product or content or something underneath you, there’s certain things that you have to do. And when you rub shoulders with people in The States, you might think back in the day, like back when I was younger I was like ‘oh, imagine meeting up with a publicist in LA! How exciting would that be?’ But  on the day you have a folder full of notes, you’ve got a plan, you’ve got everything. It’s very serious and it’s a big deal, but it feels like it’s part of the plan – it’s what is supposed to happen if you work a certain way, and you do things a certain way.

“It is weird, because there hasn’t been a rapper from Wellington who has done that yet. But I’m not trying to be someone who hits a ceiling. I don’t put a limit on what I’m gonna do, and in order to be someone like a Kendrick Lamar, or a Kanye West, or a Drake or whatever – this is what they were doing when they were 20 as well. It’s just because I’m from Wellington that it seems really obscure, because we’re not known for being in the hip-hop community overseas. It feels stranger, but it also feels good.”

I’m especially interested to hear about one figure that Psathas met overseas: eccentric

Name UL Nardwuar.jpg

Image: Name UL

Canadian radio host Nardwuar the Human Serviette, who is famous for his quirky mannerisms and in-depth research into the backgrounds of every artists he interviews. I ask if Psathas if he had learnt any crazy facts him.

“I didn’t! I wish I’d had longer to speak to him. It was a pretty brief encounter, but he was a pretty awesome dude, and he was actually super similar to what he’s like on camera. He’s pretty much exactly the same so I respect him for that.”

One thing that I believe sets Name UL apart from many other rappers is that he touches on issues that are deeper than the stereotypical “pussy, money, weed” culture than can sometimes be prevalent in hip-hop. He’d already shared about being asked to reflect on his message by previous DJ Denny Fackney, so I asked him what key message he wants his listeners to take from his music.

“To stay inspired I just read the news every day. I wake up, and I read the news every morning. It’s important to me to know what’s happening in the world. And if other people my age don’t, then that’s fine –that’s up to them. But I always found that the way I wanted to do that I saw a friend reading the news every day, and I saw how cool it was to know about what’s happening in the world. And it didn’t take someone telling me to do that, it took me seeing another young person. Because if my dad tells me to do that than it’s like, ‘of course my dad would say that!’ If I see one of my friends doing that, who is my age and is actively aware of what is happening in the world, who can read about it and talk about what is happening with adults, then that inspires me to do it. So if I can be that to other people, than that’s great. I can be a source of inspiration.

“But people are more lenient to be like ‘I want to change the world’, than ‘I want to inspire the world’. To say ‘inspire’ sounds like you’re being cocky, but if you say “change” than it’s like you understand that you have to take something under your belt. It’s like it’s harder than it is. If you say ‘I just want to inspire people’ than it sounds like you’re putting yourself on a pedestal, but it’s real. That’s how. I want people to be like ‘yo! That dude’s reading the news, that’s what it’s about! Cool dude! I want to do that’.

“I’m trying to say that you don’t need a big-ass chain to cool in the hip-hop world, I want to show that you need a big-ass brain. ” – Name UL

 

And as for the future? He’s a bit coy.

“It’s always a big surprise, but we’ve got some stuff going. More content, more shows. Just more music, but I can’t get specific about the whole thing, but a lot of exciting stuff.”

I bet!

I find Name UL instantly likable. A rapper that wants to inspire kids to read the news, who wants to put Wellington on the map and make fantastic music with skilled people. Maybe he will become the next Kendrick. He’s got talent, contacts and material. He’s got attitude and confidence. Something makes me think that is he keeps forging this path he’s on he may actually get there someday.

Joseph James

Live Review: Name UL and Drax Project – Choice(s) Release Show

Name Ul Choices Album Launch San Fran Wellington
Standard

Name UL featuring Drax Project

w/ Eastern Bloc and Maxwell Young

San Francisco Bathhouse, Wellington

Friday 2 September 2016

Name UL and Drax Project San Fran Wellington (2)

Image: Will Not Fade

Name UL (real name Emanuel Psathas) has been making waves in the local hip hop scene for years now, which is all the more impressive considering his young age. He has opened for some of the more notable hip hop acts to arrive on these shores for years now, including the likes of Jurassic 5, Freddie Gibbs, Schoolboy Q, Vince Staples and Earl Sweatshirt. And his work within the scene has paid off, landing him a song writing job in LA to start next year.

Thursday saw the release of Psathas’ first  full length, Choice(s), and Friday saw the album come to life at the San Francisco Bathhouse in Wellington.

Name UL and Drax Project San Fran Wellington (3)

Image: Will Not Fade

This was it: two years of writing and recording finally coming to fruition. Sure, some of the songs were from older EPs, but most of this material was new. Was it going to measure up?

Short answer: yes. Yes, yes, and then some. Psathas actually admitted that he was quite nervous, but he needn’t have worried. Choice(s) debuted at number one one the iTunes NZ hip hop charts, and number seven overall. And it translated just as successfully live.  The audience lapped it all up with vigour – both new and old material. There was no mistaking that the new material hit the spot, judging from how enthusiastically everyone was dancing and grooving along to the music.

Name Ul San Fran Wellington.JPG

Image: Will Not Fade

The set started with Name UL on the mic and DJ Heist Beats on the decks. People were singing along to the familiar songs like “My Side”. It sounded great. And then it got better. Matt Beachen from Drax Project joined in on drums, and then the rest of the Drax crew joined during the following song. The extra live instrumentation really added to the mix. How often do you hear someone ripping it up on a sax at a rap show?

I’ve only seen a few hip hop acts with live bands (The Roots, David Dallas with The Daylight Robbery), but I think that hip hop within a live band context is far superior to having a DJ or laptop providing the beats. With more happening onstage, there is more to watch and take in, as well as the extra layers of music building upon each other.

Name UL and Drax Project San Fran Wellington (7)

Image: Will Not Fade

I saw Immortal Technique – one of my more highly rated rappers -play San Fran years ago and his sound was horrendous. By contrast, last night Name UL was slaying the crowd with the most incredible sound and energy. It was also nice to hear Drax Project back on form under a different setting, after poor sound mixing marred their own otherwise-untouchable album release three months ago. They’re a diverse group of musicians who know how to adapt to different settings- progressing from crowd-drawing buskers to the next big thing, and casually adding hip-hop backing band to their résumé along the way.

I’ve only seen Name UL play support sets to dates. And he did well, but in those situations people had paid to see international headliners, not a kid from Wellington. The reception tonight was exponentially better than the lukewarm reaction I’d seen during those early instances. For this show, people were excited to be there – bouncing around and loving the atmosphere. And fair enough too – the sound was great, the tunes were fresh, and the addition of Drax Project helped to make the show even better.

Name UL and Drax Project San Fran Wellington (8)

Image: Will Not Fade

Two years of writing and recording, finally realised in a live context. I can see why Psathas would have been nervous playing a lot of untested new material. But all that work paid off, and there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the show was a complete success. Everywhere I looked during the set people were dancing, bouncing, singing and generally enjoying themselves – both on and off stage.

Do yourself a favour and check out Choice(s). And if you get the chance, catch Name UL live. Because if you don’t, the next opportunity may be when he’s selling out shows in LA.

Joseph James


NAME UL – CHOICE(S) OUT NOW  

iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/nz/album/choice-s/id1148581235?at=10lrHH&app=itunes

Apple Music – https://itunes.apple.com/nz/album/choice-s/id1148581235?ls=1

Deezer – http://www.deezer.com/album/13916774

Google Play – https://play.google.com/store/music/album/Name_UL_Choice_s?id=Bjfxqeus6hxt2rm6efrhjwxcqdi

Spotify – https://open.spotify.com/album/3C0O00SagxGcr4KFnCCuvj