2015 Artist Survey: NZCA Lines

Michael Lovett on 2015's Best Albums, Outrageous Tour Requests, and Almost Being Fired from Metronomy

Feb 22, 2016 Photography by Robert Self Issue # 56 - Best of 2015 - Father John Misty and Wolf Alice
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For Under the Radar's 13th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2015. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2015 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

]Check out our Best of 2015 print and digital issues for answers from Arcade Fire's Will Butler, Julien Baker, Blanck Mass, CHVRCHES, Dan Deacon, The Dears, Dutch Uncles, EL VY, Everything Everything, Father John Misty, Field Music, The Flaming Lips, How to Dress Well, Sondre Lerche, Low, Luna, Mew, NZCA Lines, Cullen Omori, Natalie Prass, Small Black, Surfer Blood, Tamaryn, Telekinesis, Vampire Weekend's Chris Baio, The Walkmen, Youth Lagoon, and others.
 
Here are some answers from Michael Lovett of NZCA Lines (who has also played with Metronomy). NZCA Lines' sophomore album, Infinite Summer, was released last month via Memphis Industries.

A shorter version of this interview ran in the Best of 2015 print issue, which is still on newsstands now. This is the full unedited version of the interview.

Top 10 Albums of 2015

1. Unknown Mortal Orchestra: Multi-LoveA really ambitious and exciting record, both musically and lyrically. Their earlier records had great songwriting, but the production really came together on this one.
2. Kendrick Lamar: To Pimp a ButterflyHad to be in here. I played this to death. Why do few people make albums which are this rich in detail and meaning?
3. Majical Cloudz: Are You Alone?The song "Downtown" from this record is totally beautiful and straight from the heart. I love it. The rest of the album kicks butt too.
4. Boxed In: Boxed InSomehow, in amongst producing for the likes of Petite Noir and George Fitzgerald, Oli Bayston has made a cracking dance record. It might not immediately appear as such, but I've seen them live recently and it turned into a total dance party. My fave track, "Sailing," is actually more R&B flavored though, and reminds me of Jhené Aiko.
5. LA Priest: InjiAbout eight years in this making. This guy likes to take his time. Worth waiting for though. Check out his videos too-they are PERFECT.
6. Christine & The Queens: Christine & The QueensThis was already released in France but has just come out in the U.S. this year. Okay, bit naughty: I played on this record, along with my brother Gabriel who's touring with her. It's incredible though, honestly. She has one of the best voices I've heard, and she writes everything. The real deal.
7. Empress Of: MeA strong, weird sounding pop record. Some really enviable hooks on this one.
8. Wales: "Lose My Mind"Okay, this is a single. But he should release an album. The vibes are strong with this one. He's actually primarily a filmmaker and designer, but just farted out this track and it's got like 269k listens on Soundcloud, which is horrific really when you think about it. Bastard.
9. Twin Shadow: EclipseI got to see live versions of these new tracks a few times over the summer, playing the same festivals, and was blown away. Another step on the road to full-on pop.
10. Tame Impala: CurrentsI do like this record, but in the Australasian battle for the crunchy psychedelic crown, UMO's Multi-Love wins. There's just something about it. Currents does sound incredible though, and Kevin Parker has surely got chops the size of blue whales for doing this all himself. 

What was the highlight of 2015, for either you personally or for the band? What was the low point?

I think the high point was finally finishing my album! The low point was being adrift, around February time, not knowing how it would be released and deciding to write more tracks for it and get everything mixed again. Thankfully it was worth it.

What are your hopes and plans for 2016?

Releasing my second album Infinite Summer and touring it. I want this to reach more ears, eyes, and hearts than the last one. I feel like I've made something good and that people will be excited by it.

With the launch of TIDAL and Apple Music in 2015, there are more streaming music options, but the same issues of adequate artist compensation persist. What are your current thoughts on streaming and which service would you most like to have your music on?

I don't know too much about TIDAL actually right now, but there's something seductive about Apple Music. I think streaming is unavoidable really, we're in a transitional phase and until this gets worked out, musicians are not getting fair recompense for their labors. The creative industries are the only place where you are ever expected to work for free, on 'spec'try asking that of any other professional. Right now it seems the most important thing is just staying creativethe good stuff will stick eventually somehow. Right?

What are your thoughts on Friday being the new global release day for albums? Is it helping or hurting album sales?

I don't think it will affect things at all, personally. If I decide to buy an albumI say decide, because now you can generally stream an album a week before its release anyhow—I will purchase it depending on my bank balance. My current ambition is to finally buy a record player. I want to be able to listen to music without involving the computer or a phone. My girlfriend bought a Boards of Canada vinyl the other month, and it was so good to just listen to that coming from the speakers without the laptop. Or Spotify adverts.
 
Mainstream pop music is increasingly embraced by indie rock musicians and listeners, as well as serious music critics. At this point, do you draw any distinctions between Top 40 pop and indie rock/pop? Are you comfortable with this shift?

Now everybody seems to be "pop," which is a bit idioticfor ease, I will describe NZCA LINES as "synth pop" to strangers, a horrible term, but who am I kidding? I'm not racking up the views like Taylor Swift. Pop is used to describe music that has discernable melody, which could just as easily be an Aphex Twin track or a Björk song. Yet some of the most popular, catchiest music has little or no melody! Drake's "Started From The Bottom" is more about atmosphere and his vocal hook, which isn't strictly melodic. So it's a bit confused. I love a well-executed pop song, and that's something you don't get with borrowed poise or style. Plenty of people are aping "pop" music, but to create something as arresting as a Beyoncé song is tough. Adele's "Hello" is MOR but we're all singing it because it's so well put together. 

What are your thoughts on how the 2016 U.S. Presidential election is shaping up?

Well, it's as disturbing as ever. When you look at any Republican candidate's political beliefs it's just ridiculous, the stance on immigration, welfare, the environment. Then when you look at the Democrats it's like, "Ah yes, this person is sane. This actually makes sense." I know some of her policies aren't perfect, but I'd love for Hillary to get in. The obvious plus of having a female president would do good things for women's rights too. I really hope Trump doesn't come anywhere near the presidency, of course. People say jesters are needed in politics, but look at Boris Johnsonhe seemed like a bit of fun, I'm sure, but the shrewdly bumbling London Mayor is now in line for Conservative leadership. Scary.

Ryan Adams covered Taylor Swift's 1989 (and then Father John Misty covered Adams covering Swift). If you were to cover another artist's album in its entirety, which would you pick and why?

I reckon I could try my hand at OutKast's The Love Below. Skits and all. I can do a good "bad British accent" accent"behowld: ahh layday."
 
Have you ever been fired from a job (be it a day job or musical one)? Why were you fired?

Never been fired. Too much of a goody two-shoes, sorry. I think I almost got fired from playing on Metronomy's Love Letters, though. We were recording everything live, all the drums, bass, and keyboards. I was playing this tricky arpeggio organ part. We took a break and outside [Metronomy frontman] Joe [Mount] said to me, "Great playing, Mikey." To which I said, "What do you mean, it was crap." He replied, "Yes, I know. Play it better." 
 
What's your earliest music-related childhood memory?

Probably going and having guitar lessons with an Indian lady in Reading before we moved to Devon. I must have been about five. Just think, in a parallel universe I could have become a master sitar player!
 
What outrageous request would you most like to put in your tour rider as a joke?

Asking for outrageous things can come back to bite you. Touring my first record, I was going through a phase of drinking martinis. I thought it would be amazing to put that on the rider: gin, vermouth, olives, cocktail glasses, and cocktail sticks. We never got any of ituntil, that is, we played at a festival near a tiny village in rural Slovakia. The poor promoters were really proud that they'd found us this martini, which must have been really hard to come by over there and very expensive, and were expectantly waiting for us to drink it and approve. They even found little cocktail sticks with the Slovakian flag. Sadly, they bought sweet, not dry, vermouth, which as any discerning martini drinker knows is a no-go. So we ended up swapping the martini with some locals for a bottle of Borovischka (translation: "revenge of the forest") and that was that. I felt terrible. So I would probably ask for forgiveness. 
 
What's the most disastrous date you've ever been on?

That would have to be Valentine's Day this year. My girlfriend and I experienced a perfect storm of events that resulted in us sitting underneath a tree outside my house and screaming at each other. It all seemed funny the next day thoughwe're going to make it into a short film. 
 
Which Star Wars character are you most like?

My favorite Star Wars character is Boba Fett. I don't think I'm much like him, but I want to be him.
 
Where do you see yourself in five beers? 

Four usually takes me to the edge, so five will put me in a state of transcendence where I am one with myself and right about everything. 

With Twin Peaks, The X-Files, Gilmore Girls, Full House, and other classic shows returning, what other TV show would you like to see come back with its original cast?
 
Sliders! I always think about Sliders. Now they could visit a universe where Atari ended up inventing the smartphone, or where Drake became a credible Hollywood actor instead of turning to music. It would be awesome.
 
CHVRCHES' Lauren Mayberry, among others, has spoken out about misogyny in the music industry and the sexist, and sometimes sexually violent, Internet comments from male fans. What are your thoughts on the issue?

It must be really horrible when you get to the level of fame where people are slinging abuse at you. It's like with YouTube commentsit seems the idiots of the world are the only people who actually write stuff like that online. It shows the worst in people. There's a lot of sexism in the world and there's a long way to go before this kind of behavior is seen as being prehistoric and unthinkable. 
 
2015 is the year that Marty McFly traveled to the future in Back to the Future Part II. Beyond not having hoverboards, what most disappoints you about 2015 now that we're here?

I think the inevitable fact that, no matter how much cool stuff gets invented, once it's arrived it always feels prosaic and everyday. 
 
What song will most unite or amp up the tour bus or van (à la "Tiny Dancer" in Almost Famous)? Which song do you love that the rest of the band or crew refuse to let you put on?

I don't think I could realistically play any Smashing Pumpkins without a large-scale riot, much as I hold them dear. Having said that, Gbenga from Metronomy did put on their Best Of once at an after-party. Needless to say, it totally killed the vibe. 
 
What's been your best ever Halloween costume? What were you for Halloween this year?

Hands down it would be my Boba Fett costume from a couple of years back. It was top-notch work. I crafted the indents on the helmet and everything, spray-painting separate vertices to get that gunmetal 3D feel. This year I was Edward Dinnerhands, a slant on the popular Tim Burton character involving eye makeup, hairspray, and taping plastic cutlery to my fingers. 

www.nzca-lines.com

 



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