2016 Artist Survey: Michael Lovett of NZCA Lines
Lovett on 2016's Best Albums, Trump and the Election, Brexit, Bowie and Prince, First Kisses, and Scary Movies
Jan 05, 2017
For Under the Radar's 14th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2016. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2016 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions. Here are some answers from Michael Lovett of NZCA Lines. The British band's sophomore album, Infinite Summer, came out in 2016 on Memphis Industries.
For our annual Artist Surveys we emailed the same set of questions to musicians about Trump and the election, 2016's deaths, self-driving cars, Stranger Things, first kisses, scary movies they shouldn't have seen as a child, which Friends character they are most like, and much more.
Pick up or download Under the Radar's Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue for Artist Survey interviews with Amber Arcades, Austra, Faris Badwan of Cat's Eyes and The Horrors, Boxed In, Caveman, The Charlatans, Cursive, Lucy Dacus, The Dears, C Duncan, Sadie Dupuis of Sad13 and Speedy Ortiz, Dutch Uncles, Ezra Furman, Robyn Hitchcock, The Invisible, Justin Lockey of Editors and Minor Victories, Lost Under Heaven (LUH), Lush, Midlake, Phantogram, The Range, Springtime Carnivore, Sunflower Bean, Surfer Blood, TEEN, The Thermals, Nick Valensi of CRX and The Strokes, Jenn Wasner of Flock of Dimes and Wye Oak, and Yuck.
A shorter version of NZCA Lines' survey appeared in the digital version of the Best of 2016 / 15th Anniversary Issue, this is the full unedited version.
Top 10 Albums of 2016
1. Metronomy: Summer 08—This record is in my opinion one of Joe's best, and also sounds bloody incredible. It's also just really good fun.
2. Jessy Lanza: Oh No—This record sounds amazing and should be in the top 10 for "It Means I Love You" alone, which was on heavy rotation whilst we toured this year.
3. Alexis Taylor: Piano—Some really beautiful tracks on this.
4. The Lemon Twigs: Do Hollywood—An impeccable period piece-saw these guys live and it was wonderful. They have the kind of nuanced, noodly changes in their tracks that reminds me loads of Todd Rundgren, 10cc, Squeeze, and the like.
5. Justice: Woman—The album might not totally hold together but the singles are great. There's seems to be a massive bandwagon of "make it live" in the wake of Random Access Memories, but this is by no means contrived.
6. Childish Gambino: "Awaken, My Love!"—Bloody polymaths. Donald Glover does it again-didn't expect this to be so much of a Parliament homage, but it's great all the same.
7. Frank Ocean: Blonde—Initially underwhelmed by this, but it's actually a really refreshing antidote to how maximalist or just too damn serious pop is.
8. Boxed In: Melt—Another solid introverted dance record from Oli Bayston.
9. David Bowie: Blackstar—It's got to be in here, hasn't it. RIP.
10. Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker—I'm not too into this as an album, but the title track is incredible.
2016 was regarded by many as a fairly tough and negative year. Was it also a hard year for you personally? If so, how? And also what were the high points for you?
It was actually a pretty good year for me, in terms of my music. In January we released Infinite Summer, a difficult second album that was at times quite painful to finish. It was something of a relief to finally have it out there! Especially as I was very happy with David Newfeld's mixing, which breathed some new life into something that had become a "wood for the trees" scenario. At one point I became obsessed with re-recording all the vocals in my shed to get rid of any mid-range and natural reverb. So, yeah. Good to put that one to bed. And, it's gone pretty well—the singles received a lot of radio play in the U.K. and "Two Hearts" is now our most popular track, it seems. We played a lot, including Glastonbury festival, which was a highlight for me. We also worked with designers Taxonym and Amala Studio to put together a full live visuals show, something I'd wanted for a long, long time. Our London show in September at Village Underground was, for me, the fullest realization yet of NZCA Lines and set the stage for where I want to take it next. I was also able to do some more playing with Metronomy this year, promoting their last record Summer 08, and played live with Christine and rhe Queens in the U.S. this October. I played synths and guitar on the album, so it was great to be involved again now that she's huge! Those shows were fun.
What are your thoughts on how the U.S. presidential election played out?
I have to say, I had the same feeling on election night as I did when we found out the Brexit result (I was actually at Glastonbury at the time, for Brexit). It was the same experience of everyone saying it wasn't going to happen, that there was no way, everyone being confident. Basically putting our heads in the sand. I went to sleep at 4am GMT after it seemed to be going Trump's way, and had nightmares about it. Then I looked at my phone in the morning and saw that headline. It's very scary because we're entering a new period of history and a pattern is emerging. Not to be hysterical, but there are many similarities with 1930s Europe—a period of recession followed by a rise in populist figures promising to save a scared public from outsiders claimed to be responsible for their problems. What's clear is that the left is really in trouble. In England there's a lack of strong opposition to the right wing government—Jeremy Corbyn seems to be content with a position of protest that isn't backed up with action. I actually voted for Corbyn, because Owen Smith, the other candidate, didn't seem to offer a plausible alternative. I kind of expected him to be ineffective, but at least he stands for liberal values, rather than being some kind of quasi-right figure. The Labour Party needs to play this out—or maybe to implode, and leave the path clear for another, more effective opposition party to the Conservatives. The idea of the center left is flawed, and we have seen that people no longer trust the politicians we expect to rule us. A global shake up is no bad thing, but not if it gives rise to fascism.
Let's discuss Donald Trump. What does the rise of Trump tell you about America in 2016? What concerns you most about a Trump presidency? How do you think his presidency might personally change your life? What message do you have for those who voted for Trump? What actions will you take over the course of the next four years to either protest a Trump presidency or support it?
I think it's clear why Trump won so much support, because older white people are scared of having their power taken away. I also do believe that sexism had a large role to play with Hillary's loss. It's absolutely incredible to see someone so inept and unqualified as a human being beat a woman who is on every level better than him. It's incredible that those who voted for him would rather have him than Hillary, but that says a lot about how people view a strong, ambitious woman-it's not allowed, people don't trust her. The emails stuff is bullshit, that's not why people didn't trust her-it was because they aren't used to having a woman come out and say what she wants. True, she's part of the dynasty of American politicians, and there were clearly concerted efforts by the DNC to have her as the candidate over Sanders, who was the more principled politician and whose policies I definitely agree with more. But that's politics.
What reality TV star would you have rather been elected president?
Oh god, I forget that Trump was a reality TV star over here. I guess RuPaul.
If you were president, what would you try to accomplish in your first 100 days in office?
From my perspective, Obama seems to have spent much of the past eight years having his policies blocked by the Republicans. They seemed to be more concerned with maintaining their opposition to Obama—and therefore their electability with core Republicans—than actually helping the country to improve. The deadlock just made things stagnate, and is probably partially why Republican voters are actually angry at the outgoing administration—but it's their own party's fault! Anyway. I imagine I would have a similar problem were I to be elected to office, but my priorities would definitely be the environment, and some form of public healthcare program. Green energy could create huge business opportunities in America, moving it away from a dangerous dependence on fossil fuels. Not too likely under Trump though, eh?
What are your thoughts on Brexit and the future of the European Union? To what extent do you think the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump were motivated by the same factors?
I think they were motivated by similar factors of fear and xenophobia, and both pretty much amounted to a protest vote against the current ruling elite. I think Britain should be staying in the EU, and in my opinion there is no good reason to leave. In fact, it's insane, an attempt to turn back the clock to a Britain that never existed. The pro-Brexit politicians who preyed on the insecurities of the poor and under-educated were doing so purely out of self interest, and this much is clear now. Take Nigel Farage, a cabbage faced bastard who I sincerely hope chokes to death on his own ball sack. Sorry.
We lost three highly influential music icons in 2016. What are your thoughts on the passing of David Bowie, Prince, and Leonard Cohen? And what are your favorite albums by each artist?
Both Bowie and Cohen released some great music just before they died, which is hugely inspiring. Bowie in particular seemed to frame his death as a piece of art. It's incredible! Prince's death came as more of a surprise, though he wasn't in the public eye so much as Bowie, having not just released high profile new music. It's all sad, isn't it? We'll never see their like again, as those days of the music industry are over. Talents aren't given breathing space in the same way, and obviously there's much less money around too. I would say that Low is my favorite Bowie record, and for Prince it's Sign o' the Times. I'm afraid I've never listened to much Leonard Cohen, and only really know the hits.
What do you think Prince and Bowie's afterlife project sounds like?
I imagine they're both pretty thrilled at being entities of cosmic consciousness freed from their earthly vessels. I don't know—kind of jazzy?
Which Friends character are you most like?
A combination of Ross and Monica. Unfortunate but true.
What scary movie did you see way too young as a child, how'd you end up seeing it, and does it still scare you now?
I remember being pretty traumatized by E.T., for some reason. Maybe it was the emotional weight.
Are you ready for self-driving cars and a more automated future?
I already rely almost entirely on Google for directions when I'm driving, even on routes I know well. It's all-knowing. I was actually thinking the other day how incredibly efficient a network of driverless cars would be. It would be very efficient both in terms of time and fuel consumption. Bring on the automation, I say.
Tell us about the most memorable fan encounter you had this year.
We played a gig in Moscow and this guy brought an LP to get signed. First off—kudos to the man for finding the vinyl, I'm guessing it was an expensive import. Secondly, we were playing at an ice rink, so he had to skate over to us with the record. Pretty stylish.
Tell us about your first kiss.
Dartington village hall, sometime around 2000. Awkwardness, with the taste of vodka and orange juice.
Under the Radar has been around for 15 years now, since December 2001. How do you feel the music industry has most changed in that time, both for the better and the worst?
Happy birthday! I wasn't involved in the music industry around 2001, so I couldn't comment. It certainly seems like there was a lot more money around then, but then things were also much more centralized. The Internet hadn't come into play quite yet. So, now I think it's much easier to create music and share it with the world, but there's also just so much of it! It's hard to know where to start.
- Nine Albums Out Today Worth Hearing: Gorillaz, Feist, Mew, Sufjan Stevens, and More (News) — BNQT, Feist, Gorillaz, Juliana Hatfield, Little Cub, Mew, Sufjan Stevens, Sylvan Esso, Thurston Moore
- Speedy Ortiz Covers TV on the Radio’s “Young Liars” for Planned Parenthood Covers Album (News) — Speedy Ortiz, TV on the Radio
- Waxahatchee Shares “Silver (Demo)” for “Our First 100 Days” Anti-Donald Trump Project (News) — Our First 100 Days, Waxahatchee
- Sufjan Stevens Announces Mixtape Featuring “Carrie & Lowell” Outtakes, Remixes, and Demos (News) — Sufjan Stevens
- Tribeca 2017: Brian Shoaf and Zachary Quinto on “Aardvark” (Interview) — Zachary Quinto, Brian Shoaf