Interview with Street Chant – NZ @ CMJ

I interviewed all of the bands at the New Zealand showcase CMJ event on October 18. Here's the second of seven, a conversation with Street Chant.

You Do The Maths by Street Chant

TWD: I've been asking this to all the bands so far. I've never been to New Zealand and I don't know a lot about it. I wondered if you could give me something to check out if I ever go that I may not be likely to find if I was looking at Lonely Planet or something like that.

Billie [Bass / Vocals]: That you wouldn't be able to find? Hmm.

Emily [Lead Vocals / Guitar]: If you were looking at Lonely Planet? I haven't read the New Zealand one.

Alex [Drums]: What sort of things are you looking for? We could tell you the cool bar in Auckland that probably won't be in Lonely Planet.

Billie: If you want to see live music, go to Whammy Bar.

Alex: Or Wine Cellar. They're like dungeons, basically, but the only places we can play, and other bands.

TWD: What about a cool sight or public space?

Billie: West Coast beaches. They're about an hour out of town, out of Auckland city. They're just really beautiful black sand beaches. And big waves.

TWD: Ok. You are familiar with the movie Spinal Tap and also Almost Famous?

Billie: Yeah.

TWD: So when I say tell me a Stonehenge moment where something really went wrong you would know that, and when I say tell me a golden god moment where something was great?

Alex: Stonehenge moment. With the fire extinguisher, right?

Billie: Oh yeah.

Emily: Yeah.

Alex: We were playing this really good show –

Billie: That show was going so well.

Emily: We just learned a whole bunch of new songs, they're going to be on our new album. We were debuting them and they were going really well. Everyone was into it and everyone was going crazy. Then about halfway into it, somebody was obviously going too crazy, and they got the fire extinguisher off the wall and sprayed it everywhere. It just wouldn't stop going off and it went in our mouths.

Billie: And the fire alarm was going off.

Alex: We continued to play for a good couple minutes before we got dragged off. We could see through the smoke there was nobody there anymore.

Emily: I couldn't even sing, I couldn't even open my mouth and then –

Alex: – there were fire trucks outside.

Emily: And the whole venue had to be evacuated and that was the end of that.

Billie: And we lost money.

Emily: It was so chemical-y that it destroyed our gear a little bit as well.

Alex: Yeah, it was corroding everything.

Emily: It was pretty awful.

TWD: That's pretty bad, but that was a good story. So that album you have out, Means, that was released like a year ago. You have some more stuff coming out soon?

Alex: We're working on it. We'll be playing new songs on this tour and stuff.

Billie: We started recording.

Emily: We've almost finished. We were trying to get the mix done before we came here but we want it to be perfect. We weren't necessarily 150% happy with our last album, production-wise. We want to be really happy, so we couldn't quite finish it in time. We have a new 7-inch first then full album.

Alex: Yeah, in the next few weeks there'll be a new 7-inch.

TWD: I was listening to the songs on Means and I think you guys sound really good. Here are some of my random questions based on what I was listening to. "Scream Walk," I got a message of directness, you know, "just tell me what's on your mind." How important is that to you, being direct versus being ambiguous?

Emily: It's really important, I think. And I think that's what I don't like about a lot of the music that's popular nowadays. No one's coming out there and putting their heart on their sleeve or anything. They're covering everything up with reverb. Everyone's scared to attach themselves to anything that has any meaning.

Alex: Yeah, it's like a mask or a cheap trick or something. I think it's a powerful thing to just be direct.

Billie: Yeah.

Emily: That's why everyone likes all the old music they like because it's people going out there and putting their heart on their sleeve. You can relate to those lyrics because it's like baring your soul. Or baring your anger, or whatever. I think it means more.

TWD: I saw something about your video for "Yr Philosophy," where you're talking about how that was sort of a commentary on your audiences or audiences you've seen at shows. Has that changed? That was like a year ago, have you noticed a more devoted audience?

Emily: Yeah, we've got a few people who turn up that don't even drink and they just stare, but I think New Zealand being such a small place, there's not much to do. A lot of people, when they go out or they go to shows, getting drunk is really important, as opposed to going just for the music.

Billie: And appreciating the show that's been put on. It's more about partying, I guess. For some people. Not everyone.

TWD: On the song "Stoned Again," there's the line "Trying to find a reason to use my mind." What is something that you've found is inspiring and makes you want to act when you're in those moments?

Emily: We've been a band for three years now and we have our ups and downs. We have our fights. We go on long tours, losing some money, stuff like that, and then we don't play for awhile and I'll be like "Yeah, I'm kind of over it." But then whenever we actually practice again, it feels really powerful. I know this probably sounds really cheesy, but it's like, "Oh that's why it's more important."

Billie: Yeah, I guess we all inspire each other (laughs).

Alex: I think some times can be pretty hard, but once you start doing it, you can't stop. It might be hard to get to the point where you do your first show or something, but once you feel that direct energy, then it's just hard to stop moving. We've been riding on that for three years or so.

Emily: And watching documentaries as well.

TWD: Any good ones you can recommend?

Emily: I like the Bill Hicks documentary that I saw recently, it was pretty good.

TWD: The song, "You Do the Maths," made me think about the idea of someone having to calculate the reasons why they should be with somebody. Have you ever done that or been on the other side? Either way, it's not going to be a good relationship if you have to think about it, right? Do you believe that you just intuitively know? Or do you think you have to convince yourself sometimes?

Emily: I think a sociopath would probably be the one adding up the pros and cons. They would do that and then figure out if there were enough cons, I mean pros, and do it. And that would be pretty psychotic. But no, you just know. You just know. It's friendship as well as romance. That's the kind of thing you do for a job really.

TWD: But don't you think you've met people like that?

Billie: Yeah I know people, definitely come across them.

TWD: In some of your photographs and videos, I noticed a lot of TV show t-shirts or posters. I was wondering if you could tell me about some of your favorite TV shows.

Billie: Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Emily: I like Parks and Recreation.

Alex: It's hard to get past The Simpsons and stuff like that. That's childhood.

Emily: Seinfeld.

Alex: We learned so much from all that.

Billie: I like this Australian comedian Chris Lilley who does different series like Summer Heights High and We Can Be Heroes. I like comedy.

Emily: TV is really different now. Every week a new episode of a show I like comes out. I download it and watch it but I kind of prefer to watch TV shows all in a row now, like watch 4 episodes at a time. Otherwise I feel like I can't get into it. It's new; it's a different thing now. We don't have probably any of the shows that we just talked about in New Zealand 'cause we only have like three or four channels. So we have to download them…illegally. (Everyone laughs).

TWD: Hey, I live here and I have to do that sometimes. I don't have a TV. I got this question from the last band I interviewed: Who was the 13th colony? Does that mean anything to you?

Billie: It means nothing to me.

Alex: Who was the 13th colony?

TWD: Yeah. See, I'm interviewing all the bands tonight and I want to do this thing where I get a question from each one where I ask the next one. So that was their question, 'cause we were talking about Battlestar Galactica.

Billie: I don't know Battlestar Galactica.

Alex: Me either.

Emily: Who was that, Golden Awesome?

TWD: No, that was from…well I was talking to Golden Awesome last but I didn't get to that point. It was from Cairo Knife Fight.

All: Ah…

TWD: So what's your question I should ask? Any interview question at all. Maybe something that you'd like to be asked or something interesting or weird or whatever.

Emily: Umm, how about "What are you trying to say?"

TWD: Ok. I also wanted to get songs for a playlist from everybody. My vision was this alien spaceship comes to Earth, you don't know if it's going to destroy humanity or save it, but you have to give them songs to give them an impression of humanity. What would be like one or two songs you would want for the spaceship?

Alex: "Don't Fear the Reaper."

Emily: "Don't Fear the Reaper," yeah. (Her and Billie laugh as Alex begins singing). How about Captain Ahab? Have you ever heard of Captain Ahab? It's this band from LA, they play at The Smell a lot. It's this dance music, but the lyrics are totally…how would you describe it?

Alex: I have no idea.

Emily: The lyrics are like "Girls gone wild!" and it's this crazy electronic music.

Alex: And one of the members is basically just a dancer. So they should put him on the ship, too. What else? The Melvins covering The Wipers "Youth of America," would be a good one, too.

Billie: Yeah, that would be good.


For more information on Street Chant, including their West Coast tour dates supporting the Lemonheads, check out their website here. And be sure to check back for the rest of the interviews!