I miss punk and I miss it real bad. It seems guitar based music has been waning in popularity for a decent while now. When indie-signed, not-actually-overly-popular-in Oasis/Nirvana/Coldplay/U2 rock band terms Arctic Monkeys are the biggest band in the world you know that the art form is having a few problems. It’s not that I think recent effort ‘AM’ is a bad album or anything, but for a lover of guitar music and punk at least, Arctic Monkeys new found level of success is kind of a bummer. It seems to have come at the expense of any kind of latter-day definition of punk sound or sensibility. A sound and sensibility that was integral to the charm of their earlier records.
Seems to me that all things exciting in guitar based music right now are happening at the opposite end of the production scale, p~y~s~c~h~e~d~e~l~i~a. What with its tricksy guitar effects and wilily drug abusing/habit inducing ways. Acts like Tame Impala, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Connan Mockasin have been for some years making truly excellent, “buzzaay” tunes for rock lovers and others. Which I love too.
But still. Where’s the grit? The simple beauty? The filth and the fury?
I miss punk.
So imagine the wee moment I had when I heard Hans Pucket! Christchurch-raised, now Wellington based identical twins Ollie and Callum Devlin have married these seemingly ill-fitting genres of rock’n’roll into one mostly upbeat, always-on-point collection of pysch pop punk tunes. Most of which clock in at under three minutes, making both their first and only self-titled release and live shows (performed as a three piece with drummer Jonathan Nott) consistently entertaining. The 60s inspired guitar sounds and infectious hooks make them really cool.
I interviewed Hans Pucket’s songwriter, singer and guitar player Ollie to find out wass-punk, wass-pysch, wass-life and wassup.
I thought it was really interesting on your EP that you showed strong influences from both punk and psychedelic music. Punk always seemed to me to be a reaction against things that were overdone and too pretentious whereas psychedelia, whether it’s good not, inevitably is one or both of those things.
That’s a good point (laughs). I guess we are a little bit pretentious. But yeah in terms of recording it’s just more interesting for me if there’s some more stuff going on. It was a way of making quite lo-fi, really basic recordings a bit more interesting to listen to and filled-out. Lots of reverb and delays on guitars and things.
The original recordings which we did at our friend’s house were just Callum and me and we’d been playing those songs for ages. Like most of those songs were nearly two years old but we moved to Wellington and hadn’t had a chance to actually record them. Callum didn’t have a drum-kit. I didn’t have a space where I could play guitars and stuff so we did it there and we ended up only having an hour. Like just guitar and drums. We did it and it was really rushed, and everything sounded pretty terrible. So some of that psychedelic stuff just came because we had too.
So you went back and redid all those original recordings?
Yeah so after recording there and at another house before-hand I went back gave them a kind of treatment. That took about six months. Really unnecessarily long but you know when you start recording something and it’s not exactly perfect you keep working and you get really lost?
Yeah sure. It seems like ‘the scene’ now is in people’s bedrooms, a lot of people just do home recording and I think that fucks up a lot of musicians. A lot of the time what is most charming and endearing about someone’s music to other people are the little mistakes which might annoy only the musician. Sometimes you just need to have someone else to tell you when it’s done. Like if music quality and time was a graph **does illustrative bell curve action with hands whilst going “wooooosh”**
Do you find the same thing with writing? You said you had these songs for two years, did they go through different phases as well?
Oh no, the writing for me was pretty straight forward. Writing a pop song can be done pretty quickly and at the end your still like mmm that songs good. That’s where the hooks come from.
But I don’t really know why we had those same songs for quite so long. I guess a lot was kind of changing in our lives generally and we didn’t really have a band together. Probably also because it was just me finishing the recordings, but when we were writing and arranging the songs it was with my brother Callum and he gets bored if things take too long. I’ll play something and he doesn’t really need to say anything but if he thinks it’s dumb, I’ll know. (Laughter.) So I’ll just be like “well, yeah nah I’m kind of still working on it.”
But I do think we could solve the problem of bedroom producers not releasing stuff if they all collaborated more, definitely.
On the EP your guitar sound varies quite a lot. What different influences did you have in that respect?
Particularly with this recording because it was a two-piece arrangement I wanted it to sound like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Which involved tuning the E string down to way down an A, so it’s like you’re playing the bass at the same time, and it sounds really cool.
Otherwise the first band I really liked was Green Day.
Everybody’s is shit ae, mine was Foo Fighters.
Yeah well mmm, Dave Grohl doesn't seem that bad. He’s got a bit of credibility at least. Like he seems nice. Yeah I’d like to sit down and talk to Dave Grohl, whereas those guys from Green Day seem like they’re kind of children almost. Though I still put on American Idiot from time to time.
So I still have a bit of Green Day influence but I guess it’s been heavily suppressed.
I also ended up being pretty obsessed with the Mint Chicks as well, like everybody who was my age in New Zealand was at that time. They were a pretty big deal.
Have you been following they’re work after, Opossum and Unknown Mortal Orchestra? Part of the reason I asked you about your influences was I think the best modern physchedelic rock involves a fusing of genres. Tame Impala have such strong pop sensibilities and can almost stray into electronic music at times. Stripped back, Unknown Mortal Orchestra are a total RnB band.
Yeah there’s like a little bit of punk in that stuff too which is great. On a few songs on there anyway. But the physchedelia just comes from the production or the recording but everything else is like pop music.
I think Tame Impala, at least on the second record their songs and chord structures are written as like these kind of stream of consciousness things. Um… nah I’m not gonna tell that story…
It can be off the record that’s cool. (Ollie later changed his mind when he decided his parents probably wouldn't read this, cheers Ollie.)
Well like I don’t really get the opportunity to get high very often, but I was at this party and, you know. So I was like “Oh, Im gonna go home and listen to Tame Impala!” So I leave the party and go home and lie in my bed with my headphones and just listen to both their records. And yeah it was like that weird stream of consciousness thing, with colors and everything. It was cool.
So you guys played the Vic House (local student hostel) ball, how was that? I feel like a lot the hostel crowd wouldn't necessarily go to see a band unless they had a friend playing. It’s not the kind of thing they would usually do to have fun anyway, they’d probably go to Hope Bros or something.
Yeah exactly, it was way better than I thought it would be, then like what you’re describing. We played it because we wanted to play as many gigs as we can and just become better as a band. Also because we haven’t organized a lot of our own shows yet or anything.
But everyone was super nice, and everyone came up to us at the end and thanked us for playing. There was a wee bit of bad culture like drinking wise, and the high school sort of vibe, like the cliques and stuff. But it seemed like people were generally having a really wholesome time.
Yeah it seems like when people who wouldn't normally put the effort in to see a band do, they’re always super stoked.
Yeah like we played a few covers and stuff. We were asking for requests because that’s one thing that me and Callum used to do when we were a two piece. Like we’d play at a house party and ask for requests and play the song even if we didn’t know how. So at the ball we played “Five Hundred Miles.”
Aw man, because your twins as well…
Oh man that’s great yeah. But I didn't realise that.
Did you put on Scottish accents?
You have too! And everybody was singing along on the “ladadada! Ladadadas!”
We also got to play ‘Hey Ya’. Singing that whole “what’s cooler than being cool?” part, that was a dream come true.
Hans Pucket are working on new material and are currently wrapping up a New Zealand tour. They probably won’t sing in Scottish accents, but maybe if you request it…
Listen to Hans Pucket here: https://hanspucket.bandcamp.com/