A wee while ago Rhys sat down with Totems (Reuben), Career Girls (Lawree) and Kieran Tahir (real name Kieran Tahir/best bud of trap God Muirs) to delve deep into the essence of New Zealand’s up and coming electronic music collective Kerosene Comic Book. After being lost in the KCB juju and some 100 level algebra (the x’s! the y’s!) for a month or two, here’s part one of the result:
Alrighty, so this is a Kerosene Comic Book interview and yes I got the big Jennys on the KCB-AKL block, and yes this will poop right over Noisey’s one from a few weeks back and we’re all so very excited ‘round here I can tell you, but before we get up shit’s creek with this bad boy I feel the need to offer one teensy proviso.
I don’t really listen to, or know that much about electronic music.
Enough to have been looking forward to the new Flying Lotus LP a lot. Enough to know that there is “good” and “bad” dubstep, the majority of what I heard whilst sinking four packs of green Pulse in mate’s garages at sixteen having been, most likely, “bad”. Also enough to get my wobble on to a decent beat when I’m-up-in-da-cluuurb vibing off my six pack of Pulse these days.
But between the fly-los and the dubs, the clubs and highly caffeinated RTDs, I don’t know that much else.
So with that said, there were times during the conversation where Reuben, Lawree or Kieran started talking about certain electronic musical influences and I honestly didn't know what the fuck was up. Like a good What’s Good boy I just nodded, and listened, and hopefully fooled them (ha!), but you see I just couldn’t bring myself to do the same to you, my dear reader-y-puss.
All the same by babbling on about myself for a decent while now I've hopefully left you in some kind of cosmic-all-consuming void as to why I would want to take on doing a colossal-two-part-mother of a KCB interview in the first place. Why, given my usual musical tastes, would I even take notice?
BECA-- USE IF YOU GIVE ANY AMOUNT OF SHITS ABOUT THE NEW ZEALAND MUSIC SCENE IN TWENTY FOURTEEN YOU FUCKING HAVE TO.
Entirely off their own back, Kerosene Comic Book have pooled a diverse and talented collective of electronic artists spanning pretty much the whole country, centered around a marketable brand where it’s always four-twenty, internet trends are always funny, and, as far as Facebook posts go, caps lock is always on.
At New Zealand’s two biggest and best underground music festivals Chronophonium and Camp-A-Low-Hum, Kerosene Comic Book artists dominated the late night bills. Wellington based KCB artist Race Banyon was just recently named as part of one great, but otherwise mostly international, Laneway Lineup, and before I caught up with them in Auckland, Reuben and Lawree had just come off a Die!Die!Die! South Island Tour as punk band, Caroles.
You see, the KCB roster is starting to carve out some real nice ripples in the modern NZ music wave, and thankfully for you, I’m here to shine a light.
In this Kieran Tahir-less installment (it was a café mix-up, fraught with controversy, shhhhhh) we talk mostly shit.
In part two we talk the future, past and politics of KCB.
So how did the whole South Island tour go?
Lawree: Fucking incredible, bro.
Reuben: Yeah, we played Barrytown, Wanaka, Dunedin and Christchurch. Dunedin was probably the best. Christchurch was kinda fucked. Mostly just ‘cause these bar dudes wouldn't serve us. Like I got I.D’d for a coke and they didn't believe Lawree was 20.
But we made fun of them while we were playing, so meh.
Lawree: Still in Dunedin everybody’s just fuckin psyched as fuck to be there.
Reuben: Yeah, I think that’s because shit hardly ever happens in Dunedin. So, everybody who goes to a show is real into it. Also we played in Port Chalmers, which is like a hundred-and-twenty minute drive out, so the people who do make the mish out there are the people who go for it.
Reuben: In Barrytown we even got to meet the Mayor.
Lawree: He comes out in a full purple suit.
But that’s the first time you've toured down their right? Did you have people hassling you for a while wanting you play?
Reuben: Oh nah, Die!Die!Die! were doing a tour and asked us to play. Sussed everything for us so it was fucking sweet.
Lawree: Yeah they even got us motels and shit, it was awesome.
It does seem like you guys have a lot of older dudes giving you spots on stuff, like those guys and Blink for Camp; Chronophonium guys too. How’d you sort that? Like, with Blink especially. What’s your relationship like?
Reuben: Oh, well, I've known Ian since like… Fifth form. I've played at every Camp in different bands because I would just end up being in a new one every year. And as long as I've known him he’s always been real supportive of whatever I've been doing. He’s like, ya know… I mean I don’t wanna sound like a dick here, but there’s a lot of older guys in the New Zealand music industry that just talk shit, and he’s not one of them. He actually knows what he’s doing.
Lawree: And he’s all about the party, which is mean. He’s not only worrying about profit or anything like that.
Reuben: Every time we've gone to Wellington to do a KCB show he’s paid for our flights and we've all ended up with around 100 bucks each for the eight people playing. Which is more than I can say for some other shit we've done…
Like other people have been happy to straight make money off of us. It’s like, “Oh well, I guess you don’t need to give a shit about the artist if you've gotta keep that gas in your fucking SUV,” guess that wood grain’s gotta be shining. It’s fucked up that some old c*nts just want to use young people to get them some rep.
But, I guess what you guys have done so well, and what’s really great about social media is that now you can be in control of your own image and success so much more. Artists don’t necessarily have to rely on old c*nts like they used too. Was that kind of thing what you had in mind when you started KCB?
Reuben: Nah, KCB started just because me and Kieran wanted to start a blog in High School. Heaps of people would ask us about tunes ‘cause we were really up on the dubstep at the time. But we were real lazy and didn’t do anything. Then we started making our own beats and we were like, “Yeah we can make a label type thing.”
But yeah, like ten, maybe even five years ago you needed a label and whatever. Now people can just search the “NZ” tag on Bandcamp and find you, so music relies on that “industry” shit way less now.
And, like, it’s free, and people can get your music for free, so more people will download it. We all still have the “pay-what-you-want” option cause if you want to give me money, that’s cool, but I’d much rather 1,000 people downloaded it for free then ten bought it.
Yeah, it seems if you do it right, controlling your own image can make you a lot more popular too. Like when I trolled the KCB Facebook page there where a lot of people real psyched on the stuff you were writing, joking on your jokes and stuff.
Lawree: Oh, nah, those are probably just our friends.
Reuben: A lot of shit talking. A lot of inside jokes.
Where does some of that stuff, like the whole “No Sleep” thing come from?
Reuben: Not sleeping at Chronophomium.
Lawree: Yeah I was playing when the Sun came up, and everybody looked like zombies coming down off their drugs. Then everybody started yelling, “No sleep!” wandering round the camp site kicking tents and shit, like, “Wake up! No sleep!”
Oh I saw Caroles play there too. That ‘Sandstorm’ cover was pretty epic.
Reuben: Lawree was tripping balls when we played, aye.
Lawree: I dropped a tab before we played, when I was watching Sheep Dog (and Wolf) just before. Ours was actually like the best fuckin’ show though. Had a twenty minute drum solo. I think I just kind of got absorbed in it all.
Reuben: Yeah, we got zoned in, aye. But we were all on a completely different buzz. I took a heap of opiates and could barely stand up. We were all on a different planet but somehow managed to sync up and play the sickest show.
Does that kind of thing, drug experiences, influence your electronic music also?
Reuben: Yeah, not so much anymore ‘cause I don’t take as much acid these days, but it has. I make a lot of music when I’m really fucking stoned, so I’m like, “This sounds buzzy, I should make it more buzzy!” But I don’t know, a lot of people have said that when they listen to my music it makes them feel like they’re on drugs, but I don’t try and recreate that, just enhance it, I guess.
That’s why I like to layer lots of field recordings and use lots of reverb to give you that feeling of lying on your back staring at the sky and tripping balls. That feeling of, like, “I am nothing!” Ideally that’s what I want to do.
Whereabouts in the process of making music do you get stoned?
Reuben: Well I smoke every day, so I guess I will always end up being at least a little bit blazed when I’m making music.
Lawree: I didn't start smoking weed while making music until I started the most recent E.P. My music was just way too intense. Way too fast. But this new thing is a bit more slow and abstract.
Reuben: Yeah, that E.P is so fucking good. But I think it’s more everybody is focused on improving more than anything else.
Lawree: Yeah, when I started making beats it was like one big joke, and now it’s starting to get, like, almost fully serious now, though still very tongue-in-cheek.
Reuben: And you can’t just keep making the same record over and over again…
Lawree: And also everyone else keeps releasing dope shit, so I don’t wanna be like “the joke guy” you know?
Reuben: Yeah, now every time anyone releases anything I’m like, “Fuck this, I have to step my game up again. Fuck you guys!” But that’s rad, keeping each other on our toes.