July – November 2017

This round-up for the year comes to you earlier than usual.  Often I don’t get around to writing about the second half of a year until about February or March of the following year.  But this year is different.   For a start, it’s probably been my most prolific year in terms of releases – a Meech Brothers EP, a Matt Hay album and two singles with Anxiety Club.  Also, with some interesting things booked for the next few months, an unprecedented “Summer” blog post, or perhaps, even monthly posts (gasp!) could be on the cards.  But more about the future at the end of this post, let’s first look back at the last five months.  Buckle up!

July

Matt Hay & George Barris, Days Bay Pavilion, July 2017

On a Sunday in the middle of July, Matt Hay & the Makers made the familiar journey around Wellington harbour to Eastbourne for another appearance at one of our regular spots – the Days Bay Pavilion.  This was probably our best gig of the year.  A near faultless performance, an incredibly enthusiastic (and decent-sized) audience, dancing!  So much dancing – by young and old!  This gig was also notable for not being preceded with a rehearsal of any kind.  Is that the trick?  Rehearse less? Proprietor, Angus was really happy with the night too.  Good times!

 

August

Adding some Casiotone magic to “Be Still” in the home studio

A couple of months earlier, Anxiety Club decided to release one of our songs – “Be Still” – recorded last year, before I joined – as a single.  It was decided to re-mix that original version and re-do a couple of things, including adding a contribution from me.  I recorded my part with the trusty old casiotone (which I seem to have lost since then – where the hell is it?) and then everything went off to Andrew Downes (who had also been working on the Matt Hay album) to mix, before being Mastered by Pete Maher in the UK.  In parallel with all of this we went out to the internet to seek video makers to pitch a video concept to us.  We eventually settled on this chap based in Brighton, UK.  Within a few weeks he banged out a pretty pro-looking video for us (on a pretty tight budget) featuring a beach, a hipster and a mysterious monolith.  It turned out like this:

Don Luchito, me, Dusty, Kev – RadioActive, August 2017

With a release gig booked in at Meow for the first Thursday of August, the PR machine lurched into life.  I mucked in as much as I could on this front, employing my press release distribution list that I had developed doing Meech Brothers stuff.  I also got in touch with Nick Bollinger, who I have got to know a little over the years who in turn connected me with the Producer of Radio NZ’s Music 101 programme.  They offered to cover us in one of their “Introducing” segments.  Take a listen here.

On the day of the show, Kev, Dusty and I went into the RadioActive studios for an interview with Don Luchito to plug the gig and the song.  Unfortunately, there’s no recording of that one, which is a shame because, by all accounts, it was pretty hilarious.

The gig itself would go on to be a really great night.  I had signed-up Emily Fairlight (I had met her through Andrew Bain (Fur Patrol) – who was also playing with her that night) as one of our support acts and Kev had roped in Ben Fulton with his Phaeton project.  Our bass player Matt had called in some favours too in the form of a lighting rig and some dudes from his day-job (he does concert staging).  We also invited Bradley Garner along to film some of the show.  Despite the PR assault, the crowd wasn’t as big as we had hoped – it was a very cold Thursday night – but it was far from empty.  We played really well.  First gig for me with this band where it really felt “right”.  James Goldsmith did a bang-up job of the sound – both on-stage and out the front. And those lights!!! As impressive as they were hilarious (when you think about the context of a mid-week, club gig).  But it was worth it, and above all, it was fun.  For one night, down a service lane in Wellington, New Zealand, we were Rock Stars.  You be the judge – check out Bradley’s video from the night below – it’s also very pro, and probably the best capture of a live performance that I’ve been part of.  It’s a pretty great song too, I think.

Post-show beers flowed.  Emily and Andrew said they really liked our set and were specifically complimentary to me saying that I “made a lot of the songs (work)”.  There was lots of general good will in the room with people like Gerry Paul and Simon Sweetman saying that they also liked what we were doing.  Emily also asked me to join her band for a few songs at her upcoming album release show in September.  How cool!  I told her I’d try to make that happen – so what if I’m already over-committed?

Probably the nicest compliment of the evening was when a couple of total strangers came up to me and said that they mainly watched me all night, because I “looked so happy”.

Anxiety Club, laser light show, Meow August 2017

At some point in August, the music department at the Wellington City Library got in touch with the Meech Brothers and asked us to answer some questions about “Brown Owl” for a blog post.  You can read that here.

At the end of August, Matt and Andrew Downes went to Park Road Post to master the Matt Hay album with Mike Gibson.  I stopped by to hang out and take a listen.  I think Matt was pretty relieved to get to this stage.  He and Andrew have spent a LOT of time on over-dubs, editing and mixing over the last year.

Mike Gibson mastering the Matt Hay album, Park Road Post, August 2017

September

September started with a Matt Hay gig at Thunderbird on a Friday.  It didn’t feel great but I think we played well and people enjoyed it.  Probably most notable for the comment one of our regulars (at that venue) made as he was leaving – he pointed at me and said “he’s the heart of the band!”.  Hilarious (and just quietly, I took it as a compliment).

Dusty gives the thumbs-up, because that’s about all he can do

A couple of weeks later, Anxiety Club was scheduled to play a support slot for touring Aussie duo This Way North, at Meow.  Things were all rocking along smoothly until The Curse struck.  First, Dusty chopped off a piece of his thumb whilst cleaning a coffee plunger – so he was off guitar duties for awhile.  But we thought we could get through the gig without him.  Then, a week out from the show, Chris came down with a throat and chest infection and was given strict instructions by his doctor to not do anything except lay low.  There was no other option but to cancel.  What made this doubly frustrating for me was that I had turned-down Emily’s offer to play at her album release show because it clashed with this gig.  What else could go wrong?

October

Final Meech Brothers rehearsal without a Meech

I’ll tell you what else could go wrong – Gareth could get a throat infection just prior to the much-delayed “Brown Owl” release show – and he did.  No medical forensics were conducted, but it’s quite possible he caught that from Chris.  You see, Gareth and I had decided to add a drummer for the release gig, Chris was the natural choice.  We started rehearsing with him a few weeks prior, so it’s quite possible that some germs were shared in one of those windowless dungeons that pass as rehearsal rooms at Toi Poneke.  We considered cancelling the show, but pushed on as we knew it would be difficult finding a new date that worked for everyone.  To spare Gareth’s voice, the final rehearsal was just Chris and me.  We filmed that session and sent it to Gareth so he could practice along at home!

The release gig was at the intimate Le Maquis Cafe in Wadestown on the afternoon of the first Sunday of October.   The good thing about an intimate venue is that it’s quite easy to pack it out.  On the downside, when it’s really intimate – like Le Maquis – your audience is practically sitting on top of you!

Despite the less than ideal conditions – Gareth’s voice still not at full-strength, slightly under-rehearsed, and the intensity of being so close to the people who had come along to listen – it went remarkably well.  We did the first half as a duo, which felt a bit like hard work, but things really lifted when Chris joined us for the second set (Chris is very good).

Here’s a clip from the gig – “Bright Light” from poco – probably the best-ever live rendition of it

Whilst all this Meech Brother prep as a 3-piece was taking place, work had also begun on a 3-piece version of Anxiety Club.

Anxiety Club-lite rehearsals

We had been offered another support gig at Meow, this time supporting young New Plymouth lad Jake McComb who performs as Viices.  But with Dusty and Matt unavailable for the gig, we decided to trial a “lite” version of the band.  Rehearsals with Kev, Chris and myself commenced in September and I really enjoyed them.  It was nice having less people in the room and I was able to influence the direction of things a lot more.  In our democratic band with some fairly strong personalities, it’s hard to get a word in – let alone an idea – a lot of the time.

This new format yielded immediate results with a new song dropping out of the very first practice.  Evolving out of a jam with Kev using his vocal Harmonizer pedal to maximum effect, “I don’t want anyone (but you)” was born.  A couple of weeks later I brought my laptop and some microphones along to practice and made a fairly raw recording of it – just a couple of room mics for the drums.  It sounded kinda great.  We decided to finish it properly.  I re-did the bass part and Kev filed through a couple of overdubs and I mixed it.  Within just a few weeks it was finished.  To make a video to accompany it, I went for a drive out to Makara with my iPhone gaff-taped to the dash.  Kev put the footage through a crazy filter, and huzzah, we had a song ready for release.

I was – and still am – very proud of this one.  This is the kind of song and style of production I’ve been striving towards for a long time.  We decided it was worth giving it a good push and we had the song mastered by web mastering service LANDR, put it up on streaming services and told everyone we knew about it.  One of the people I told about it was Jeremy Taylor at Slow Boat Records who liked the song so much that he forwarded it to Caitlin Cherry who is a Producer on Jesse Mulligan‘s Radio NZ Afternoons programme.  Caitlin got in touch with me and booked us to perform on the NZ Live segment of the show next February.  Huge result!

The song also ended up getting picked up and playlisted by alternative/student radio stations Radio Control (Palmerston North) and Most FM (Taranaki).

The gig that this small version of the band had formed for, rolled around at the end of the month.  Young singer-songwriter Iris opened the night, with us on second (ahead of Viices).  It was a really small crowd – and a small crowd feels really small at Meow.  This low-pressure environment was actually ideal for our first show as a 3-piece, and we ended up having quite a bit of fun.  Just check out the banter either side of this song:

The VERY NEXT NIGHT after the Anxiety Club-lite gig, was the Matt Hay “Something Blue” album release show at Tuatara brew bar, The Third Eye.  Have a listen to the finished product here:

 

We were lucky enough to have Darren Watson doing the sound for us.  We loaded the gear in during the afternoon – and it was HOT – summer had started particularly early this year.  We had probably the most extensive and comprehensive soundcheck that I’ve ever been involved in.  The show was on a Saturday night and we got a pretty good turn-out.  There’s always a bit of uncertainty on that front when you are doing a “destination” gig – it’s not like playing at Thunderbird or Days Bay, where people are going to turn up for food and drink – regardless of who is playing.  But people came.  They settled into the comfy couches and other pieces of eclectic furniture that they have upstairs in the performance space.

Matt Hay & The Makers, Tuatara Third Eye, October 2017; Delia Shanly, me, Phil Hope, Matt Hay, George Barris (l-r)

I learnt from Nick Bollinger that night that this building was once home to the studio of Plan 9 – who primarily composed music for film and TV – but the space was used for many other music projects and shenanigans – including recording most of the Windy City Strugglers albums.  So there were some good musical spirits present.  For more on the building’s history (it was built at the start of last century and it’s original purpose was the home for The Boys Institute, and was later saved from demolition for the Bypass and moved across the road) here.  The braver among you could also watch a pretty experimental short film about the building here.

But I digress.  The gig was good.  We played well, despite being in that somewhat unnatural environment – for us – of being on a stage and being intently watched and listened to.  It’s a good wee venue for bands like us – I’d like to play there again sometime.

Here’s a clip from the night:

November

On Saturday 11 November, the Matt Hay band participated in the Capital Blues Inc 21st Birthday celebrations – a mini-festival of sorts that had started earlier in the week on Thursday!   Held at the club’s regular venue of the Hotel Bristol, event organiser Julie Lamb, had cleverly scheduled us in for the dinner time slot – which really suited us.  Let’s face it, we’re not a blues band, and definitely not right for playing late on a Saturday night.  George couldn’t make this one as he was up on Waiheke Island doing a gig with the Laura Collins Band.  Despite George’s absence it went pretty well.  Sound guy Damien Forlong  complimented me on my “nice bass playing”.

Phew!

Thanks if you’ve stuck to the end of this post – this must be my longest ever bulletin.  I’ll be back in the New Year when I should be able to report on Anxiety Club summer gigs including an appearance at New Plymouth’s Festival of Lights at the end of December.  February will most likely see appearances at Kapiti Coast music festival Coastella, not to mention the Jesse Mulligan NZ Live show and a gig in Auckland.  Yeah!

 

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MicroKorg Stand redux

Long-time readers may remember my ongoing battles with finding somewhere to position my little MicroKorg synthesizer.  Not being a fan of traditional big hulking two-tier stands to lug around and get obscured behind, I have often thought that there must be a better way.

So, I got this perspex one made a few years back.

Now that was all well and good, but it’s not practical for transporting around to gigs,  and it does obscure most of the panel of the Nord.

So the hulking big, black 2-tier stand came back for some shows I did with Matt Langley a few years ago and then I hauled it out again for use with Anxiety Club, but I was kinda hating it – especially the pack-down and transport part.

Then it dawned on me – maybe I don’t need a stand at all. The MicroKorg is pretty small, and there is plenty of real estate on top of the Nord.

But I couldn’t just sit it on top – that would end badly.  How to hold it place?  Velcro seems to be a common go-to for this sort of stuff, but I didn’t really want to affix anything to the top of the Nord.  Then I thought,  if I make the base of MircoKorg magnetic then I won’t need to affix anything to the Nord – because it is metal.

Despite dire warnings about mixing magnetic fields and electronics from well-meaning members of user forums (and in fairness, even the MicroKorg manual warns against placing magnets near the unit), I plowed ahead.

I tracked down this self-adhesive magnetic tape from a local (New Zealand) supplier.

I stuck it to the bottom of the MicroKorg:

The tape was the perfect height, and sat just above the MicroKorg’s feet:

It turned out better than I thought it would.  It holds the MicroKorg firmly in place, without it being difficult to lift off at the end of the night.  The adhesive on the back of the tape is strong enough that it stays put over multiple attaching and removing operations.  I love it!

All photos here.

Obviously the big disadvantage of this solution is that you can only position the MicroKorg for either right OR left handed playing – but for me, in Anxiety Club (and any band that I play in that also has a bass player), I’m only ever gonna use my right-hand.

Mostly, I like how I am no longer buried behind a towering structure of metalwork.

Anxiety Club (lite version), Meow, October 2017

 

 

First half of 2017

Oh 2017, what a great music-year you have been so far!

The Happiness Idea

Early in the new year a new radio show on our local community station, Access Radio put a call out for a theme tune for their show.  The show was The Happiness Idea and the song they chose was my old instrumental, Hermit Crab (from the Lost at Sea EP).  They were all really nice and positive about it (as I’d guess you’d expect from people producing a show about happiness) and it was a great wee confidence boost.  The show first aired on 6th February, and prior to that first show, I even got profiled and quoted in one of their Facebook posts:

And yes, Tony Kemp from our old band, Blender is involved with the show.

Anxiety Club

Back in November of last year, a new local band posted a “Keyboard player wanted” ad (I think they actually specifically wanted a “Hammond player”) on the Wellington Musicians Facebook community page.  Even though I wasn’t looking for another band, I couldn’t help but check them out, and gosh darn it – I really liked them. In terms of musical influences, we had a lot on common – from alt-country (Wilco, Ryan Adams) to 90s alt-rock (Radiohead) and a lot in between.  I traded a few messages with lead singer and principle songwriter, Kev Fitzsimons every few weeks where I would say something like “I really like you guys, and I’d love to be a part of it, but I really am a bit over-committed at the moment”.  He’d typically respond with something like, “all good, we don’t practice too often, why don’t you come along for a no-obligation jam”.  So this went on for a bit and then in the New Year, I just thought, “F**k it” – why not just have a go.  What’s the worst that could happen?

Anxiety Club rehearsal, Toi Poneke, February 2017

At the end of January I joined them at their regular practice in one of the rehearsal rooms at the bottom of the Toi Poneke Arts Centre, and despite my normal “Impostor Syndrome” fears, it went really well.  They all said nice things and offered me the gig on the spot!  I found out later that they had actually auditioned a couple of other keyboard players before me who hadn’t worked out.

The band – Kev, Cameron “Dusty” Burnell (guitars), Matt Coplon (bass) and Chris Hill (drums) – had formed early in 2016, had worked up a bunch of Kev’s songs, DIY-recorded three of them and had yet to do a gig.  That all changed in February with our debut gig at Moon on Friday 17th.

Anxiety Club. Moon, Newtown, 17 February

It was a fairly wet and horrible night, but a lot of people made the trek out to Newtown.  Frank Burkitt (who Dusty plays with on a regular basis) opened the night and did a stellar job of warming up the crowd (he’s a total pro, really).   Then we were up and it went really well.  Amazingly good for a first show.  I didn’t feel completely comfortable – both physically and mentally.  I was crammed between Dusty and the drum riser, but more than the physical discomfort, I was still finding my way with these songs and this band.  It was kinda strange to be playing with a loud rock band.   But you know, in the end it was tremendous fun, and an undoubted success.

OrangeFarm @ Moon, March 2017

A second show quickly followed, again at Moon, and this time supporting the rather wonderful OrangeFarm. In a surprise last-minute twist, OrangeFarm decided we should be the second band as we’re a bit “louder”.  This kinda threw us a bit, and pretty much wasted the afternoon sitting around waiting for a soundcheck that didn’t happen.  Kev was also carrying a cold and went home for a pre-gig rest.  I went up to Dusty’s place in Brooklyn to hang out and eat some left-over curry.  It was a good chance to get to know him a bit better and meet his partner Kim.  Not only do they live together, but they play music together in some bluegrass bands and their duo Kim & Dusty.  We had good chats about music and other things, and I’ve never seen a house with so many guitars in it.  We all caught a pretty hilarious “disco uber” back to Moon for the show.  It was a good-sized crowd, and OrangeFarm did a really lovely set.  If you asked the rest of the band how our set went they’d probably say it wasn’t that great.  For a start, the on-stage sound was terrible.  I guess we didn’t really find our groove.  But personally, it was a much better show than the first one for me.  I felt slightly more at home – although at this stage I still don’t quite feel part of the band – a little bit of an outsider.  Despite all the challenges, people dug it and were complimentary.  There is dancing.  I wisely avoid a post-gig drinking session at Dusty’s place that involves moonshine that leaves Matt pretty destroyed the next day.

There would be no further gigs this side of winter solstice, but over the following months I solidified my place in the band.  Feeling more at home and confident with each practice.  I even started making songwriting contributions, and helping out with a lot band management stuff.  I don’t know how this will all play out – and I suspect that it won’t be a terribly long-lasting band – but for now I want to cling on to it for dear life because it makes me happy and maybe it could turn into something quite special.  In some ways, it’s the band I’ve always wanted to be in.  Moral of the story: persist.  Never give up.

Anxiety Club (l-r): me, Dusty Burnell, Chris Hill, Matt Coplon, Kev Fitzsimons  
Photo: Bradely Garner

Matt Hay

Matt Hay & The Makers, Days Bay Pavilion, February 2017

The first date in the Matt Hay & The Makers calendar was at regular haunt Days Bay Pavilion on February 19th.  I can’t remember a hell of a lot about this one (I am writing this about 6 months after it happened).  I remember it was sunny, my parents made it along, as did some of the local regulars.  It’s pretty cool how there are people out there who come to see us every time – even though they are not friends or family.  I believe they call this an “audience”.

On Sunday March 26 (a couple of days after that second Anxiety Club gig) we played at Wellington’s eccentric, iconic, and hugely popular weekend-long street festival CubaDupa.  We were playing on the Julie Lamb-curated Hotel Bristol stage at noon.  After a delayed start while we waited for the the sound guy to turn up, we played a really good set.   The rain even held off.  People stopped and watched.  One thing we all enjoyed was the freedom to play loud.  Usually we play in small cafes where we have to keep the volume under control.  But here, in the middle of a vibrant, brash festival, going through a big sound system, we were able to cut loose without consequence.  Fun!  Watch:

 

A week later and it was a Sunday session at the Kelburn Village Pub.  As always when we play here, we were kinda great.  Something about that room and the way it sounds.   Most of my Anxiety Club band mates came along to watch too, which was nice.  I personally was on top form.  Just could do no wrong.  Even Matt remarked about my playing – perhaps he could just actually hear me for a change!

There was a gig at Thunderbird on April 7th but I had to sit that one out due to parental responsibilities.

And what of the Matt Hay album that we tracked last year at The Surgery, I hear you ask.  Well progress continues to lurch on with Matt clocking up countless hours with Andrew Downes as they mix, edit and generally wrangle the songs into line.  It’s difficult to predict an exact date of when it might be released, but if I had to guess, I’d say sometime in Spring.  Stay tuned.

Meech Brothers

And last, but by no means least, we finally did it.  We finished and released the EP at the end of March.  And of all the achievements I’ve talked about above, this one means the most.  It’s the most personal.  There’s an actual piece of me in it (well, actually not a real piece – that’d be a bit gross and weird – but you know what I mean).  It’s been a hard road at times, but as is often the case,  a bit of struggle often yields the most satisfying outcome.  I proudly present Brown Owl:

Popular wisdom is that you put on a release show when you release your product, but with our organisational reserves (and rehearsal time depleted) we decided to just set the EP free without all that malarkey.  We’d figure that out later.

Meech Brothers, Southern Cross, April 2017

Instead of that, we played a “secret” set at the Kroon for your Kai acoustic night at the Southern Cross in April.  It went really well.  Regular show-runner Ruby Solly was sick and wasn’t there, but the stand-in host and the sound guy were really complimentary, saying we were the best act that they’d had all year.  It was just the sort of thing we needed to hear after such a long break from gigging.  Here’s a wee sample from the night:

 

In May, Gekkan – a magazine published for the ex-pat Japanese community living in New Zealand – included Brown Owl in it’s new music column.  How random is that!!!

Also in May, Redbird Jr on RadioActive was kind enough to play some songs from the EP at the start of the month.  See playlists here and here.

I’ve saved probably my proudest music moment for last.  In June, Gareth and I signed a publishing deal with Jan Hellreigel‘s Songbroker.   Songbroker is part-label, part-publisher primarily focused on placing New Zealand music in film and tv – or “sync licensing” as it’s known in the biz.  Regardless of what may come of it, it was another moment of validation.  To be judged and accepted as actual bona fide songwriters was hugely gratifying – even Jan herself sent us a wee e-mail to say that she liked our songs.  Have we finally “arrived”?   After all these years?

Yeah, like I said at the top of this post, it’s been a pretty fantastic music year so far.

 

2016: July – December

In a lot of ways this period felt a lot like a time of preparation – setting things up for perhaps a big year in 2017.  If it was a Star Wars movie, it would probably be Rogue One – we have  have the plans for the Death Star, we now just need to figure out how to exploit them.

Let me explain – there was lots of time in the studio, and – as 2016 came to a close – releases for both the Matt Hay band and Meech Brothers projects are imminent.

handBut before all of that, there was a gig for Matt Hay & The Makers at Thunderbird on July 8. Unfortunately for me, after a rather miserable week where I cut my finger pretty bad and got a nasty bout of flu, I actually had to sit that one out.  I must have been pretty sick, as I HATE cancelling gigs.  The show must go on though, and the team had a good one without me.

 

Recording of the Matt Hay album commenced in the last weekend of July at the near-mythological Surgery Studios.  Hidden away in a semi-industrial, semi-derelict part of Newtown, it’s nondescript door belies the wonders that lie within.  Founded by Lee Prebble over 10 years ago now, this is it’s second location.  Famously cutting his teeth on a trilogy of stunning debut albums for The Phoenix Foundation, Trinity Roots and The Black Seeds, Lee and his studio has gone on to make many records and collect a staggering number of awards.  Filled with a mix of old-school analog-cool gear as well as a cutting-edge ProTools suite, it really is a musicians paradise (although, as is almost mandatory for a creative space, heating and insulation is minimal).  For me, the best part of this menagerie of gear was the Rhodes (Mk1 Suitcase) Electric piano and Ed Zucullo’s wonderful Hammond (C3) Organ and Leslie speaker.  There was even a real piano too.  Such lovely instruments!  Classics.

Keyboard corner, The Surgery

Keyboard corner, The Surgery

As mentioned in an earlier post, it would not be Lee recording us, but Andrew Downes.  Andrew has been doing this a long time.  He even recorded a demo of one of Gareth’s and mine’s old bands (was it “After Hours”?).  He’s perhaps most famously known for recording and touring with Fur Patrol.

As with our previous recordings, the first weekend was all about tracking the rhythm section.  So I was pretty much just playing along, recording some guide tracks on my trusty Nord.

surgery-mosaic

I’d go back to The Surgery for two sessions in September to record my actual parts on the vintage keyboards.  And then back for two final sessions in late November / early December to record Backing Vocals and handclaps with Phil and Matt.  In the intervening months Matt had been making regular visits to the studio to track a multitude of guitar parts, as well as recording his vocals at his house.

To give you a bit of an idea on how sweet that Rhodes sounds, here’s a quick iPhone recording of a Haley Bonar song that I managed to squeeze in between takes:

Hometown (Haley Bonar cover) from Clint Meech on Vimeo.

While all that was going on, we managed to fit in three more gigs at Thunderbird.  One in mid-September, but without George (after he got pretty sick upon his return from his Rarotonga gigs with Laura Collins).  Despite his absence, we had a good night.  We were back about a month later and this time Matt was a bit sick – but we soldiered on. This one wasn’t quite the full-house that we’ve become accustomed to at this venue, but it was still great fun.

The last gig of the year would take place on December 16 at T-bird.  We billed this as the “Christmas Special”, although we didn’t play any Christmas songs.  But Matt was in a surprisingly festive mood and along with giving us all gifts (Nick Bollinger’s excellent “Goneville” book), he also got us to adorn various wacky (tacky?) yuletide hats.  Once upon a time I would have found this sort of thing horrifyingly embarrassing and cheesy, but one of the (few) benefits of aging is that you learn to care less and just enjoy yourself.  And really, in the end, that’s what this is all about.  In a world that is capable of breaking your heart on an hourly basis – if you think about it too much – playing in a band provides an antidote to all that is wrong with this planet.  It’s more than just a distraction, it’s fun – and sometimes, having fun might be the most important thing that any of us can do.

The Matt Hay

The Matt Hay “Christmas Special”

And yes, the third Meech Brothers EP is just about finished.

In September I made this little video and put it out into the world (perhaps, a little prematurely) as a so-called “teaser” for the new release

Meech Brothers – “Oh” from Clint Meech on Vimeo.

Gareth and I finally completed mixing and handed the songs over to Chris Winter for Mastering.  Chris has worked for Peter Jackson’s Park Road Post and has recently setup his own studio in the former Avalon TV studio.  What a great space, and what an interesting building.  Once the centre for TV production in New Zealand it’s new owners lease out space to a variety of creatives and bands.  The spaces not yet leased-out have been preserved in time with a number of suites still containing the old cameras and control rooms.  It’s all a bit eerie and a perfect location to shoot a zombie-apocalypse movie!  Chris also plays trumpet in Eb & Sparrow and is an all-round good bloke.  He’s just getting into this Mastering thing and he spent a lot of time and effort and was very patient with our various requests.  I think for “bedroom” projects such as ours, the value of Mastering is even greater than for a recording made in a pro studio.  Chris was able to compensate for some of our short-comings in the recording/mixing department.  And it’s always good to get someone else and some fresh ears involved.

Chris Winter working his magic at Avalon studios

Whilst Chris was doing his thing, we got in touch with graphics designer and illustrator, Simon Waterfield, who we went to school with.  Simon is also a drummer with an impressive CV of bands behind him, and currently drums for super-fun Gun ‘n Roses tribute band G’n’F’n’R.  Things are now fairly progressed on the artwork front, so I can finally say with some confidence that the EP will be out early next year.

On the very last day of the year we got up crazy-early and headed into the forest reserve behind Karori for a photo shoot with Simon.

Meech Brothers photo shoot, Skyline Reserve

Meech Brothers photo shoot, Skyline Reserve

The new EP will be called “Brown Owl”

#brownowliscoming

2016: January – June

The first three shows of the year were all at Thunderbird. The first was in March and let’s face it, we were a little rusty. The last gig had been in December and I don’t think we had managed one rehearsal with all 5 members up to that point. Still, we had a good crowd, and people liked it, even if we knew it wasn’t our best work.

The second one in April was much better – despite George being absent. I really enjoyed this one. It felt good. I even enjoyed shouldering the bass-line responsibilities. We were back, baby!

Matt Hay & The Makers @ Thunderbird Cafe, May 2016
 Photo: Bradley Garner

Gig number 3 was on a Friday in the middle of May, and it was a good ‘un on so many levels. Despite the average weather, the place really packed out over the course of the evening. Matt had invited photographer, Bradley Garner along to document the show. As always, we had a diverse mix in the crowd from keen music supporters (including the venerable Nick Bollinger), to friends, strangers, and a set of regulars who always seem to turn up. Thunderbird owner, Nicci was very happy with how it all went. It was a particularly enjoyable post-gig meal with my bandmates – everyone – not just me – seemed to be in high spirits.

Here’s a video from the night (I do a not-bad solo at around the 1:15 mark), shot by Bradley:

Leave those blues alone – Matt Hay & The Makers from Clint Meech on Vimeo.

For gig number 4 we were back at Days Bay Pavilion on the first Sunday of June.  June would be a busy month for us.  Despite some issues with the band struggling to hear each other well in the first set (the acoustics in the Pavilion are a bit weird) we were well received.  A lot of my friends, family and former colleagues made it along and helped fill the place out.  It was a packed dancefloor by the end of the night.

Matt Hay & The Makers @ Days Bay Pavilion, June 2016

In the middle of June we played at the Capital Blues Inc night at the Hotel Bristol on Cuba St.  It had been a loooong time between drinks playing here!  You’d have to trawl way back through the blog to find the last mention of a show.  It definitely wasn’t with this incarnation of the band, but the original SubUrbans line-up (Matt, Darren Watson on bass, Justin Hooper on drums, and me) back in 2007.  It was nice to play on a stage with a big PA, but it was a bit of weird gig.  Admittedly we’re not a blues band, but we did add a few extra blues songs to our set for this one.  However, no matter what we played we didn’t get much back from the audience – there was just no energy or enthusiasm.  There weren’t even any hippie dancers which always seemed to be a fairly reliable part of these nights.  It’s also a pretty big, drafty, and soul-less venue – nowhere as cozy as our beloved Thunderbird!  Despite all of this, we played pretty well, Matt did sell some CDs and as I always say, playing a gig is almost always better than not playing a gig.

Hotel Bristol stage

We ended the month back home at Thunderbird.  Smaller crowd than last time, but there was a core audience who stuck with us and were very nice.  This show’s good-guy local musician who came up and said nice things about my playing was Bullfrog Rata.  I’d never met him before, but he took the time to say hello and give a compliment.  It’s always a nice to hear stuff like that and I wonder if these “complimenters” (I think I just invented a word there) have any idea how much their words can mean to the “complimentee“.

Matt also launched a band Facebook page around this time.

Earlier – back in April – we started pre-production on a new Matt Hay album. The first step was cutting demo recordings of 16 songs at Matt’s house with engineer, Andrew Downes. It proved that there are enough good songs for an album (we would probably only record 10 – 12 songs for the record), but equally it proved that a lot of work was still required to get them ready for the studio.  The main recording session is now booked-in for the last weekend of July at the legendary Surgery recording studios in Wellington.  Can’t wait!

By very different routes, Gareth and I might just release something around same time as Matt does – which was kinda what happened last time around.   I’m pretty sure that by the end of July we will have completed tracking for a little 5-song EP.  Then, after mixing and mastering and artwork and manufacturing, we should have something out in Spring.  The final piece in the track-listing puzzle was a wee little instrumental that we finished last week.

Catch you back here at the end of the year (if not before)!

Second half of 2015

Hello Friends!

July

The second-half of the year kicked off with a one-off reprise performance of the 2011 “South for the Winter” tour line-up of Darren Watson, Matt Langley and Matt Hay.  This time, Mr Hay and I were joining the other two for the Wellington leg of their “Shoot your television” tour.  Such a fun night.  The venue was the Rogue & Vagabond  on the 9th of July.  It’s a pretty hip place – well regarded for it’s craft beer and live music (mostly jazz) – I was very excited to be playing here.  It was really good to catch-up with Langley again.  He’s such a good bloke.  It was a pretty good crowd for a VERY cold Thursday night (there was a slight possibility that we might see snow again like we did 4 years ago).  It was nice to be on an actual stage, with lights and a great in-house PA and a sound-guy.  Matt and I did a pretty good opening set.  I joined Langley for “Love and money” and “Into the fire”.  We were also joined by amazing fiddle-player, Alex Vaatstra for those two songs – and we totally nailed it!

Matt Langley, Me, Alex Vaatstra (Photo: Clare Fitzgerald)

However, the musical highlight of the night (actually for the year up to that point), was when we all (Darren, the Matts, Delia on drums and me) played The Beatles “Revolution” at the end of the night.  I didn’t know it was coming, and I had to work out the chords as we went – but it was a few moments of absolute joy.  Now, the warm feeling experienced at this moment may have been partly fuelled by the Wild and Woolly Beast of Baltic Porter that I had been consuming over the evening, but mostly this euphoria was coming from the music.  It was coming from my happiness of being able to foot it on stage with these really good musicians – of even being asked to join them.  It means so much to me.

Revolution (l-r): Darren, Delia, Matt Langley, Me, Matt Hay (Photo: Clare Fitzgerald)

Our third gig at Thunderbird was on Friday 17 July.  This time we were without Delia as she was on the road with Darren and Langley.  It’s the 4-piece all male revue version.  It’s so great – due to the way this band has evolved – that it can pretty much do a show with any number and combination of players – so long as Matt is there!  I was pretty low in energy for this particular gig.  Had been sick all week (I personally blame the Baltic Porter from the week before).  But we all saw an amazing Ryan Adams show the previous night and I think we’re all feeling pretty inspired by that, and that lifts it all up a notch.  Another good crowd that thins out slightly in the second-half (there was a rugby game on).  Still, definitely a success.  Some really good moments.  We debut a couple of new songs.  Nicci is happy.  Yuss.

August

After what feels like an agonisingly long break between gigs (I look forward to playing sooooo much these days), we were back at Thunderbird on the first Thursday of August.  It’s the full 5-piece band again, and it was a really great night.  So good.  Good size crowd.  We played really well (I totally nailed my solo in Wagon Wheel), and everyone digs it.  Nice to see enthusiastic Wellington music champions like Julie Lamb and Laura Collins in the crowd (amongst others).  Happy days.

Matt Hay & The Makers, Thunderbird, August 2015 (Photo: Gareth Meech)

A few days following Thunderbird we were back at Days Bay on the Sunday.  We played an entirely different set of songs to what we played earlier in the week at Thunderbird – whilst this was met with some grumbling by some of us (why do we make it hard for ourselves!!!) – it is a great testament to the depth of Matt’s songbook (and just quietly, mixing up the songs keeps us on our toes and is good for both us and the songs).  For me, it was a totally different energy to the Thunderbird show.  We just didn’t get much back.  Despite that, a lot of people said they liked it, there was a CD sale and everyone was generally happy with us.  Even a slightly flat night is better than no night at all.  I wouldn’t stop doing this for the world right now.  In a world gone mad, playing music is one of the few things that makes any sense to me.

October

skull

On Halloween Eve – which was a Friday – we were back at Thunderbird.  Despite some encouragement from (Thunderbird owner) Nicci for us to dress-up for the occasion, we performed in our regular threads.   It was another cracker of a gig.  Full-house, good playing, good times!

November

On the last Sunday of the month it was time for our final gig at Days Bay for the year.  The weather was gorgeous – which always has the opposite effect to what you might expect.  You see, people are there – they’re just mostly outside.  Still, we managed to pull a few indoors and as always it was an appreciative audience.  Lots of familiar faces and some dancing by some of the punters.  My Mum and Dad made it out which was nice as they haven’t seen us for awhile, and it was a good one for them to catch, as we were in very good form.  Happiness.

December

Two gigs within the space of a week was such a positive way to finish what, looking back, has been a pretty good music year.

On Thursday 10th, we were at Thunderbird.  No Delia for this one, and and it was a small crowd (we blamed all the other engagements of the season).  So the vibe was totally different to say that last one at Days Bay.  So it was pretty laid-back, but still totally enjoyable.  Matt and I even kept going afterwards and had a few drinks (beer! rum!) to toast the year that was.

The following Sunday afternoon we played at Kelburn Village Pub.  We’ve been here before – a couple of years ago now.  Like last time, it took half a set for it to fill up, but it did, and it was great.  Really great.  Fairly cramped “stage” area, but such a nice sounding room.  And we played so very well.  A lot of friends and family and strangers made it along, including Matt’s mate, respected critic, and all-round nice-guy, Nick Bollinger.  He was very complimentary of the band and made another comparison of my playing style to that of Spooner Oldham (I can’t hear that enough!!!).   I think this was one of our best gigs of the year.  We really are a proper band now, and I think we’re actually quite good.  More gigs please!  Please!

Meech Brothers

Yes, we’re still here.  This year has all been about the Matt Hay band in a lot of ways, but despite that, Gareth and I continue to find some time to push our own work ahead.  And it’s this stuff that really means the most to me.  It’s the most personal.  I really do want  release a collection of songs in 2016.  As is customary with each blog post lately, here’s a sneak preview of new song, “Edge of the Earth”.  I think it’s pretty good.  I even play trumpet on it (that was hard work, after all these years away from it).  Take a listen:

Enjoy!

Thanks 2015, it’s been a blast.

See you in 2016!

 

First half of 2015

Matt Hay & The Makers

2015 has seen the addition of another semi-regular venue to our roster.  So now, dear reader, along with regular posts on our Days Bay gigs, you shall also be regaled with stories from Wellington eatery, Thunderbird Cafe.

Thunderbird
The first gig of the year was on Thursday March 5th at Thunderbird Café on Featherston Street.  There is always a bit of trepidation playing at a new venue, but we needn’t have been concerned – it was a great success.  We started early (5:30) for the after-work crowd, and we had a good turn-out – pretty much a full house.  We played well, and it felt good.  A perfect venue for us.  It was the full 5-piece version of the band (Matt, Phil, George, Delia and me).  There were generous donations to the Koha tin, there was beer and a great meal (they specialise in that casual Tex-Mex sort of food that I love).  Spirits were high.

Matt Hay & The Makers, Thunderbird Cafe

We returned to Thunderbird on Friday April 24th.  A Friday!!  We haven’t done a Friday night gig ever, have we?  Not as a band, at least.  Matt and I use to do those little CQ gigs a few years ago – were they on Fridays?  We thought we might struggle to pull an audience due to it being a holiday weekend (ANZAC Day), but again it was packed and we played well.  We’re really starting to sound like a proper band.  There were a few random punters who came up and complemented us on the show – which is always really gratifying!  Nicci, Thunderbird-owner, was very happy with us and pulled out the diary to book us in for more dates later in the year.

Greytown w/ Darren Watson
On Saturday April 18, Matt and I headed over the hill to Greytown to support Darren Watson’s solo shows.  This was a lot of fun – as all the shows we have done with Darren have been.  In keeping with a growing trend to put gigs on in places other than pubs, tonight’s venue is the Greytown Little Theatre.  After some early drama dealing with a scaled-down PA (that had to be used after the door of Delia’s van was damaged during an attempted break-in), the theatre filled out nicely, and as always, everyone delivered come showtime.  As with these types of shows – where people have come with the specific purpose of listening to music – it was a very attentive and appreciative crowd.  Lots of nice things were said to us.  Darren does that thing that he does so well, and they love it.  I join him for “Here in my arms”.  It’s another musical moment that I will cherish.  All three of us play “Sweet Home Chicago” at the end of the night.  It is a jovial pack-down and load-out that follows.  The theatre’s “Wardrobe Mistress” provides tea and biscuits and some outrageous flirting.  These are the best of times.

Me at The Greytown Little Theatre
Photo: Pete Monk

Days Bay Pavilion
Two gigs here so far this year.  I probably don’t need to go into too much detail here.  We’ve all been here before.  It was business as usual  – good fun, great view, nice people, sublime pizza, craft beer, etc.

The first show was a few days after that first Thunderbird gig – on March 8th.  We played well.  The crowd wasn’t as big as it could’ve been – we need to somehow work on our promo out here.

We were back again at the start of June.  George was holidaying in Greece at the time, so we did it without him.  Despite my best Ray Manzerek  impersonation, my left-hand parts were no replacement for George and his Double-bass.  George brings a real presence and grounding to the group – you sometimes don’t miss something until it’s gone.  After a shaky first set, we pulled out a great second-half and even did a two-song encore.  Good times!

Meech Brothers

Miraculously, I have another Meech Brothers track to share with you.  It’s an old song that we’d never really been happy with.  This time we have given it a restrained, sparse acoustic treatment and it’s much better for it (it use to be all drum machines and electric guitars).  It just goes to show that you shouldn’t be too hasty to throw out some ideas.  I like how it’s turned out, and I particularly like my vocal (and you don’t hear me say that very often!)

Other than that, we haven’t made much more progress on completing another collection of songs, although there is now a group of 5 or 6 songs that are gravitating together that either need finishing, polishing or re-recording bits of.  Will we finish it this year?  I hope so.  It will depend on whether we decide to do a proper CD release, or if we just do an online thing.  The CD format isn’t quite dead yet – but it’s not far off.  Sign-up to the newsletter here  if you want to keep posted on any future releases.