music | 16 december 2016
Wellington grunge-pop band Maple Syrup have revealed a hazy, lo-fi music video for ‘Stray’, the first single from their upcoming album.
words: gussie larkin
Currently living in LA, the video sees the band’s founding members Vera and Jerry roaming across America; smoking cigars, playing ping pong and looking suitably aloof standing in front of the White House. I talked with Vera about the Pixies, distortion pedals, and feeling nostalgic for things that haven’t even happened yet.
You’ve been cruising around the USA for the better part of this year, how does the music scene over there compare to little old Welly?
The scene over here is insane (particularly in LA). You have shows happening every night and there is such an abundance of venues and various underground scenes, the options are limitless. As a musician you have a lot more opportunity to play just based on the sheer size of the scene. I'm already a part of two new bands 'Sweater' & 'Girl Friday'. It’s like an a creative hub where everyone you meet is doing something crazy and new.
What's really special about the Wellington scene though is how tight knit it is. That gives you a strong sense of community which is a rare quality that can really nourish you as an artist. A lot of musicians over here really dig New Zealand music and talk about how much they would love to come over. It’s a bit of a grass is always greener scenario. It can also feel a little contrived here while I feel for the most part the Wellington music scene feels very authentic.
"What's really special about the Wellington scene though is how tight knit it is. That gives you a strong sense of community which is a rare quality that can really nourish you as an artist.
‘Stray’ is the first single from your upcoming album which is coming out in January, and you recorded it with Oliver Devlin in a suitably dingy jam space in Avalon. What part did the DIY recording style play in shaping Maple Syrup’s sound?
We recorded our first EP in a very professional recording space. This time we wanted the record to reflect our live sound a little better. Maple Syrup was birthed in the Wellington house party scene which is rough and noisy and not polished by any means. We are also really influenced by bands like the Pixies, Pavement & Sonic Youth, whose focus is not on having the best gear but just making great records.
You can get some really interesting sounds just playing live in a garage, and there is something very immediate and captivating about that DIY sound which you can't get with professional recordings.
‘Stray’ feels fresh and familiar at the same time, and I think part of this is the call and response vocals between you and Jerry. Who are you inspired by vocally?
I love the combination of male/female vocal tones. For male vocals I love Lou Reed, Nick Cave, Leonard Cohen and Johnny Cash. I'm personally really inspired by female vocals which are very powerful but can also be melodic and gentle like Joni Mitchell, Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, Debbie Harry, Nico, Bjork, Patti Smith.
I think Kim Deal and Francis Black nail the male/female combination.
"You are sort of utterly alone and completely free at the same time and trying to navigate those emotions feels a bit like being in a relationship"
The music video is a mashup of footage from your own travels around New York and LA. It’s somehow eye-wateringly nostalgic, and captures the feeling of being small and free in a giant city. What made you pair these images with the song?
Jerry and I wrote the song on a beach in Auckland in the early hours of the morning before our big trip. The song felt nostalgic of our travels before we had even left. I guess it’s about going through the motions of life, love and heartbreak and when you travel you sort of experience all of that in a city. You are sort of utterly alone and completely free at the same time and trying to navigate those emotions feels a bit like being in a relationship. It just felt like a natural fit.
Your first EP, Ace and Gabs Honeymoon, was energetic, carefree, and you didn’t hold back on the distortion pedal. ‘Stray’ seems to hint at something a little more low-key. In what ways do you think this album is different to your previous material?
In this new record we have more of a mix of sounds. We still have plenty of heavy distorted tunes but we also allowed some space for more mellow ones too. Our sound has also developed a lot since our first EP. This album reflects us better as a band and I think Jerry and I as songwriters as well. But never fear, we have not thrown away the distortion pedal! In fact I would say there are songs on this record that are even dirtier than on Ace & Gabs.
The album’s coming out soon as! What’s the plan? I assume you will be heading back to NZ to reunite with the band?
Yes! Jerry and I will be returning to NZ sometime in April. We will be playing lots of shows and doing another NZ tour sometime as well. Meanwhile we will be releasing lots of tunes and videos as well so keep your eyes and ears peeled!
Maple Syrup: Bandcamp
Maple Syrup: Facebook
maple syrup: @whoismaplesyrup
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