Having whizzed over some questions late last month, Arcade’s front man Nic Mckenzie kindly took some time out to discuss such things as the bands formation, that strange glow stick moment I’d read about and what it was like touring with Noel Gallagher.
Your sound quite blatantly has British tendencies; have you found this made for an easier route to the inboxes/desks of the UK music press?
I grew up in the UK between the years of 1992 and 1997? an amazing period for UK music and Britpop. I arrived to the sounds of The Stone Roses and left listening to Radiohead’s OK Computer on the inflight Radio. At school I was massively into grunge and before that shoegaze, with Britpop being the secret pleasure. Because those sounds were all around me, it was hard for them not to sink into my young and impressionable brain. When we sit down and write music now I find that by default the sound I make is coloured by the music I listened to back then. We certainly don’t intend to bring honey to the bees either in regards to the UK music press, though we are very happy that it resonates with some of those folk. I think what we do has been moulded by lots of other influences, there are five people in our band and the UK influence is one among others.
How was life growing up in Australia? Have you always wanted to be a professional musician?
I remember when I got beck to Australia from the UK in 1997; I met up with my primary school buddy Nick Weaver. We decided then and there that we should probably be rock stars, so becoming musicians was going to be an important part of the process.
Having met Nick in school, have any song ideas from way back when managed to appear on Outlands?
Yes, Airbulance was the song that we cut our teeth on in high school. We recorded it on a four track tape deck. There was loads of trial and error and we pieced all the different sections together; it took us ages. We decided to put it on the record because it was the first song we wrote that felt like it came from somewhere; lots of the parts of that original recording from high school are in the final mix. Together also took a few years to write. It was always on the back burner and we kept revisiting it as our sound developed. Having said this, a lot of the other songs came about more quickly ? often while walking home drunk.
Would it be fair to say that the two Nic(k)s are the Arcade’s creative hub? Was it a smooth transition when Carlos, Simon & Tim moved in?
Outlands was written and demoed mainly by Nick and I. But when the other guys joined the band they brought the live show and the recordings to life in a way that was previously unreachable. Carlos’ drumming brought a whole new level of energy and momentum and Tim and Simon’s scientific approach to guitar sounds and pedals also gave the music another dimension. Our approach to writing the second record is really exciting and will be more focused on the sounds that we are now all making together.
Did your parents really put glow sticks in your lunch boxes? Because that’s some crazy behaviour if so!
Yes. And they filled our drink bottles with glow stick liquid. Recess was a cosmic tapestry. My mother also introduced me to Morrissey.
And do you find it interesting that as a youngster you yearned not for the acid house rave your folks enjoyed, yet the majority of Outlands, with its psychedelic atmosphere, could quite easily be enjoyed with a side of narcotics?
My parents had nothing much to do with my discovery of psychedelic music, though my dad loves to reminisce on his acid flashbacks. While touring the universities around Australia, we were approached by many people saying that our record is great on acid. I haven’t indulged myself yet; it would either be amazing or really terrible, like having a colonoscopy.
There’s a distinct homely feel to your debut; but, with Dan Grech-Marguerat and Doug Boehm involved, why was the decision taken to make it sound this way? Did they offer many opinions, or simply let you run wild in the studio?
Dan and Doug’s involvement was mostly in the mixing process, in which they certainly influenced the sound. During the recording process however we really like to be our own bosses so recording a lot of the album at home was very much a conscious decision. This way I like to think we were able to develop a distinct personality for the record on a whole and embrace all the idiosyncrasies that come from a bedroom recording setup. Lots of bands like Django Django and The Horrors have made great records lately with a similar approach.
What are your passions outside of music? Nic I know you’re a film buff, but what about the rest of the guys?
Carlos is an intensely passionate golfer. He’s always trying to drag us onto golf courses when we’re on tour and we’ve recently incorporated his pitching wedge into our live set. Basically he hits a practise golf ball into the audience right at the climax of the night. It usually hits some poor girl square in the neck, but no one has been harmed thus far.
What was it like touring with Noel Gallagher and The Kaiser Chiefs? Did you take anything from their live performances that you later applied to your own?
Noel Gallagher and the high flying birds are an inspiring band: extremely friendly and cool to their fans, but most importantly stoked to be on the road together; there is nothing more infectious than that atmosphere. The Kaiser Chiefs were again an incredibly friendly bunch as were their crew. Ricky Wilson is also a jaw-droppingly good front man. I guess the lesson you learn is that talented smart people are confident enough not to be arseholes.
You’re due to tour the UK later this year, is there anywhere in particular you’re looking forward to visiting most?
One of our favourite places when we last visited was Brighton. It was during The Great Escape and the place was buzzing and full of gigs. Hopefully we’ll get a chance to visit again. We also had a really memorable time in Liverpool and we’d all love to go back there. Simon is keen for some late night Mister Chips.
Outlands is set for its UK release on September 24.
Words: Gavin Bevan