Auckland’s SansArcade describe their music as being a little 'all-up-in-your-face' with a bit of 'let-me-down-gently'. Alistar Wickens caught up with guitarist Stu Preece to chat about their music and plans for releasing an EP.
So you guys have been together since 2011?
Kind of: Glenn’s been involved in a project called SansArcade for nearly 10 years and it’s had sort of a revolving door membership for a while and we all ended up in the current lineup at the end of last year. At that point it kind of stopped being a project and started being a band.
Glenn was in a band called Felts, Ryan our drummer was recently playing with a band called Juniper, and Ryan and myself both had involvement with a band called Soda, and I was playing in a band called the WBC for a while.
If you could pick any NZ bands, past or present, to play with, who would you pick?
Personally, probably someone like Villainy. Those guys really spin my wheels at the moment.
And what local albums have you been enjoying recently?
I still give Weta’s Geographica a thrashing.
What do you think of the New Zealand music scene at the moment?
I think it’s really coming of age at the moment. It’s quite diverse [at the moment] and rock is really starting to come back in in a big way, especially up in Auckland, there seems to be a massive scene that’s coming through. Which is crazy in a way, because there seems to be less venues than there were say five years ago, but there’s more gigs happening.
In a way, having less venues sort of concentrates things a bit, and people also start to realise that if they don’t support their local venues they’ll end up losing them.
Exactly, and people are starting to work harder to make sure they get [to play] those venues and the scene itself is becoming really solid. And you’ve got to have a good sound if you want people to come out, so everyone’s really stepped it up.
Since you firmed up the lineup last year what’s been the highlight for the band?
The highlight has really been when we started putting together this EP promotional campaign, putting the demos for the EP online and seeing the instant support we’ve been getting. It’s been pretty crazy for a band that hasn’t done many live shows. It’s been phenomenal how positive everyone’s been.
Do you find it hard to build that support up?
It’s been really tricky when you don’t have that much to talk about outside the EP and Battle of the Bands, but we’re all really hands on deck to get as many shows lined up, and play alongside as many local bands as possible.
Were you surprised to find people getting into the demos you post online so quickly?
Yeah, obviously we have our friends and people who now us personally, but the following, even on things like Facebook, has just really taken off and we’re getting a lot of positive feedback through social media and email. When we talk to people about booking shows they’re then going and checking out the demos online. It’s pretty mind blowing to think that we recorded them in a garage out in Clevedon.
I guess that’s a pretty good sign for the planned recording, when you’re putting demos up and people are already into the songs, and you’ve already got that fanbase built up, and it can only grow from there.
It’s cool because we’re aware that the production values on the demos aren’t great, so people are getting into the songs themselves, which is really the reaction we were hoping for, to show that the stuff we’re writing is what people are actually getting into.
What’s the songwriting process you guys use?
When the four of us ended up as SansArcade last year Glenn had a bit of a back catalogue of music from his years working on it, so we used that as sort of a base. But these days it’s pretty organic; we just show up in the practice room with a riff and at the end of the night we’ve got the bones of a song. So everyone gets involved and once we’ve got the music pencilled out Glenn goes away and puts vocals and a melody over the top of it. It’s a good process and really cool for all of us to get involved and have a say in it.
How have you found the experience of playing in the Battle of the Bands in Auckland?
It’s different from your average gig; there are a lot of bands on every night and the logistics of it are a real test, just getting in and playing and getting out as quick as you can. It removes a lot of the comfort zone from playing a regular gig.
Have you found the atmosphere in the Battle of the Bands to be supportive, or is it quite competitive?
No, it’s really supportive. All the bands have been really good, and it’s a good opportunity to meet other bands and network. One band, the DeLoreans, have been good to us and want to play some shows with us because of Battle of the Bands.
You’re going with a different way of funding your recording that what bands might have traditionally gone for. Who made the decision to go on http://www.indiegogo.com/ and try and raise funding that way?
Ryan and I both work in social marketing in various forms and we were just sitting around one day trying to work out how we could get the wheels rolling. With a smaller following we don’t fit the existing criteria for applying for funding from places like NZ On Air. Places like http://www.theaudience.co.nz/ too, while it’s fantastic, a lot of the bands on there have quite strong followings already too, whether they’re mainstream or not.
We’re sort of in an uneasy interim state at the moment, while we work on getting that groundswell so we can use those funding avenues. So we sat around brainstorming and one of our mates told us about a project he’d seen on Kickstarter, and we just thought why not give it a crack?
You seem to be raising money quite quickly, with a lot of time left, was that surprising?
It’s been crazy with the amount of support we’re getting. We’ve had people giving us $200 just for a digital download. If only it was that easy to sell CDs!
You seem to have a very clear idea of what you want from the recording, in terms of who you want to record it, and where. How did you come to the decision that that was the level you wanted to start at?
I’ve been involved with a number of different projects in the studio over the years and you sort of develop a taste for it, or at least get an idea of the sound you want to go for. I don’t really have the expertise or knowledge, and neither does anyone else in the band, to get that level of product. So we thought that there’s so many awesome engineers around Auckland, who operate outside the major studios, that we can get that quite easily now, if we make some critically right decisions.
It becomes a lot easier when you can do the primary tracking in a nice room and then things like the guitars you can kind of record anywhere, as long as you can make enough noise.
Following on from that, you seem as a band to have a very clear idea of what you want to achieve? Do you sit down together as a band and decide that you wanted to do a high level recording and things like Battle of the Bands early on, or was it something that you were all just thinking?
I wouldn’t say it’s a conscious decision, but it’s something we’re all really excited about, and we’re enjoying the music that we’re making, so it would seem sort of ridiculous to us to any sort of real recording half-arsed. We take our live performances really seriously, and we practice as often as we can. We’re really proud of the stuff we’re doing, so we don’t want to sell it too short.
With that very clear direction, and being a band that’s fairly new, is it hard to remain motivated and stay on that path?
Being older, all 30-ish, we’re not 19 anymore, and being later on in life the world domination approach seems a little more feasible, around having an actual life as well. It’s not that 24/7 mentality anymore, we’re trying to do it a bit more tactically than we would have when we were younger.
I guess coming with that experience, and more experience than a lot of the bands starting out at the moment, you know what you want and you have a better idea of how to achieve it…
Yeah, I guess it comes back to making smart decisions, so that you’re working smarter and not necessarily harder. While we do all put a lot of effort into it, now we’re making sure that it counts. Instead of constantly knocking on doors we’re targeting people who we think would be interested and want to be involved, people like www.muzic.net.nz. And that’s working out pretty well for us so far.
And there’s a lot of those sort of people around at the moment, which definitely helps.
There’s definitely an appetite at the moment for supporting New Zealand rock music, which is really cool.
You’ve got another 60 days left to get funding through http://www.indiegogo.com/. What’s the timeline for recording after that deadline? Do you have all the songs ready to go?
We’re still writing actually. We’ve got a bunch of older songs, I’ve lost count of the number of demos, but we really want to get these new songs on there as well. After the 60 days is up, we’ll need to evaluate how much we raised through indiegogo.com and how much we can raise ourselves through overdrafts, credit cards and the money that we’ve got from playing gigs, and how far we can make that stretch to get the recording we want. I’m pretty confident we can get something like that out.
The EP will likely be six or seven songs, and we’ve already done a lot of pre-production work on them, so maybe a month and half after the deadline would be an initial estimate at the moment.
What are your plans for the interim, while you wait for the funding to close off and the recording to begin?
Play as many shows as we can, talk to as many people as possible and start planning ahead for the summer. We’re practicing at a place called the Killing Rooms in Auckland and there seem to be quite a few higher profile bands coming through there, so we’re taking the opportunity to have as many conversations with those people as we can, seeing if there are support slots coming up, festivals and those sorts of things.
We’ve got some gigs coming up with an Australian band, Calling Utopia, who are coming over, which was a pleasant surprise, and we’re hoping to tee up a few more of those things and just keep the networking going whilst the campaigns going.
Information about SansArcade's campaign to record their EP, and how you can contribute, can be found at indiegogo.com
Music that's a little 'all-up-in-your-face' with a bit of 'let-me-down-gently' since 2012.