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The Map Room - INSIDE THE MUSIC: Brendon Morrow from The Map Room

17 Apr 2017 // An interview by Chris Morgan

Alex Moulton and Chris Morgan sat down with Brendon Morrow of The Map Room to discuss their brand new album Weatherless and dive in for a look Inside The Music.

You can watch the video over on YouTube or read the interview below:


Alex: You are the Map Room

Brendon: One of. Fifty or twenty-five percent depending on whether we are playing live or not. Me and Simon started the whole thing, but after the first record we got Andy and Jared, so now we are a four piece.

A: Is The Map Room a fulltime gig?

B: Simon and I both work as audio engineers, so The Map Room is more of a side project. Times like now when the album is being released we will be working on it all the time, but it’s not enough to pay the bills.

A: As audio engineers, does working with other artists help with your own creative ideas?

B: When we studied audio engineering, he went for the music, where I went for post-production (film and TV). I work on music every now and then, but you can definitely learn a lot from the way that other people work. You get exposed to different production techniques and ideas and soak it all up. When we are in the studio, we draw from our own experience, and interactions with other people; ways that things work when putting things together, also things that may not work with us. We take ages to make stuff, it’s not a well-oiled machine in that sense.

A: Too many chefs spoil the broth? How is it having two audio engineers working on the same record?

B: We’re pretty good. We have a reasonably common focus as to what we are after. We butt heads at times, but it’s in a good way. We’ve never been in a position where one of us has been “I want it this way” and had to fight for that. We try to see the other persons point of view, and over time it works itself out. With us it’s been more about the music than the engineering. Being engineers helps us in that we can do our own stuff and don’t have to pay someone else to do it, but it’s always been about the best way to treat the songs, and we’ve learned to put on a different hat for that side of it.

A: Your first album is largely inspired by your travels through South America. You have also toured through India?

B: 6 months after we released the first record we got an email from a guy in India. He just wanted to get in touch, saying he loved the album. We replied and said thanks and maybe we’ll come down one day. A year and a half later he followed on from the same email chain, “by the way I’m promoter who books artists for this NH7 Weekender festival.” A laneway-type festival that tours around 4 or 5 main centres in India. Pretty cool vibes, he flicked us some links and we checked it out. Talked to the band and decided why not. It was totally amazing. It was the coolest festival; Delhi, Pune, Bangalore, Mumbai. Crowds were amazing. People lapped up the songs and it was a really awesome thing.

I’ve always wanted to go there anyway but to go there with the music as part of this festival was awesome. We became friends with the promoter singing karaoke in Mumbai, trying to nail Toto’s Africa. India was amazing, and we worked on the record as well, as we had the travel thing going on with the first one. The second record we were trying to rework a bit as we were away. A couple of shows we had maybe 5000 people there watching us, people dancing to certain bits. When he went back to the studio to record, it affected how we worked on the song, thinking about how we could build it up a little bit more. You can feel the energy from the people at certain points, we can tweak it a little bit then, so it affected our recording process a little bit.

A: So this second album is better suited for a live performance?

B: Yeah. We obviously write the song without an audience so you’re there in your own bubble but we played a lot of the songs live before we went to record it. You play a song for so long, that by the time the record comes out, you’re sick of the songs a bit of the time, so you start working on some new stuff. But we totally started tweaking things because we knew how it was or wasn’t working out live. It helped inform our decisions a little bit. It’s still about what excites us at the time, but reactions to it live can feed into the decisions on a subconscious level.

A: Are you looking to go back to India?

B: Totally, we’d love to do it. If only because we missed the Taj Mahal. One of the funnier things; we were is Delhi, 3 or 4 hours away from the Taj Mahal. In the morning, we had to decide between the Taj and this restaurant in Old Delhi; Karim’s. Andy the drummer was keen for the Taj, but the rest of us preferred the idea of the restaurant and democracy won out. We went to the restaurant and we all got sick, so now we have to go back to see the Taj Mahal. But also to do shows, to play the new record. We’d love to go back.

A: Where else would you like to tour?

B: Wherever. We’d love to go to Australia. We’ve got a bunch of people messaging us from over there, and we are starting to get a bit of traction. And our drummer is originally from Australia. But anywhere really, anywhere that will have us. We’ll do some more shows around New Zealand, and then see what’s viable; go around on tour and see how the record goes. The record only came out a few days ago, so we’ll see what traction it gets, maybe jump on some festivals. It’s such a great way to travel. See some new places, but do it with music. Covers your costs hopefully as well.

A: The band is kind of split between Auckland and Wellington.

B: Simon is in Wellington, the other three are up here in Auckland, but being an engineer, Simon is often up here for work, so we’ll be recording stuff, and then he’ll take it down there to mix. We have a good system going

A: You had a post online about a Skype vocal recording session?

B: Actually, that was a red herring. We used Skype, but I was in another room in the same building. They had no link between the booths so we had to make do. But it all seems to work with Simon being in Wellington. His partner has a really great job so it makes sense for him to go down there. If anything, having that distance between us means that we can work on these things ourselves, build it up, and then when we’re happy we can send it. Rather than splurging every single new idea without properly processing it.

A: For those that aren’t aware of The Map Room, how would you describe your sound?

B: I guess Indie Pop. With the first album, reviews described it as Atmospheric Indie Pop, but I tend to think of it as straight Indie Pop, bordering on Rock and maybe Alternative. Quite a wide net to cast. Bands that are relatable to us are Metronomy, Spoon, Radiohead, The National. We don’t fit into any of those bands categories 100%, but more of a melting pot of those ideas.

A: Rock and heavy music is often used as a way to evoke emotions, or release anger. What will listeners gain from your Indie album?

B: We try to make music that plays well on acoustic instruments when whittled down. I’m a huge Beatles fan, and what I love about them are the strength of the songs, with great harmony and melody. I feel you can get that from us. Strong songs with big melodies. Lyrically, we explore things that we are going through and thinking about at the time. You spend a period of time writing music, and then you put out the album. When you listen to it later on objectively, you can really hear a common thread throughout it. With the first record, there was a bit of displacement, whereas the new record is more about looking forward and looking back. If people are into lyrical depth, there is some there. It’s reasonably honest from our point of view.

A: The new album Weatherless released last week, seems more mature. How is it different from the debut album?

B: I think we have found our footing a little bit. When we made the first album it felt like it was just the two of us. We came back from our trip with all these songs, and we’re audio engineers so we thought let’s make an album. We started from that, but it feels like the band didn’t really get started until the album came out. This album better represents us as a band, and building our confidence in our playing. Simon and myself have often felt the imposter syndrome where we feel like we aren’t really qualified to be where we are. We’ve always been the guys in the band. I was always the drummer, and he was the guitarist; we never imagined ourselves as front people.

I’ve fallen into the role through the course of writing the record and playing shows. But we are definitely finding more confidence and getting settled in the role of fronting a band. Small steps along the way help, for example someone influential turning up to a show, and we’re like “I can’t believe they’re here to see us. There is no band after us.” It all becomes a part of the writing process.

Lyrically, the record is about being in the moment framing looking forwards and backwards, in life and in general. Anxiety about the past and future. The struggle to be present and happy now. Not about having reached that point and being zen, but exploring the whole thing of what it is be this age of looking forward, with cool things you have done in the past, hopefully a lot of cool stuff to come in the future. Trying to put a marker down, and feeling what’s going on right now.

A: What sort of music did you grow up with? And what was the first musical piece that you purchased yourself?

B: My mum is a huge music fan so I grew up with a lot of Fleetwood Mac, Elton John, Bee Gees; really good harmonies. The first album I ever bought was Nevermind which is super cool. I had a lot of lame albums too so I probably bought Nevermind at the same time that I bought Aqua’s album. When I learned the drums I used mum and dads albums to learn to. I ended up playing along with Fleetwood Mac. Jethro Tull. Nothing super rocky like Led Zeppelin, but classic rock like The Carpenters. Cheesy, but when you whittle it down, good songs. Simon has more of a rocky situation going. He was a huge Led Zeppelin fan. It comes down a lot to the instrument you play. Many guitarists love when they hear Jimmy Page for the first time, whereas I, who had more piano vibes, grew up more with Elton John.

A: You have a track Other Animal which has a theme that is kind of anti-technology, and anti-social network; being constantly connected to people without being actually present. Is it kind of ironic to have that kind of message when the music artists rely on this connectivity to survive?

B: Yeah totally. The song doesn’t so much come from the angle of being “anti” anything, but really is questioning the effects. Social media for example, there are great ways to use it; an amazing tool. I had never been in a position to need to push music or a band out before social media, but I can’t help but wonder how it even happened in those days. If you were a band trying to gain traction and an audience, you have to play a lot live and rely on local radio. You can now drive the situation from your own bedroom and try to get things happening; the interconnectivity is awesome.

But there is also a lot of anxiety and stuff that comes with it, and not being present. Feeling like you are going out a lot because you see what everyone is up to but in reality, you haven’t left your house in a week. The song is more questioning the situation, rather than having a firm “anti-technology/social media” position. It’s addictive; you remove the app from your phone and you find other modes to access it. It’s like crack. All day, with nothing happening but you keep scrolling past posts that you have already seen.

I love the technology and I’m not one of these people that say how the past was beautiful. People look back on the past with rose tinted glasses as to how things used to be. Every generation has its challenges, and every generation fears the challenges of the future. But it’s something that needs to be flagged, and it’s a game-changer with respects to relationships, and an interesting thing to explore lyrically.

A: What’s next for The Map Room?

B: New music. We’ve already started writing new songs; we played one at the release shows. We’ve been living with this package of songs for so long, to start working on something new is really cool. We’ll be playing some more shows, we’re doing one next month for New Zealand Music Month. Keep playing and keep pushing music around. Hopefully touring and go around Australia. Work on a new album, maybe finish in less than 1-2 years.

A: Would you be open to collaborations? Who would you like to work with?

B: Yeah, I’d love to produce someone else’s stuff. Simon does a bunch of that and he enjoys it. I will work in that capacity now and again. You don’t have that kind of emotional connection to the work., so you can be a little more cut-throat and clear minded in your decisions. When you work on your own stuff, you get lost sometimes with bits you got attached to, whether lyrics, or the way a chord falls against another. You may put it all together and realise it isn’t working but you are reluctant to let it go, because you know how much you loved it. Producing would fun. I’d love to work with anyone. Obviously, the New Zealand Greats would be amazing. I love Liam Finn, and Phoenix Foundation. Any of those guys would be great, if not, we’re happy mincing away doing our own little thing 

You can purchase The Map Room's latest album Weatherless from their website below.
 - Choose from digital download, CD and even 12" Vinyl

Filmed by Chris Morgan
Audio by Chris Morgan
Interviewed by Alex Moulton
Title Screen by Chris Morgan and Blake Jones


About The Map Room

The Map Room combine their love for well-constructed pop songs and embellished instrumentation with themes of displacement and motion inspired in part by their travels through South America.

Brendon Morrow and Simon Gooding met while studying Audio Engineering in Australia, and upon returning to their hometown of Auckland the pair began to write music together. During a year-long trip from Argentina to Colombia, the duo developed their sound by writing and playing shows along the way.

Armed with a portable recorder and two old acoustic guitars purchased from an antique store in Buenos Aires, the pair set off on their odyssey and began writing and recording the ?rst fragments of new songs. As the transient nature of their year unfolded, lyrical themes of movement, displacement and strange encounters began to rise to the surface.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for The Map Room


Year: 2017
Type: Album
Buy Online @ Mightyape
The Map Room
Year: 2014
Type: Album

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