23 May 2019
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Late Model European - Interview: Late Model European

26 Feb 2019 // An interview by Brendan McCarthy

Late Model European is a songwriting and music collaboration between John and Tones; two life-long best friends who grew up together in a sleepy little village in Scotland. They spoke to Brendan from Muzic.net.nz about their creative process, goals, achievements and much more:

Late Model European is a new band on the NZ Music scene but obviously you have a strong past in music internationally. Can you summarise your musical journey so far?

Tones: John and I go way back. We grew up together back in a village in Scotland and started our musical journey together as wide-eyed teenagers with big dreams and big hair haha. So yeah, we started playing in bands together while we were in secondary school.

John: Tones used to come to my house, and we'd be in my bedroom listening and playing along to all the great bands and albums of the day. We started our first band together in our school days. You could say we got our first break back in 1978 when we convinced our school to let us play at the end of term Christmas concert in front of the whole school; around 1300 kids and teachers.

Tones: I remember those jam sessions in your bedroom. Your mum used to bring us cups of tea and biscuits and jam butties! haha That end of term gig was a blast! The teachers were expecting us to play some pretty tame covers. I think we started with Johnny Be Good and then we let rip with the Sex Pistols' Pretty Vacant; it was anarchy at Annan Academy! We almost caused a riot! The kids loved it, but we almost got ourselves expelled! Rock 'n' roll!

John: So that's how it all started and from there we continued to hone our playing skills playing the Scottish and Northern England music scene in the late 70's and early 80's. The band line-up and band name changed as much as our hairstyles did! Around that time, we still had our long hair and were influenced by the likes of Led Zep, AC/DC, The Stones et al. but punk came along and shook things up in a different way; that got us into The Stranglers, Sex Pistols, The Jam, and all those bands. So yeah, we were both rockers and punk-rockers!

Tones: I remember we were playing this club in Northern England; it was shaping up to be a great night. I'll try and get this right... our drummer was pretty pissed (as usual!) and as we got into the 2nd set it was getting a bit crazy! Anyway, there was this promoter – he was well known in Northern England and Scotland, not necessarily for the right reasons – anyway, he came backstage to the greenroom in between sets. He was pretty full of it and said he was really digging our sound. He wanted to whisk us off to Germany and follow in the footsteps of the Beatles and the likes, playing the club circuit over there. It all sounded pretty tempting but like I said, he was well known and had a bit of a reputation. Let's just say, I don’t think it was just our music he was into! So yeah! we gave him the swerve. Looking back, who knows what might have happened!

John: We could go on forever answering this question; we have so much history together. The past takes longer to cover but the future hasn't happened... yet!

What Does Your Band Name Mean?

John: Being from Scotland we are of course European (but Brexit may change all that!); are we models?! Well, the jury is out on that one!

Tones: It’s our twist on an old term of phrase about what kind of car someone drives. We just liked the sound of it. Back in the days we’ve just talked about, that was the early model – and now here we are across the other side of the world all these years later – this is the late model. It has a ring to it; kind of like the punk band names back in the day; I like that.

Given that you are a 2-piece setup can you explain your creative process?

Tones: We’re not really a duo; not in the true sense. It’s the two of us in the writing sense; we collaborate together, albeit me in Auckland and John in Blenheim. You could say we write 'together apart'. But, when we take the songs into the studio or on stage, we'll pull in other musicians. Maybe on a podcast or giving an interview, it might just be the two of us; a duo unplugged. But at a full-blown gig and when we take these songs on the road, it will be a band; drums, bass, piano, synths, the works. It has to be a full band; that’s how it was in the early days and that’s how we want it to be now.

John: Yeah, Tones is right; you can’t beat that full band dynamic playing live. We love it! I personally record my ideas, vocal melodies, guitar chords and riffs into my mobile phone and go from there. We both have home studios set up; we made a point of having identical studio gear. We felt we had to do that, we needed to be technically compatible to make it work; bouncing songs and demos back and forth from Island to Island.

Tones: Yeah, it’s that ’together apart’ thing. We went into this not really knowing how it would work; we had to literally bridge that gap. But, it works; I mean, it really works. In a way, it’s made us more focussed; more than we would be in the band room. We know each other so well; we read each other so well. We don’t have to be in the same room (or same Island). I’ll get the idea down – chord progressions, structure, verse, chorus, bridge, mid 8 etc. I’ll lay down my guitar parts. I’ll find a drum loop/clips that work to give us the right feel and vibe for the song. I might get down a very rough vocal melody guide – I say rough, ‘cause I’m no great singer! It’ll be pitchy haha! – or I might play the melody idea on a MIDI keyboard. I know John will have no problem ‘getting it’; he’ll know where I’m going with it. I’ll then bounce it to him so he can get his vocal down; he’ll typically do a backing vocal on it too.

John: Yeah, that works well. I’ll add my vocals and guitar parts and if Tones hasn’t come up with any keys/synths, I might chuck a basic organ line in there – Hammond or Rhodes-type sound on the MIDI. I’ll then bounce it back to Tones. It works the other way too: If I come up with a song, I’ll get everything down that I’m hearing and bounce that to Tones. He’ll have a listen to see what he can bring to it. Tones might change the arrangement or maybe suggest a change to the structure; we’ll chat online or on our phones and bounce it around and work with it ’til we have a pretty good sounding demo for the song. As far as lyrics go, I’ve come up with lyrics for a few of the songs; I’ll send those to Tones, and he might rewrite/massage some of the lines and tweak here and there. But yeah, lyrics for most of the songs so far have come from Tones; he has that poetic way with words.

Tones: Typically, we get the music down first and the lyrics follow. Although, I do have a lot of lyric ideas/lines that I’ve got down over the years; it might only be a few words or lines or, it might be a verse or a chorus idea. I get it down any way I can – voice recorder, phone, notebook, or random pieces of paper. Was it Michael Stipe or Tom Yorke that once said he’d write words down on whatever he could lay his hands on; beer mats, cigarette packets, anywhere. I like that! I think we’ve surprised ourselves how quickly the songs came together for the album. Or, maybe we shouldn’t be that surprised; it’s that ‘brothers in arms’ thing. It might sound cliched or a bit hippy but... we’re so in tune with each other; together or apart.

Once we’re happy that we’ve taken the song as far as we can between the two of us, we’ll send the demo to our Producer, Ben King (Goldenhorse, Grand Rapids) and hope that he’s digging it. He’ll then share his thoughts and feedback on the song/demo. On most occasions, he’s loved it straight off the bat; on other occasions, he might say this is pretty cool, but it could be better with a change in tempo or arrangement or, different drums. We really trust Ben’s judgement; he gets us, he gets the songs; he contributes so much. He’s our George Martin. Ben will then suggest the best session musicians to suit the songs and we’ll share the demos with them so they can prepare for the studio.

We’ll then take the songs into the studio and magic will happen. When you start to get other musicians involved, it’s awesome to hear what they bring to the song. Then there’s the mixing – so much can happen between penning the song, making a demo, and then recording and mixing the song. It’s all part of the creative process. The journey of a song is an amazing thing; there’s so many directions it can take; almost infinite. You might think it’s going down this road then, some magic might happen in the studio or at mixing stage or with the arrangement and all of a sudden it’s re-routed; it goes in a different direction. But it’s still ’the song’. I love it!

Have you set up your band as a business, and are you running this side of things yourself?

John: Tones is managing all the day-to-day running of the band. We would love it to be a business one day.

Tones: That’s a good question and very relevant these days. I guess I am the manager; I take care of the ‘business’ aspect of the band and the ‘brand'. There’s a lot to get your head around these days – the music industry has changed so much. You know, I’d rather just be focussing on writing, and making music and performing; the creative side of things. But, unless you’re picked up by a manager or major label, bands have to be pretty resourceful in today's industry. I’d say, we’re pretty self-sufficient; you have to be.

What are the challenges for you in being an independent NZ artist?

Tones: I guess I’ve just touched on that with your last question; the business aspect of being an independent artist. Getting your music out there; being visible. You’re a small fish in a very big pond, even here in NZ. We might be a small country but there’s a lot of artists out there all vying for attention. The internet is an amazing thing and it gives you a platform and the tools but, it also means there’s a helluva lot of bands and artists out there all chasing that rainbow. Getting the songs into people’s ears and lives; that’s the challenge.

John: Just getting that foot in the door can be difficult, especially Radio. We would just love for an NZ station to pick up one of our songs put on rotation; get on their playlist.

Where are you going with LME? What are your goals?

John: We would love to get these songs out to the masses and get some recognition for all the hard work that has gone in to the album. I would love to do this full time and maybe generate enough funds to do a second album.

Tones: Well, it’s all been about the album so far. That’s always been the dream since we were teenagers; to make an album together and release it on vinyl. And now we’re doing that; it’s really happening! We’re very invested in this album and LME, and I don’t mean financially, and I don’t just mean John and I; our Producer, Ben, and our wives, they’re all invested in this; they’re right there with us and we're thankful and blessed to have their support. Sorry, I might be getting a bit off track there, but it is relevant and important to us.

So yeah, the immediate goal is, get the album and the songs out there as far and wide as we can. Get the songs on radio and onto playlists; anywhere they can be heard. Then we want to pack these songs in a case and get out there and play them live for people, for our supporters. And, there lies another challenge for us... with John being in the South Island and me in Auckland, and also needing to pull in other musicians to take these songs on the road and cover both North and South; the reality is, it will be logistically and financially challenging. And, we also have a decent following back in Scotland, so we really want to play for them too. But hey, nothing’s impossible; believe, and follow the dream.

What are your achievements so far?

John: 2,500 views on Wal Reid's NZ Entertainment Podcast (a record for the show)! 2,500 Spotify Streams of our debut single, Summer Rain, in first week or so of release and, over 6000 views of Summer Rain video on YouTube. ’New song of the day’ on The 13th Floor music blog.

Tones: John’s our ‘Statman’ haha! You’ve got me thinking about those wide-eyed teenagers again with their big amps and big hair; we never realised the dream back in our early days back home. Now here we are, half a world away, all these years later; we’ve written and produced a bunch of songs and we're about to release our debut LP! Does that count?! Never give up on the dream! An official announcement from the Label hasn’t been made yet but, we’ve just been signed by Songbroker; that’s pretty big for us! Hmm not sure if we should be telling you that… shhhhh.

Any plans to tour NZ and or overseas?

Tones: No ‘plans’ or gigs locked in just yet; we’re still focussed on getting the album out there. But yeah, we’ll definitely be doing a release show in Auckland and down in Marlborough and hopefully we’ll tour the album around NZ. It’s also our dream to take the songs over to the UK.

John: We would love to get these songs out on the road and who know where it would take us.

What is the plan for the album release?

Tones: We’ll be releasing on both limited edition vinyl and of course, digital platforms. Holiday Records will be pressing the vinyl right here in Auckland on their state-of-the-art Vinyl Technologies press. They’re close to being ready to roll. We’ll be one of the first records to be pressed in NZ since the EMI plant closed its doors back in the mid-80's. It’s looking like April for the album release; you gotta be patient when it comes to pressing and releasing a vinyl record – that’s something we’ve learned. We’ll be going hard on promotion and hoping to get some decent exposure from it all. It’s all very exciting! Having a vinyl press back in NZ is pretty damn cool and good news for the NZ music industry; it puts vinyl records within reach for a lot more Kiwi artists.

John: Yeah, that’s got to be a good thing for NZ! I’ll be flying up to be there when the vinyl is pressed and for the release. We’ll be doing the round around pressing and release time; interviews, maybe a podcast or two, hopefully perform a couple of songs live on radio and, release shows.

Can you tell us about upcoming live shows? Where. When. Any other bands playing with you?

Tones: We’re working on that. There will definitely be a release show in Auckland and hopefully one down South. We’ll have another band opening those shows for us; we haven’t decided who yet. NZ Entertainment Podcast have invited us back in to talk about the album and maybe play a couple of songs from the album live on air.

John: We’ve got a few things up our sleeve; we’re getting closer. Watch this space! It’s time.

 

About Late Model European

Late Model European is a songwriting and music collaboration between John and Tones; two life-long best friends who grew up together in a sleepy little village in Scotland.

Starting their musical journey together as wide-eyed teenagers with big dreams, big hair and big amps, back in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s, they had plans to conquer the music world. That didn’t quite happen but they did rip it up around the Scottish and Northern England music scene. Not knowing whether they were Punks, Mods or Rockers didn’t really matter to them; they just shared a passion and a love for making and performing music together!

Then life came along and took them down different paths. Their jeans weren’t as wide as before but their eyes were still wide open; they knew there was a whole world out there waiting to be explored. Little did they know they were destined to come together again some 40 years later, across the other side of the world in New Zealand!

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Late Model European

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