Friday, June 24, 2005

the phoenix foundation [interview]

click on the comments section at the bottom of this post to read an interview i did (about a month back now) with luke buda, from the phoenix foundation. it's pretty interesting in places - some interesting comments about nz music month and more...


richard said...

Richard MacFarlane: Hey Luke. How are you?

Luke Buda: Ah, good good. I’m just making some music actually.

R: More music - but you’ve just put out an album!

L: That’s alright, yeah I’m gonna put out another one

R: A solo one?

L: Yeah. I just love the idea of being quite prolific, actually. I mean if you look back in time they used to make a lot more albums.

R: That’s right, like you look at Ryan Adams for instance. He’s putting out a lot but sometimes cops flak for that…

L: Yeah its weird. I just um, I think that maybe some of it is that people obsess and angst about each album and treat it as the be all and end all of their careers.

R: Yeah like its funny when you can just take years to make an album.

L: It’s sort of defying logic really

R: But yeah now i’ve got some, like, proper questions to ask you

[Phone rings]

L: Ok. Sorry about that

R: So how did you guys get together, it was quite a few years back now wasn’t it?

L: It was at high school; Sam and I were slightly outcasts, or weirdos. We went for a walk and bitched about how the “cool group” were a bunch of dicks. And then we ended up, well our mutual love for music got us together – in fourth form we jammed the first time. 5th form we played the first song to the class. Entered the rock quest in 6th and 7th form. So that’s how it sort of began really. Is that what you meant?

R: Yeah. And what keeps you together now? You’ve got a bigger group – there are what, six of you now?

L: Yeah…well you know…its like the band has its own momentum now. For example my girlfriend is an artist, and sometimes she has trouble just doing work, getting herself into the headspace where she does some of her actual proper work. So I think one of the good things and reasons that its good for all of us to be in a band is because it’s the whole momentum. Like if your feeling crap but you’ve gotta practice, someone else might be in a great mood and make you a cup of tea, give you a cuddle [sarcastically] and then its kind of like, at the same time you could be in a great mood and someone could be in a really bad one and suck the energy out of you. But you know what I mean. That’s definitely one of the great things. Apart from the obvious ones, were making music that we all think is good, were making music that none of us would make by ourselves, you know.

R: There’s a lot of collaboration going on up in Wellington in a sense, doles that have much of an impact on you guys?

L: Well the reasons that we have the amount of members that we have, is its just the way that it panned out, like Con and Sam and I that’s where it all started really, the first band, so anyway we all played guitar. And then there was will, our good friend, who played percussion so we did some side projects with him so we thought why not incorporate that into the band too, so then we had bass and drums too which are pretty much the staple of any band, unless yr the doors. So it doesn’t really have that much to do with the other people, and I mean collaboration, it's like, a situational contextual thing. That’s just like one room in this building, but there is also this large open space room with rooms all around for each individual person, like Warren Maxwells got his one with protocols etc set up. Mike Ladd from the black seeds and Barnaby weir as well, Rio from trinity roots and they’re all just down the hall. And there’s also Shakann, who are seriously amazing and maybe my pick for NZ's biggest chance for export. Like I used to listen to death metal and heavy metal and even though I don’t listen to it much now I can hear it with the ears of a metaler. Anyway so some of the people we collaborate with are just there. And were all together here making cups of tea (at the surgery). So if you need some saxophone then you go down and see if warren [Maxwell] is in his room. Because of the spirit of collaboration then a community comes out of the other reasons, such as wanting to make music, everyone has the same high standards and expectations and everyone is conveniently located. It’s more like that than like, setting out to collate, you know. It just happens.

R: I was reading on Cheese on Toast that Sam said in an interview that he's more the Lennon and yr more the McCartney –

L: He actually said that?

R: Yeah, although i'm pretty sure they were both pretty drunk – but how do you feel about that?

L: I think things like that are things you should think to yourself and never say to everyone else and i’m very embarrassed. What’s he trying to say, that he’s like the tortured genius guy and that i’m a real dweeb.

R: Hah, maybe the first part of that statement. Maybe not dweeb that much…

L: I'd just like to say id take no part in comparisons of Sam and me and Lennon and McCartney. I think were more like Jagger and Richards. But you know what I mean; I hate quotable quotes and that kind of shit. Yeah he was pretty pissed though; I was in the hotel and had the flu and trying to sleep. Sam and the guys went and got completely hammered and did these interviews and came into the hotel room when I was trying to sleep. I got real grumpy. That’s bullshit though; we've got our own thing going on. He writes a lot of the songs, I don't write that many. Conrad doesn’t write songs at all, but more composing stuff. But me and Conrad along with lee and Sam do a lot of the production in the studio. I'd say I’m probably the one that talks the most at band practice you know what I mean. I guess that’s the way it works. And also Sams into a lot of stuff like Iron & Wine and Sun Kil Moon and that sort of thing. That melancholic, folky sounding thing. Whereas, well, while I love all of that and I love the rural and the fragile, I also love the fantasy of a ridiculously beautiful over the top arrangement and production. That’s what he might be talking about with the comparison.

R: Yeah, Pegasus has that fantastical atmosphere.

L: Yeah were just really getting into these sorts of ideas. I’ve got no idea what the next album will sound like, were thinking about just not having any synth songs on it

R: But synths are so hot right now!

L: Hah, that’s right, that’s right. But Conrad and I are taking that shit even further, like the end of Cars of Eden for example.

R: That’s gotta be my favourite on the album.

L: Cool, that’s the one we worked the hardest one. It was a huge work in progress, it took the longest to make.

R: Yeah, that’s pretty evident I think. Now, there’s a lot of hype surrounding you guys at the moment, can you guys sense or notice this at all?

L: Um, yeah sure, I mean I can see a lot articles about this sort of thing. I mean I just heard from a reporter from Christchurch that Sam is comparing himself to John Lennon… [laughs]. You’ve just gotta do your best to realise that none of that stuff in the end, is that real. Its good that in hopefully well sell more albums, and shit, I don’t care about that. I mean i’m gonna have a child at the end of the year. I think the notion that success, or like commercial success equals loss of value and integrity is absolute shit myself.

R: Yeah I would totally agree. I would say, though, that your one of the more “indier” bands actually getting exposure in NZ at the moment.

L: Yeah. Well its pretty odd music, some of it. So down the river is the most single sounding number on the album, I mean its not over the top like that but you know what I mean, you already said it I don’t need to finish that point…so anyway with the hype its like, I don’t know, you don’t think about it. I mean shit, so what, the media could use that power to damage us and therefore you don’t let yrself get fooled by that stuff, because its really whimsical

R: Yeah definitely. What do you think about New Zealand music month, then? I mean, personally I’m pretty sick of the whole thing. Well its over now…but you know, the whole commercialisation of it all…what do you guys think about it? I mean you put the album out in May, was that deliberate?

L: Hmm well not that I know of, maybe the record company wanted it out then. We actually wanted it out earlier, but the record company wanted a particular amount of months to prepare for the release. Things just took a bit longer – I freaked out about the song order from the first mastering (I still don’t think we got it right) so we had to send it back to Australia to get it done again. I mean like, Cars of Eden was third. And posh tiger was second and it was just a bit much too earlier I think. Like putting too many road bumps at the start of a road, its more of a centrepiece.

R: Yeah definitely, I think it works really well near the end.

L: Thanks, yeah I’m very glad you like it. Its definitely one of the problem tracks. Like all in an afternoon, which just took so long, man.

R: Hmm I dunno what you think but the whole Wellington dub thing has pretty much taken over NZ music was far as many of the bnet stations are concerned –

L: And as far as independent sales, like Fat Freddy's Drop so high on the charts.

R: Yeah - Do you like all the stuff?

L: Um… well I think that they’re all making really good music and I love that sort of music but I definitely feel, like after working in a café in Wellington for ages, and listening to the radio there, its like I am a little bit…well I think I’ve had my fill for a while of reggae and stuff. But at the same time when I go visit the black seeds, when they’re recording I still think it sounds great. I was never a huge reggae fan anyway but I think they’re all making wicked music. And lets face it the whole trinity roots thing… Christ - what a band. I don’t know if you ever saw them live – I never really saw a bad gig but I heard that when they were bad they were really sort of boring, otherwise totally the opposite.

R: Are there any bands that you want to work with or play with at the moment?

L: At the top of my list would probably be Air. Cos I just feel like, its weird how yr world is different from the perception of so many other people. Like i've only recently realise that people only really know moon safari, and remember them as this good band that did that. The latest one is awesome, and even 1000 Hertz Legend, too. Even if it doesn’t have the same romance and emotion its kind of like their kid a, trying weirder stuff. You know its like they did something completely weird and different but I still want to listen to it cos I want to hear what it sounds like. Cos its such a weird or interesting sound. The level of composition and shit that goes into their stuff. Theirs so few elements but they’re all really strong. But I don’t know, anyone of the core bands in the world

R: Have you got any plans to go overseas, after the album tour etc?

L: Well…no. not really. I have a feeling that the album is getting released in Australia, I think that 3was part of the contract. Oh and here's some other parts of the contract, heh. We’ll definitely go back to Australia but as far as world domination. We’ve gotta take everything a step at a time, and things are slowly moving you know, things are happening – little things. Its best not to think too far ahead and best not to think too much about the successes, and “making it” and all that shit. Lets just concentrate for a while on making music that we care about. But if Wilco or The Flaming Lips want to support us, it wouldn’t be too inappropriate

R: Yeah there are a lot of bands that you’d suit as a support act. How would you describe yr live show?

L: One of the pluses (which sometimes could be a horrific minus) is that they’re always different. It just depends on the moment and th4 crowd. We’ve been known to do shows that are really small, where there are not that many people and all sitting down and you can hear the natural sound of the instruments and there is a grand piano. And those are the shows that we musically enjoyed the most. And its all sort of, pretty - and its all about the sound of the music rather than necessarily the energy. And we’ve been known to play shows, like one in Wellington, and it was one of the most drunk shows we’ve ever done and it was just all this feedback you know what I mean. Hopefully, the way id like to see it, say on the album release tour, id like to sort of rock out a little bit, make it more of a party, cos they’re all in pubs or whatever. Like the Jetset in Christchurch

R: Oh…yeah…the Jetset…hmm

L: Yeah…well….you know. Hehe that’s not what I want to hear man! Yeah it’s a funny place but whatever. And then hopefully, well we want to do like a theatre tour, where we play places like the paramount in Wellington. Or the regent or whatever its called in Auckland which are more sit down quiet shows, and more about arrangements and stuff rather than the rock aspect. But yeah I don’t know… its like the hurricanes man. Except the unexpected.

R: I guess that’s kind of like yr sound, pretty eclectic in general. Like I don’t know how people really describe you guys – how would you do so?

L: Well…I’m not really sure. A few people after gigs have said that – this is very cheesy – “its kind of like riding a horse, but its like riding a horse, through space!”. And hence Pegasus – cos one of the legends of Pegasus is that it’s a horse that can fly through space and time

R: Ah, like the cover…

L: Yeah it is a pretty cover. And someone else – here are some quotable quotes that I don’t like – James from The Brunettes said “its no coincidence that the Phoenix Foundation come between Pavement and Pink Floyd in the dictionary”. So its like medium of funny, wonky indeed, with pretty much a bit of synthesiser, well, prog, you know. It’s the synth-prog indie band. But I really hate the idea of us being labelled as that…heh.

R: As for originality, is that a big thing for you guys? Like…or would you be more sort of…post modern about appropriation and accepting yr influences and stuff?

L: Is this a loaded question?

R: Haha, no you just go from there.

L: Um…everything’s just so different – there are no rules pretty much. As long as it isn’t just a pastiche or just an homage. As long as its like a song that its not a song that only sounds like this song of this band, I don’t like that. The Thing is everyone tells me that we sound like someone, but everyone tells me that we sound like someone different.

R: Hmm, I find it hard to compare you guys with others. Who would you compare yrselfs to?

L: Um this is very difficult cos the only bands who id compare our sound with I wouldn’t ever want to compare ourselves with, cos they’re like, really good bands, you know. But I guess our ethos is like we don’t define ourselves by this band or that band, we just make the music that is most appropriate to the song. You know what I wont compare us to anyone – take that ya bastard, hhaha.

R: We’re playing with a band called Thomas:Parkes in Christchurch. They sent us a demo of their stuff, I haven’t heard it but Sam and our manager both thought they sound pretty good.

L: For all the complaining you can do about the funding system and NZ music month and stuff, the atmosphere is different in Wellington compared to Christchurch. Like I remember in 7th form and we supported HLAH a couple of times and we knew other musos from bands like letterbox lambs, hell is other people and stuff and all these kind of Wellington bands and the vibe was totally different to now. And I don’t think it was as easy and I don’t think there was as much support and not as many people come to gigs, and so actually the initiative of the NZ govt is doing with NZ music is good, even though they push a lot of shit and lots of shit commercial bands get lots of funding and stuff, if the commercial scene in NZ then the alternative scene will also get bigger. So I think they are actually doing a good thing. Even though some people are pretty jaded with it, that’s just how it works I guess.

Adele said...

Nice interview, sounds like an interesting kind of fella, that Mr Buda...They put on a stonking (adjective of the day) show last weekend up here at the Classic, all in an afternoon was particularly awesome...

Anyhoo, I'm gonna be in your neck of the woods for about a week (I arrive on July 2), so I'll be seeing you soon! toodle pip

Gareth said...

Nice interview, Rich. Those PF chaps are a likeable bunch, I must say. You've always got to ask the post modern question, don't you!

Actually, I saw the Lennon-McCartney question on Cheese on Toast as well, and I asked Richie (PF drummer) if he thought of himself as Ringo! (He didn't, heh).

richard said...

hehe. yes, a very nice chap. should be a good show on the 16th, too.

hey adele. good to hear yr coming down - you should come hang out at the flat sometime. i guess yr coming for alex's 21st? happy 21st alex!!!

Adele said...

hey! yep, i am indeed down for alex's 21st (and a half)...i'm here 'til saturday, so we should totally drop round for a visit sometime (and i'll see you at alex's shindig on friday?)