My picks for Laneway Music Festival 2016:

 

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For music aficionados, summer is especially exciting because it brings a glut of music festivals.  The long heady days lend themselves perfectly to dancing in the sun to your favourite band, discovering new ones, and drinking the odd warm beer in any scrap of shade you can find. Usually music is a purely subjective experience. But the magical thing about a decent festival is that for the duration of it, music becomes not only a celebration of self-expression, but also a celebration of a community. Feeling this collective joy makes the accidental sunburn and inevitable muscle aches the next day completely worthwhile.

An example of one such festival is Laneway Festival. Since its humble beginnings down a ramshackle laneway in Melbourne nine years ago, the teams dedication to offering audiences only the most seminal artists and freshest talent across a variety of genres has never faltered. These steadfast principles have seen the Laneway ethos be taken around Australia and the world, including Singapore, Detroit, and Auckland.  As per usual, 2016 sees Laneway mashing together a myriad of styles that are only otherwise bound by their creativity and talent. However the breadth of sound and bands has reached dizzying heights this year, giving me 33 reasons to go to Laneway.  With less than a week to go until the gates open, tickets are looking to sell out for the fourth year in a row. So for those of you who are dithering, for the sake of readability I will cull my 33 picks down to five reasons to click that “buy now” button.

Beach House (United States):
Dream-Pop darlings Beach House return to New Zealand off the back of two sensational albums released in 2015- Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars which were successors to 2012’s pop-scuzz triumph Bloom.

Over the last twelve years, the duo have produced six meticulous albums that each show subtle yet pertinent growth from its predecessor.  Depending on which one you are listening to, the duo incorporate drawn out droning, elegant distortion, and gorgeously breathy vocals that whisper transcendental promises into your ear. 2015’s offering showcases a shift in texture which leads to a more autumnal tone that suits the cohesively secretive sound of Beach House.  As a band whose music oscillates between being dimly luscious and grandly theatrical, their set promises delicate deviations from pop banalities.
Beach House plays the Cactus Cat stage 8.10pm-8.55pm

Grimes (Canada):
Since Claire Boucher adopted the above moniker in 2009, she has been constructing one of the most cleverly bizarre universes around her stage persona. It is a world that embraces the strange, where the multi-referential textures of her sound are translated into a kaleidoscopically surreal aesthetic that delights critics and fans alike with its constant movement and colour.

Grimes’s third album, 2012’s Visions first brought her to widespread attention, with Pitchfork Magazine hailing its lead single Oblivion as “the single of the decade.” It was an album built on breathy, self-conscious vocals intertwined with hazily dreamlike effects, and four years after its release Grimes has metamorphosed yet again with the release of 2015’s Art Angel.

Within its confines, Grimes has shed the quietly meditative songs of Visions and unleashed a cacophony of confidence and frenzied experimentation. Millenials will instantly recognise the glossy pop tropes of their teenage hood that inspires much of Art Angels. But in the hands of Grimes the kooky possibilities of this oft-dismissed genre becomes apparent. Radio-ready hooks, whip snap backbeats, and her sugary vocals are intertwined with Taiwanese rap music, EDM bangers and Bubblegum pop, giving the nostalgic touchstones of this album a psychedelically futuristic edge.  This reworking of pop standards into hyperbolic amalgamations has led some critics to suggest that she is trying to save the genre. But this writer suggests that Grimes is simply trying to get lost in her own rich soundscapes. Either way, her set will be one of the most ecstatically weird ones on the day. Bring your dancing shoes.
Grimes plays the  Mysterex  Stage 8.00pm-8.45pm.

Silicon (New Zealand):
On the international stage, New Zealand has a strong track record of producing kooky musical imports- from the quirkily suited Split Endz to the cooly cult following of The Chills and laconic pop-comedy of Flight of the Conchords.

Lately people have sat up and taken notice of the Nielson brothers, Ruban and Kody, two people I have a well-documented musical admiration for.  They first came to national attention with the rambunctious art-punk outfit The Mint Chicks, however the pair are now working on their individual projects- Ruban fronts Unknown Mortal Orchestra, while Kody is the mastermind behind Silicon.

Over the last few years antipodean musicians have been enamoured with a glitchy electro-disco soul sound- think Tame Impala and, well, UMO. Silicon unabashedly references this back to the future style with his debut offering Personal Computer, but some of the sonic and thematic standards of the genre are rerouted. This  gives the album a distinctly different feel.  The retro synths and angular samples are offset against Kody’s falsetto creating an icily soulful sound. This is fitting considering that Personal Computer was inspired by the increasing trend of digital-only socialisation. By simultaneously embracing and eschewing the digital age, Nielson has created an album that is filled with quietly danceable pensive music that will undoubtedly translate excellently irl.
Silicon plays the Thunderdome 7.40pm-8.25pm.

Thundercat (United States):
As a virtuosic bassist, Stephen Bruner has spent the last 10 years playing in an eclectic mixture of contemporary music’s biggest bands. He began working with punk trash legends Suicidal Tendencies before moving onto the Erykah Badu band. 2014 saw him working with Flying Lotus’s Brainfeeder Imprint while he also worked closely with Kendrick Lamar on his seminal album To Pimp a Butterfly.

Thundercat is the name of Bruner’s solo project, which he has released three albums under- The Golden Age of the Apocalypse (2011), Apocalypse (2013) and 2015’s The Beyond/Where the Giants Roam. On his latest record, Bruner’s textured grooves give his avant-jazz sound a bombastically psychedelic edge-making it ideal for a hazy summer’s day. Thundercat wields the bass with an almost godlike prowess, which means he should be on your to watch list for Laneway 2016.
Thundercat plays the Cactus Cat stage 3.15 pm-4.00pm

 

Vince Staples (United States):
Hailed as “the most exciting man in rap” by Rolling Stone, Vince Staples  was bookmarked as being one to watch long before his breathtakingly focused debut album  Summertime ’06 dropped in 2015.

22-year old Staples first came to international attention for his part on Earl Sweatshirt’s debut album. He immediately impressed critics with the gritty realism of his flow set against corrodingly industrial beats. On the surface the rhymes found in Summertime 06 reflect on the hard-edged world of rap music where fragility fuels bravado and vice-versa, giving it an obvious street appeal. But at its heart it is an album that turns the loss of childhood innocence into something positive and will undoubtedly translate to a powerful live performance.
Vince Staples plays the Cactus Cat stage 5.35pm-6.00pm.

LANEWAY 2016, Silo Park, Auckland, New Zealand line up:

Battles – Baynk – Beach House – CHVRCHES – Courtney Barnett- DIIV – East India Youth – FIDLAR – Flume – GoldLink – Grimes – Groeni – HEALTH – Hermitude – High Dependency Unit – Hudson Mohawke – Leisure – Lontalius – METZ – Nadia Reid – Oscar Key Sung – Purity Ring – QT – REIN – Scuba Diva – Shamir – Silicon – SOPHIE – The All Seeing Hand – The Internet – Thundercat  – Vince Staples – Violent Soho

 

 

An interview with: Tim Heidecker (Tim & Eric)

It was oddly appropriate that my interview with Tim Heidecker began with several calls to the emergency services, courtesy of an incorrect phone number. Heidecker and Eric Wareheim are the cult comedy duo Tim and Eric who revel in absurdism. So the humour in calling an ambulance instead of California was not lost on Heidecker, who when I do reach him, is bouncing on a trampoline with his daughter. “Not even a joke” he laughs breathlessly.

The pair first met in 1994 at Temple University in the United States, where they were both studying film and realised that they shared a taste for the bizarre. Together they have created a bevy of cult TV series, including five seasons of the sketch comedy Tim and Eric Awesome Show Great Job for Adult Swim. Their madcap antics have attracted an impressive roll call of the who’s who of US Comedy. Ben Stiller, Will Farrell, Jonah Hill, Maria Bradford, Will Forte, Michael Cera and even our very own Flight of the Conchords have been part of the Tim and Eric world. They have also directed their own film, while Wareheim has directed music videos for the likes of MGMT and Major Lazer. This year, they have released their debut book ‘Tim and Eric’s Zone Theory’, and will be wrapping up 2015 with a tour of Australia and New Zealand, aptly titled “Tim and Eric- the ‘Stralia-Zealand Experience.’

For a writer, it is incredibly difficult to describe Tim and Eric’s style of comedy. Most reduce it to ‘Stoner Comedy’ which I believe misses the point of their humour. It is an observation that Heidecker appreciates. “There is a certain level of person who thinks that we must be stoned when we make this- nothing is further than the truth. Or you have to be high to like it. I don’t agree with that cross section of people- I mean it’s on late at night and some people like watching it stoned- that’s totally fine. But that’s not what we are aiming for in making it.”

Alternatively, writers can rely on overly intellectual superlatives to try and make sense of Tim and Eric’s work. Yes it is joyfully free associative and at the Dadaist end of the Surrealist humour spectrum. Yes they could be described as a late-night public access television nightmare perpetually stuck in the 90s- resplendent with poor editing, amateur animation, and excruciatingly awkward characters selling bastardised commodities that shouldn’t exist. Because in their world, everything hinges on horrifically comedic extremes. But regardless of how you describe it, for Heidecker, the aim of their comedy is quite simple: “we try to make everyone laugh and have a good time- “you’re not going to learn anything unfortunately.”What about that life is absurd?” I ask. “Yes you could learn that- that the world shouldn’t be taken so seriously.”

Both Heidecker and Wareheim play a multitude of characters within Tim and Eric. When I ask Heidecker who is his favourite character to play, he laughs. “I don’t want to sound like a dick, but I hate the favourite question. I have so many favourites. In a sense my favourite character to play- and this is going to sound really pretentious- is myself. Because the Tim character is basically myself and there are so many different versions. It’s fun to play different sides of myself. It’s a great outlet for more unfavourable sides of my personality. Everyone has [negative qualities] that sometimes come out when they are driving down the highway or lose their temper. I get to do that for a living.”

When discussing his impending tour, Heidecker muses “It’s hard to talk about [the show] because if you talk about it too much it gives away the jokes. I’ve gotten off the trampoline by the way, I thought that it might be easy talking on the trampoline but it’s not…So basically the show is me on a trampoline for an hour. You observe me, take notes” Heidecker deadpans. He pauses for my laughter to subside. “No no, it’s a mixture of sketches and live stuff. I’d say we’ve got about 70% of the show figured out. We toured it in the States, but we want to tailor it to you guys. We have characters from the show, some new characters. It’s our version of a Broadway play, with stupid costumes. It’s a night of idiocy and foolishness. We are trying to give people the feeling of if our TV shows came to life and beamed out of the TV and onto a stage it would be something like this. It’s meant to drive you insane. You’re supposed to be uncertain about what’s real, what’s planned and how sincere we are throughout it all.”

Fans of Tim and Eric will be able to figure it out for themselves in Auckland’s Skycity Theatre on December 18th.

This article was first published in Rip It Up magazine on September 18th 2015.

 

Duck Island Ice Cream, Hamilton, New Zealand.

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It is a bold move to open up an ice cream parlour in the middle of winter. But that is precisely what the folks at Duck Island have gone and done- and it’s paid off in dividends. Garnering  over 1,000 ‘likes’ on Facebook and gaining the attention of the likes of Cuisine magazine in just a few short weeks, ice cream has never been so hot.

The parlour is the brainchild of the trio behind the multi award winning restaurant Chim Choo Ree. It has a long-standing reputation for using fresh, seasonal produce in innovative and creative ways, and this ethos remains steadfast in Duck Island.

The parlour is light and airy, with big bay windows allowing customers to observe the street scene outside, or alternatively, they can tuck themselves away on any one of their generous tables.  Aside from a few delicately vintage touches, the décor is kept to a minimum, with pride of place being given to the expansive chiller that holds the ice cream.  It holds every hue in the rainbow, with each fantastical flavour artfully announced in white ink across the glass. Reading the flavours is a mind-boggling moment. How does the combination of honey, rosemary and pinenut taste outside of a roast dinner? If I eat their toast and jam flavoured ice cream does that mean I’ve had breakfast?

After collecting a fistful of sample spoons, I settled on the salted caramel and popcorn ice-cream sundae. Beautifully presented in a cut-glass sundae bowl, the popcorn ice cream was decadently smothered in a thick velveteen salted caramel sauce and garnished with a handful of caramel corn. I am told that the popcorn ice-cream requires an overnight infusion, and taking my first bite, my palette is flooded with beautifully balanced flavours- proving that good things really do take time.  It tastes like I am at the movies, and the richly buttery flavour of the ice cream is perfectly complimented by the sweetness of the sauce, and they get the portion size just right.

Duck Island is also vegan and gluten- free friendly, crafting all of their ice cream out of all-natural, seasonal products. So there is always something for everyone and something new to try- which could be dangerous.