Popstrangers: ‘You Have To Hustle A Bit Harder Over Here’

New Zealand-bred trio talk to David Zammitt about their recent emigration to London town.

When I arrive at the Strongroom bar in Shoreditch to meet Kiwi psych-rockers Popstrangers, their drummer, Dave Larson, is late. His tardiness, however, isn’t down to any complacency on his part, it’s because he’s been caught up at work. Having relocated to London from Auckland just over a month ago, himself, guitarist Joel Flyger and bassist Adam Page are still dealing with the logistical side of emigration; scouring London for rooms and jobs. Over the course of the next half an hour, though, they refuse to grumble. It becomes abundantly clear that they channel their ample energies much more positively as they discuss the decision to leave their homeland, landing that dream deal with Carpark, and a debut album that they’re rightly extremely proud of. Not content to sit on their hands, however, they’ve already accumulated a record’s worth of new material.

Obviously you’ve made the move from Auckland to London. How has it been?
Adam: I’ve never even been here before. It’s pretty tough, just for the simple things like finding a place to live and that. I was staying with a friend and Dave’s been staying with his brother and Joel’s got a sublet. I’ve just found a place down the road and Dave’s moving into a place in Dalston but he’s been staying out in Wimbledon with his brother.
Joel: We always wanted to be able to go overseas and travel and play music. Carpark suggested that we move to LA, New York or London and this seemed like the easiest place to move to because of the visa situation and we knew some people over here. We also had some interest over here so it seemed like the logical place to come to.

I know it’s only been a month, but have you missed anything so far?
Adam: We came from a really nice summer but it’s actually meant to be really cold in New Zealand now so it’s probably quite similar. I guess we miss our friends and family. We’re just pretty excited to be away and be seeing new things.

You’re trying to pin down jobs while starting all over again as a band on a new continent. Has it been tough?
Dave: We’re kind of used to it now, I guess.
Joel: You just have to hustle a bit harder over here. I think the biggest challenges for us so far have been trying to hire a car to go to Liverpool and trying to organise a backline at a gig.
Adam: The little things that you took for granted; getting somewhere or getting gear. But in saying that, we’ve been here for four weeks and we’ve played seven shows already, and we’re playing six dates on tour. I feel like we’re busier than in New Zealand, where you play your home town like once a month. We’ve never been to any of the places that we’re playing, which is cool.

Did you feel isolated in New Zealand?
Adam: It’s hard to get labels interested when you’re based on the other side of the world. It’s just so expensive to tour, but the music scene’s great in New Zealand. There’s some amazing bands but no-one on this side of the world has probably heard them yet.
Joel: I think the internet’s always been the growth in terms of recognition of artist from anywhere. That’s not because of any recent change. But we travelled to the States a couple of times and we knew things would happen when we moved overseas. In terms of being isolated, I don’t think it had anything to do with the geography. If we hadn’t found Carpark we would probably have just put it out in New Zealand and Australia or something.

Is it fair to say that signing to Carpark has jumpstarted things for you?
Joel: Yeah, definitely. When we recorded the album we had no expectations of who was going to release it, so now we’ve come over here to balance out our end of the deal. We’ll work hard now as well because we’ve been given the opportunity to do this. We were prepared to just have it released in New Zealand on our own.

Antipodes moves through a diverse palette of styles and textures, from shoegaze to grunge to the more psychedelic end of pop. Were you deliberately resisting the temptation to get pinned down?
Joel: We hadn’t done anything like that before. We would just turn up and record and make an EP in a day. Consciously we wanted more textures.
Adam: I reckon it works real well as a cohesive album but the songs, some of them were way older than others. ‘What Else Could They Do’ is probably the oldest song, would it be?
Dave: Yeah.
Adam: And ‘Heaven’ is the newest song. But we’re almost finishing writing a new album now. It’s kind of all been written in the same time period. We were just recording whenever we could afford it. If we had some money we’d book two days recording, so the songs were getting recorded as they were written.”
Joel: There’s no particular genre that I want to sound like anyway. It’s always going to sound like rock music, with drums, guitar and bass. I don’t have a favourite band or anything that I want to sound like.

Do you want to go into more detail or will we leave it at that?
Joel: We didn’t get in to too much mischief down there but I can’t imagine being able to smoke anything you want in an expensive studio here.

So you’ve begun work on the second album already. How has the process been?
Adam: It’s been hard to rehearse the songs.
Joel: There’s definitely enough songs. It hasn’t been hard, I don’t think.
Adam: We just need time to play them more. We’re playing a few in the set now. It’s been really good.

Apart from the album, what are the plans for the rest of the year?
Joel: We’re just taking everything as it comes at the moment. It’s been a pretty big three or four weeks and then we’ve got this tour. But if someone comes along and asks us if we want to tour Europe next week then we’ll get out there and do it.
Adam: We’ll definitely be touring the UK a lot over the next few months.

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