Interview: NZCA/Lines – Electronic pop bliss out of this world

NZCA/Lines – a bandname out of this world, derived from Peruvian geoglyphs. Michael Lovett writes songs about racing a Saab 900 in post-apocalyptic wastelands, created the most fantastic concept album of this year and sounds like pure, bittersweet electronic pop-bliss. As we saw NZCA/Lines live at the last Introducing Show in Berlin with Arte Live Web , we were blown away by the intense energy this band was sparkling the audience with.  We consider us exremely lucky to have scored an interview with these incredibly talented fellows, dive with us into Michaels most visionary mindset below:

PS: Buy NZCA/Lines sounds over at iTunes.

When researching a little, we read that many bloggers and music magazines describe your last album as being “perfect”. (e.g. The Quietus, The Fader,…) . Do you feel the same or how would you describe your music in your own words?

Really? That seems very extreme. The notion of making a perfect record is rather terrifying. Thankfully, mine did not suffer from that affliction. In general the record was well-received, and I was happy with it at the time, but now i’m really excited about working on new stuff. Also the whole nature of the project seems to have solidified more for me in the period since the album was out – which is slightly inconvenient, but you pays your money and you makes your choice. Progression comes from activity.

You have some intense songwriting going on inspired by space and the apocalypse, you tell stories like in “Atoms and Axes” where a guy trying to search for a girl he likes in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.  Sounds like a story from a dream to us, were do you get to these ideas?

Well, I think he more than ‘likes’ her. It’s pretty dangerous out there in the palisades of ruined villages/cities/farmland, so it takes some gall to race out there in a salvaged Saab 900. I find it much easier to write music if there is a story behind it, which is why all NZCA/LINES songs try to illustrate a small part of a larger fictional world. The first record is an overly-ambitious attempt at a concept album, and the second will be a far more overly-ambitious attempt at a concept album. Largely, though, this device is for my own comfort. I am unable to write about my own concerns in a direct manner. Being stranded in a post-apocalyptic wasteland was quite traumatic for me, so it’s hard to tell the story from my own perspective; I have to create a character.

Speaking of the apocalypse… Do you fear the End of the World on 21st of December according to the old Maya calendar?

The idea of the world ending in 2012 implies that human forms of charting and categorising the universe have some agency in what actually goes on here. Unfortunately this is something of a delusion, and I believe our unimaginable insignificance compared to the celestial melee will protect us from disaster. Until a truly random chance event wipes us out; either that, or our own stupidity.

And you mentioned that your sound is inspired by R’n’B-Duo Aaliyah and Timbaland. (we love them!) Do a lot of people compare you to Hot Chip as well?

Indeed it is, although the influence of Timbaland has perhaps been over-exagerrated – barely any of the record sounds like him. Our sound is influenced by a lot of instrumental electronic music such as Bochum Welt and Drexciya, along with pop music such as Scritti Politti or Destiny’s Child. The comparisons with Hot Chip are inevitable, although I don’t view them as an influence. Rather, I think there is a small selection of established groups making song-based electronic pop music, so if you’re in that field a comparison with one or all of them is inevitable. I’m not telling you who else I mean though! Luckily I got away with just Hot Chip this time.

Your new record is set for a 2013 release – and we are in love with your new song “Airlock” already. What is Airlock about, and can we expect the whole album to be this happy upbeat style?

Airlock is about heartbreak, but in the claustrophobia of space where both lovers are stuck on the same ship. I guess I figure that if I broke up with someone on a spacecraft, one of us would end up hiding in the Airlock. I’m interested that you feel it is upbeat – if you listen to the chorus lyrics they’re actually quite depressing. But no, I think the album may take a slightly different tack to this. I can’t reveal any more right now though!

You went to Edinburgh College of Art, we love your cover art work and the whole NCZA/Lines concept, do you also produce art that has no affiliation to your band, and if yes where can we see/buy it?

I’m glad you like it! I was only at Edinburgh briefly, after which I took some time off to play with Your Twenties. Now I’m finishing a degree in Illustration. I’ve been so busy with the band though that I don’t have a website yet! That’s terrible isn’t it. Actually, I’m currently trying to produce work which ties in with the songs I’m writing for the new record – so in this sense all the work I produce is affiliated with the band. However, you probably wouldn’t be able to tell. It’s more on a conceptual level.

How do you produce your art, how did you start with it? Do you produce everything yourself?

I always work around stories, which generally have to be the starting point. The first record was the ‘musical realisation’ of a world, the world of New Magnetic North, that I’d been making visual work. I wanted to approach music in the same way as art, and the result was NZCA/LINES. I generally do everything myself, although I can’t take credit for our album artwork – that was Non Format, who are brilliant. Right now I’m working towards some animations, for which I’ll be getting other people involved as I don’t have the skills! I’m quite excited about that.

The Introducing concert last night was streamed on the internet – what role does the net play for you and your music?

I think for any band the Internet is now a huge part of your ‘professional’ life. It means you can potentially create an identity for yourself which is much more complex than just the old records/t-shirts/music video schtick. I love album promos such as Yeasayer’s Odd Blood campaign and the Shabazz Palaces promo by Khalil Joseph. I’d really aspire to create something like that in the future.

You toured with Of Montreal and Django Django who we really love, what was it like? (who was your favourite tour partner so far)?

We really love them too! Django Django are a great band, but playing with Of Montreal really was like touring with your heroes. I’ve been listening to those records since I was a teenager. I still can’t believe that actually happened. Definitely Of Montreal is still the favourite.

Which London neighbourhood is your favourite and why?

Peckham. It’s where I live and it’s great. There’s lots of arts and music stuff happening but it’s still quite off the beaten track .. that’s all changing though. It’s gradually going to become the new Hackney, but that’s still some way off. Also you can buy jerk chicken from the Caribbean shops down here. You can’t do that in Dalston!

In which ways does the city influence your music?

I think primarily by the fact that there is a huge concentration of musical activity here to spur you on. I’m not influenced by the city per se – as we’ve discussed, NZCA/LINES is somewhat rooted in fantasy – but it’s a compelling environment to work in.

Any bands from back home who really inspire you at the moment and who you’d like to rep?

You should look out for Night Works. They’ve put out a couple of singles already but the album’s going to be great – it’s out next year. Also look out for Chad Valley, if you haven’t come across him already, but also be sure to hear his other band, Jonquil – they’re excellent too.

In general, which incident inspired you to come up with NZCA Lines?

I think it all started with my failure to bring enough helium for the model airship I was going to launch across Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh. I had to smash it on a rock and it was quite traumatic for me. That was the starting point.

What are you most excited about next?

Making new stuff, and returning to play on the Continent – land of the gods.

Thanks a million dear Michael for making this amazing interview happen! Good luck with all your future endavours!

You can watch the whole NZCA/Lines Introducing show over at our dear friends from Arte Live Web. Click here.

Julia steht auf schwitzige Rockkonzerte, Whiskey und blutige Steaks. Sie braucht jede Nacht mindestens achteinhalb Stunden Schlaf und mindestens zehn Minuten um einen ironischen Witz zu verstehen.

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