‘Oh So You’re Off I See’, the first single from Kane Strang’s upcoming sophomore album marks a change in his musical process - with it being the first song he properly collaborated with his band on.
Since the release of ‘Blue Cheese’ last year, and earlier releases prior to that (that have since been deleted from the Internet), he’s gone on to sign with international label Dead Oceans - who also look after Mitski, Alex Lahey, Slowdive, and Marlon Williams.
We caught up with Kane ahead of his American tour, to talk about the upcoming album, the importance of venues in NZ, and more…
COUP DE MAIN: ‘Oh So You're Off I See’ is the first taster from your upcoming sophomore album. Why did you choose this song as the first single for the new release?
KANE STRANG: It actually wasn’t my choice. The label decided to go with that one. In fact, it would’ve been one of the last songs I would’ve chosen - not because I don’t like it, but I just felt there were others that were better singles. But now I’m really glad we went with that one, it’s one I collaborated with my band on - which hasn’t happened too often just yet. There’s about three on the new album that they wrote their own parts for. It’s kind of nice, having the first one be one that we wrote together, especially when we’re about to play a lot of shows together and go through heaps of stuff together.
CDM: Is there one song on the new album that you’re particularly excited about?
KANE: A song called ‘Don’t Follow Me I’m Lost’, which I kinda like. And another one called ‘Lagoons’, which I’m pretty happy with.
HOW I FEEL ABOUT MY UPCOMING ALBUM…
CDM: Lyrically, what’s your favourite song that you’ve written?
KANE: Ooohhh, I don’t know. I’m so self-conscious about my lyrics. Maybe that song I just mentioned, ‘Don’t Follow Me I’m Lost’… I know a lot of the album is just me projecting my thoughts and that song was more reflective of those projections.
CDM: What parts of the album did you record at Chick's Hotel? I know it’s quite an iconic part of Dunedin musical history, so it’s cool that it was turned into a studio.
KANE: Most of my favourite gigs were there - that I’ve been to and played, but now it’s benefitting the local music scene in a different way. We did the drums in Christchurch, and then everything else at Chick’s. I’d just go in there with Steven Marr from Doprah, we were working around our work schedules.
CDM: I’m not sure if you’re familiar with The Kings Arms, but it’s kinda similar to Chick’s - it’s an old established venue, but it was just recently sold, and is rumoured to be closing in a year or so. What are your thoughts on the lack of music venues in New Zealand, especially venues on the smaller side? Which are quite important for NZ artists and up-and-coming acts.
KANE: Really?! Oh shit. It’s hard. I sort of didn’t realise how lucky I was when I just started playing music. There were so many places that were good - they sounded good, and they were run by good people, and now it’s… especially in Dunedin, I wouldn’t know where to start.
CDM: I’ve only ever been to ReFuel in Dunedin…
KANE: Yeah that place is pretty nasty. Sadly, it’s getting to the point where you almost have to-- I never would personally, but I know more and more people will have to start playing there. And some of the other venues aren’t so great too, so I guess you just have to try be hopeful that some good people in the scene will come along and do it. I would love to, in the future, start a venue - but I wouldn’t know where to start.
CDM: It seems so tough - especially with liquor-licensing and everything else.
KANE: I just think more All Ages venues would be good - I don’t know how there isn’t.
CDM: And All Ages gigs cost more to put on, so it’s hard to justify.
KANE: The venue isn’t gonna make heaps of money off alcohol, so… and it’s for kids who don’t have as much money as adults. This might be totally wrong, but I think the Dunedin Council have bought a venue - so I’m hoping they’ll do something cool with that. I’m hoping there’ll be All Ages gigs.
ONE THING I’D LIKE TO ACHIEVE ON MY BUCKET-LIST…
CDM: Do you find music a cathartic way to express your emotions, or what’s going on in your head at the time?
KANE: Yeah, definitely. A lot of the time I don’t write for myself as well, I write stories that I think people will be able to relate to. Often, I’ll even avoid writing about things that’ve happened to me because I kinda wanna move on from it.
CDM: Do you write about other people’s experiences?
KANE: Yeah! A lot of my lyrics recently, are from just conversations I’ve had with friends. It’s more a song being based around a conversation than a moment in time - a night out, for example.
CDM: Do you write your lyrics specifically for the songs, or do you write poems or prose and then evolve them into song-form?
KANE: I usually come up with-- I’ll have a line. A lot of people might have that line as the first line and then go from there, but often I’ll just know that’s going to be the title, or the chorus, and I’ll just base everything around that. A lot of my lyrics in the past are just leftover stuff that I wrote in high school, and I was super angsty, and that river’s kind of run dry. Now often, I’m writing the music first, and then lyrics.
CDM: What do you hope for people to take away from listening to your music?
KANE: I guess I want them to feel like there’s other people out there in similar situations. I just want people to be happy; have a good time. I like listening to music when I’m walking around, so often I’ll try to write stuff that I think will be nice to walk around to - especially just the rhythms now, are quite chuggy. It’s nice being a part of people’s days - do you know what I mean? I mainly hope it brings people some kind of joy. I don’t want to write angsty music to make them angsty - I just want people to have a good time, especially at the shows. I wanna make music that people can dance to.
CDM: Do you think about the live setting when you’re writing music?
KANE: I am more and more - since I got a band. My last album I didn’t have a band, and this one they’re playing on it. So the live thing is just on my mind so much more. It’s definitely always going to be different, I’m almost two different people - in the studio I’m so meticulous, a real perfectionist. But live, I want it to be beefed up, and a bit more raw.
CDM: I kind of like that, when there’s a different experience between listening to a record, and going to a show.
KANE: Exactly. And no matter how much I try, I just can’t be as spontaneous as I want to be in the studio, but for some reason when it’s live it’s a lot easier. In the studio you know you can do it 100 times, so why not just do it 10 times?
CDM: You’re set to embark on a U.S. tour - leaving NZ tomorrow. Are you excited to play some of these new songs to an American audience?
KANE: Yeah, I really am - and the old ones too. I’ve never played outside of NZ, and I’m going to meet and play to all these people I’ve been e-mailing for like two years - it’s really strange. It’s nerve-wracking but really exciting too.
CDM: ‘Blue Cheese’ was your first ‘official’ debut album, but you had released music previously that which has since been deleted from the Internet. It’s an interesting thing for artists nowadays - normally there’s always evidence or copies of old music on the Internet, and it’s hard to get away from. Do you find it hard to look back on your early music?
KANE: I really see it as a journey, but it’s also hard because I know at that point all I was trying to be, was to out-do someone else. I just hadn’t really found my kind of sound, or how I wanted to say things, I was just writing about what I thought I had to write about - relationships. In reality, that wasn’t all I thought about, or all I wanted to write about, and I think I’m finally coming out of that now. It is hard, but at the same time I know there are people out there who like those songs - even though I took them down. If people message me, I’ll Dropbox them the link. I was just starting to cringe every time I saw someone listening to the songs.
Watch Kane Strang’s music video for ‘Oh So You're Off I See’ below…