It’s been a whirlwind few months for New Zealander Kane Strang - he’s been out touring across America, the UK, and Europe, playing artist rite of passage festivals such as SXSW and The Great Escape, in the lead-up to the release of his new album ‘Two Hearts and No Brain’ this Friday.
In his second official full body of work, Strang touches on a number of different stories and themes, told through his own sardonic tone.
We spoke to Kane about the album, touring, and using music for politics…
COUP DE MAIN: So your album ‘Two Hearts and No Brain’ is coming out this Friday! How do you feel about the upcoming release? When did you actually finish the album? I know so many artists finish albums such a long time before they’re actually released.
KANE STRANG: I’m really excited. I’m a bit nervous too, because I’ve had a lot of time to think about it and question things. Steven and I wrapped up recording it six months ago now. It’s weird, you’re sort of in limbo. I’m the sort of person-- I want to keep writing and move onto the next thing, so it’s been quite a learning curve for me. Before this, I just recorded music and put it up on Bandcamp the next day. So it’s been really different to me.
CDM: When we first interviewed you, I think you said ‘Don’t Follow Me (I’m Lost)’ and ‘Lagoons’ were your two favourite songs on the album. With the album due out this week, do you still think these are your two favourites? Have they changed?
KANE: Actually probably not, they’re still really up there for me. I really like the title track, ‘Two Hearts and No Brain’ - I’m really happy with it. That was one we spent a long time on, figuring out the guitars.
CDM: How was your US/UK tour? I know you had heaps of shows planned! Your SXSW schedule looked pretty manic.
KANE: It’s been amazing. I’m still processing a lot of it, to be honest. It happened so quickly. I can’t comprehend that I actually did all that this year. America was such a good time - but also a lot harder than Europe, because we didn’t have a tour manager. It was just us four getting thrown in the deep end, driving ourselves to 25 shows across the States. So Europe last month, we had a really great tour manager driving us, and being our back-up. Someone who makes sure you’re getting paid the right amount. Also with Europe, we were just playing main centres, whereas with America we did every little place we went through - which is cool too, but it was a nice change.
CDM: I saw that your suitcase got stolen out of your van!! What happened?!
KANE: That was actually in Canada, right towards the end of our American tour. We did one show in Vancouver, and we were opening for this band called Teenage Fanclub in this theatre, and we’d left our van for about half an hour to do soundcheck. Usually we would’ve had all our bags at the hotel but because things had taken so long at the border, we had them all in the back of the van. As we were sound-checking, the promoter came in and said our van had been smashed into, and we just dropped our stuff and ran outside. Looked in the back window, and there was this gap where me and my bass player’s suitcases used to be. We survived 20 shows in America, and then went to Canada and got robbed. It was hard, we were already a bit tired at the end of the tour - but at the same time it was so ridiculous that it was funny.
CDM: On a happier note, was there a highlight from the tour that you can recall?
KANE: There’s so many! Even though SXSW was intense, it was a really cool thing to do. Some of those nights would have to be highlights. As far as Europe goes, I felt that our London show was really special to me. It was really cool. Right before we played, the promoter told us that it sold really well - we were all super hyped. It was a good night, it felt really good. I feel really lucky to do it.
CDM: Were there any live songs from tour that changed how you maybe thought of them?
KANE: Yeah, there’s a song called ‘It’s Not That Bad’ on the album, and that’s one we’ve been playing live for a long time. For me, I like that live it’s a bit more sludgy. I almost think about a lot of the songs as two different songs - they have the rougher, sludgier live version, and then the crisp, recorded version. A lot of that is because we haven’t had a lot of time to actually sit down and rehearse the songs as they’re recorded. Now that we’re back here and the album’s just about out, we’re going to refine things some more.
CDM: You said to Radio New Zealand that you want to make your shows “more of a show.” Have you thought about what type of show you want to put on for your fans?
KANE: For me, it’s little things like talking to the crowd. For some reason, I’ve started overthinking things like that, and I was so scared that I’d sound pretentious - but it actually worked in reverse, and not saying anything probably made me look pretentious, and like I thought I was too cool.
CDM: I always think it must be stressful to think of things to say each night. I really respect people with good live banter.
KANE: Yeah, that’s it! Me too. That’s why I want to do it. I really respect when I see an artist talking to the crowd like it’s the first time they’ve ever played a show. When in reality they’ve probably said the exact same thing the last 30 days. It’s things like that I want to do.
CDM: I love the humour in the album - obviously songs like ‘My Smile Is Extinct’, but even the album title ‘Two Hearts and No Brain’, what was it about that song that made you want to name the whole album after it?
KANE: For me, I like that it can be taken in lots of different ways. It can sound quite serious, but it’s one of those things-- my friends have taken the piss out of a lot, “Oh, two hearts and no brain, you’ve got two hearts and no brain Kane.” I like that. You can read it and think about yourself, or you can look at it like there’s two people and neither of them have a brain. It’s open to interpretation and can be read in lots of different ways, so I think things like that can often make for a good album title.
CDM: You contributed a song, ‘Hypochondria’, to the anti-Trump charity singles series, ‘Our First 100 Days’. Did you write the song specifically for the series, or was it a song that had been floating about for a while?
KANE: It actually had been floating around for a while. I originally even planned to add it to the album, but Steven [Marr] and I decided it just didn’t really fit when we were in the studio. So when First 100 Days approached me, originally I’d forgotten about that song, and thought I wasn’t even going to be able to do this really cool thing because I didn’t have any songs - but then one day it came back to me, and I recorded it in an afternoon in my flat, and sent it to them. So I’m glad I remembered about it! I really like that song.
CDM: Do you find it important to use music for political reasons? Your music isn’t distinctly political in its content, but I like that it’s still used to support things like the First 100 Days series.
KANE: Definitely! As long as it’s things that you really believe in, and that you are knowledgable about, then sure. You don’t want to just start taking in every little offer that comes to you, because you might wind up doing more damage than good.
CDM: I love that the song features Repulsive Woman - we really love her!
KANE: Millie’s amazing. I heard her voice… I’d finished the song, but it didn’t feel finished. I thought that was exactly what it needed.
CDM: Have you worked much with other musicians?
KANE: Actually, not so much. I’ve always been in my own wee world, but it’s something I want to do more and more. I’ve realised that collaborations are a really important part of music, it’s the best way to get better. Through working with Steven, I learnt so much. It is something I want to do.
CDM: Does ‘Good Guy’ use an audio recording sample in it at the end? I like the touch of ‘realness’ that it adds to the song. I really like how the song ends - it’s so succinct, and a really nice closer for the album.
KANE: Yeah. <laughs> My friend filmed this gig of one of my old bands when I was super young - I just took a recording out of that of my friend Tom, and Ras, my bass-player, talking. I don’t really know why, just like with ‘Hypochondria’, I felt like there was something more I needed. I happened to be watching this old video of us, and I thought that’d be a cool end to the album.
CDM: In ‘Hypochondria’, you point out that stress is bad for your health, and in your album you also touch on the inner workings of a brain - in ‘Not Quite’ you sing, “I’m really not doing very well.” Do you think it’s important for music to be an honest depiction of the realities that people live in their day to day life? So much pop music can sometimes depict glitz and glamour, which I feel can be a strange disconnect.
KANE: I think that’s naturally how I seem to go about writing songs. I guess it depends why you do music, and a lot of the time I do it to have fun, that’s the main thing - but I do use it to process things a lot. So that might be why a lot of the lyrics are quite personal, just because I’m using it to get a grip. <laughs>
Kane Strang’s album ‘Two Hearts and No Brain’ is out on June 30th.
Watch the ‘My Smile Is Extinct’ music video below…