For some local artists the musical imperative is to sound ‘international’, but for others, Auckland’s Beachware for example, the whole intention is to be unashamedly Kiwi. On Bandcamp, the band describe themselves as ‘… a little gang of cute friends who try to make dancey stuff that still carries some genuine honesty.’ With a debut EP now out Katherine Parsons met with Beachware to kick some sand and check their SPF rating.
“I just wanted something that reminds us of (a) summer, and (b) ‘90s computer games,” says guitarist and keys player of Beachware, James McDonald, explaining the origin of the collective name.
It’s been almost two months since the release of the five-piece Auckland band’s first EP ‘Twin Coast Disc Drive’.
“I remember looking at each other in some moments thinking, ‘Is this too good to be true?’” admits keys player Alex Selkirk-Hanna.
“The first show we played at was at the Wine Cellar,” grins the band’s bassist Charlie Springwater, aka Joshua James Nicolas. “We opened and it was full! Like how often does that happen? Someone yelled, ‘Oh! You’re actually good!’”
“Yeah that was my mate,” lead singer / guitarist RJ (Rob) Hartnell laughs.
The title of Beachware’s debut EP is based on the upper North Island’s Twin Coast Discovery Highway.
“It kind of sums up everything and has a nice little twist on something that’s quite Kiwi,” says Hartnell.
“Quintessentially Kiwi,” adds Selkirk-Hanna.
That statement really does epitomise this band. Drawing inspiration from artists such as Mac Demarco, Ariel Pink and Tame Impala, they have created something quite uniquely reflective of the NZ culture.
“It’s kind’a Kiwi surf pop,” Hartnell explains. “It’s pretty pop. I don’t think that’s a dirty word. Fun Kiwi surf pop.”
“Playing it is a real different experience as well,” notes Selkirk-Hanna, who in the past has worked on projects like alt-R&B group NUO. “God, it’s fun!”
Indeed fun it sounds. The same joyful and playful behaviour clearly makes up the essence of this band.
“There’s a massive outro at the end of Talk About Trust and Kris [drummer Kris Raven] hits the last beat,” says Springwater. “But if he keeps going, we just have to keep going and sometimes he’s just got this big grin on his face like, ‘No, I’m not going to finish this song!’”
Their stories behind the songs add to the charm. Talk About Trust was written after Hartnell’s now wife told him she knew that they were going to be together forever after she took a trip to the registry office.
“She said that she knew I wouldn’t be able to deal with that (going there), whether out of sheer incompetence, impatience or laziness, and that it would be easier to stay married than to try and file for divorce.”
“I think analysing your lyrics, they’re the pragmatic side of love, realistic,” challenges Selkirk-Hanna.
“Love is laundry,” chuckles Hartnell. “It’s all the weird things in between all the romantic stuff.”
James McDonald, who did the bulk of the recording, explains that the process was pretty DIY, the band learning as they went along.
“I had chatted to Shannon [Fowler – Tom Lark] briefly about what his schedule was like, and he said he might have a few weeks in July. I went and sat with him for a few evenings and he edited a lot of stuff on his own time, and then he passed the songs on to Djeisan [Suskov – Leisure].”
“Shannon’s timeline really helped us along,” adds Springwater. “We just got stuck into it.”
Beachware are now looking forward to a bit of a slow down whilst Hartnell travels to China for a few months. They plan to use this time to write up a storm, record some new material and get prepared for the year ahead.
Asked if they have any advice for other musicians Selkirk-Hanna puts her hand up.
“I have some advice for young women, and that is to persevere. There are hurdles and there are barriers, but you need to keep going.”
The rest of the band agree.
“Just start,” advises McDonald.
“And just keep going,” Springwater helps.
“Sucking is the first step to being good at something,” grins Hartnell, completing the Beachware circle.