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by Silke Hartung

Carb On Carb: Looking In The Mirror

by Silke Hartung

Carb On Carb: Looking In The Mirror

Few bands manage to sound as fresh with every single release as Auckland indie act Carb On Carb do. After a bit of a hiatus to focus on other projects, the creative duo of Nicole Gaffney and James Stuteley have just released the upbeat Be My Mirror, including a rather scenic video filmed in and around Rotorua, with director Ezra Simons (Earth Tongue). Time for a quick catch up to find out more! Made with the support of NZ On Air Music.

It’s been a while since you released the ‘For Ages’ album – what have you been up to since?

We spent the first year and a bit after the album touring, and then fortuitously decided to have a break in 2020. We have both been ticking along with other projects, Nicole with Deb5000, and I have a couple of projects that should see the light of day soon, as well as running Papaiti Records.
And otherwise, Nicole has been working on Girls Rock/To the Front and I have learned to speak Te Reo!

You’ve been making music together for a long time now. How does your own technical knowledge affect the recording process with others?

Basically, I think it helps to know what’s possible and what the tools are. In other words, knowing what you can ask for is quite empowering and that way you can act with more confidence in the studio resulting in a better product.

What practical capabilities useful as a musician do you appreciate most in each other?

We have always had a handy split of non-musical skills, Nicole doing all artwork and visual stuff, while I do all the tour booking and logistics. I think either of us would struggle to do the other job.

What’s been your proudest moment in music so far?

Hmm, proudest is an interesting one, cos it’s not just a favourite. Maybe the Prizegiving tour of Australia. I’d gone around telling people they were NZ’s best band, and then they really stepped up and charmed the hell out of the Australians.

Is there gear you can’t work without, stuff that really makes your sound?

Our pog, splitter and overdrive pedals are pretty key. The multi-amp, overdriven, octaved sound is a must for the songs we’ve written. Kinda embarrassing but our overdrive pedal is a ‘Route 66’ blues-type, but anytime we try and replace it, it just knocks the other one out of the park. It’s on every recording and almost every live set we’ve ever done I think.

Is there anything that the current lockdown prevented from happening for you? 

Musically, nah. We finished our last run of shows just in time – just the standard work/study disruption. And Nicole had her second birthday in a row in lockdown! 

Who engineered, mixed & mastered the Be My Mirror single?

We recorded with Harry Lilley at The Stomach in Palmerston North. We love what The Stomach stands for (also an all-ages venue) and that it has become one of the best studios in the country. It was mixed by Chris Teti (who also did ‘For Ages’) because he’s one of my favourite engineers and gets the genre like no engineers I know in NZ. And mastered by Dan Coutant, because he did a good job on ‘For Ages’.

What was your biggest challenge during the making of the song, and how did you overcome it? 

The style of the song is a bit of a change for us so there was a bit of doubt along the way – so, doubt, the classic enemy of songwriting! Overcame it by tinkering, convincing each other it worked and our engineer Harry was supportive too. Often an outside approval is what you need!

Is there anything you learnt in the making of this song, maybe something you would change?

Maybe don’t sing in every single bar of the song, haha. It is quite a sprint playing it live. 

What was the concept behind the music video?

It was loosely based around a trip we took when we were writing Be My Mirror. The indoor shots are where we actually wrote a lot of the song.  

How much of it was planned, and how many moments were spontaneous?

Basically, the locations were planned but that was about it!

What is director Ezra Simons’ superpower when it comes to making music videos, in your opinion? 

Making people feel relaxed. It makes for a better performance and it’s more fun while you’re shooting! 

What are you working towards next?

Album three! Should hear it in 2022!

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