Ciaran McMeeken came out of rural north Otago, without a musician in the family, so it took a while for him to find music.
“It’s funny, growing up in Arrowtown there’s all this sport and rugby, and I went to intermediate and had to learn an instrument.”
He picked the drums, got put in a class with a bassist and a guitarist, and formed a band.
“I learnt basically everything, and was introduced to a whole bunch of music, by this guitarist. He introduced me to The Who, Led Zeppelin and Nirvana. My parents brought me a little guitar and it just started from there. I’d never played on my own until recently.”
McMeeken released a fantastic debut EP, ‘The Valley‘, in December 2014. He has a sound that borders on pop, bringing with it influences from his youth and touches of folk. Before the EP’s release, he was living in Dunedin.
“I had the best time in Dunedin. It was good for hunkering in and working on your thing, not having to worry about travel or rent prices. Spent a year and a half working on songs, getting myself to a point where I can live and work as a musician, play regular gigs every week.
“I’ve come from being absolutely paralysed with fear about playing music. I didn’t used to perform because I’d get physically sick. It’s literally just time on stage where I got to this point.”
He worked on ‘The Valley‘ with producer Timothy Greenslade.
“Tim is naturally a hip hop producer which was an interesting collaboration. I was doing a lot of loop work. In terms of recording we kept it pretty simple. We went down to this farmhouse in the middle of the wops, where I’d written a lot of the songs. We were limited to what we had, which was quite cool.”
This place, below Gore, in the middle of nowhere, influenced McMeeken’s writing and they sought to capture a sense of it on the EP’s title track.
“We emulated what it would have been like if I’d been standing up on one of the mountains and singing out across the valley. We got quite clever with how we used the reverb, it only kicks in after the words have been spoken.”
Moving up to Auckland McMeeken began working with Greg Haver on a second EP. Spending a week in Takapuna’s Bassment rehearsal rooms they did the bulk of the recording. A release date has yet to be set.
“The main reason I wanted to work with Greg was his work on Opshop‘s ‘Secondary Planet‘. I absolutely loved that album when it came out. I got one of those feelings, gut feelings, that this was the way to go.”
There is a bigger sound to the new recording, noticeable in the latest single Accelerate that earned McMeeken NZ On Air video funding.
“The songs were calling for a bit more. It’s exciting, I do like that there’s a change between the two recordings, and I’d like to think that will continue with each new one.
“I still get nervous, but nerves and excitement are the same thing, so it’s just acknowledging that it is excitement. It’s just about learning to feed off that and really embrace it. This is what this year’s about, just honing in on that live performance, playing as much as I can and being really open when I’m on stage.”