Christchurch pub rock band The Late Starters are a bunch of ol’ mates who initially got to know each other through a Garden City cricket club. The band is made up of singer David Stack, Ian Cartwright on rhythm guitar, Lowell Mallon playing lead, Paul Mallon on bass and Scott Lucas behind the drums.
After the five friends had been playing cover gigs for a while Ian Cartwright decided to bring some of the original tunes he’d been writing to the rest of the group. The way Ian describes it, he woke up one day with a “silly idea” to start a band, and the rest is history.
“I said to the guys, ‘Ahh, I think I’ve written some songs. Do you want to listen?’ They laughed and said, ‘What do you think you’re doing?’
“I was always a fan, not a musician. In my late 30s, I picked up a guitar and started to teach myself. And then I decided that when I turned 50 I wanted to release an album for some stupid reason. I’d written probably half a dozen sort-of songs. As I get older I found I’ve started to understand more about how songs are structured.”
Sticking to the decision with the grit of an opening batsman, Ian followed through on his word, and The Late Starters released their first album, ‘Age: A State Of Mind’, back in 2019.
“For my 50th birthday, three years ago, we played 11 originals for a group of people, and then we thought, ‘Oh well, we’ll go and record them.’ We went to Orange Studios and played them through twice in front of about 20-odd people that we could fit in the studio, put the best parts together and then put them down as an album, and thought, ‘Oh, that’s pretty cool. We’ve done that, that’s good. A bunch of old buggers have ticked a box.’
“We call it the new old school type because we all grew up listening to The Mockers, Hello Sailor and Clash and all that stuff, so everything’s written in that ilk. We think the music is okay because we like it, so how do we find a way to get as many other people to have a listen to it as we can?”
Three years later, the band are working towards a second body of work, an EP planned for release later in 2022. The first single from the EP is called Quarter To Ten, a song that Ian says has achieved a sweet spot of relatability for multiple generations.
“The title came first because I had been playing around with how hard consonants go together. People pick up on that, so I thought, “quarter to 10” that goes together nicely. That’s all I had, and then I thought of ‘…you should be in bed, it’s a quarter to 10.’ Then I wrote a story around it!
“The story arc is about growing up as a teenager. The things you do as a teenager, and how quarter to ten is the time you need to be home. And then as you get older like we are, you get to the other side of it, and quarter to ten can become late again!
“The lyrics in the last verse, ‘…few cares that bind us’, are about how you still have bonds that tie you as you grow from young to old. We’re a bit like that, I suppose, in a way, because behind my eyes, I’m 18! It feels like we are discovering our youth in a way with what we are going through because we didn’t do much of this before.”
“We recorded this one at Cannon Hill Studios with Steve Fowler. This was completely different for us because we did the drums first against a click track, and then we all recorded our bits – which was all foreign to us. Scary but a whole lot of fun!
Being too self-critical is, he says, one of the many issues they’ve faced down.
“We thought it was pretty cool playing it live, but one of the biggest challenges was getting used to playing to a click track. Another big challenge is knowing when to stop. Because it’s self-produced there’s no one with a big stick saying, ‘Guys, this is it.’ There is a phrase that describes it as knowing when to put the last brush stroke in a painting.”
Accompanying their new single is a music video filmed by David Duckworth, from South Island Media, at Muscle Car Madness which is held annually in Rangiora.
“The first time we played was on a Saturday night. Jordan Luck‘s band played on the Friday before, so there was a crowd. We played there the year before, so we thought this time we’d invest a bit of money and make a nice video – and see if we can get more traction with this single.
“Each time, we try to do something a bit more proper, professional. David said that we had to get a bit of personality into it, so he spent the day out there at Muscle Car Madness. We’d filmed some of the in-between bits, then he filmed the whole gig that night and put it together. It comes across as quite fun, which is quite cool.”
The Late Starters quickly proved themselves good enough to become a regular support act for former Exponents‘ front man Jordan Luck. They will support his band for shows in Ashburton, Timaru and Christchurch in August, on their planned winter road trip.
Ian repeatedly expresses the joy they get from making music and that, even though they started a bit later than usual, the whole journey has just been a great experience. But he remains a bit prone to being self-deprecating on behalf of his rockin’ bandmates.
“It shows that what we are doing is not necessarily that special, or unattainable like everyone can do it. At the end of the day, we’re just having a bit of fun with it!”