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by Richard Thorne

The Late Starters: False Victim & BBQ Sauces

by Richard Thorne

The Late Starters: False Victim & BBQ Sauces

They might have been slow out of the starting gate, but The Late Starters are evidently on a mission to make a name for themselves in Ōtautahi and beyond, following up on their March-released single Quarter To Ten with a new single in November, the slick, upbeat and very Kiwi pub rock track False Victim.

Essentially a true-blue Kiwi pub rock act, The Late Starters have turned up the heat in 2022, touring in support of The Jordan Luck Band and soon-to-be featuring on the big stage at Otautahi Smoke, a BBQ festival being held in Christchurch’s Hagley Park mid-December. They will be sharing that stage with some well-known rock acts that got started a lot earlier and subsequently made big names for themselves – top bands like Goodshirt and Shihad, as well as relative newcomer locals The Butlers.

The five-piece band is made up of singer David Stack, songwriter Ian Cartwright on rhythm guitar, Lowell Mallon playing lead, Paul Mallon on bass and Scott Lucas behind the drums. False Victim is their second single this year, but more importantly Ōtautahi Smoke will be the first festival gig for The Late Starters, so NZM thought we’d check on their BBQ bona fides.

There’s a hint of swagger to False Victim – and you’ve been on the bill with that Kiwi king of swagger Jordan Luck repeatedly this year. Have The Late Starters (un-)consciously picked anything up from that experience?

the late starters & jordan luck band

Click to enlarge.

Ian: Those Jordan Luck Band guys are great and were so accommodating, particularly Joe Walsh who manages them – he did a fantastic job getting that tour completed. We opened for them once in 2020 and were so wooden, and probably overwhelmed. Since then we’ve learnt so much from them in terms of professionalism, preparation, improving our stage presence and realising you are there to entertain the crowd. In saying that our job was to get the crowd ready for the main event, then get off, so we learnt to be pretty slick and try to complement them. No mean feat given their collective pedigree, but a helluva experience!

What’s the lyrical and songwriting background to False Victim?

Ian: It was originally written in 2019. I was after a different sounding and structured song to those on our album where the verses are very much 4 chords with 3-4 chord choruses. I initially referred to it as ‘the bourbon bopper’ song – it was very laid back to start with so I could see bourbon-holding dudes (of a certain age) doing just that to it!

Lyrically it pokes fun at those who are privileged, yet choose to live their tales of woe on social media, seemingly oblivious to just how lucky they are. That’s the loose theme – then it was a matter of making it work.

As with all our songs I presented the demo of me warbling like a wounded whale to the band. If they can get through that and think the song has wheels we work on it, which is what happened with this one. The bridge was dropped for what became Lowell’s solo, we added Paul’s bass intro and middle break and finally a refrain of a shortened first verse at the end. Over time we experimented with different tempos in the rehearsal room until we got it right. It was actually our lighting tech Sammie who suggested the end result.

Once we got into the studio with Steve Fowler at Cannon Hill Studios we added more depth to it in terms of backing vocals, Lowells’ licks and Stacky’s overall vocal performance. We are really happy with it and have played it live a few times already. It’s got some audience participation elements so we’re keen to see how they develop.

Self-deception is one of False Victim’s themes – isn’t there a definition for that something like ‘…a bunch of ageing blokes starting a live rock’n’roll band’?

Ian: Haha, yeah you could definitely say that! And we did wonder for a while, but after the album and our first few gigs went down pretty well we thought there might be something in this. Basically, we are playing the sort of music we like and we know our demographic likes. Our demographic can struggle to find new music we can relate to so maybe we fill that gap. We don’t think we are doing anything special, just a bunch of blokes who got together. It’s much easier to record and get music out there now, so that helps.

There’s a finger-lickin’ tasty lead break at about 2min 40. What can you tell us about the guitar sound/effect you went for in recording Lowell?

Lowell: I was aiming to give it some crunch and emulate the live sound. It’s a fairly basic sound overall. I used a Fender Strat through a Hotrod Deville, with a Boss BD-2, and some delay etc. The Strat has a humbucker in the bridge position which gives it a bolder tone for solos. 

I mostly use the same set-up live, some of the pedals swap in and out but normally I’ll have the BD-2, a Crybaby, Phase 90, chorus, and delay. I’ve used Orange amps when playing with JLB which I quite like the sound of live. I have got a few guitars I’ve collected over the years. My first was an Epiphone SG which I still have, that one got me through my early years of learning and playing gigs so it’s pretty special. 

I got into music young with my brothers. Dad had a guitar, bass, piano and drums at home, so getting into it wasn’t hard! I started on the drums and moved to guitar in my teens. I was in a band called Dogferal with some mates when I was 18, we played darker, heavier rock originals and had a small (very small) but dedicated fanbase.

Three of us went on to play in Drawcard which was a rock cover band with now Late Starters’ Dave and Paul (Dad). We played around the Christchurch pub scene for a few years as well as a few wild parties. I’ve always enjoyed jamming and playing live, either with bands or a few mates at home. 

Typically covers acts can pack the dance floor much more easily than an originals band. What’s The Late Starters’ best dance floor magnet song to date?

Ian: Blistered Hills is doing that for us, it seems to get people’s attention as soon as the guitar starts. We describe our music as new old school Kiwi rock, and that track fits perfectly. It’s a pretty simple song so it’s not hard for people to pick up the chorus and start singing along. Pretty cool to see!

The song does reek of my own ‘80s Kiwi influences, so Dance Exponents is an obvious reference, particularly Only I Could Die and Love You Still – which happens to be our bass player Paul’s favourite song. Lowell’s guitar just cranks and it’s becoming a singalong crowd favourite. We kick our gigs off with it as it really sets the scene and gets us all going, plus it’s loads of fun to play!

The Late Starters are playing the Ōtautahi Smoke BBQ fest in December, on a festival stage bill with Shihad, The Butlers and Goodshirt! That must have you all pretty fired up?

Ian: Absolutely! We are buzzing about that gig, playing on the same stage as those bands will be super cool. We are so thankful for the opportunity in front of what will be our biggest crowd yet, at our first festival. It’s a little bit “pinch yourself” and the excitement will only build for what will be a fantastic event. We know we have plenty of our followers coming along so really looking forward to it. After a stuttering start 2022 has working out to be a big year for us.

Let’s talk BBQ then. Anyone got a favourite BBQ technique or dish they’d like to share?

Ian: Given the chance cooking over charcoal embers braai style is my go-to for the full experience. Standing around with a few mates and beers, staring at the stars and embers, solving the world’s problems while trying to think of a new lyric!

What’s the ideal BBQ match with a serving of The Late Starters?

Scotty: Anything smothered in good old Kiwi tomato sauce. We don’t discriminate.  

Beer or red wine for the (band) marinade?

Scotty: Beer of course, but we have been known to wash it down with a bottle of red wine. (David Stack is quite partial to a good bottle of red.) 

What hot sauce would you recommend to spice up an otherwise dull piece of bbq beef?

Scotty: I went to a market in Los Angeles once and they had a library of hot sauces there -and they had them rated from 1 through 10 (1 being hot and 10 being volcanic). Needless to say the one I bought was called “the Devil’s Arsole”. That sauce will sort out anything that’s dull, including your mother-in-law. 

What’s your most memorable Kiwi BBQ experience?

Scotty: Beerfest in Wellington. There was a sausage supplier handing out free samples and they made the best sausages. I can’t remember the company and I have never tasted anything like it since. (Finding those sausages has become my holy grail…)  

What about a best-ever international BBQ experience?

Scotty: The BB King Lounge in New York City, 2011 – George Thorogood and the Destroyers were playing in the 500-seat bar and I had the pulled pork open sandwich! (Great show and a great sandwich, and yes, I did tip my waitress.) Incidentally, I sat next to a guy who drank at the same bar as Bruce Springsteen back in Jersey. That guy had some great drinking stories. 

There’s also an old “southern” hotel in Perry, Georgia I visited that does fantastic ribs and cornbread that is to die for. On a side note, Hooters does boneless chicken wings and I highly recommend them whenever you’re in the States next.

Old school flat grille BBQ or flashy modern hooded job?

Scotty: New Old School Kiwi Music is what we deal in, so good old-school Kiwi BBQ is what we want. However, I can’t do my signature lamb, or slow-cooked ribs, on anything but a fancy smoker or hooded BBQ.