NewTracks New Artist: Coast Arcade

NewTracks New Artist: Coast Arcade

The Beths may need to take a glance over their shoulder – Coast Arcade‘s new stadium-ready indie rock bop Highest Heights is ready to take over. The single features on NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks compilation this February.

What’s your name, where are you from and what instruments do you play?

My name is Bella Bavin and I play guitar and add vocals!

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

I spent most of my time at primary and high school playing in Bandquest and Smokefree Rockquest. Both of these competitions were super valuable to my journey as a young musician, as rock music wasn’t common in the schools I went to. I started playing the guitar at seven and insisted I would never be a singer or a songwriter; I’m not sure why? I guess seven-year-old me thought of myself as the next Slash!

However, when my first high school band Ragaire, (pronounced rag-ear-ra), started, our singer left, and because rock vocalists at my high school were so scarce I had two choices; no band or start singing! Starting to sing was the lesser of thpe two evils, so here we are! I still feel like I’m standing in on the microphone, but hey, “Fake it till you make it,” right?

I was in our school band on tenor saxophone but was terrible (sorry, Callum Passells of Hans Pucket). I also had a super supportive local guitar teacher Holly Christina. She really helped encourage the songwriting side of me.

Any other previous (or current) projects we might know you from?

With Ragaire we were a Smokefreerockquest band that got to the national final in 2020, and we released a single called Passing Grey which was featured on the NZ Music Ones to Watch chart, and placed in the SRN Top 10. Aside from Coast Arcade I also work on my solo project Bella Rafflyn.

What’s the background story of how Coast Arcade came to be? Who else is included?

When Ragaire split, I still had one last year of high school to try and take out Rockquest. So even though we only had a matter of months, I formed a band to get to the national final again.

I found three boys that were keen but hadn’t really been in bands before. From there, we worked our butts off, practising up to 10 hours a week. We won the Auckland regional final and made it all the way to the national final – which was sadly Covid-cancelled.

We had so much fun playing music together that we decided to keep Coast Arcade going. When three of us hit uni our bass player left. After a long search we managed to find a replacement very close to home. Coast Arcade comprises Thom Boynton on drums, brothers Chris and Nate Tims on rhythm guitar and bass, respectively, and myself on vocals and guitar. We absolutely love playing together and are enjoying riding this wave!

How has your writing (or music) evolved from your beginnings in songwriting to now?

In so many ways! Being a younger artist, you are constantly influenced by new artists and genres, so your writing style develops at breakneck speed. Writing lyrics has always been a challenge for me as in the past, I would write them super quickly at the end of the songwriting process without properly considering them, this is something I’ve been working hard on, and it’s now paying off.

How and when did you come up with the name?

Coast Arcade didn’t initially have a special meaning behind it. We needed a band name for our Rockquest entry form, so we all brought some words to practice. I only had one rule: the name had to be easy to pronounce and write. (I learnt my lesson with Ragoora/Ragiiiree/Rajeer, or however else Ragaire used to be pronounced!) I brought the words ‘blue, arcade, sea, bucket, and rusty, and the boys picked some others themselves. I think it was initially Beach Arcade, but I suggested we change it to Coast Arcade as it rolled off the tongue a little easier.

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

One of our all-time highlights was opening for The Beths in early 2022. I remember being asked about my long-term musical goals the year before, and I said my biggest goal was to open for The Beths. I could never even imagine that only six months later that dream would become a reality… So cool!

What makes Highest Heights stand out as a choice of single?

Highest Heights stands out to me because of its fast, energetic pace and moody undertones. The bright, floaty, and nostalgic riff at the beginning of the song is quite harshly contrasted by the verse riff, which is dark and staccato, and I think this gives the song a real edge!

What is the story behind Highest Heights?

It’s pretty basic, really. I saw a Tik Tok about two years ago discussing the unique chemistry of seeing someone your age in an airport. It resonated with me, and I thought it would be a great song idea. When I started talking to people about it, I realised this was a universal feeling. You start daydreaming like you might when you think about winning the lottery – the what-ifs are endless.

From there, Highest Heights developed into something sincere. Still, I wanted to use almost over-dramatic lyrics in the chorus to reflect how quickly people can create this scenario about a complete stranger and where the ‘airport phenomenon’ can take you!

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the track?

After the stripped-back chorus, there is a build-up into an instrumental chorus which I absolutely love as it gives that ascending guitar riff a moment to shine through; it’s a cool part of the song and really relays the emotion I wanted it to.

Who did you write/record/produce Highest Heights with and where?

I wrote and produced the single. It was my first time producing, and it was a real challenge. I’ve written many songs before and developed them but never produced them. We recorded this song at Joel Little‘s Big Fan and were lucky enough to work with Noema Te Hau as our recording engineer.

As a first-time producer, it was great to have someone with such experience behind the tools. Noema was super encouraging and supportive of the process. We completely lucked in with Jonathan Pearce from The Beths for mixing and mastering. Jono really added a lot to the sound of the single. He made the process so easy!

I had a super positive experience as a first-time producer, and most importantly, the band were stoked with the result!

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

With songs I write, I rarely discuss the deeper meaning or the key point to take away from them. I’ll give a rough idea of what I’ve written the song about or what inspired me, but this is all surface-level. I really like listeners to take whatever they want away from the music. They can connect to it however they feel, and whatever comes to mind when they hear the song should be theirs to keep. I think that music is a personal experience.

For me personally, what I take away from Highest Heights is a reminder to enjoy being young, have stupid chemistry with a stranger in an airport, and go for late-night drives with your friends; it won’t last forever, so make the most of it!

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

This is something we are still learning as a band. We have only released two singles, so are still in our trial-and-error years! We think about who the target audience could be and the feedback we’ve received from gig-goers, friends, and industry professionals, and make a decision based on people’s responses to the song. We will be releasing a lot more music before the year is out, and we’re excited to see if we get it right!

Who else is in your team?

For now, we do it all ourselves. I want to make music my full-time gig, so I currently manage our bookings and organise the band. It’s a challenge I enjoy, and I have learnt an enormous amount from it. So far, I think we have managed well, but in the future, who knows?

We received NZOA single funding for this song, so for the first time, we have been lucky enough to work with Kate Orgias at Lil Sister PR, who has been amazing, and we have learned so much from her.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for?

Coast Arcade has an exciting year ahead. We have lots of music ready to release and some cool gigs planned. It will be a big year for us! I am also working heavily on my solo project, and I hope to release music this year, so watch this space!

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

That’s a tough one, as there are so many wicked local tunes out there. You really can’t go wrong with any Kiwi artist, but these are some of our favourites…

  • The Beths: Knees Deep
  • Haven: Right Way
  • Sure Boy: Her

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for others?

We feel really lucky as we have applied for funding twice and received it twice. I didn’t expect us to receive it the first time. I just wanted to go through the process of applying for funding so that I knew what I needed to do and also to fill any gaps Coast Arcade may have.

Taking time on your application and having all the important dates marked in your calendar is essential to ensure you put the clearest and most precise application in front of the judging panel. Another thing for bands who aren’t thinking about funding yet but will be in six months to a year is… go online and research what the criteria for single funding are.

When Coast Arcade started I made a full list of the criteria, so we knew what we could tick off easily, and targeted certain ones so that achieving the minimum amount of points needed wouldn’t be an issue.

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application? 

We’d been targeting the criteria for at least six months before we decided to apply for funding. You need a minimum of 10 completed criteria before submitting your application, so we had already targeted the ones in reach. We’d released our debut single, Tattoo, before applying for funding, and we were really happy with how it was received. The release of Tattoo enabled us to check off 10 criteria alone. So far, we have completed 19 criteria, but hope to tick them all as they are really good goals and guidelines for our next steps.

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels, or podcasts you’re super into?

We like to keep an ear to the ground when it comes to Kiwi music so here are some of our favourite plugs!

  • NZ Musician (obviously!)
  • Tahi FM posts about fresh, extremely local and international music and gigs. We also listen to Tahi for the local music!
  • The Zane Lowe Interview Series (Mostly large international acts, but a Kiwi host)

Who did you make the video with?

Dave Thomson of Imaginary Friends. It was an awesome experience and we hope to work with Dave and his team again soon!

Any last words?

Thank you so much for your support NZ Musician!