NewTracks New Artist: Masslands

NewTracks New Artist: Masslands

Hawkes Bay indie/garage-rock outfit Masslands released their first single, the memorably-titled Forget What You Heard, in May this year, quickly following it up with the release of debut EP ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’. The EP’s title track runs over eight minutes long, but atmospheric single Mirrors is a much more radio-friendly three mins and found approval with NZ On Air Music, being included on their NewTracks compilation this August.

What are your names and what instruments do you play?

Masslands are Jacob Tait (guitars), Mason Blair (vocals/guitar), Ben Liley (bass), and Orian Green (drums).

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

Jacob: We all grew up doing music. Ben, Mason and myself all did a subject at school that focused more on the performing of music rather than the theory, which really pushed our passion for playing in bands forward. Orian also grew up surrounded by music through his family.

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

Jacob: We have all been playing around in local bands and solo stuff, I have been solo as Orphic Decor which is quite eclectic and synth-based. Mason’s solo work is Count Luca which can be bluesy and crooney. Orian is doing a solo rap project under Orian, and Ben is working on solo indie jazzy stuff at the moment on the guitar and vocals. So we all do our own thing as well, which brings a really interesting approach to our music as Masslands.

What’s the background story of how Masslands came to be? 

Jacob: Masslands started as what would have been a song collaboration between Mason and I during our solo projects. I contacted Mason wanting to expand my horizons as a producer. We really liked the sound that came out of that session, which became the song Feel You, the opening song of the Masslands’ EP. We then started looking around for a band and that’s where Orian and Ben came into play.

How has the music evolved from your beginnings as a band?

Jacob: With our EP, ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’, the majority of the songs started as some sort of riff or chord progression, which would then expand to either lyrics, or a bassline or drumbeat. It was very formatted for those songs. In the past month, we have started writing new music which has actually been quite different in comparison. As a band, we can musically gel a lot more, which has created fun writing sessions where everyone is involved and having more of a collective input. We also have a lot more direction on where we want to take the songs which is super exciting!

Mason: The whole theme of the EP is a sort of ‘coming-of-age’ idea, the feeling of growing up and transitioning into adulthood. It definitely influenced the title track, It Doesn’t Matter Anymore, which encompasses the whole EP.

How and when did you come up with the name for the new project?

Mason: The creation of the band name isn’t as introspective and deep as some bands, we more just wanted a name that would look great on a poster or a t-shirt.

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

Mason: So far the biggest highlight would have to be all the great reception and feedback we’ve received about the songs and EP. After putting so much effort and hard work into a project, it’s great to hear people are really digging it. It’s very encouraging.

What makes Mirrors stand out for you as a single?

Mason: I think the energy is what ultimately makes Mirrors. We wanted to have a song that’s loud and fast but also catchy, and one people could easily jump and dance to. It’s a great one to play live because it instantly brings the energy up.

What’s the story behind Mirrors?

Mason: Mirrors is basically about the feeling of being trapped in a town or city, and how that can take a toll on one’s psyche, hence all the reflection and mirror imagery scattered throughout the song.

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

Mason: I think I can vouch for all of us in saying that our favourite part of the song is when everything drops out to just bass, drums and vocals in the second verse, breaking the wall of sound, then exploding back in with guitars blazing. It’s definitely a stand-out moment.

Who did you record/produce the single with and where?

Jacob: The recording of Mirrors was done at a variety of places. The drums and bass were tracked together at a local music venue here in Napier, Paisley Stage. The guitars were both recorded in my bedroom, and the vocals were recorded in a makeshift booth in Orian’s garage.

Production-wise, we really wanted Mirrors to have a punchy and powerful drive to it. Aside from the help at Paisley Stage, the production, mixing and recording were all done by ourselves independently. For our first project, we felt it was important for it to mainly stay in our own hands as we didn’t want too much outside interference, especially in these critical stages of finding our sound. It’s something we are super proud of as a band.

What would you like listeners to take away from hearing the song?

Mason: If people can listen to this song or any of our other songs and feel even just a tinge of excitement, we feel we’ve done our job. We want people to feel good when listening to the music, and to have a song that they can crank up loud!

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

Mason: We try to write every song like they could be a possible single, treat every song as our best, so we aren’t too fussy. However, there’s always a song, like Mirrors, that we think just stands out, and we felt it just had to be one of the songs people heard first.

Who else is in your team?

Jacob: At this time all production and management is done by us as a band. We would love to expand this and look into management, but at this stage it’s just us.

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

Jacob: Keep an eye out for new music soon. We have a few demos at their final stages which are coming along super smoothly. Maybe another EP? Maybe even an album…??

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

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

Jacob: I guess it’s all about being the squeaky wheel. This is our third attempt with Masslands to get on a New Tracks playlist, and I have tried a few times previously with other projects. It’s cool to know that you can crack it!

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

Jacob: KickFM are amazing at supporting local artists and spotlighting a lot of indie music coming out around the globe. Coup De Main also amazing for bringing indie sounds and that culture to the country. Obviously likewise with NZ Musician, highlighting up-and-coming music is such an important thing for us as it can seem daunting trying to get your music heard, but having local places like this make it feel less so.

Any final words?

Jacob: Our full EP ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’ is out now on all platforms, so if you enjoy Mirrors then there are three other songs that might also tickle your fancy.