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NewTracks New Artist: Mousey

NewTracks New Artist: Mousey

Little did we know when we picked Mousey out of the artists featured on NZ On Air Music‘s NewTracks compilation for July to be part of this column, with her debut single Extreme Highs, that shortly after she would turn up in the final 20 for this year’s Silver Scroll Award. Though, as Sarena Close reveals below, it’s perhaps not surprising that she easily avoids the traps of ordinariness. 

What’s your given name and what instruments do you play?

My name is Sarena Ceanne Close, from Christchurch. I sing, play piano well and I’m pretty average at guitar.

What other projects might we know you from?

My band Polo Sweater might be recognised by Christchurch folk, but we never toured or released anything. I was in Pickle Darling’s old band Step Children, but again, we didn’t release anything – I’ve just played live a lot. I recently sang on Tami Neilson’s new album ‘Sassafrass’ as a backing vocalist. 

What high school or other music training has been important to you?

All of my music teachers have been influential, exposing me to different types of music. When I was in my final year of high school I was the Music Captain at my school and I took it to the next level. I ran almost all of the extracurricular musical groups including junior and senior bands, senior choir and the jazz band. I wrote almost all of the arrangements and even wrote a new school song. It was a very important year for my growth. After that, I went to jazz school, played in lots of bands and met a lot of cool people.

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

After recovering from the trauma of being at music school, and breaking up with my band, I decided I needed to be myself and be free to be myself. Therefore I needed to make a project that was truly me and not influenced by the taste of other band members. This project is me being me in full control!

How did your music evolve from your beginnings in songwriting to what it is right now? 

It’s so funny, I have gone in a full circle but then stepped it up. On the album, I have two tracks that I started writing when I was 18, so before jazz school. I think I got contaminated by neo-soul being the most popular genre to play when there, so I dove in headfirst and just did that. It took about a year and a half for me to realise I wasn’t being myself. Then came the long road to finding what I really liked, what I got really inspired and energised by. At the beginning, it was the ’50s and ’60s. I got obsessed with doo wap and crooners and Motown and rock’n’roll. The Beach Boys and then The Beatles and Radiohead, Regina Spector, Bon Iver, The Ting Tings, Gorillaz, Violent Femmes, The Kinks, Aldous Harding, Angel Olsen, Lawrence Arabia – before I new it I absolutely loved music again. I love songs, I love lyrics and a strong melody, I love production, I love intention and meaning.

How did you come up with the name for this new personal project? 

It’s from David Bowie’s Life On Mars; ‘The girl with the mousey hair.’

What makes Extreme Highs stand out for you as a single? 

It’s a solid bop with deep meaning. Out of the whole album, I thought it was the best way to reveal myself and get people on Team Mousey.

What is the story behind Extreme Highs

It’s about my experience living with nine other people here in CHC. At the beginning, we were a tight-knit family. It was was heaven on earth. Then winter came. I had a lot going on and no one ever asked me how I was, and it left me really hurt. I loved hanging out with them but then the thought would pop into my head saying, ‘They don’t really care about you.’ I was either extremely happy or extremely sad during that time.

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

I like the line, “Seven months are great then out of the blue, Who would bother with a birthday party no would show up to?”

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

We recorded the drums and pre-produced it at The Sitting Room, then did everything else at The Hut with Ryan Fisherman. Ben Eldridge on guitar, Chris Close (my husband) on drums, Ryan on bass, Sophie Deed, Cam Finlay and Clare Manson on BVs.

Describe briefly what you want listeners to take away from this song. 

Have a good time listening to it. It’s a fun song. I also hope other people feel comforted knowing that I too find life extremely difficult at times.

In general, how do you work out what song would make a good single? 

This is my first album so I don’t have much experience, but we only knew for sure once it was finished and the vibe was there.

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

Keep an eye out on my Instagram or Facebook. I’m releasing a single for each month before the album comes out in October, and we will be touring the record in October/November in NZ and Australia. I’m also nominated for the 2019 APRA Silver Scroll Award, so vote for me please!

Can you please tell us three other local tunes that should be on a playlist alongside your song. 

I’m a huge fan of Pickle Darling so take your pick from Rinse Spin Cycle/Nicholas Cage or Bicycle Weather and Ben Wood’s track Lozenge.

Have any of your previous applications not been included on NewTracks? Got any advice for people out there?

I actually have only ever applied for the Creative NZ funding, which incredibly was accepted first time! I guess the same goes for NewTracks, it’s my first ever song so I’m really pleased to have made the cut for that list as well.

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

I love Song Exploder!

Who did you make the video with?

 We made the video with Martin Sagadin (Marlon Williams, Aldous Harding, Pickle Darling).