You and I don’t normally have to go to three different shops to get the bread for lunch, but Old Loaves regularly do. The stoner rock trio all live in different cities, sandwiching together in the one recyclable wrapper less by dint of practicality than impressive perseverance. A slice of their quite literally ‘long-awaited’ album, ‘Banks’, the single Stolen Night was featured on NZ ON Air Music‘s New Tracks compilation this August. Frontman Ben Ward answered NZM’s gluten-free questions.
Ben Ward – guitar & vocals; Cameron Reid – drums & BVs; John Strange – bass & BVs. We are spread out across the North Island. Ben lives in Auckland, Cameron lives in Rotorua and John lives in Hamilton.
I didn’t do much at all in terms of musical training. I actually started playing the guitar because my older brother got a nylon string acoustic guitar for his birthday, which he didn’t end up using much. One day I just picked it up and started playing around. I ended up learning songs by ear, and off friends who could play. To be honest, that was probably the most important training for me; when those friends would come over and teach me new songs and techniques that I could then obsess over and try to grasp.
Cam and I played in a band from Wellington called Rifles. Cam has been in a long list of bands, but probably the most notable would be Contenders and Dial. John was in Arc of Ascent, and I had a short stint in Strangers, with our original bass player Kalem O’Brien.
We started down in Wellington in late 2009. Cam and I were slowing up with Rifles and I always wanted to do a band with him and Kalem, so we just started hanging out and writing together causally. I had just finished up university and had decided to move up to Auckland, so we played what was meant to be our first and last show at my leaving party. After we played a friend offered to record us the next day, and somehow we kept it going with me living up in Auckland and the others in Wellington.
I had a stint living in Sydney, which meant Old Loaves had a long break. When I came back and we started it up again the original bass player was living in Melbourne, so with his blessing, John joined.
Having a new bass player has evolved the music, he brings his own sound and dynamic. Along with this I just think the amount of time we’ve been playing music together means our songwriting has evolved. We definitely push ideas a lot further than we did compared to our earlier work. This is probably partly due to our pace, we take things pretty slow – which is apparent in the fact that it took us close to seven years to write this new album!
The songs on this new album go back to a time in my life when I was living in Mount Maunganui. The album title ‘Banks’ is a reference to where Jereme Aubertin shot the cover photo, Banks Ave. This is a surf spot where I spent a lot of time surfing when I was younger.
Probably the pace of it. Stolen Night is the fastest song on our new album and is pretty direct from the beginning. I imagine that because of this it makes it an easy song to digest in the first instance, whether you like heavy music or not.
It’s a reflection on a time and certain interactions with someone special in my life. We were both struggling through battles in parallel, on our own, but could have really helped each other if we talked and worked through them together.
I’m a really big fan of the bridge. The song has such a frantic pace up to this point, it’s a moment of resolve amongst the immediacy.
Stolen Night was recorded and mixed by Dave Hine up in Auckland and mastered in Portland by Brad Boatright. It was the last song we recorded in the recording session – we actually only did two takes of it, and I’m pretty sure we used the first.
To talk to the people close to you. Listen to what they have to say, just by doing that you could help them immensely.
It’s hard to say. We don’t set out to write songs solely focused on being singles when we’re working on new material, our focus is more on how the song will fit into the project as a whole. Obviously, there are proven conventions you can stick to if you want to write songs as singles, but we don’t like restricting ourselves when we write. Anything goes.
Yeah, our drummer’s band The Contenders are doing a lot of writing at the moment. So definitely keep an eye out for something new from them in the future.
Yeah, I look at albumoftheyear.org a few times a week. It’s just a review aggregator, but it’s really great for finding new music. I don’t listen to a heap of music podcasts, but one I really enjoy is Song Exploder. Each episode features an artist and they break down one of their songs. It’s hugely insightful and gives a good view of other musicians’ creative process.