Still attending Christchurch Boys’ High, Tarn PK wrote a song about teenage experimentations with alcohol that he initially titled Hurricane. Deciding later that was a bit too Bob Dylan-like he re-named the song Caught In The Wake, and submitted it to NZ On Air for consideration in the August 2018 NewTracks application round. It was one of seven ‘pop’ songs among the 28 songs that got through. We asked Tarn a few questions to introduce himself.
My full name is Tarn Puentener-King, which can be quite the mouthful, thus the abbreviation to Tarn PK! I’m from Christchurch and have lived here my whole life. I sing, play the drums, guitar, bass, and keyboard, all to varying degrees. My main instrument is actually the drums which I have now been playing for roughly 10 years and play in school jazz bands, as well as gigs in a cover band around the city.
Back in 2015 I started the group Mayfair with some friends and we recorded several YouTube covers including Adele’s Hello and Flume’s Say It. These didn’t become global phenomenon’s or anything but they did help me to start putting out music. We then released an original called Lights, which got around 10k views on Soundcloud and led us to some interest from a German label, as well as a sync deal with the Apollo Music Store.
I started playing music from about age four where I would walk around the house strumming a ukulele, not particularly well or anything, but it was a big part of my life.
I started recording music when I was around 12, after being inspired by YouTube artists recording covers, so I tried to emulate what they were doing. This eventually evolved into my learning the basics of instruments like the guitar and bass, which I was then able to develop more as I went to high school, where I am now in my final year. During high school, I have really dived into music, particularly thanks to the jazz programme at Christchurch Boys’ High. Although it has a reputation for rugby, it has now really made a name for itself in the NZ schools’ music scene.
Caught In The Wake, although people seem to think this on first listen, is not actually a love song. It was actually just me writing about me and my friends drinking for the first time and seeing how people would change and become kinda ‘caught in the wake’ of the alcohol.
I felt it worked well in the pop niche that has been carved out by the likes of Calvin Harris, Bruno Mars, and Charlie Puth, which is that straight funk groove, with a bouncy bass line. My thinking was that audiences would have something recognisable but also a bit different, and that’s what I feel like Caught In The Wake does well.
My favourite moment is a rather nerdy thing that most people probably wouldn’t pay much attention to, which is this guitar lick in the first verse. I played it on my Strat and put this octave effect on it and it just came out super funky. Which was generally the aim of the song!
Caught In The Wake was initially written as a school project. My friend Nick France co-wrote the piece and features on saxophone. We wrote the song with our school’s funk band in mind. Every year we attend this schools’ jazz competition, Southern Jam, and our thinking was that we would try and win the prize for best composition. However, about halfway through the writing, I realised that I wanted to take it on a slightly different route and developed it into the pop song you now hear in the final version.
I got my friend Oliver Carter to perform all the trumpet lines, and then recorded the vocals and all the other instruments, including the bass, guitar, keys and the drums (which were part recorded on my iPhone!)
I just want people to enjoy the groove!
Initially, I was pretty unsure whether Caught In The Wake was the best idea for a single and couldn’t make my mind up for quite a while. This resulted in almost nine months of procrastination from the time the song was recorded to its release. The way I decided, in the end, was that I sent a bunch of songs to a group of my best friends and had them vote for what they thought would be the best choice, and Caught In The Wake came out on top!
I am currently working on an EP that I’m planning to release in the near future…
My first single Reality didn’t get through – the feedback from NZOA was it was not quite commercial enough for more mainstream radio. What I found super helpful was reaching out to NZOA for feedback and they were great! I haven’t applied for NZOA funding (yet), but I hope to get my social media following up and maybe on a blog or two off of Caught In The Wake. Of course I’m always open to being signed…