Tāmaki Makaurau alt-rock outfit Repairs is made up of Martin Phillips (guitar, vocals), Nicola Edwards (bass, vocals) and James Milne on drums. Since they formed in 2017, the has been committed to delivering music that is high energy, thoughtful and just a little quirky. Nur Lajunen-Tal explores the noisey trio’s explosive new single Map, Territory. Made with support from NZ On Air Music.
With relentlessly driving drums, raging, tempestuous guitars and lyrics that have plenty to dissect, Map, Territory is an off-kilter and apocalyptic delve into instability itself. Phillips says the track fell out of a jam session.
“We were trying to start the writing process for our second album, so we had a few sessions where we just kind’a jammed out ideas,” he says. “I think the genesis of Map, Territory was in one of those sessions. It was a bass riff that Nic was playing, and then a drum motif that James plays. There was a while of me trying to make ideas fit around that, and arranging it.”
“With this one, just with the rhythm of the bass and the drums, it’s 4/4 but it doesn’t sound 4/4,” adds Edwards. “I think trying to find phrasing that fit the rhythm of the song, we found it quite difficult to try and find sentences or words that didn’t sound awkward.”
Phillips and Edwards, who are eight years married, both write lyrics for Repairs, but not necessarily together.
“Most of the time, it’s usually whoever sings them, but then there’s a few times where one of us will write but not sing,” Phillips explains. “Map, Territory was probably a more collaborative one. In the early versions, it was me singing, but it suits Nic’s voice a lot better. It was me writing them and then Nic taking them and re-writing them, re-writing and re-arranging the vocal parts.”
The result certainly sounds like the pair have spent a while nutting out the details. Cryptically metaphorical, the lyrics lend themselves to many different interpretations. The song’s title comes from a William Gibson novel.
“It’s kind of about displacement of where you are in the world,” Phillips helpfully explains. “The way that geographical and psychological things shift to be unrecognisable… a strange state of existing in a spacial and ideological environment that’s profoundly disorienting. The concept that there’s so much change that it’s really hard to imagine a future anymore. The concept of futuristic, it doesn’t seem to really exist in the way that it did previously.”
‘Cracks are showing,’ sings Edwards in the second verse. ‘I’m sure it’s normal/ Just ignore it.’
“I think the cracks are showing is when things just really start falling apart, everything cuts a bit harder, and finding a place in that state of disorientation,” Phillips explains of the lines. “It could easily be a personal thing of that feeling of overwhelming anxiety that comes through when everything cuts that bit harder and little things start to overwhelm, but I think it also applies to on a grander scale as well, in terms of the state of the world.”
Elsewhere, the song refers to ‘damaged wires’ and ‘failed connections’.
“There’s a kind of synapses in your brain element, but also failed connections, failing to connect with others in the world, physically,” Edwards explains the metaphor. “Just that whole thing of having to re-familiarise yourself with socialising, and going out after lockdowns, and trying to remember what it’s like to have a normal conversation with somebody. Wanting to connect with people, but also feeling like you’re too anxious to go out and connect with people. So you’re caught in that cycle of wanting to see people but also feeling anxious about going out to see people…”
“I like metaphors too much,” laughs Phillips. “I used to like similes too much, which was really bad, because then I’d always say ‘as’ or ‘like’!”
The single’s artwork, a collage featuring a black-and white photo of a woman holding a cigarette set against yellow flowers, was made by Edwards.
“There was this really cool Japanese woodblock artist,” she describes one of her inspirations. “It was floral. I can’t remember the name, but there was a whole series of prints that they did that came up in the public domain. I really liked that style. I really just actually like the colour yellow, and I just found this really nice mustard shade that I really liked and thought went really well with that silhouette of the woman with a cigarette, which was from an old 1940s photo.”
The song is accompanied by a colourful, chaotic and suitably disorientating music video, directed by Kat Waswo from Wazkat Productions. This is the third music video Waswo has directed for the group, following Last Chances and Pop Song (both 2020).
“The plot of the video is the band go on a trip and I drop my phone and smash it, and then we get lost, and then we encounter a strange supernatural kind of spectre with flowers in her eyes and weird stuff happening,” says Phillips. “It’s kind of cut in with collages of disorientating sort of things and flowers in hyper-saturated colours.”
The pair say that Waswo had no idea that Edwards had already made the single artwork, which also included yellow flowers.
“It was just one of those weird coincidences!” says Edwards. “Our main brief was we really wanted to have a feel like the opening intro to the ‘Yellowjackets’ TV series. And when she came back to us with the storyboard, she had all these yellow flowers, and I happened to do the artwork, but she also had the yellow flowers. It was meant to be!”
“The idea behind that, from Kat’s end, came from a dream she had,” adds Phillips. “And when we filmed that, we filmed some of our back garden and there was yellow flowers everywhere! It was just a little bit spooky, actually, just the series of things that coincided.”