February/March 2015

by Jesse Austin

Taste Nasa: A Taste of Pirongia in LA

by Jesse Austin

Taste Nasa: A Taste of Pirongia in LA

With less than a year having passed since Taste Nasa’s debut EP ‘No Questions Asked’ was released, Leroy Clampitt has been all over the place. After moving to the States in May 2014, he has seen the sights touring with Strange Babes, helped produce a radio show which looks at Kiwis living in the States for Kiwi FM, and has spent his time making music day in, day out. With a three-track sophomore EP nearing release, Jesse Austin talks with the man behind the music.

With the swirling synth chords and groovy bass lines, Taste Nasa’s first EP ‘No Questions Asked’ undoubtedly pays homage to the world of ’80s dance music. After being heavily involved with indie poppers Banglade$h (formerly known as The Good Fun, winners of 2010 Smokefreerockquest), and doing a lot of producing work with rapper Mzwètwo (formerly Loui the Zu), this solo project under the Taste Nasa banner was a new musical direction for Leroy Clampitt.

“I’d been messing around with electronic music for a couple of years”,” says Clampitt. “I wasn’t super passionate about getting anything out, it was just something I wanted to do for fun, and I wanted to learn about it.””

It wasn’t long before messing around turned into releasing material.

“Connor Nestor was the one who I ended up showing one of my first demos [Night Guy], to and he decided that I would release it and do Red Bull Sound Select under his curation. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know if anyone would have heard Night Guy or any of the other songs so far.”

Since being a part of Sound Select little over a year ago, Clampitt has released his first EP under the name Taste Nasa, and left our beautiful country for big adventures over in California. Coincidentally, both of those milestone moments happened on the first of May, 2014.

“I always wanted to move to the US since I was a kid, to be a builder. As I got into music, I decided I would move to Los Angeles as a musician rather than a builder.””

Having just completed his jazz degree at the NZ School of Music, Clampitt had the opportunity to get a graduate’s visa to the States.

“The initial strike to get me over here was because I got invited to play with Strange Babes [led by Sam McCarthy of Kids of 88 and Goodnight Nurse] who were about to go on tour. I was good friends with one of the co-writers [Jaden Parkes] who suggested that I play bass to the other co-writer [McCarthy]… When I moved over to LA, for three weeks we were in pretty intense rehearsals, and then we went on tour for another three weeks.””

When their tour with The Naked and Famous came to an end, Clampitt found time to work on his own tunes.

“After the tour I didn’t have any co-writing or session work, and I like to do work every day, so all I had to do was write my own music. The main involvement in the new EP was Sam McCarthy who has been the co-producer/co-writer/co-mix engineer. Joel Griffin has featured on the tracks as a saxophone player, and Madeline North has featured on tracks on vocals, and both are NZ natives.””

In describing the sound of the new Taste Nasa music, Clampitt settles for ‘soft dance’.

“It’s music that you want to dance to, but only lightly because everything that we record is really soft. If you listen to claps in the music, we are clapping as softly as possible because every time we are recording, we are recording in my bedroom or in a basement which have lots of pings. In order to get away from the pings you have to record stuff really lightly and we found out that if you record stuff lightly, and turn it up really loud, it sounds really mean!””

And while Clampitt is having many exciting adventures on the other side of the world, he has not forgotten us New Zealanders back home.

“I engineer A Kiwi Abroad with Connor Nestor and it’s so awesome to hear conversations with New Zealanders that are over here, and you get to deal with New Zealanders for Kiwi FM, and it’s so nice just having that connection constantly.”

Having talked with the likes of Streets Of Laredo’s Dan (Kingston) and Dave (Elemeno P) Gibson, The Naked And Famous’ Alisa Xayalith and Aaron Short, Jimmy Mac (Lorde) and heaps more, you may be surprised that he still has time to work with other artists.

“I’m working with Madeline North on her EP, and I’m working with the guitarist from Strange Babes on his project, which is kind of world pop. I’ve also been playing guitar on some Mzwètwo stuff. It’s funny though because I don’t play guitar very well, so when he sends something through I’ll get my guitar and play dumb-as solos and stand on my guitar, and everytime he ends up using those parts and it sounds great.””

And while Clampitt is enjoying his time in the States, it is sadly coming to a close for him.

“I’m definitely coming back in June, and I definitely want to be back for at least a month to work on music with a couple of people, but at the same time I am pretty keen to get back over here. I’m just trying to secure a visa, and I’ve kind’a got a way of getting one, but it’s a publishing deal, and I just have to decide if I want to sign it.””

Even though his future is uncertain at the moment, there is plenty planned before Clampitt leaves for home in June.

“I’d like to tour the Taste Nasa music before June as America provides such good opportunities for doing so. Hopefully working with an American-based label might help secure that, but if not there’s plenty to keep me busy in the studio/bedroom/basement!””

While we await the release of the sophomore Taste Nasa EP, we can be sure that it will be just as dazzling as the first. If ‘No Questions Asked’ is anything to go by, I’m sure it will be the healthy kick needed to help spur on an ’80s dance revival.