“I try not to write songs for as long as I can, then one day I’ll sit around and a fully formed song will appear in my mind,” says Jaisi Sheehan, singer and songwriter of Auckland retro-pop foursome The Psychs. It’s a Monday morning and the whole band share a couch in an Arch Hill flat to chat, over a cup of tea, with Silke Hartung, about their frustratingly still-pending debut album ‘Supa Colour’.
When I ask what the difference is between writing songs for The Psychs, and writing for his previous band The Electric Confectionaires, Jaisi Sheehan says it lies in who he writes for.
“It’s less about pleasing a crowd and more about making music I want to hear myself. I try to avoid all the genres, I just try to interpret the melody and chords in a straight forward way – that kind of makes its own style. More genre-mashing, or less genre.”
With their knack for singalong, lo-fi, ’60s surf sound, since forming in 2010 each of The Psychs’ singles to date have made it into high rotation on local indie radio stations. The rewards have included opening slots for well-established local acts such as the late Checks, the Earlybirds and Opossom. It was after playing with the latter at The Kings Arms a few years ago that the band was approached by Kody Neilson, a fan of the band, offering his hands and mind to record The Psychs’ debut album.
By the time Neilson was back in the country from touring the world, and ready to commence recording, the line up of the band had shuffled around majorly with only Sheehan remaining as founding member. New to the band, and still part of it now, were guitarist Lukas Starkey, drummer Tom Jennings and Sam Beca on bass. In mid-December 2012 the band hired out Rex McLeod’s drum studio in Onehunga to lay down the rhythm and guitar tracks for ‘Supa Colour’.
“We told Kody we like everything really dry. We wanted a live sound, no reverbs or effects, a really bassy kick drum, a bassy ’80s snare sound – that’s what we were talking about when we first talked about the recording at The Kings Arms; how we could get a really good drum set up,” recalls Jaisi.
Neilson provided a lot of the gear for the recording as well.
“Kody brought in his beautiful microphones, cymbals, a snare – all vintage gear – and we also used Kody’s bass. We like everything to be analogue gear, valve amps and that. A nice authentic sound, you know?”
They found it a challenge to work as fast as they did in the sweltering heat of the studio. Drums and guitar tracks were recorded live at the same time, from different rooms, listening to each other through a closed door.
For Jaisi it was a challenge to record the vocals with Neilson right next to him, and with the rest of the band in the same room.
“I’ve never recorded vocals being surrounded by people!” he laughs.
They had decided to re-record all of the songs that were on their 2011 EP ‘Roaches’, to allow more time on the songs and improve the quality compared to the earlier recording.
“The record contains six old songs and six new ones,” explains Lukas.
The result is a consistently upbeat, danceable and catchy record with an authentic, warm quality. Giving a short glimpse of what to expect, new songs Madness and She Was A Girl have already done well on student radio.
With half the songs being two years old already and the recording done nine months ago, it has been a relatively long path from recording to a release (sometime later this year) for an independent band. In between mixing and mastering, Neilson was busy becoming a dad, there were delays getting contracts set up from his management at CRS, and the cover art had to be designed among other things.
At this stage, the band manage themselves, and pretty well considering their age and lack of experience. While they say there are no designated roles, they agree that Lukas has definitely taken on most of the communication duties, Sam takes care of graphic design, Tom drives everyone around a lot and everyone chips in and takes turns when it comes to booking gigs. With the album still progressing frustratingly slowly however they agree the band would benefit from a ‘proper’ manager.
As Lukas observes, “We could be recording more, play more gigs – we really have more to offer!”