All the way from Rangiora, The Transistors have been making waves across the Tasman and in the States over the last couple of years, and are now gearing up for the release of their second album ‘Is This Anything?’, originally due out sometime last year. It’s a high energy, fuzz and feedback-drenched rock’n’roll statement of intent that the three-piece intend to spread their wings, as Olly Crawford-Ellis reveals to Westley Holdsworth.
According to drummer Olly Crawford-Ellis, The Transistors all met on their first day at Rangiora High School, which helps explain the band’s tight performances and punk craftsmanship.
“We didn’t start playing our instruments until we realised how boring school was going to be and that by learning an instrument we could get out of class. We have pretty much been a band ever since, though much of that time was spent developing our satch boogie before we were ready to rip it.”
Now 26 and 27, the band is made up of Colin Roxburgh on bass, James Harding on guitar and Crawford-Ellis on drums with each member taking on vocal duties. While the wait has been long since 2009’s debut full length ‘Shortwave’ and their 2010 EP ‘Flux Pentaphile’, The Transistors have maintained a profile by releasing a string of singles from the album already with Excommunicator, This Is Not An Exit, the Making Tracks-funded Abandoned, and most recently Dirty Diver.
So what’s been the album hold up?
“The major factor would be the tyranny of distance,” Crawford-Ellis explains. “Although we recorded the basic tracks in Sefton, North Canterbury, the vocals were done up in Auckland whenever we were up. These ‘sessions’ were sometimes only an hour or so which meant it was a bit of a slow process. It’s definitely taken too long though, it’s taken the last couple of years and we are really keen to get it out.”
Basic tracks for the album were recorded over a week in a cottage owned by Crawford-Ellis’ family in the North Canterbury countryside. The band flew engineer/producer Bob Frisbee in to man the desk, with the subsequent overdubs and vocals done in Frisbee’s studio in New Lynn, Auckland.
There are even some synth and vocoded vocals in the mix, which Crawford-Ellis says will probably be staying on the record only.
“We haven’t done them live yet as we are still learning how to use the most basic technology. They may just remain an enigmatic bonus for those who get the record.”
The Transistors have already made ground overseas, with a variety of Australian music press outlets citing the band as best performers at last year’s Bigsound Festival. They also successfully extended their reach Stateside.
“Getting over to the USA last year was hands down the highlight of our band’s career. We were tagging along with the Japanese band Guitar Wolf, and played 27 shows in 29 days, from Nashville to New York, to Seattle to LA and back to Memphis. There were definite highs (amazing Mexican food) and lows (most of the food that wasn’t Mexican), but it was so cool to be in the States and playing to totally new audiences every night. The population is big enough that there were people everywhere who were into our band, and it was great to be immersed in band stuff and not worry about anything else.”
There’s always a gamble when international markets are calling for NZ bands. Some find upon returning after having spent so much time away that they’re no longer relevant or even wanted, and when tours can pay the way overseas, dragging yourself around NZ for smaller crowds and little to money can prove a little disheartening.
“I am not sure if we have ever been relevant in NZ,” Crawford-Ellis admits. “On the other hand, it is NZ that has shaped our band and our lives here are what inspire our music, so losing that would really affect the band. Hopefully, we also write music that other New Zealanders can relate to.
“NZ audiences are really great on the whole, and often we see a lot of our friends at our shows here, so I wouldn’t dismiss playing shows here either. I guess it’s important to stay relevant to wherever people like your music, and where you enjoy being a band.
“I think we will definitely tour the album here and probably Australia in the early part of this year. We are pretty determined to get back further afield too, just a matter of getting our shit sorted and heading somewhere. I think we are pretty keen to play Japan, plus some other places like South America and Indonesia could be mondo grande.”