Opposite Sex is a band that originated from Gisborne but managed to settle themselves down in Dunedin. They’re a three-piece consisting of Tim, Lucy and Fergus. But sometimes when playing live, they buckle up and become a two-piece consisting of only Lucy and Tim. At the moment they’ve released their self-titled debutalbum, which draws influences from post-punk, lo-fi, no-wave and alternative pop which makes it quite a unique-sounding mixture. I got the opportunity to talk to Lucy from the band about her musical background, dunedin vs. gisborne, their first album and much more. Tune in for this, straight from New Zealand!
Could you tell me more about your background? Have you played in any other band before Opposite Sex? What was the incentive to start it up in the first place?
- I’ve played piano and trumpet since I was a kid, but didn’t get into playing in bands after I left school and moved to Wellington. My ex boyfriend is Connan Hosford (Mockasin) and he got me into singing and started teaching me bass. I went to England twice with Connan and the Mockasins, and eventually ended up singing with them a bit, and playing keyboard, trumpet and auto-harp. After we broke up I moved back to my hometown, Gisborne, and worked as a restaurant pianist for 2 years. I met Tim there, he taught himself to play drums and we started writing songs together. The band began as a two piece, then Fergus, who I’ve known since we were kids, joined on guitar.
What would be your most memorable moment in the beginning of Opposite Sex? Could you tell me anything people don’t know about the story on how you met?
- Tim and I had been jamming a bit but hadn’t played in front of anyone. I finished work one night and met him at a bar, which had an open mike night. We convinced each other to play so I ran home and got my bass, and we played “Waiting For The Man” by the Velvet Underground and an original called “In The Trees Last Night”. The crowd got really into it, someone yelled out “you crazy cunts!”. Then some guys from Auckland said we sounded all New York avant-gard. We were totally stoked and it gave us the confidence to book our first proper gig.
Your music sounds quite unique. What influences have you collected besides the musical part of it?
- When we first got together Tim had just introduced me to The Modern Lovers, Half Japanese, The Smiths, The Cramps. I love the attitude of all those bands, really honest and mental. They’re not afraid to use their imagination. So I think it is more of an attitude thing than trying to create a particular sound or style. We don’t really sit down and try to write a song in a particular way. I don’t know about non-musical influences, I suppose reading books. I used to be into spiritualism, now I am an atheist, which has obviously affected my way of thinking about the world. I guess that influences my music.
What is the most important thing to think about when releasing a first album? Could you tell me anything about the work that needs to be done? In the end, what parts would be the most essential ones?
- Um, when we recorded these songs we thought we were just doing some demos, so we maybe didn’t take the recording as seriously as we would have had we known it was going to be released as an album. But I suppose the most important thing is that you like the songs, and think the recordings do them justice. We recorded very quickly so it didn’t seem like much work at all. The vocals were the hardest part
I read a comment insisting on that Gisborne have an immense amount of emerging talent. Could you tell me anything about that? And basically, which emerging bands or artists do you personally think are outstanding?
- There is a lot of emerging talent in Gisborne, whether it is disproportionate to it’s size I’m not sure. There are creative people in any place you live. I couldn’t say it has a thriving alternative music scene, I think you need a bigger city to support alternative music. There are some very good reggae bands, and good jazz and blue musicians. Fighting Like Stags are a young Gisborne band who I really hope will keep playing, they are excellent. The Rocket Jocks and The Nervous Surgeons are both cool punk bands.
Now I have to ask you: how is Dunedin? What makes it a better place and what makes it worse? How is it in comparison to Gisborne?
- Dunedin is very different to Gisborne in that it has a massive student population, while Gisborne people tend to clear out between the ages of 18 and 25. The music scene in Dunedin is excellent. It is cold here, so there is not nearly so much dependance on the weather and the beach to have a good time as there is in Gisborne. I like the way the older generation of musicians really supports the younger, and vice versa.
Why have you decided to make your first release a limited one? I saw that there’s not many units left from the vinyl edition. Would that be because people want to own physical piece of art instead of digital?
- It was a simple decision based on cost and low expectations. There is nowhere in New Zealand which presses vinyl, so it was a pretty indulgent decision to get the small vinyl release we did, as shipping costs from America basically swallow any profit from sales. We are thrilled that the vinyl all sold, and now we have Occultation releasing it in the UK so I think the numbers were about right. I think think you are right that the physical aesthetic of vinyl will mean it will last as a medium alongside digital releases.
What score on a scale of one to ten would you give your debutalbum, if you had the role of a music critic?
- Oh, man, I don’t know! I am too emotionally involved to comment I think! It would be like giving your child a mark out of 10.
How was the creative process in the making of your self-titled debutalbum? Could you describe how the process went? What did you start out with and did it turn out the way you expected it to? Were there any moments of confusion?
- Definitely moments of confusion! We wrote the songs over quite a long period. Tim was the first person I felt I could sing in front of and not be embarrassed, maybe because in the past I had only played and sung with musicians who were much better than me, and I felt intimidated. Tim was incredibly brave to start singing when he had never done it before, and was just learning drums. Either I would write a song and show it to Tim, of we would jam and work out something together, then one or both of us would start singing. When Ferg came along he showed us some chord pattern he’d been working with – on the album, Sea Shanty and Dr White – and could play amazing stuff seemingly effortlessly over the racket Tim and I were making. I think as a two-piece, the combination of limitation and recklessness which came from trying to create an interesting thing with just drums and bass made our initial sound. We didn’t plan any kind of overall vision or anything. Being in a band with a partner can be hard. You can’t go home and complain about your band-mate. I like coming up with ideas by going for walks with my dictophone, which can be embarrassing if people see me.
What would be your best tip for an amateur singer just starting out? Do you use any certain technique when singing?
- Ha, I really don’t know. I am an amateur singer. I can barely even sing in tune, let alone give advice. I try sing with my own voice, rather than affecting a particular tone, but then it is art so there are no rules.
For anyone new to New Zealand (no pun intended), what would be the number one thing to check out first? What are the best places for inspiration in Gisborne and Dunedin? Where do you hang out on a regular basis?
- I suppose the nature is the best feature of NZ. The beaches in Gisborne are really beautiful and good for surfing. Dunedin is NZ’s oldest city, although compared to most of the rest of the world it is not very old. I love the Botanical Gardens in Dunedin. Port Chalmers is a cool little community on the coast, we love driving out there and watching them load the ships. I can’t think, um, I guess just hanging out with friends at bars or home, drinking masses of coffee, jamming with friends.
What do you prefer to do when you’re not making music?
- Studying! I love studying English. I’ve been writing book reviews for a magazine. Tim and I are both into making art and going to exhibitions. We stay in a lot, we have a cool flat. Tim is a good surfer. I love cooking, going to gigs, biking around.
How important are the aesthetics for you? It seems like you’ve drawn some historical influences for your album cover? Forgive me for not knowing what it depicts, but what does it depict?
- The aesthetics are important to us, although Tim and I have quite different tastes in visual stuff, so we haven’t really got an image for the band. The album cover was made in a couple of hours by Tim and I. It is Rodin’s Three Shades, from the top of The Gates Of Hell. We just blew up the picture on a scanner and turned it pink. Someone described it as “erotic, gay, gothic, Greek” which I liked. We liked the image of three equal parts, and the idea of having some nude men on a cover instead of women.
What do you think have been your best live performance and what have been your worst? In what way do you think that you’ve developed playing live since you once started out?
- I often find that the gigs we look forward to turn out disappointing, and some we are dreading are surprisingly cool. We played at a tiny Dunedin bar called Mou in November. It is really just an alleyway. It was a prefect warm night, and we played outside just as it was getting dark and just before it rained. It was mainly just our friends watching but the bar is so tiny it was packed out. I loved that gig. Camp A Low Hum was also surprisingly cool. We thought no one would come and see us, but we got a good crowd, good response, and a beautiful backdrop of NZ bush. And it was just about to rain again! We like playing in dirty little dark bars best. the worst gigs are ones in swanky places, like restaurants, with bad acoustics.
Do you have anything else planned for the near future? What will you be doing the coming months? Are you doing anything special this year?
- We’ve got instrumental recordings of about 10 new tracks, I think all my songs, but I don’t know if they are sounding how they sounded in my head and I don’t want to rush to release anything we are not totally happy with. I don’t have lyrics for some of the songs yet. We are all pretty busy studying, but have a support slot touring NZ with Die! Die! Die! in July, which we are excited about. The album is doing much much bettter than we had expected (which was that nothing would happen) so we hadn’t made any plans beyond recording demos as a record of what Opposite Sex had been doing in Gisborne. We all love playing together though, so we will be doing more stuff in future.
What do you think about the label that you’re on now? Do you get artistic freedom in a sense that you don’t have to rush your production?
- We love Fishrider, and the label’s owner Ian Henderson is a good friend of ours. The recording was rushed because we only had Fergus in Dunedin for a limited amount of time. The only times when our artistic freedom have been compromised are when Tim and I are too busy or lazy to work on the visual side of the band’s promotion, and there has been some tension over that.
Are you interested in blending in historical moments with the present? What would be the main theme your debutalbum? Any hidden things that people haven’t “spotted” yet?
- I don’t really know about history and the present, the songs are mostly just gobbledegook. La rat is an animal rights song, kind of. Panther Fight is the only song with personal issues in it, which people can probably spot.
What do you think about the music industry? How has it affected you? In what way have it been a positive experience and in what way have it negatively affected you?
- We haven’t had a lot to do with the music industry. Our record label has done all the work in that area. We basically have just recorded the album and left it so far. I don’t know about the industry, I’m quite weary of it. I think it is so hard to make any money from music these days, and promoting the band with extensive touring or whatever seems like more of a quest for fame than a career. We’d be very lucky to come close to breaking even if we went on tour, and I’m a bit squeamish about the idea of paying to get recognition.
Do you have any special words of wisdom?
- Ha, no, I don’t think so!
What band or artist do you think I should interview next and what would you want me to ask them?
- My favourite Dunedin band is The Blueness, who are touring America sometime soon. They would be a great one to interview. I’m not sure about any special questions though.
Listen to their self-titled debutalbum over here:
You can also find them over here:
Fishrider Records: http://fishriderrecords.wordpress.com/opposite_sex/