INTERVIEW: Popstrangers

Popstrangers (1)

by Chris Familton

Popstrangers are the latest in a long line of New Zealand bands to emerge with a psychedelic and moody take on pop-tinged post punk. Their debut album Antipodes proves the band aren’t just riding on the hype of a few singles, instead it shows they have a strong idea of the sounds and ideas they want to capture, though Joel Flyger is quick to point out that they are reluctant to typecast themselves in any particular style.

“We definitely haven’t found our sound and in a way I hope we don’t. I imagine that would be pretty boring. It comes from not being able to write similar sounding songs and I’ve never had a favourite genre of music so when I hear something new I’m always trying to add that to the mix. Its good to experiment with different things.”

A great example of that push and pull over the music the trio wants to create was in the writing of Heaven, the track that caught the attention of many listeners worldwide with its infectious pop rush of a chorus. Flyger was a late adopter of the song’s relevance and appeal but thankfully conceded it was a worthy of a place on the album. “We’d written the song and I was skeptical about it as it was heading towards being a straight pop song and I was’t keen on the idea. We recorded it anyway and then it started really coming into its own. Towards the end, as it was the last song we recorded for the album, I just decided it was what it was and I didn’t care. I had a realisation that everything in pop music is based on repetition so I thought we’d try that out.”

Fleetingly the band were on the iconic label Flying Nun Records before finding a more permanent and home on US label Carpark Records and Spunk Records here in Australia. The reason to move on from Flying Nun was a necessary one as the label had entered a period of inaction following the initial excitement following the original owner and others buying it back from Warners. Flyger is reticent to throw stones, especially now they are relishing their relationship with the new labels. “We are definitely in a much better position now. It was exciting to sign with Flying Nun at the time but they just weren’t working at the speed we wanted to be. I guess the new manager will now fix that up but we’re a lot happier with Carpark and Spunk, they’ve just been so much easier to deal with.”

Popstrangers travelled to the CMJ music conference last year to play the Carpark showcase and improve their profile in the US market. That and other international interest has combined with a feeling of stasis living and playing in Auckland to motivate the trio to relocate to the UK on a long term basis in April. “We were accepted for SXSW this year and we planned to fly there from Sydney or Melbourne but we’ve got plans to go to the UK in April so in terms of funds and timing it made sense to not go to SXSW. We’ve been in NZ for the last few years and in Auckland particularly and I’m kind of sick of it. We are talking with European booking agents at the moment and things wouldn’t happen the same way if we were still based in Auckland.”

Flyger also reveals they are looking to demo their next album and get a sense of where the new songs are heading before they travel to Australia and beyond. With their star in the ascendant Popstrangers are giving themselves over to their creative impulses and opening up to the adventures that lie ahead.

‘Antipodes’ is out now via Carpark Records / Spunk Records

this interview was first published in The Drum Media /

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