29 March 2012
Interview: Electric Wire Hustle
Fresh out of their first SXSW experience, Electric Wire Hustle - Mara TK, David "Taay Ninh" Wright and Myele Manzanza - will be basing themselves in Berlin for six months with three main goals: getting more shows in Europe, releasing their second album and having a decent crack at America. This is a seriously driven group of young men - who are building a serious global following.
"First I miss JayZ. Now I'm going to miss @E_W_H ... que puneta!"
"Sometimes the best @SXSW experiences are the least expected. Follow @E_W_H Electric Wire Hustle from NZ. Not to disappoint."
"Our favourite act last night at #SXSW was Electric Wire Hustle, Kiwi-soul purveyors from NZ. Check 'em out!"
"SF! ATTENTION! RT @HipHopCoolAgain: Electric Wire Hustle (@E_W_H) live at @yoshisjazz SF 3/22/12!! #newzealand!"
Music has always been about connecting. Connecting with your audience and with other like-minded folks. Independent artists will acknowledge genuine connections are vital to continuing any kind of career, particularly when negotiating the sharks and trolls that inhabit the music industry.
Individually and collectively, Electric Wire Hustle's ability to connect with people from across the globe - allied to their vibe-heavy psychedelic soul sound - sees them standing on the verge of big things in 2012.
For a group of young men making music that is distinctly fresh and forward-thinking, their pragmatism is perhaps fitting. Speaking about the next six months of their lives each of the band-members are clear-headed about what they want to achieve.
"It costs a lot to go and do this," says singer and multi-instrumentalist Mara TK, "It requires big investments of time and resources, but it is an investment, and we're still in the investment stage of building our business."
"Part of basing ourselves in Europe is to try and get over to the States if any other possibilities pop up," continues mutli-instrumentalist Taay Ninh, "Now that Europe's starting to build into a good thing for us, we're hoping we can get to that stage in the States as well, and try to establish ourselves with an agent and get some more shows."
"That's sort of one of our goals for SXSW," adds drummer Myele Manzanza, "Trying to find a good agent or some decent representation, someone who's on the ground and a bit more connected than we are."
It really is all about connections. All three of the band have attended the renowned Red Bull Music Academy, and admit the benefits have been far greater than musical. "The academy is definitely a big networking foundation," says Taay, "And in trying to forge a way in the States, we really have to call upon each and every contact that we have available."
It's not all about music industry types though. "We've met people who were following us since pretty much day dot!" says Taay, excitedly, "I was pleasantly surprised by how embracing everyone was of us and what we were up to. In particular the San Fran gig was the same warmth you get from playing in Wellington at the San Fran! It's like a home vibe and that to me was pretty special. ANd it just goes to show how quickly the music can travel. People are finding it. OK, maybe the've downloaded it, but here they are at the show. While music may not be selling as many units as it used to, the cycles still working - just in a different way."
EWH is well aware of 'the cycle' and they've been working hard on having new music to perform, record and release. After spending six weeks together in Wellington brainstorming ideas, they'd amassed a wealth of material, which they're looking at filtering through while living in Berlin. As for encountering problems with the close-quarter living arrangements? Their pragmatism shines through once more. "It's a good unit," says Manzanza, matter-of-factly, "I guess the trick is just to allow everyone their space when it's time for that, and when it's time to be sharp and be on the ball - then be on the ball!"
"This will be the longest we've been away collectively focussed on the band for," enthuses Taay, "I'm excited about getting to Europe and just being able to lock it in and focus and get it finished."
"A couple of people have said it's fruity," says Mara TK, "I don't think it's fruity!"
"It's pretty eclectic!" counters Tayy.
"It's more like three distinguishable styles," insists Mara TK, "Myele's producing more on this album and I think all three of us have been listening to quite different things for the last little while, so that has certainly seeped into the sound."
"I guess that's just the period we're in artistically at the moment," admits Taay, "Creating all this new material and trying to find consistency, and at the same time filtering through it as we've done in the past. I mean, you don't have any guidelines to follow! It's kind of instinctual and at the same time it comes out in our discussions: 'Is this us?', but even asking that question's a bit abstract because we feel that we're evolving. Though we've got some strong ideas, we haven't moulded it to the point where we're like, 'OK, cool, this is us'. Yet!"
FIVE SXSW SHOWS IN THREE DAYS (IN THEIR OWN WORDS)
I had the pleasure of conducting the interview above just prior to their final New Zealand shows before hitting the road for WOMADelaide and their shows in the States. At the time, these were their thoughts on the impending SXSW shows:
"We keep hearing that SXSW is a kind of, for lack of a better word," pauses Manzanza, "Clusterfuck of music industry, type of thing, so it should be pretty full-on. We're not necessarily expecting the most polished kind of environment or circumstances. We're going in with a sort of infantry, soldier-on-the-ground thing..."
"You should see TK," deadpans Taay, "He's got the meanest commando roll down."
"Yeah man," grins Mara TK, "Sometimes you just gotta get out!"
Really rather fortunately for us, Taay Ninh kindly took the time after playing at SXSW to jot down a few thoughts about each of the five shows the band played in the three days they were in Austin for the festival. here are those thoughts:
"SXSW is crazy, there's no doubt about that," states Taay, "It really feels like the centre of the musical inverse for the period that it engulfs Austin. And Austin seems to be wholeheartedly wwelcome being engulfed!"
Show #1: Swan Dive
First cab off the rank is the Yours Tru.ly showcase (our fam from San Fran). The venue has history and much character. Dusting a bit of rust off we get into the swing of things after the first tune. We've been warned of potentially small crowds, but this venue's packed and the reception is warm. Receive high compliments from th ex-drummer of Babes In Toyland and talk a tour of Canada. Agent for Robert Plant is here. Also see B-Bravo and The Starship Connection live for the first time and meet Coultrain (Hawthorne Headhunters, PPP) which is dope.
Show #2: Malverde
Our friends Mint Collective and Grown Kids Radio (Bay Area). Amazing setting in a beautifully designed space. I'm distracted by the view off the balcony and the hand-made t-shirts we're given. There's a good vibe here and the line-up is tight. One of the keyboards bugs out and stops working (long story) so we try to perform the hell out of our show after Alice Russell smashes it with San Fran's legendary The Park backing her. Pack down real quick after a photo-shoot to head to the other side of town.
Show #3: Gypsy Lounge
The Couch Sessions. Now we're out in a tent on the other side of town. Some big names on the bill with us. Manage to scramble the loan of another keyboard. On stage sound i stesting butw e put on a good show and convert some new fans. The Couch Sessions crew are great - true aficionados. Hang out with The Step Kids after and talk donuts and a get together in New York.
Show #4: New Zealand Showcase
Easiest set-up by far and a contrast to the previous shows. Great stage crew. Feels like home. King Kapisi slays it and so does Cairo Knife Fight and Avalanche City after us. We put on a tight show and while the crowd is more industry it feels good as we walk off the stage without any major mishap. Spy Valley wines - always a treat and the location draws some people off the street. Shout out to Gary and the NZ Music Commission.
Show #5: The Driskill
With under an hour before the next showcase we have to haulgear five blocks or so to the plush setting of The Driskill hotel for the Style X showcase. Things run real tight - too tight as Hayley (our manager) is caught in traffic with a keyboard and the stands. We commandeer two other stands and make do with one keyboard and make-shift set-up. Maybe it's the last show. Maybe it's resigning yourself to the fact it's not going to be perfect and that's just the nature of SXSW. Maybe it's the body seeing the finish line and some potential rest? We give it our all and let go of all the rigmarole that's surrounded getting here and being here. We play the hardest we've played and it's acknowledged by the whole audience, which is rewarding. Meet some great people afterwards and there's talk of more things to come, including yet another Miller Light (much to everyone's delight).
The original version of this interview appeared in VOLUME magazine Issue #28