Auckland-based band Sherpa have just released their latest album Blues & Oranges and tonight they kick off a four-date tour of the country at Auckland’s Cassette Nine. Guitarist/vocalist Earl Ho spoke to Nick Raven about recording with Kody Nielson, writing difficulties and much more – read on below.
You recently recorded your new album ‘Blues & Oranges’ with Kody Nielson. How was that experience?
The actual recording process was a very productive, focused, and fun experience from beginning to end. It started off at Roundhead doing ‘Love Film’, as I had won some free recording time from the songwriter of the year competition at university. It was our first time recording there properly after our 95bFM session there.
Kody took careful consideration to get the sound right for all the instruments. Once we had the sound we just banged out the track and we may have tracked a couple of other songs in that session too.
The next day Kody set up his gear in our rehearsal space and once again when he got a good sound we just did track after track. We got into some what of a trance tracking all the tracks and time just slipped away and I think we were doing ridiculous hours. Starting very early and finishing very late. Kody and us were very comfortable getting lost in the work and searching for the perfect takes and sounds. We would experiment when the opportunities presented themselves. Our space has a great in-built echo chamber as our room is right next to a huge concrete space where they used to store whiskey. So it was fun experimenting with how certain sounds reacted in there.
We then headed out to one our member’s bach, an hours drive up north and did some extra overdubs and most of the vocal takes. We were right next to the beach, the weather was fantastic and it was here we were able to connect the dots and make sense of the themes of the album, both lyrically and musically, and try to make it stick together.
From then on we just left it to Kody to mix and here we are now with a completed album waiting for the vinyl to arrive.
How long did the recording proccess take and were there any difficulties to overcome?
I believe the recording process was all up about 5 days roughly, over two weekends.
Personally the difficulties were over the lyrics. I found myself re-writing verses again and again for certain songs, getting feedback from other people, and going full circle and coming back to what I written at the start. Once the tracking was done it was our voyage into trying to make these songs perfect, however, we realised perfection doesn’t really exist, at least at this stage of our lives when we have limited resources. The resources being time and money. If we had an endless supply of these two things the voyage to perfection would maybe be a bit easier. In saying that though, the limitations are also profoundly important. At the end of the day the creative process is one big mind fuck and we realised it’s alright to get your mind fucked, accept it and have fun with it.
Is there any sort of concept behind the album? Also tell me about the artwork.
I could write an explanation of each song but I think that would defeat the purpose of the songs existing. However, I can provide some clues for sure. For us the concepts do not form consciously. It seems to gestate over time using our lives and experiences as the raw materials. So hopefully you can live your life interesting enough so you can give your subconscious some good material.
In terms of the concept the album is called Blues & Oranges. So in a nutshell it’s duality. The light and dark of our lives in this moment in time. Duality seems to be a theme that comes to me again and again and the older I get, things get a little bit more complex, the lines seems to blur between good and bad and you get faced with decisions where there is no right answer. So that may be the general vibe of the album but I’m not too sure.
How does this album differ from your previous releases?
In terms of our first two EP’s, yeah we might of left that ball park a long time ago, however, we definitely did not set out to do anything too dissimilar from Lesser Flamingo. I mean it in a way that there are similar themes which could make our new release a sister album. Also in the way we are using the same utensils. We are using the same colours, but this time Kody Nielson has provided us with his own brand of stretched canvases, and we have become better at mixing the colours and our technique has become more refined. I’d say the new album is a lot more creamier and pastel than our debut for sure.
I’m sure there is a certain sound or image that each musician or artist has going on in their heads, which is kind of the like the holy grail to this person, so I don’t see the point of starting from scratch every time you go into write a new album. I feel like each release is a stepping stone. However, we completely agree with the sentiment of not making the exact same album twice.
Where do you see yourself/Sherpa in five years?
I’m hoping we continue to be good friends making cool shit together, travelling the world, and sharing the cool shit to whoever is interested. Hopefully, if not rich in wealth then in health, experience, and love.
Who are you listening to at the moment?
My favourite song at the moment is ‘I Work For A Living’ by Fonzi Thornton, produced by Nile Rodgers.
And here are some albums I’ve been listening to:
Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe, Yumi Zouma E.P, Kindness – World, You Need A Change Of Mind, John Wizards, Self Titlted, J Dilla – Doughnuts.
Which one song is the quintessential Sherpa track and why?
Probably ‘Love Film’ at this point cause it’s a tasty pop song that’s we’ve fucked up just the right amount.
What is music to you?
I guess it’s a combination of vibrations, that people can combine in whatever which way they want and throw around at each other with electricity but most probably just this.