11 Questions for 2011
1. Tell us a little bit about the band and how and why you got together. - your name suggests you may a bit prickly, but maybe it just evokes a grouping of 'sharp and exotic' musicians.
I like the sharp and exotic vibe you get from our name! But I think it was a simple marriage of Family for a close group and Cactus for a bit of a country music vibe. It's funny because we now incorporate so many other things to our music, Country is one of the last things people relate us too now.
2. You come from diverse backgrounds, who plays what - because I know that you play many instruments in other bands you are involved with [Matthew also plays in Ginger Brown and in Good Laika]
I play bass at the moment, but for the first album when I was not a permanent member I played some extra lead guitars. On this new album I play Bass, some guitars, and little bits of percussion, drums, vibrophone... some other stuff I've forgotten.
3. If Family Cactus was a 50cent mixed bag of musicians - what lolly would each member be - and why?
Jersey caramel - Sam - Keyboards (Sam is jersey caramel because of the sweetness and hair colour, and the others have some logic!)
Airplane - Adam - guitar vocal
Milkbottle - Reece - Drums
Jellybean - Me, I guess - bass
Snake - Graham - Guitar - snake legs
Eskimo (or, lolly that in no way resembles a person born in Alaska of indigenous heritage) - Nina - vocals
Sherbet fizz - Max - guitar
4. I was listening to Arcade Fire the other day, and thought FC seemed similar. You reckon? Can you define your sound?
Our sound is best defined by listening! But yeah, comparisons to Arcade Fire seem fair, they're also a huge band. We love Bruce Springsteen, Fleetwood Mac... Some new bands like The Dirty Projectors, The National and The Walkmen have inspired us too. We also look up to The Phoenix Foundation and pretty much anything that goes in our ears comes out somehow. We have 7 members and so create a huge epic sound. Guitars and keyboards spliced together with thumping drums and warm bass.
'Liverpudlian Americana' was something a guy came with at a Brooklyn Bar we played at last year about us. Something recognisable about a band from a different english speaking country playing american influenced music.
5. Family Cactus last year toured the States, playing not only at CMJ [College Music Journal's annual gathering where thousands of bands from around the world play] where you got named by NPR as one of the highlights, but you also played around various states - what was that like? Any incidents on the road?
CMJ was awesome for Family Cactus, we played at the Living Room which is a great venue. The sound guy was really great and our new favourite guy until he bummed a beer onto one of our laptops! Still waiting for insurance money on this one.
6. Matthew Armitage, who are your personal musical idols?At the moment I'm loving Prince, a band from Brooklyn called Twin Shadow, a guy who created a Christmas album a couple of years ago using the talk box as lead instrument called Moot Booxle, another talk box guy from the 60's called Pete Drake - he uses the talkbox on his pedal steel guitar.
7. Which bands are you hoping to catch at BDO?
Grinderman and Iggy and the Stooges come to mind first
8. Which other gigs do you want to see this year?
I'd love to go to Womad, that is one of the most amazing music festivals and festival venues in the world I reckon (sorry BDO) [Ed note: to be fair, BDO is a one day festival of sound, and WOMAD a three day festival, both should be part of any music fan's diary of 'must-buy-tickets!']]
9. A new album is forthcoming; when can we look forward to hearing some of the tracks?
Late March-April it looks like being released, and to be honest I'm not sure which label is releasing it, we're in talks at the moment.
Can you tell us about it? What's the overall feel of the album? Where was it recorded?
The new album, which is tentatively called Spirit Lights was recorded and mixed last year at The Surgery with Lee Prebble. We did some additional work up at RoundHead studios in Auckland too which was pretty amazing. The overall feel is a little more epic than our last album. Think - Huge. We've really enjoyed adding a little more of the ambient background sounds, and pushed our arrangements really far too. Reports from the people that have heard it are very encouraging.
10. Summer is the time when Kiwis often congregate around a campfire, bring out the guitars and strum, is there a FC song that you would sing at a campfire? And any other one song from any other artist?
I've been singing Love In Vain by Robert Johnson quite a lot lately (bit of a late night star gazing ballad)... and an acoustic FC song called A Running Mystery of our first album would be sweet around the campfire
11. The best track to start off a summer road trip is: Controversy by Prince
The dodgiest track on your ipod is: Controversy by PrinceThe best track to get you in the mood for BDO is: Controversy by Prince
Catch Matthew and Family Cactus at BDO, and visit their great website to meet other members of the cacti Family: www.familycactus.com