While most bands just worry about noise control getting called to their practice space, spare a thought for Tom Lark, whose routine practice space was demolished in the aftermath of the September 2010 earthquake.
Suddenly, with nowhere to practice and record with his usual band, Lark found himself retreating to his bedroom. Rather than be discouraged by the setback, he instead discovered inspiration in the newfound restrictions and was soon penning new songs in a fresh voice and style.
Armed with only this new set of songs, a defective laptop and whatever instruments he could lay his hands on, the Tom Lark EP was born. The resulting work marries ricocheting samples with folk guitar work, a plaintive voice and a deft sense of storytelling.
First single 'All Night Long' combines the woozy lilt of a Sparklehorse record with a sprinkle of The Shins and some Brit-pop melodicism. Later in the EP, track 'She Gone' starts with a folky 2/4 stomp that builds to a crescendo of interlocking electronic beats and ghostly counter-melodies, while the reverb soaked ballad 'Tea Sets' comes across like Beck with a killer hangover.
What began as a bedroom project is now reaching a wide and appreciative audience. Initially released online through BandCamp.com, Tom Lark EP quickly picked up strong airplay on Christchurch's RDU and has been featured on the website of well-known Australian magazine, Frankie. What's more, DIY webzine Dingus had this to say on Tom Lark EP:
“What seems to start like a punch from a younger brother, taunting, over-joyous and bold ends up taking a turn for the more serious by the latter half of the album. With good feelings and momentary satire, Tom Lark has crafted, in one light, a pure and honest record. In another light, he’s made an near absurd gesture at the entirety of our pitiful existence.”
Our own headless chook, Nick Vassar, caught up with Tom for a quick Q&A on the EP, post quake Chch and 2012...
1. Great work with the EP, did you work with anyone else or was it solely you?
Thanks, I recorded it by myself over a couple of months just in my bedroom, with the exception of "All night Long". My friend Mathias came over one night and played the little organ line in the chorus, my fingers just aren't as fast as his.
2. Is there a song you'd consider you're favourite on the EP?
I care for all of them like a Mother cares for all her children just the same. However if there was a sinking boat, life-jacket-situation... I think "She Gone" would be the floater.
3. The songs are great on record, how do they translate live? Are you playing with a band?
I am Indeed. My band is based in Auckland at the moment, not for any particular reason, it just worked out that way. The songs have been working really well live and I think that comes down to the musicianship of the dudes. I'm also kicking around the possibility of a more electronic based set up for smaller gigs.
4. You've received a lot of attention both here and abroad, any plans to tour in 2012?
Yeah, Big time! Working on a tour at the moment, hope to announce some NZ dates very soon. Also keen to get Tom Lark overseas, I've always been fascinated by big fat America and the kooky southern hicks, also robotic Japan.
5. So your practice space was demolished, where are you practicing these days?
Yeah, the old Sitting Room is and will continue to be sorely missed. God bless Mr Ben Edwards he's a musical father to us all, and I can't wait to see what he comes up with next. Unfortunately I still don't have a loud creative space yet, I've Just been getting by with my bedroom and the living room.
6. I understand you play in another great Christchurch band, can you tell us about them?
The Jasper Sweeney has, and will always have something really special vibes about it. There's something about the different angles we all approach things from, combined with our different influences and when we go to another city to play it feels like we own the whole town. Its like being in a non-drug-fueled Gang. Working with another songwriter, Mr Lukas Theilmann, has been hugely influential on my writing and general creativity. Having another frontman to run lyrics by or thoughts by and share the mic with has been invaluable.
7. What is/was your favourite venue to play at?
I miss the Dux-de-lux so much. Mr Ross Herrick has been another Chch musical father, he was a big supporter of my 16 year old pop band Sunburn, and Jasper Sweeney. I'm really looking forward to checking out the new Dux venue in Addington and once again sipping the godly nectar known as Ginger Tom.
8. If you could open for anyone who, would it be?
The Flaming Lips! I've never seen them live but its my dream to be on stage in one of those animal costumes and if I was supporting them, I think I might have courage to ask if I could get into the hippo suit.
9. What did you have for breakfast?
10. What are your thoughts on the current music scene in Christchurch?
It's been a heartbreaking year to see all the crap that's unfolded. Amongst the grief and adversity I'm pretty amazed at the level of perseverance. People have just sucked it up and carried on, I say good on all the business owners who have taken huge risks by building new venues and bars. From what I've seen, Christchurch folk seem to be intensely loyal and dedicated to just making it work. I actually think the Christchurch Music scene is about to give birth to something really cool, out of frustrating circumstances is often where the best music is written. I think Christchurch has and will always produce the countries best bands, and its really cool to be a part of it all.
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Listen to TOM LARK at tomlark.bandcamp.com