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July 17, 2017 | by  | in Music |
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Fazerdaze

I was working the camera at a livestream for 95bFM up in Auckland when I first saw Fazerdaze play. It was in the middle of a 20 Bands in Two Hours event for the NZ music show, a little over halfway in. Amelia Murray played a semi acoustic version of “Shoulders” (having only named it that day) using a drum machine app on her phone and accompanied by bandmate Mark Perkins. I’m not going to pretend I immediately knew that the Fazerdaze project would take off like it has in the last couple of months, but Amelia’s performance and obviously remarkable skill definitely lifted the mood of an otherwise slow two hours of stripped back indie rock.

I met up with Amelia during the break, just after she returned from a month long tour of the UK and Europe. It’s the biggest tour she’s been on with the band so far. “I get really anxious before I leave because it’s really hard to imagine doing it and being overseas and playing shows until you’re actually there,” Amelia said. “So I was pretty stressed out before leaving, but once I was there I got really into it and adjusted to tour life — sleeping in a different bed every night, late nights, lots of travelling. I got into the swing of things. And it’s kind of nice touring because when I’m at home in Auckland I feel like I need to be working on music all the time, but on tour I can just listen to albums — I listened to way more music on the road — and read way more. In some ways it’s almost more relaxing.”

It took Amelia a little while to get her music off the ground after moving from Wellington to Auckland to study music. Moving cities is a pretty familiar experience, and Amelia went through some typically challenging times. “I moved to Auckland five and a half years ago. Wellington starts to feel small after a while, and I needed a change of scene and a fresh start. Studying music was just something to focus on so I wasn’t just floating about when I got there. Moving cities, it can take a long time to get established and meet your kind of people. It’s been a slow settling-in process in Auckland. And Auckland’s kinda hard I reckon; it’s a tough city if you haven’t grown up there and you don’t have childhood friends there. I was trying to be in bands for the first two years, maybe two and a half years, and then I realised, this isn’t working. Everything just fell apart. I’d go to a few practices and then a band would fall apart. So then I thought ‘screw this, I’m going solo.’”

The Fazerdaze project began with the first EP in October 2014, which was released on handmade CDs and cassette tapes. When I mentioned to Amelia I had bought one of the original tapes, she was typically humble and genuinely stoked. “I don’t even have one of those!” she said. I asked if there was a point with the early tracks when she realised what kind of music she was trying to make. “I think the very first song I wrote for the project was ‘Tired Of Waiting’ on my EP. I remember liking really fuzzy wall-of-sound guitars and then really dreamy vocals. When I wrote that it was a good production exercise. It wasn’t so much about the song itself, it’s more like me making something I really wanted to hear. I wanted to hear female vocals and heavy guitar but still have it feel light in a kind of emotional way.”

“The EP I recorded on this USB microphone, and then when I went to record my album it was breaking. The first track I recorded was ‘Lucky Girl’ and the mic was on its last legs. It was breaking but I was like, I’ve gotta get this take, so I just recorded the whole demo. Then it came to doing the final recording and I was replacing everything, but I thought it was cool how distorted it sounded, so I took the demo vocals and put them in the final recording. The chorus is really distorted and it’s basically just the microphone clipping. I copy and pasted the length of the distortion into the chorus, so that’s why there’s that white noise sound.”

Right now the video for “Lucky Girl” has nearly two million views on YouTube. Amelia edited the video herself. “I did that because the first edit of that video came through and I hated it. Someone else edited it, and it’s quite hard to be in front of the camera and let someone else depict who you are. I said ‘I’m not going to release the music video unless I get to edit it.’ I’d never edited a video before but I managed to get the footage and I did my own cut. I’ve actually found I quite like editing.”

Fazerdaze’s debut full length Morningside came out in early May this year. I asked Amelia what her vision and influences were in terms of progressing from EP and single releases to the full album. “At the time I was pretty much just obsessed with Frankie Cosmos’ album Zentropy. I remember when I was first listening to it, nobody in Auckland knew who Frankie Cosmos was. I was obsessed with it and showed it to Mark and everyone I knew. I like that there’s a collection of songs. It’s very much a song-by-song album. Now I’m very interested in albums like Connan Mockasin’s where he references an idea later on in the album and stuff like that. I think I subconsciously based Morningside off that kind of album type, so every song holds on its own.”

There’s been a lot of buzz online over Morningside. It has sat at the top of the Auckland and New Zealand Bandcamp best selling charts pretty much since it came out. Various interviews with high profile international blogs and publications have been popping up in print and across YouTube too. “I did a week of promo, no shows, the label flies you over, it’s so weird, but you do interviews from 9.00am to 5.00pm like a job.” Amelia explained, “It was nine days — Berlin, Paris, and Munich. In Germany there was this magazine, Mac Demarco was on the cover, and then I opened it and there was this two page spread of me. It was like, what am I doing in this same magazine!”

I asked Amelia how she feels about the influence the music media has on her image both musically and as a person, with writers gravitating towards phrases like “dreamy,” “indie darling,” and stuff like that. “I find it really weird,” she said, “but I’m also learning to get better at not caring about things that are beyond my control. If I worry about that stuff I’d have no time for music and I’m just trying to save my energy for making music. Everytime I see an awful press photo or someone calling Fazerdaze a band project rather than a solo project I just let it go. I can’t do anything about it.”

Amelia opened for Frankie Cosmos and Connan Mockasin when they played shows in Auckland. I asked her what it’s like to reach a point where the musicians she admires start to become more like musical peers. “It’s amazing, it’s so exciting when your idols get in touch with you or when you become friends with them. When we played the show in London, all of The Veils showed up. I grew up listening to you guys, what are you all doing at my show!? When Connan’s in the country we hang out. I went and visited him when he was staying out in Anawhata by Piha. I was editing my video and he was working on some art. We had a really nice day hanging out doing our thing.”

Fazerdaze will be playing two shows in New Zealand this September, before heading back to the UK for another two weeks in September/October. In terms of what she’s up to musically right now, Amelia said, “I’m working on some new stuff. One of my idols got in touch with me and was like ‘do you want to work together?’ I don’t wanna jinx it ’cause I don’t know if it’s going to happen or not, but when I go back to London I might stay an extra week and work with this artist. At the moment though I’m working on a cassette release album, like really rough and scrappy. I don’t want to release it digitally. I might just do fifty copies or something and sell them at shows. Songs I haven’t used and probably won’t go on the next album. I like the idea that there will only be a certain number of copies. It’s weird when you make an album and it goes into the hands of people who think they can review it, when really I’m not making it for them. I’m making it for the fans. I want to make an album that’s not for the press and not for my career but just for the people who like my music.”

Listening to Amelia’s songs, you get the feeling that she’s already established her own niche in the indie / alternative scene, like she’s been kicking around releasing music for a while. But it’s really only been a whirlwind couple of years for Fazerdaze. It’s an exciting time for her and her fans, and after talking to Amelia or attending one of her shows, it’s hard not to be swept up in her positivity and excitement about the music she’s making and the places it’s taking her.

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