We get to have a sit down with the remarkably talented NZCA Lines.
NZCA Lines was initially the solo project of Michael Lovett, who has been making waves since he first came on the scene back in 2012 with a debut album and his addictive, synth-heavy electro-pop sound. Michael’s intelligent production and ethereal vocals are matched only by his well-attuned aesthetic sensibilities, not just in excellent and thought-provoking videos like “New Atmosphere”, but also in his austere and minimal album artwork and visuals. Now he’s back with a new album out soon, Infinite Summer: this time, though, he’s expanded beyond solo work and enlisted the help of Charlotte Hatherley and Sarah Jones.
With NZCA’s track “Two Hearts” still echoing around our heads, we were understandably excited to sit down with Michael and chat about making films, the joys of synthesizers, and being a chronic Francophile.
It’s been a few years since your last album, can you tell us some of the things you’ve been up to since then?
Since I released and toured my debut album I’ve finished an Illustration degree, directed a music video for my song ‘New Atmosphere’, toured the world playing keyboards and guitar with Metronomy, helped record a triple-platinum selling album by Christine & The Queens, and written and recorded this new album.
How do you feel your sounds has progressed since your debut?
My debut record was made almost entirely with analog synthesizers. This was cool because it was quite new to me, I’d never used those instruments in depth like that before, and Charlie (Alex March, producer) had some great machines. In a similar way, going back and integrating live instruments into the second record was an attempt to keep things interesting, and not to repeat myself. This album was supposed to sound more expansive (and expensive), so I went and recorded some live drums and brass. I also got back into electric guitar for this record, an instrument i’d barely played for years. Ok, it’s not like I started playing the musical saw or anything, but i’ve never written a harmonised guitar solo before so that was fun. In general we have given the album a more aggressive sound, so i’ll be interest to see people’s response to that.
Who are some of your favourite musicians?
I love the French. It’s an illness. For this record I was channelling my love of Phoenix, Sebastien Tellier, Daft Punk .. I really got into Serge Gainsbourg’s ‘Histoire de Melody Nelson’ at one point, which is a dirty, hilarious and brilliant concept album. In a more global sense, I’ve recently loved the latest D’Angelo and Kendrick Lamar records, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra’s ‘Multi-Love’.
Outside of music, what else inspires you?
I try and read a lot and watch good movies, though this doesn’t always work out. This record was, perhaps unsurprisingly, inspired by an extended period of immersion reading science fiction. I realised that there was actually a huge wealth of stuff out there I hadn’t read, so I spent a summer catching up on books by people like Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Stanislaw Lem.. In all honesty, the genre is at its best when it deals with human emotions, otherwise things get a bit techy. There’s a few sci-fi books I really love, Solaris being one of them, and also Roadside Picnic which became the film Stalker. The last film I watched was A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, which is beautiful and has a great soundtrack.
Can you tell us little bit about how you moved from working solo to collaborating with Charlotte Hatherley and Sarah Jones?
For this record, we wanted to expand the sound beyond me just multi-tracking myself playing and singing. It started really with asking Sarah to play some drums on a song as an experiment, as it was something i’d been thinking about. Then I wanted some different vocals on a track so asked Sarah to sing a bit, and it turns out she has an amazing voice too. She ended up singing on over half the record! So, things happened quite naturally. Meanwhile I’d been helping Charlotte with her own music, and when it came to playing live again, I thought i’d take a punt and ask them. They’re both incredible musicians, I’m lucky to have them on board.
Your name is unusual: is there a story behind that?
There was a track from my first album called Nazca, which, in part, is about flying over the Nazca Lines in an airship. Well, more specifically, it’s about an airship pilot who falls in love with his vessel and wants to fly to all these dream locations with his beloved, this being one of them. The Nazca Lines are a series of ‘geoglyphs’ in Peru, giant drawings in the dirt made by the indigenous people about 1500 years ago – recently they were in the news because Greenpeace managed to damage one. When I needed to decide on a name, Nazca Lines seemed appropriate. Then I managed to lose a consonant somewhere and i’ve never found it. I’ve looked for it everywhere. That’s why it’s called NZCA LINES.
When did you first realise you wanted to be a musician: is it something you’ve always been in to?
I’ve always been into it, but really my interest only took off properly when I realised you can create your own worlds through music. Sounds obvious, but it took me a while to grasp. I think releasing music is a paradox because, whilst the music is at the core of everything, there’s also so much more involved. If you manage to create a cohesive world through music, artwork, videos, image, then you’re set. But that’s hard to do. I went to art college to meet musicians, but ultimately i’d love to make films. It took me a long time to realise, but I think directing films would give me a huge amount of satisfaction.
After the album, what’s next for you guys
After all the world tours and awards ceremonies, you mean? Make another one. I really don’t want to leave much of a gap between this album and the next. But this is totally the kind of sentence I can imagine looking back on and laughing.. ‘so young, so naive’..
Your video for last year’s ‘New Atmosphere’ was great. How much input/creative control did you have over that project/will you do in future videos?
I decided that for this new record, everything had to be clearer. The sound, the melodies, the lyrics, the overall concept. I’d dabbled in an overall narrative for the first record but it wasn’t really planned out. I figured that for this one, I wanted to give the sense of a real narrative that was being carried through, rather than just having abstract stuff or ‘implying’ things. I wrote, directed, art-directed and produced the New Atmosphere video to be a kind of ‘film trailer’ for the album, on a shoestring budget. It was a huge amount of work and quite honestly probably distracted me from the music! But in other ways it also helped me figure out the album, and i’m still proud of it. I’ve decided I have to take a back seat for future videos though, it’s just too much work and stress when coupled with everything else. Maybe in the future if I can get a production company behind me, I could make it work. If Ridley Scott is reading this, you know where to find me. Hiding underneath your car.
Lastly, where do you see yourself in five years?
Suntanned, healthy, relaxed! I’d like to have reached a wider audience with NZCA LINES, I guess i’ll be getting the box set together by that point.. and, i’ll have my first feature film in production. Ok Ridley Scott, I guess you can be executive producer if you’re nice. Roll on 2020!