A lot has happened since the release of NZCA Lines’ self-titled album in 2012. Front man Michael Lovett has gained two band members, then lost one of them, toured with Metronomy, released a new album and has been reading. A lot. In fact, Lovett has even conceptualised his own apocalyptic science fiction world, around which the Infinite Summer album revolves. In his own words, the album is “a lot of very different Hypholian connections that end up being a pop record”.

This summer, NZCA Lines will be playing at numerous festivals across the UK and France, including Guy Garvey’s Meltdown Festival, for which they have released a new single, ‘Oh.. (Call Me Back)’, a song “made from samples of sounds from the South Bank”.

I spoke to main man Michael Lovett to find out more about Infinite Summer’s concept, influences and live performance.

What is the main concept behind the Infinite Summer album?

The album is based round earth in the far future when the earth is about to expand and engulf everything. Half the planet is covered in a massive city that is gradually deteriorating, called Cairo-Athens, which is the joining of the two places, Cairo and Athens. The other half is a new territory where the atmosphere is terrible and the people are trying to regenerate it. In the Cairo-Athens side of the Earth, everyone is partying themselves to oblivion and ignoring the impending apocalypse, while on the other side everyone is creatively trying to make something new.

In the original idea for the album, there was a central protagonist who makes a journey from the city side over to the desert and finds his people after being originally disillusioned with the frivolous attitude of the people in the city. He is attracted to the fact that the people in the desert really want to make something new. It is a typical hero story, influenced by the structures referred to in ‘A Hero With a Thousand Faces’. It was also influenced by Daft Punk’s film Interstellar 5555.

What were the non-musical influences behind this album?

Well, it’s a sci-fi concept record, so there’s been a few books. I basically made a reading list with hard sci-fi that I haven’t read and wanted to get into because I was always interested in it. I wanted to make this record quite a focused and critical album. My first album was a concept album, but that was slightly accidental. I didn’t plan for it to be the album it was, whereas for this one I wanted to plan it from the beginning.

I read books by loads of authors, including Arthur C Clark, Brian Aldiss, JG Ballard, Clifford Simak and Philip K Dick. Once you get onto the sci-fi classics, you find a real range of fiction going from beautifully written classics to ones that are basically geeky fantasies.

What bands did you listen to when you were young that have informed your music taste now?

I was really into Weezer and the Beach Boys, but I was quite into alternative folky rock stuff. In the 90s I was really into the Smashing Pumpkins because they did really ambitious conceptual records. I listened to Sonic Youth and also people like Boards of Canada, verging into electronic music later on, but it came from guitar based music.

Is that why you chose to learn the guitar?

Yes. Initially I didn’t really know what I was doing. I was simply listening to The Beatles and learning traditional folk songs because that’s what my teacher was teaching me. When I was about 12 years old I was starting to play my own stuff, realising that when you’re playing a chord you can add in different notes and you play a completely different track. I remember really annoying my girlfriend when I was about 15 or 16 because she is a really good guitar player and I was just playing what I thought sounded the best, which to someone who is a very accurate musician must be quite irritating.

How do you translate your music into a live performance?

Going back to my first record, I had to use a lot of backing tracks and vocals, but I used a lot of visuals which were almost like a portable light show. It was very synced. The idea was to create an experience and a performance.

For this record I have a completely different band. I work with Sarah Jones, who is the drummer and sings a lot on the records, and Charlotte Hatherley, who isn’t really playing with me any more, but was touring with us around March and April this year. I wanted to play this album totally live and do a completely different type of performance. It’s possible to play everything live on synths if the levels are right and someone has worked everything out for you, but when you’re not doing it with that info structure it’s very hard.

So at first we played everything completely live, but after the album was released I started bringing in samples and some sounds coming from a computer to fill the sound out a bit. But all the vocals were live. All of Sarah’s drums are live. Now Charlotte isn’t playing with us I’m looping some stuff and building things up. Before this album is finished, I’m going to have visuals that are representative of the concept of the album.

NZCA Lines play at Bluedot Festival, which takes place from 22-24 July, 2016.
nzca-lines.com

Image by Tom J Newell.

Emma Nay