The gossamer baying of Kane Strang is spectral, buoyant, and commanding. Perforating a reverie of fog and self-referential exploration, the New Zealand artist’s debut album, Blue Cheese, is one of the best records of the young year. Recorded entirely while house sitting for his parents, the LP is both confessional and unpretentious – pockets of ghostly refrain and culturally observational lyrics lend an immediacy to Strang’s sound. We interviewed Kane about lyricism, vinyl, and the therapeutic nature of having your dog around (he’s not wrong).
Rob Patrick: “The Web” has unpretentious, sad, and culturally significant content. The last time I had even seen this topic broached, realistically, was in Moonface’s “Fast Peter”, way back in 2011. What brought about writing this song?
Kane Strang: When I was recording Blue Cheese I was always talking with my friend in China. We actually met in my hometown, not on the internet like in the the song, but I suddenly found it way easier to imagine how hard and strange that would be. I don’t know when I decided to exaggerate my situation and make ‘The Web’… It was probably one day when I was particularly sick of only being able to see this person through a screen.
Your album was released on vinyl just recently. What is your take on the reemergence of that medium, and how has it affected musicians?
I like walking around and listening to music so vinyl has never been my favourite medium. Not everyone can afford records too, so I’m really glad there’s a million other options now. What I like about vinyl is that the cover becomes more like an artwork, and seeing the photo that my girlfriend took blown up like that for the first time was pretty special.
Pitchfork recently reviewed Blue Cheese. As an artist, is there an anticipatory reluctance or excitement in reading something about your work on that particular website?
When I was making Blue Cheese I didn’t even think it was going to be released on a label, let alone reviewed by websites like Pitchfork. I’d be lying if I said it didn’t put me on edge a little bit – one person’s opinion can seriously influence a lot of others’ – but I’m also proud of myself for getting to that point with something that I made in my room. I think a lot of people set out trying to get validation from those sites and that’s definitely not the way to go. If it happens then that’s cool, but making music that makes you happy is way more important.
You recorded an earlier demo collection, called A Pebble and a Paper Crane, in a WWII bomb shelter in Germany. How did that come about?
I was in Germany for about 9 months in 2013 because I had a friend there and no idea what to do in Dunedin. Even though I took a guitar I never really thought I’d record anything, it just kind of started to happen one day. It was hard at first because I was moving around a lot, but we eventually settled in a town where some mutual friends practiced with their band in a bomb shelter. I went there for a few nights by myself, which was actually really scary, and finished the demo.
This time around, you recorded your latest record while housesitting for your parents. You spent quite a bit of time alone in the process. What went through your mind while composing the album, and what song was the most difficult for you to write?
I know that sounds depressing but I was actually really happy a lot of the time. Having my own space was nice and my dog was there. I was mainly trying to focus on the future a bit more, rather than attempt to process a pretty chaotic year that I had had. I can’t think of a song from the album that was particularly hard to write because at that point I was dying to release some music and sick of trying to force things. I was only letting things develop that came to me easily.
On Facebook, you said that you’ve learned a lot since Blue Cheese, and that you cant wait to start “working properly” on something new. Can you expound on that a little?
I didn’t mean that I hadn’t worked properly on Blue Cheese, just that I’ve finished writing + demoing my next album and am ready to start putting every spare moment I have into that. I have some new gear and have been picking up tips from friends so hopefully it will sound a lot better.
In your mind, how important, modernly, is social media to musicians?
Even though I’m pretty bad at social media I think it’s incredibly important. It gives people who would normally be shut down a voice and allows musicians to speak for themselves, rather than have their words filtered by their label or whatever.
To me, your lyrics are artfully contemporary, emotionally erudite, and uncompromising in their presentation. What is important to you when writing the words to a good song?
Wow thanks! I guess just being honest is a good place to start. I also like when lyrics contradict the tone of the song. There’s something really moving about sad words over happy chords (or vice versa).
Finally, what’s something inconsequential that you can tell us about yourself that your band mates don’t know about you?
I have flat feet? My bass player Rassani should know everything about me since we lived in the same room for 5 months.