Stranger Days is out now! We caught up with guitarist Connor McErlich to chat about the album, their forthcoming tour and so much more!
Last week, Kiwi indie-rock four-piece Mako Road unveiled their long-awaited debut original record, Stranger Days. Navigating an overarching theme of the uncertain, the record sees band members Connor Jaine and Rhian Ward take up production duties, working with James Goldsmith and Chris Chetland on engineering and mastering respectively.
No strangers to the live arena, the festival favourites will be kicking off their album tour tonight at Auckland's Powerstation! Continuing on to Hamilton, Tauranga, Napier, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, the four-piece will make their way to our shores, COVID restrictions pending. Mako Road are set to take to the stage in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane next month.
Stranger Days is out now! Read our interview with Connor McErlich of Mako Road below!
Tell us a bit about your musical background and Mako Road’s origin story…
We all met at university and started out by playing covers to hammered students. Was a great introduction to music for us. Our origins are rooted heavily in the live and loose setting of small intimate gigs. We don’t have any formal musical training between us so we are just winding blindly through it all 😂
We’ve been waiting quite some time for your debut album and it’s finally here! How do you think that taking that time and not rushing into pumping out a record ultimately created the best space for Stranger Days to come to life?
Yeah, we definitely took our time haha. But that wasn’t intentional. We had been trying to put together for ages and we just weren’t able to come up with a cohesive piece of work. So after we managed to break out of lock down we booked studio time and a house on the edge of Lake Taupō to write. After about 10 days we had an album and recorded it the following two weeks. We didn’t really get that much time to reflect on the album as we whipped it out pretty quickly. But that helped us not to overthink it I reckon. Getting out of usual environment really helped us focus but also relax a little. It's important to always create a corresponding experience alongside the creative phase. Isolating ourselves in rural New Zealand was definitely an experience.
Conceptually, you touch on a number of themes throughout the record. How important was it for you to use this record as a vehicle to share these stories and bring attention to the themes present?
I guess the overarching theme is uncertainty. The album is a bit of a reflection on the past couple years. We’ve had a bit of success and then covid kind of put everything on hold. So the album touches on how one deals with and uncertainty and ultimately overcomes it by accepting that it's okay to be in a precarious state. We try to not read into much into the album though. We like the idea of everyone who listens to it reading in their own meaning and significance. We want to facilitate that interaction between the listener and our music rather than us prescribing the ‘true’ meaning to them.
Stranger Days sees you push the boundaries of your sonic sound, fusing together indie-rock and psych-surf threads with darker twists and turns. How did you arrive at the overall sound present on the record?
We feel like the psych thing is really fun to play and its something that comes a little more easy to us. We wanted to make this album something that was fun to play around with and create room for more experimentation in our live set.
The album was produced by band members Connor Jaine and Rhian Ward. What are the advantages of having that control over your own music?
Yeah, its a big step handing over your music to an external producer. There is a lot of trust involved and you're putting your identity and vision into someone else's hands. We felt that we’d all benefit from keeping it in house. Mainly because it was an experience we wanted to be all our own. Also because we are still figuring what kind of sound we want to make.
What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about producing your own music whilst making this record?
Definitely don’t over think it! But don’t under think it either. Confusing, I know.
How did the album evolve and change as you were creating it, and were there any tracks left on the cutting room floor that you think might have a life in the future?
The album was barely a skeleton when we made a start. A few ideas here and there. As well as some older jams we had that we were keen to incorporate. It got fleshed out pretty haphazardly but we were all on a buzz of making it a little heavier than our previous stuff. Yeah there was one that made it all the way to the studio, but when it got to doing vocals we were missing an important line that would have really made the song. So we decided to scrap it and might release at a later date. Its a shame too, it was my favourite!
Which three songs off the record would you pick to play to someone who had never heard your music, to make them an instant fan?
Hmmmm not sure which songs are widely appealing to all people so I’ll just choose my favorites. It’d be Stranger Days, Lost My Tongue and Go To Bed.
What’s one line from the album you find at times could be stuck in your head? Or a line that you come back to?
From Stranger Days:
A hidden path
Pay no heed to the dark"
You’re set to hit the road next month, taking to stages across New Zealand and Australia. What can audiences expect from this run of shows in particular?
Shit chat and obnoxiously loud jams.
The past sixteen months have taken its toll on the music industry, specifically the touring sector, but also in terms of making that in person connection with audience members and creating a shared feeling and experience. How important do you think live music is not only for yourselves as musicians showcasing your art, but also for the audience members who resonate with your music?
We started out as a live band. And we always write music keeping in mind how it will play in a live setting. So losing that through covid was particularly rough. We don’t really prescribe much to the online environment as a way to get our music out there. And we are hopeless on social medias. For us its either live or nothing cause its where all the fun is at. Its also the most genuine and direct way we can interact with our audience. I think everyone went a little nuts during the lock down so afterwards when we were able to do shows again the NZ live music scene really thrived. Its really started to chill out now though.
You’ve toured alongside Rudimental, L.A.B, Leisure, Shapeshifter and Ziggy Alberts. What was your biggest takeaway from these experiences on the road?
It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock and roll. Watching these guys perform just showed us how much work and time needs to be put into your skills and how much stage time you really need in order to dominate performances like they do.
We are all pretty diverse in our music! All got different tastes so its all just one big ol melting pot how guuud.
Rick Ruben - boss ass producer.
Album that has had the most impact on you?
Red Hot Chili Peppers - Stadium Arcadium. The album that made me wanna be a rock star.
How do you define your musical style in 3 words?
Unconventional. Uneducated. Unpredictable (even to us).
Best song of 2021 so far?
Industry Baby - Lil Nas X. Respect the pride and bravado.
Hannah Montana or Miley Cyrus?
Hannah Montana. She living life in the fast. And so am I.
Album you would listen to on repeat on a road trip?
UMO or Black Keys.
First concert you went to?
Red Hot Chili Peppers - was outrageous.
First album you ever bought?
A burned copy of Eminem’s Marshall Mathers EP.
Would you rather be a Spice Girl or a Backstreet Boy?
Spice girl - they glam af.
If you were a Spice Girl, what would your spice nickname be?
Most memorable show you’ve ever performed?
A show in Nelson where the bar staff were super loose. We way over packed the place had no sound tech or security. And there we these weird statues and creepy stuff all over the walls. We had heaps and played most outrageous set. Just loved the DIY, DGAF vibe of the whole experience.
Guilty music pleasure?
Dua Lipa - Levitating.
If you could support any artist on tour, who would it be?
The Ocean Alley boys would be a proper naughty tour party.
A song you would love to cover on tour?
Killing In The Name Of. Used to play it when we were a covers band and it would get very out of hand.
An artist you think has had the most influence on the music industry.
I feel like with the internet and streaming, the music industry is way less dominable than it used to be. People’s access to music isn’t controlled by labels and radio anymore, you can listen to whatever you want and have music fed to you based on your own tastes. It’s been democratised baby. And thats great for artists like us.
What advice would your current self, give your future self, for a year from now?
You do you x.
The moment you knew you wanted to be a musician?
When I’d pretend to be John Frusciante as I jammed out to Stadium Arcadium at the age of 10.