By Poppy Tohill
Juggling life in between New Zealand and the UK, finding a new frontman, working on a new EP, judging theX Factor NZ, releasing a brand-spanking new music video for their latest single ‘Kiss From A Ghost,' and preparing for the Australasian ‘Kiss From A Ghost Tour' you could say it has been a busy few months for London based kiwi rockers I Am Giant.
With the New Zealand leg of their ‘Kiss From A Ghost Tour' kick starting in a couple of weeks, I recently sat down with drummer Shelton Woolright and bassist Paul Matthews for a chat about I Am Giant's latest and more recent musical adventures.
‘Kiss From A Ghost! your new single! Can you tell us a little bit about the track?
Shelton: The song is actually a track that we wrote around the era of The Horrifying Truth (the bands 2011 debut album), and we just didn't feel like it was quite fitting for that record so we held on to it for a bit.
Then we decided that we needed to release a new single, but I was a bit caught up down here with the X Factor so we thought we'd chuck this one [Kiss From A Ghost] out as it was more of a fitting track now. I'd actually already recorded the drums to the song in Sony Studios in Australia years before, so already having that there was so great because it meant we could just build the rest of the song around that. The rest of the boys were in the UK while I was still in NZ, so there was kind of this back and forth Skype thing that went on to get the track finished. The rest of it was recorded in Paul's studio in London and then we mixed and mastered it in Germany.
Lyrically it's pretty straight forward (laughs) It's about a girl. I won't say who, but it's definitely a real situation and person.
It doesn't seem as guitar and rock heavy as the likes of your first single ‘Russian Doll,' was this intentional at all?
Shelton: The song is what it is because we already had it written and there's not really any other way of making it heavier. Because we needed to release a song and the drums were already there and existing we just went with because we knew it was a strong song of single quality. We've had people saying to us, ‘when are you going to finish that song, because it's great and we want it,' so it made sense to us.
There are songs that we are working on at the moment that are a lot heavier, even heavier than ‘Russian Doll' though. The thing with I Am Giant is we've got quite a broad spectrum of genres, we can produce really heavy alternative tracks or we can do straight up guts rock format, but it still all stays within that I Am Giant kind of sound, which is really cool to be able to do. I guess we're lucky in that sense, because some bands are a bit more limited. Vocally we've got quite a good range too with Ryan and previously Ed, who are both such versatile singers.
We're definitely still a heavy, alternative rock band though and we're working on an EP at the moment so you'll head that come through for sure.
The ‘Kiss From A Ghost' music video is due out pretty soon (OUT NOW!) how did you come up with the concept and idea of asking your fans to send in photos of them kissing to be included in the video?
Shelton: I was watching TV in London one day and ‘Last Resort' by Papa Roach came on and there was all this footage of fans singing the song, which I thought, was a great idea. So I took it to the guys and we thought, yeah cool, lets do that! It was meant to be filmed but it was hard to get people to do that so we just went with the pictures instead. We used a few of them but to as many as we initially thought we'd use, because some of them were pretty bad quality shots. But it's cool and some people will be surprised to see themselves in the video (laughs), which I think for someone as a fan would be pretty cool.
Obviously ‘Kiss From A Ghost was written before Ryan was involved with the band, but was he at all involved in the creative process for ‘Russian Doll?'
Shelton: Yeah definitely. The writing process is actually quite interesting for us though as it's predominantly driven by myself and Paul. For sure Ryan came in and put his flavour on top of some existing ideas, but again it's a new relationship so we're all still getting there on how it works. Obviously it's hard for someone else to come in on the fold when Paul and I have this format which we've been using and working with together for over 7 years now, so it takes a special sort of person to be able to come in and kind of get involved in that.
Can you fill us in a little bit more on your songwriting process?
Shelton: Paul is predominantly the lyric guy, so he'll kind of use me as a sound board to run ideas past. He's just got a great way of poetry, but really likes to get my thoughts on things too and sometimes we'll talk about events or something that's happened in life and they'll be great starting points. Then he'll go away and kind of do his thing, which is fine with me because he's a stronger lyricist than I am and he always does a great job.
Melody wise, again Paul and I will work on them together. Once we get an idea down, Ryan will come in and throw some ideas around too, so we kind of bounce all around. Sometimes there might be an idea that is completely Paul's or part mine and part Ryan's but across everything, we just do whatever is best for the song. Everyone obviously has their own particular flavour because if you pull all of us away separately and got us to write a song individually it wouldn't sound like I Am Giant, so there's definitely an element of contributions from everyone, all the parts make up that one whole.
In terms of when Ryan first joined the group, what new aspects do you think he brought to the table?
Shelton: He'd come from a similar background to where Paul and I had come from, whereas Ed wasn't from that alternative rock background and had never heard of bands like Soundgarden and Deftones, which was cool and unique at first, but then you start running into problems a little bit and it got quite hard on Science & Survival. When I say hard, there was no falling out, or people angry at one another, it was just our different tastes and flavours became more apparent and Ed realised he wanted to be do something different. So when Ryan came in, he knew that this is what he wanted to be doing because that's where he came from and it very much made sense to him, so instantly it was great because we were all on a similar page. So I think you'll find the new songs will be quite classic alternative rock.
You've both quite fully involved in the band not only musically but visually and artistically also. Have you ever faced any major challenges trying to separate yourself between these different roles?
Paul - It just becomes another debate of opinions (laughs). Shelton and I obviously having started the band had to do whatever needed to be done the whole way. He was a photographer beforehand anyway so can always do a great job at that and I was a producer and engineer beforehand as well, which I've been doing for a long time, so us producing ourselves to a certain level has always been a part of the band from the start.
Both albums we've recorded we've always used Forrester Savell as quality control, to oversee the engineering. He worked on the drums and things like that which is a big work load, so just having another guy even better than myself doing it was great and we'd just ask him about the things we were debating because he could say, ‘I think this and I think that,' so it has been good to have the outside perspective despite doing the majority of the work ourselves.
You mentioned you've been working on a new EP at the moment, can you tell us a little bit about what we can expect from this, or when we might be able to hear it?
Paul: When it does come out it's going to be amazing! There'll be five songs on it and the most important thing is that we just want to get it right. We won't put anything out if it's crap. We want to be comfortable with it, so we're working on it (laughs).
Shelton- We're a band of guys that are really really hard working. Pedal to the medal and foot to the floor kind of stuff, but there's been a lot of things going on around the band and our personal lives as well lately, so we're just trying to slow down a little bit and like Paul said, get things right. We don't have a set release date, but it's hilarious because even if we try slow down we're still really proactive, it's just what we do.
So there's been ‘Russian Doll,' ‘Kiss From A Ghost' and there will probably be another one with that same gap in between, which is not really that long to wait anyway. The music industry is another reason we've got to take a step back and have a breather as well because it's constantly changing and we don't know what fucking direction it's going. It is really hard as a rock artist to exist at the moment, it's very interesting times so we've just got to get it right, but we're here for the long haul.
The Australasian Kiss From A Ghost Tour begins in a matter of weeks, what can we expect from those shows?
Paul - Yeah, so our mates from Aussie - Dead Letter Circus who are a great band are taking us out on the road over there for their sold out shows, then we're going to bring them over here which will be their first time ever touring in New Zealand. We've also got Brendan Thomas & The Vibes out on the NZ tour with us too and Shelton and I have actually just been producing their first single over the past couple of weeks.
Shelton - It'll just be a really heavy and in your face performance. We'll be playing the new stuff from ‘Russian Doll' to ‘Kiss From A Ghost,' but I don't know if we're quite ready to test any of the newer stuff on the forthcoming EP just yet, but I'll be all the hits!
Paul- Yeah, It'll just be the best of what we've done really. We'll put it all together into a great show and the whole line up with Brendan Thomas & The Vibes and Dead Letter Circus is going to be a big night. Dead Letter Circus are one of Australia's best alternative rock bands, it's amazing they haven't come here yet, so it's a privilege to have them here on our shows.
Obviously you've all been pretty busy lately so it's been a while since you've toured throughout New Zealand, although you did play at Homegrown earlier this year - which is about the 4th time you've featured on the festivals line up. What do you love most about that festival?
Paul- It stands alone as an iconic kiwi festival. There's no internationals propping it up and it's just purely on the strength of the local talent and all of our best artists. There's always a great turn out and it's just so cool to be a part of. Last year it sold out and we had a great time!
Do you prefer playing your own shows or festival sets more?
Paul- I don't think I could favour one or the other. I mean both are good for different reasons. At festivals you're playing to much bigger crowds, it's a big occasion and it's all very exciting. But then at your own shows your directly bringing in your own fans, which is great. They're smaller shows and you know these people have come to see you so the connections direct and it's I Am Giant in our simplest form.
Your shows are known to get pretty rowdy, what's the craziest thing that's ever happened on stage or tour before?
Paul- That's an easy one because we often talk about it. In Napier there is this funny stage, which has a section missing at the back. In the middle of the show I just stood in that area and fell off the stage. I had the amp racks and everything too so the whole PA turned off and everything shut down, (laughs). I tried to keep going, but once I realised all the power and sound got cut there was no going back. We had to pick I all up, turn it all on again and everyone was laughing.
Quick Fire with Paul:
Basketball or rugby? Basketball
Beer or whiskey? Beer
Hat or beanie? Hat
Dogs or cats? Dogs
New Zealand or London? NZ.
I Am Giant - Kiss From A Ghost Tour With Dead Letter Circus and Brendon Thomas & The Vibes
Thurs July 23: ReFuel, Dunedin
Fri July 24: The Bedford CPSA, Christchurch
Sat July 25: Bodega, Wellington
Thurs July 30: Mayfair, New Plymouth
Fri July 31: Altitude, Hamilton
Sat Aug 1: Powerstation, Auckland
Tickets available through the band's official website iamgiant.com