New Zealand native band Streets of Laredo is back with their sophomore album, Wild, and it is the indie-folk rock gift that keeps on giving. The new album explores “wider sonic landscapes” with fresh and creative songwriting, and whimsical production, courtesy of John Angello.
The band, who now reside in Brooklyn, kick off their tour with CRX this fall. We reached out to Dave Gibson, who formed the band with his younger brother Dan, to get a behind-the-scenes look at their new album and sound, and of course, find out their take on this crazy presidential election.
OTW: Your first single “99.9%” obviously has a little political under-tone to it. What’s the band’s stance on the current state of affairs?
SOL: Our stance on what’s going on is, “HOLY FUCKING SHIT!” It’s crazy. I cannot believe what is happening. I cannot believe Donald Trump is the Republican nominee. I can’t believe how full of shit Pence is. I watched his Vice Presidential debate the other day. I’m a little bit disappointed with the Democratic party too, with the way they treated Bernie. Obviously, like most musicians, it’s fairly stereotypical for me to say that I was quite inspired by him, but I’m still backing Hilary now. That’s all that we’ve got, and we can’t let Donald Trump win. We have to sit on our hands and watch. We can’t vote because we’re New Zealand citizens, but we live in your fine country, so please, don’t crap us up America!
OTW: Moving on from politics to the band…Who or what inspired the sound of Streets of Laredo in the formation days?
SOL: In the beginning, I think we were super super inspired by the ‘60s and ‘70s both. Artists like Bob Dylan and Paul Simon. Both out of his days of Simon and Garfunkel and then when he went solo. I really admire him as a fantastic songwriter. Guys like Cat Stevens and a lot of various country artists too.
I think it was learning about songwriting in its stripped down format and finding a way to make a song work with very little tricks, and not trying to overlay things. Basically, I believe that a song should be able to be played on the guitar with one voice and still work, and still make you feel something. So especially on the first album, I think we were really honing our songwriting craft through limiting our options.
OTW: I read that in your latest album, there was a bit of a shift in sound. Can you tell us how it’s evolved from the first album to this one?
SOL: Moving on from the first album, we felt confident that there was a natural progression to start exploring a wider sonic landscape. It just felt like a natural time for us, and a lot of us had been writing on our computers rather than writing on guitars. It was a new way to work on songs by ourselves, using programs like Logic, so you start playing around on the road, on the keyboard and all that kind of stuff. You’ve just got to push your songwriting in this one particular direction so both me, my little brother Dan, my wife Sarah, and Cameron, were all working individually on these little songs and quite often, without being worked up in Logic first. My dad probably had an influence on exploring those kind of wider sonic landscapes of the album.
OTW: Do you all write the lyrics?
SOL: Yeah, we all write lyrics. Normally depending on who started the song or had the idea for the song, that person would probably have written more or the majority of the lyrics, but throughout the record, everybody really got involved in lyric writing. We really worked those lyrics pretty hard after the initial inspiration, so that when those things turn up, then we’ll kind of go back in and tweak and tinker, kind of reverse engineer, and we’ll do that all together. We all trust each other. There’s four of us that write the songs and I think we’ve got a really good shorthand with each other, and yeah, I’m pretty proud of them.
OTW: Would you say that there is an overall theme or message to the album or is each song kind of different?
SOL: I prefer people to just take from it what they take from it because the songs are kind of a mysterious thing. For us to say, “This song is about that,” sometimes that can shatter the illusion because somebody in Kansas City right now might be going, “I love this song because it really speaks to me for this whole other reason,” and so I’d rather keep that a little bit vague.
OTW: Who is an artist on your Ones To Watch list?
SOL: There’s a New Zealand band called The Phoenix Foundation. They’ve actually made maybe five or six records, and they’re phenomenal. I had a big rant on my Facebook just the other day about why this band isn’t one of the biggest bands in the world. Why they are not is beyond me. I feel like they’re that good. They’re still really only known in New Zealand, and maybe a little bit in Europe as well. They’re current and they’ve got a really big back catalog but they’re making music even as we speak.
OTW: The album comes out October 21st. How are you guys going to celebrate the album release?
SOL: We’re going to be having a show in Brooklyn on the 21st at the Brooklyn Bazaar. We’re going to be playing with a friend of ours, a band called Wild Leaves. They’re a really great band, and another band you should check out, and a band called GunFight! so we’re going to be doing that. Then, we’re going to hit the road with CRX, which is Nick Valensi’s new band from The Strokes, for basically two months all around The States and Canada to support the album, so we’re really looking forward to that.
OTW: What’s your favorite part about touring? What are you most excited for?
SOL: I love touring for just the fact that it really make life simple. Life becomes really binary. There’s not all the normal complications of normal life. It’s just play the show, make sure you don’t get too drunk to play another show, get in the van, drive, repeat. I do like that kind of simplicity about it. I really enjoy that, and obviously it’s a really fantastic way to see America and Canada, and the times that we’ve gone to Europe. It’s really cool to get to travel around the country and also play music and meet so many fantastic people.
OTW: Have you noticed any major differences between different parts of the world as you’ve traveled in the past?
SOL: There are differences. I feel like when we play in France, the crowd comes across like they really hate you. They kind of don’t move or respond in any way at all, but then after the show they’ll be like, “Oh, that was fantastic; I loved that show.” They actually really enjoyed it, but it doesn’t feel like they enjoyed it. New Zealand seems to be a bit like that too. It tends to be a little bit ‘don’t wear their heart on their sleeve’ so much. But most of our experience has been touring in America. Pretty much our whole career has been here, and we love it here.
OTW: What else is in the works for you guys? What’s your definition of the ultimate success?
SOL: I don’t really have any kind of a big ultimate goal. My ultimate goal was just to try to find a way to enjoy it as I’m doing it, which is harder than it sounds to be honest. Sometimes you can be a little bit focused on whatever the end goal is. That end goal is always shifting unfortunately, and it’s normally moving forward, it’s normally just out of reach and I think if you focus too much on that, you just end up being miserable for the whole trip. We’ve always said we want to focus on the journey and just try to enjoy it as its happening. We don’t always do that but we try to do that. That’s my ultimate goal - just to enjoy the ride.