Since the band’s debut in 2008, Auckland-based band Clap Clap Riot have dominated New Zealand’s indie-rock scene – now, they’re back for more in 2021.

The band is currently prepping for the release of their latest album and is set to tour the country this March – the first tour for the band since 2019.

I got to sit down with the band’s guitarist Dave Rowlands to chat about the group’s latest record, the recording process, and the upcoming tour.

As we chat through Zoom early on a Monday morning, it’s clear right off the bat that Rowlands is stoked to be back releasing new music.

“I think that this (album) hasn’t been more laborious, but I think at the same time it has just taken so long to get through it all… It’s not following up something that was hot-going, so we could really take our time with it and get it right”, Rowlands tells me – and extra time they certainly have had. The group’s latest record has been in progress for over two years.

“It was maybe two years ago that we did the live-tracking for it in The Lab (a recording studio in Auckland). For every record we’ve done, it’s always been a live band tracking all the parts, and then you go in afterwards and finish off the bits from there.”

“…We had lots and lots of delays as soon as COVID kicked in, where there were 3 major sessions we booked that all coincidentally ran into COVID (lockdowns). Our producer Tom was super super busy – he works with a lot of people. So, when (we’d) lose a date, we’d have to wait another 2-3 months and then we’d get in”.

The band’s latest record was in collaboration with producer Tom Healy, who has worked with artists of the likes of Julia Jacklin, Miss June and Tiny Ruins. According to Rowlands, the latest album is only just finished recording, but he’s confident of the work the band put in and the dynamic between Healy and Clap Clap Riot.

“I think it was even better this time ‘round with Tom because he worked on “Dull Life” as well, and we just knew him much better”, he tells me. “We’re a lot more comfortable around him to say yes to this, no to that – but also the huge difference between the last (project) we worked on with him – which was more of a songwritery approach – and with this new one we really had a huge live focus on the band.”

“Tom had seen us play now maybe 3 or 4 times before we went into recording, so he just had a way better gauge of what the band was, what the band has always been and what the band always will be: live-focused. That’s our primary thing. When we go to record, it’s always trying to do that justice”.

When I asked if there were any tracks he was most looking forward to people hearing, Rowlands had a few to look out for. “There’s a really cool one called “In the Water”, which Ithink might be the first (single). After that, there is one that we’ve been playing live which is a real favourite, which is called “Got You on My Mind”. I’m super happy with how these tracks are sounding”.

The upcoming record – the title of which is yet to be revealed – will be the fourth studio album for the band, following along from their 2017 release “Dull Life”. So, how does this release compare to Clap Clap’s prior records?

“I think that this one has a lot of energy behind it, and I think it encapsulates kind of what is best about the band”, Rowlands tells me. “We’ve got some fast ones in there, we’ve got some sing-a-long ones in there, and we’ve got some poppy ones that push the edges. But it’s all got a good edginess, a good fuzziness. I think we’ve settled really comfortably on where our strengths are with this record”.

And despite the COVID setbacks, it appears to have worked in the band’s favour. Rowlands explains to me how the extra time allowed them to get the record just right:

“It’s nice to be put in this challenge of struggling to pick what to put out as a single because it shows the strength of what we’ve recorded. The initial feedback that we’ve had has been great… I think the ability to sit on it for a long time has meant that we’ve been able to go through and not have to rush anything, and know that we’ve got it right”.

Clap Clap Riot is set to tour the country this March*, playing shows at venues across Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin, and Christchurch. The tour will be the band’s first tour since 2019, and it’s clear that Rowlands is thrilled about being back on the road.

“We’ve never had a year where Clap Clap haven’t toured. In 2020 we didn’t tour and couldn’t tour, and had so many little projects that were supposed to happen that got canned last minute”, he tells me. “We’re just looking forward to getting on out again… We’ve got four (new tracks) in the set, four out of the seven. But yeah, we’re excited about playing all of them – the great thing has been re-rehearsing them and getting them going again”.

“I’m really, really proud of what we’ve done. I don’t think I’ve felt as proud about a previous recording that we’ve done so far.”

*This interview took place before Clap Clap Riot’s tour had to be postponed, due to the latest change in Covid alert levels. They have announced new dates for August. Tickets are available now.

Feisty, always up for a debate and smashing down the patriarchy, ZOE MILLS is a politics nerd with a huge passion for social justice. Keep up with her antics on Instagram: @zoeemills_

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