How To Escape Reality is a 4-piece alternative rock/emo band from New Zealand (but also China – kind of). Their debut EP dropped last year, and they’ve just followed that up with a Christmas single. We chat to the band about the new track, influences, experiences and what’s on the horizon.

Tell us about your latest single, Not Another Pop Punk Christmas?

Essentially, it’s the most pop-punk song we’ve ever written, and it’s for anyone who finds themselves missing friends or family around Christmas time. The idea originally came from our good friend Mason May, who is someone we grew up in China with. He was dabbling in songwriting and sent us some lyrics for a Christmas song, and we loved them.

I think it was probably because the concept of the song spoke to us; we’ve had to spend a few holidays away from friends and family since moving away from China. We ended up making a track to go with Mason’s lyrics and we all agreed it’d be cool to release it as How To Escape Reality. This was actually right before last Christmas but there wasn’t enough time to release it then so we decided to do it this year. The actual writing of the song happened quite naturally. Mason’s lyrics only needed a couple of minor adjustments and the music almost wrote itself. The only thing we were worried about was whether we could actually make it sound like a Christmas song, but I think we’ve done that.

How did your band form and what were your experiences musically before the band?

How To Escape Reality officially started in 2020 but the idea of it is a bit older than that, it just took a while to get things going. The band was started by Samuel Fistonich, who sings and plays guitar. He’s been writing songs since he was 15 and he always wanted to be in a band but struggled to find the right band members. In 2020, he decided to just get on with it on his own and How To Escape Reality’s debut EP came out in March 2020. Then the whole COVID thing hit New Zealand and life changed for a lot of us. Music got put on hold for us for a while but we’re back this year and have some new band members: Sam’s wife Micaela (drums) and brothers James (lead guitar) and Benjamin (bass guitar).

All of us in the band grew up listening to and playing a lot of music. We were in choirs and bands throughout our school years, and we’ve all got an inner drive to write our own music. This is evidenced by the fact that we’re all in other bands as well. Samuel & Micaela have a folk duo project, and James has his own indie rock band called George After James, while Ben has just started a post-punk/indie rock band this year called Mums In Their Forties (and they’re currently recording their first EP).

Where do you draw inspiration from and is there somewhere you like to get creative?

One of the main inspirations for our songs is just our experiences. Life is complex, so that can mean a lot of things, but that’s what it comes down to. Every song we’ve written comes from real emotion that we’ve felt and experience that we’ve had, and putting it into song is kind of a way that we process it. Sam’s the main songwriter in the band, and for him, it just makes sense to write songs about his thoughts and experiences. It would be harder to just bottle it all in; it feels like the music just needs to come out. Aside from that, we also find inspiration from other musicians and bands. It would be impossible to name every artist who has had an influence on our sound, but safe to say there are a lot of 2000s rock bands on that list.

For us, a good place to get creative is probably less about the actual location than who we’re with. Sam writes a lot of the original ideas for our songs, and he finds it easier to just be alone with his guitar. All of us have moved houses a lot in the last few years, so we’ve got used to having to adapt, so a lot of the songwriting usually happens in the office or bedroom of whatever house we’re living in at the time.

What was a highlight from working on this single? 

Honestly, one of the best parts of working on Not Another Pop Punk Christmas was getting to collaborate with a friend we haven’t seen in person for many years, as Mason is from the US and currently lives in Los Angeles. It’s always nice to reconnect with old friends but in the usual busyness of life it’s easy to forget to keep up contact with people overseas, so this song kind of made us reconnect properly which was awesome.

Who are you enjoying listening to right now / on your current playlist? 

This could also easily be a very long list, but some of the main ones recently would be Modest Mouse, Fake Eyes, and Jimmy Eat World.

Any dream collaborations?

So, this might be a bit of a nerdy answer, but rather than collaborate with our favourite musicians, we’ve got a couple of producers who we think it’d be amazing to work with. Currently, Sam does all the production/mixing side of things for the band, but it’d be awesome to work with a producer like Mike Sapone or Sam Pura, who have both worked on lots of albums that have had a big impact on our music and the way Sam has produced our tracks.

I know the world is still a little crazy right now but what do you hope is on the horizon for the next 12 months?

Well, it hasn’t been easy trying to plan with New Zealand in its current state, but we’re planning on playing some shows around the country next year. That’s gonna be fun. They’ll be our first shows ever, as the whole COVID situation kind of put a halt on plans for gigs this year. We’ve also been recording for our debut album, which should come out sometime next year.

Listen to Not Another Pop Punk Christmas