Dollars to Pounds: NZCA/LINES

September 14, 2011

The first time I heard Michael Lovett’s music I was shocked. Up until a year ago I knew the 24-year-old as the bassist for Your Twenties, the quite brilliant London (by way of Totnes) indie-pop troupe fronted by Lovett’s brother Gabriel Stebbing (one time bassist of Metronomy. He’s also responsible for the exclusive remix below). While Lovett is still working with Stebbing on a soon-to-be revealed new project, for the past 18 months he’s also been busy with art school while working with producer Charlie Alex March, somehow finding the time to compose a pretty much perfect (analogue) synth-pop record. (Guitars and bass are entirely absent from the equation).

Thus far he’s only released one single, "Compass Points" a heady mélange of neatly syncopated sighs, sumptuous synths, and surging falsetto harmonies. Check out Lovett’s unflinching gaze and the clean-line graphics below.

With influences that include Anton Bruckner’s motets, Ciara and The Neptunes, and authors Italo Calvino and H.P. Lovecraft, Lovett’s songs are populated with journeying characters, alternate dimension landscapes and obsessive couplings.

Download: NZCA/LINES, "Compass Points" (Always Gst Remix 2.0)

Each of the tracks on this album has a pretty specific narrative. It’s not very obvious because I didn’t want to make it some kind of cheesy sci-fi concept record, but the ideas came from reading a lot of Italo Calvino. Specifically Invisible Cities—it’s based on Marco Polo’s adventures. The description of each city is reduced to one distinct trait—such as, a city where the inhabitants live suspended above the ground where the city itself is supposed to be, or a city where people continually run wires and string between each house until these buildings collapse, leaving only the connections. It’s all very Italian and poetic, which got me going a few years ago but now I’m a bit more cynical.

And the track "New Magnetic North" is pretty central to the record. I came up with the phrase and the idea is that a different set of magnetic poles exist which, rather than being immovable and permanent, are periodically shifting. A map that describes places in relation to this new magnetic north would itself be as permanent as a regular map; yet as the poles move, place names on the map refer to different locations in the "real world." The city becomes defined by qualities rather than actual buildings. It's fantasy, but it's about looking at the real world in a different way. I was imagining groups of people using modified compasses to hunt through "our world" for traces of these notional cities. You might end up in a field, forest or housing estate, but it's about the sensation, not literal surroundings. You don't get this at all from listening to the songs I imagine! But I'd like to drive it home in interviews so at least people vaguely know what's going on.

What’s "Atoms and Axes" about? It’s about a guy trying to search for a girl he likes in a post-apocalyptic wasteland. He’s part of a small group of humans who have survived a nuclear apocalypse and he’s gone out to search for his lady friend. It’s got this kind of sexy element to it.”

It’s quite a sexy record. It’s exactly a sexy record. It’s supposed to be as sexy as possible, which considering the circumstances, isn’t very sexy. "Nazca" is the story of the guy who loves the airship and he wants to kill everyone else so he can be with the airship by himself. There’s no way you’d get this from the song, but “Moonlit Car Chase” it is supposed to be about a man and woman who make a pact that they’re going to be cryogenically frozen together and then stay young forever. But then the woman breaks the pact. The guy gets frozen and she doesn’t and she grows old. When she’s older he unfreezes and tries to hunt her down to kill her…maybe they have sex first.

But she’s really old. Oh no, that’s gross. He probably doesn’t kill her in the end. Maybe he’s just mad at her.

Because of your background in art, is it important for you to be fully involved in the live visuals and music videos? I really want it to be a holistic experience. I want people to be able to get into the ideas of the songs. Because that’s what I really love about bands. It’s all in the narrative, it’s all outside of reality. I want to have lots of visuals, a little like Cornelius maybe, really cool stuff—nice, simple ideas, well executed. I really want the video stuff to be spot on. Grimes is quite good for that. I do really love that El Guincho video "Bombay".

That’s my favourite video of the past year. It’s that perfect mix of surreal, and humourous and sexy. Everyone in it is really beautiful even if they’re smearing an egg on their face.

So it’s important for there to be notable thread throughout? Yeah, although not to the extent that I’ll be designing everything. Rather than being dusty and slightly nerdy and sci-fi-ish it’ll be post-apocalyptic with really hot honeys.

So there are honeys in the album artwork? It’s a bit more subtle, but yeah it is actually honeys in post-apocalyptic locations. I need to have honeys in the video.

You’re the only honey in the video at the moment. But you are topless momentarily. I thought we didn’t use any of those. Good! I wanted to do the whole thing topless—no one does that. No middle class white male does that!

More of that. We don’t see male collarbones enough. No, we don’t! People need to see the shoulders.

NZCA/LINES' debut album is out on Lo Recordings next year.

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Dollars to Pounds: NZCA/LINES