Dunedin duo Two Cartoons (Isaac McFarlane and Bradley Craig) have returned after two years in England with a catchy collection of off-kilter guitar pop. Their new four song EP The Great British Hangover draws inspiration from the groups experiences working and playing in London, and channels feelings both joyous and sombre. The group will be celebrating with a launch party at Aucklands Thirsty Dog this weekend alongside pals Beachware and Spawts, listen to the new record below and read on for our chat with Isaac McFarlane about The Great British Hangover
Your song ‘Hospitality’ resonated with my own experiences working in that field – is that an autobiographical tune?
We’ve had a few people now react that way to the lyrics, its very real to the experience of working in hospitality due to both Brad and I doing cafe and bar work for a while now. Most people who havent worked in hospo tell me the song is fun and quirky. People who have worked there have a slightly moodier reaction, too many memories dragged up by the narrative I think. It may be too real, including for myself!
How did The Great British Hangover come together?
The EP came together very quickly around the idea we wanted to close the year with a light, fun and short release. I finished the demo’ for the songs pretty quick, like in a couple of weeks, and with a bit of arranging we just went straight into tracking. We wanted to be active and not get too mired in details or big ideas that can very easily be a distracting or derailing force.
What ideas are you exploring with the new record?
I think the exploration for this project was all process based and not really thematic or musical. Our creative process has been a very fluid thing, but prior to this quite unconscious. The exploration was in taking conscious decisions from the process forwards and not second guessing, all the way from the conception of the project itself through writing tracking and releasing. If there was a mission statement it would have been ‘do the basics, the best you can.
What did you get up to in London? Was the band based there for a while? What challenges do you face there?
London was amazing for two young guys from a small country, but it was very distracting for two young musicians from a small country. We ended up doing a lot of living and a lot of growing up too, which sometimes came before, or instead of, the creative work. We were there for a full two years, and while we could have used our time much more effectively for the band, it was a priceless experience for us as people. Very weirdly we released our most commercially successful project, the Lost Boys Club EP during that time, but I would say that happened because of a mixture of good luck and people behind the scenes working very hard.
This is the latest in a series of EPs, any plans for a full length record?
Yes! This is more of a reintroduction for us, a way to have some fun and try some new things, while also saying “hey we are still a thing and things are happening!” We see EPs as the stretching, the core work, before the marathon of each long record. We are feeling very warmed up now, we just gotta get our running shoes on.
I feel like your songs on The Great British Hangover are quite story-telling focussed, how do you approach writing your songs?
I think that lyrics can be an afterthought sometimes, I know that has been the case for me at times, and there is nothing wrong with that. Songs can be great without great lyrics, maybe because ambiguity can work so well for people to connect to. Like a lot of creatives, I can be quite hard on myself and my skills or work, and i really felt like i could do better lyrically. I wanted to be able to stand eye to eye with artists like Anthonie Tonnon and not feel totally out of place. With this EP serving as a kind of exercise or stretch, i worked on trying to create a sense of movement from the start to the finish, starting somewhere and ending somewhere else. I think the EP sounds a bit more arranged and subtle compared to our older stuff because I brought full backbones of songs to Brad and we could both sit down and refine details without having to worry about the bigger picture decisions. It simplified it.
Do you have touring plans for the summer? Anything youre looking forward to in the coming year?
Yeah absolutely we do, we have a really tight live sound now, which hasnt been true through our entire career, and its made us more excited to get out on the road. We will have a a new wave of material and a huge part of that is seeing how people react to it, it feels like a challenge to really win people over all over again, and thats really exciting. There’s also a frustration with sitting at a screen trying to reach people, I much more prefer the idea of knocking on every door on street and trying to impress people face to face, and force them to either enjoy us or tell us to get lost!