Published on May 16th, 2012 | by PRESENCE0
“It’s all for the love and passion of it,” smiles Earl Sans, lead singer and songwriter of Auckland quintet Sherpa.
Sitting with the easy confidence of the studiously talented, and the jiggling right leg of the permanently busy, Sans and lead guitarist Benjamin Tindall are taking time out for a cup of tea and a chat on a grey Auckland afternoon.
Building on the success of their 2009 EP, I’m Sparklers, Sherpa have steadily grown from niche Auckland club darlings to a solid presence on the New Zealand music scene.
Their debut full-length album Lesser Flamingo is generating a buzz that can be felt the length and breadth of the country, and has seen them playing to audiences from their hometown down to Christchurch.
“It’s funny seeing a song as a demo and being excited about it, and then nek minnit it’s like number one on bFM, that’s quite a good feeling,” laughs Sans when asked how it feels to have gained such widespread attention this year.
And what a year it’s been – writing, recording, touring, filming, they have the kind of schedule that would make a juggler wince, and yet Tindall and Sans clearly derive a great amount of joy from the lifestyle. “January was just a great month, I think the highlight would be playing Laneway, and recording the album,” says Tindall emphatically. And as I talk to them it becomes clear that after six years of playing together they are no strangers to hard work and rushing from one thing to the next. “I feel there’s a sense of urgency in the world we live in,” says Sans. “We wanna get stuff done quickly.”
Their hectic touring schedule, opening for bands like The Checks and Goodshirt in recent weeks, has been a good thing for the band according to Sans. “I really love trying to win the crowd over each night. It makes you try fresh new ways of putting on a show. Even just the way you move around the stage and making eye contact with people, it’s all a good way to learn.”
Throughout their history Sherpa have been a very DIY band, involving themselves on all creative levels when it comes to their music and videos. “We realised it doesn’t take that much more effort to have all the control,” says Sans, however the reasons are not all philosophical. “Album-wise, the reason for doing most of it ourselves is all financial, you know – not going to a studio, not getting a hot-shot producer. That said, we did get an engineer, James Dansey, so having that was new. And he did shape our sound; if we hadn’t had him the [new] album wouldn’t have sounded that way it did.”
Being musically involved with each other as long as they have, Sherpa’s sound has changed and grown symbiotically with the band members as they themselves have grown up. “We started the band at 15 and now we’re 21, and those are just the prime years you know?” says Sans thoughtfully. “Even beyond music, just experimenting with things, and getting your mind blown by things. So in that sense I think all new information and experiences shape things unconsciously.”
Lesser Flamingo, released to unanimously positive reviews, has seen the band embark on a nationwide tour and has spawned the bFM number one hit single ‘Lunar Bats’ which they were recently invited to perform on TV One’s Good Morning show. They’ve also already shot and released two music videos for singles ‘Lunar Bats’ and ‘Turtles’, with the possibility of a more collaborative approach being taken when it comes to making more. “With videos we are already looking into getting other people in for directing, so that will be new,” says Tindall.
And thanks to NZ On Air, they are definitely going to get the chance to make more. They recently made the funding list for the Making Tracks programme and will be getting $6000 towards a new video. The commission picked Lesser Flamingo’s closing track ‘I’m Happy Just to Lie’, something the band is very happy about. “It was a song that I believed in from the start,” says Sans. “But I guess we’re thinking of how we can be most productive with the money. Playing around with the idea of doing multiple videos, though I don’t know how NZ On Air would feel about that.”
Lesser Flamingo is the latest step in Sherpa’s ongoing musical growth, and sees the addition of keyboardist Daniel Barrett. And like all good artists, the boys from Sherpa are perfectionists at heart. ”I think what you’ve got on the album is somewhat rushed, and last minute,” confesses Sans. “We had the songs and then he [Barrett] came in, so it wasn’t written at the same time. I guess that’s something that could go either way, and I think we got lucky and it sounds really great on this album. But if we had the opportunity to write it all at the same time I think we might get an even better outcome.”
And it’s not just their sound that they’re constantly striving to better; their songwriting process itself is something they think is in need of a shake-up. “At this point it’s been that classic archetype of one guy bringing in a skeleton, which has happened to be me,” says Sans, “and then we’d flesh out the meat together as a band. However I’d love it to be more jam-based, more collective.”
So what’s next on the agenda for these restless youths? “Hopefully going to Australia,” says Sans, “and seeing what will come from the album, seeing if people like it. Using our minds, our cleverness if we have any of that, to try and find an audience over there.”
If their accomplishments to date are any indication, I’d say Sherpa have nothing to worry about.
Article by Clovis McEvoy
Photography by Alex Mcvinnie
Face paint by Madeline North
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This article was published in issue 10 of PRESENCE ZINE.