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Published on October 30th, 2013 | by Morgan Coulton


Speak for yourself HDSPNS

With the recent release of their second EP VIVIDISM, Auckland math-rock band HDSPNS are excited to present to you a more experimental, original sound.

PRESENCE caught up with singer/guitarist, Ben Leonard and bassist, Toby Kwang earlier this week to hear about their latest release and upcoming gig playing alongside a potentially boozy Lawrence Arabia and Jordan Luck.

Hi guys, congrats on the release of your new EP VIVIDISM. What does the name mean?
– Ahh that’s a really good question…we took ages to come up with the title. We were just looking around for words that seemed to fit the sound of it. When we talked about the sound of this EP compared to our last one we thought it sounded a lot more colourful and bold so I think that’s where the ‘VIVID’ part came into it.

Toby – Kind of like the sound but then also the writing process

I heard an interview you did on National Radio where you described this EP as being about not being a child anymore but not quite an adult, is this about that coming of age or transition into adulthood?
– I feel like we are all kind of going through that part of life and figuring things out and everyone seems to be getting on top of their shit a bit more whether it’s workwise or creatively.

B – It’s funny, I was thinking about that interview and I’m pretty sure I said a similar thing about the first EP that came out a few months before I finished university. So I was thinking heaps about not being a student, having to be an adult, looking after yourself and making your own decisions and that was probably still my headspace when we started writing for VIVIDISM. Also, we were writing songs for the first half of this year and then our last drummer left a week before recording. So we got a new guy in, Richie, and we had to re-write everything.

Did it add a different dynamic with Richie coming into the group?
– Yeah definitely. But we already hung out with him lots, he knows what we like, he knew the songs so it was just a really smooth transition having him there. We feel like our band works best as just being a tight group of friends – hanging out outside of music really helps the music. You know each other and what you’re into…the same sort of influences.

Sweet…in the first track AWA you say ‘Go! Go! Leave home!’ does that literally mean leaving the nest/NZ?
– It was literally like I wanted something to listen to if I was just fucking around and not organizing to go overseas or actually do shit…like a motivational song.

T – You write motivational songs? Speak for yourself man.

Speaking of maturity/going into adulthood how was it recording at James Dansey’s studio the Wall of Shit?
– Haha it was pretty sweet. It’s called a recording studio in the loosest possible way – it’s like a practice space/hovel. He uses that name for anywhere that he goes to record, it’s not specifically this space. So we did vocals there and did the other shit at Whammy.

How was it having someone (James) doing the production on VIVIDISM compared to the first EP?
– He was really good, he’s got a lot of musical background and is professional about it but also pretty chill. Especially on vocals which are…

B – …definitely our weakest point

T – Yeah he definitely helped us get those up to par.

So for most of your songs do you base it instrumentally first?
– Almost always! I wanted to do that differently this time and incorporate the lyrics earlier but I just left it to the last minute. We were literally recording at Whammy and didn’t have lyrics for three of the five songs so that night I went home and just sat for like five hours, drunk heaps of instant coffee and just wrote. Then we recorded them all the next day…it was a really intensive period.

T – I think that’s how we work though, you gotta have that deadline or else we just wouldn’t really do it.

A lot of people compare you guys to Battles and Foals, what do you think of that? Is that where you see yourselves?
– Originally when we first started out it was definitely Battles and Foals as well – which was what we were into and we wanted to make experimental music but I think more recently we have been getting into a lot of different stuff.

B – Foals and Battles are quite a tight stylistic group and pretty niche…well maybe not Foals now so much. But that was definitely what we were listening to earlier on when it was just me and Toby and that was kinda the reason for starting the band I think. We were trying to do something a bit different.

T – Yeah originally when we first started to play music together or just play music there were a lot of garagey type bands around Auckland at that time and we were interested in other music as well. So we wanted to start making more interesting music.

B – Also, I kinda like the idea that even though the music doesn’t really fit into that idea of the NZ sound too much, I’m still quite keen to claim the fact that that’s where it comes from. I’m still quite keen to tap into New Zealand-ness…it doesn’t have to be cringeworthy, so something kinda dark and weird.

Cool. So I see you guys are playing in Wellington next week?
B – Yeah we’re playing at Puppies next Friday. We haven’t played there before and I’m pretty keen to check it out before it goes away.

Definitely, Blink’s pretty tight on band playing times, what are your thoughts on that?
– Yeah that’s interesting ‘cause no-one ever really keeps to time.

T – Generally when we play gigs though we always show up to sound checks on time so we’re all good. It’s funny though ‘cause the reason that people don’t play to time is that no one shows up to gigs ‘cause they know that shows don’t start till later so it’s like this vicious cycle.

Yeah…so apart from Wellington what other plans do you guys have?
B – Just before we go to Wellington, we’re playing the Silver Scrolls after show. It’s at 1885…which will be totally different from anything we’ve played before. I’ve never ever been there. After we play, they open up the floor for all of the nominees to get up and jam together. I’ve seen photos from past ones where it’s like, drunken Jordan Luck, Lawrence Arabia and Dave Dobbyn just getting on stage jamming together. It looks pretty hilarious. But I don’t think the promoter realises that our live shows are quite intense now, for ages I was really into the idea of a live show being a perfect re-enactment of our recordings but now I realise it’s more about the energy and the performance side of it. So I don’t know if the promoter is aware of this change…

Sweet, and for summer?
B – Well Carl (the guy that did our video) wants to make a short film, so we are going to make a soundtrack to go with it, which will be really different for us.
T – Yeah ‘cause if you’re writing music for something like a film it has a narrative already. So it’s like writing music to a feeling or trying to set a scene with the instruments rather than just jamming, getting a feel and structuring it into a song. It’s just an interesting way of writing I guess.


Written by Morgan Coulton

Photography by Rabie Alburaiky




















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Music lover, sometimes singer and part-time inquisitor for Presence Zine.

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