New Zealand’s Opossom have managed to capture their psychedelic ear-candy on tape, the debut album Electric Hawaii, is out this month on Fire records. Fronted by Kody Nielson (whose Brother Ruban happens to front Unknown Mortal Orchestra) the group’s heady mix of 60s funked rhythms, garage-pop and loose vibes is a little infectious to say the least. It seemed like the right time to catch up with Kody and to ask him about all things pop.
Bowlegs: Let’s get it out the way early – you’re brother Ruban fronts Unknown Mortal Orchestra. So are you guys close? What’s he think of Opossom? Were you both in The Mint Chicks?
Kody: Yeah we’re close. He’s one of my best friends. Ruban played guitar in The Mint Chicks, and we both wrote the songs and produced the recordings and artwork. I think he likes my music.
Bowlegs: And you were the frontman for The Mint Chicks for around 8 years right? Why and how did that chapter close. Was it a hard time?
Kody: It was a really fun time, but also intense. We were always very busy and focused, so those years went by pretty quickly. I think we all just wanted a bit of a break.
Bowlegs: How did Opossom get started?
Kody: It started shortly after I finished recording a few songs at home, which were later to become Electric Hawaii. I spend most of my time working at night, so I often hear possums outside my window, or on the roof climbing around.
Bowlegs: Ahhh – so that’s where the band name sprung from eh! The press release relates you to an Opossom, as in the animal – feisty, vicious and enigmatically cute? Would your bandmates agree?
Kody: I don’t know, I think so.
Bowlegs: Your dad plays on the album, how cool is it jamming and recording with your dad? Is everyone in the family a musician? Mum?
Kody: I like working with my dad, he’s a really experienced trumpet player. He also plays a lot of other brass and woodwind instruments, so it’s fun to arrange music for him to play. My mother’s a talented singer too. She’s a Hawaiian hula dancer. My parents met playing music together in Hawaii.
Bowlegs: This isn’t a straight up pop record – these songs play and experiment with rhythm and sound. From moments like the spaced out title track to the funky-pop heard on Fly. Where are these songs written? What bands were inspiring you during the writing process?
Kody: I wrote these songs at home. I was listening to things like Billy Cobham, Sly Stone, Love, and The Kinks.
Bowlegs: I love the track Outer Space, it feels like a church hymn tripping out. Where did this track come from? It’s great!
Kody: Thanks. I just woke up with that melody stuck in my head one day, and the harmony was all realized as well. In my dream it was kind of like a choral song from the Baroque period, only it was in the future.
Bowlegs: Bic Runga is massive in New Zealand right? How do you know her? She clearly digs the band?
Kody: I met Bic song writing with her a few years ago. We wrote a few songs together, and I ended up producing her last album Belle. While we made that, we were playing together a lot and the idea of starting a band came up a few times as a joke.
Bowlegs: Is it hard being a new band hailing from New Zealand? How did Fire Records pick you up? What’s the plan now?
Kody: It’s quite isolated here, and that can be boring. We travel overseas a bit so it’s okay. We met up with Fire Records while we were over in London. They liked Electric Hawaii, then they saw us live and wanted to release it. It’ll be available in the UK, USA and in Europe on August 7th. I’m looking forward to it coming out as a three colored 7″ vinyl set. We’re touring Australia next month, then later in the year we’re going to the states and the UK for an October/ November tour.
Bowlegs: Finally tell us a few more New Zealand bands we should be checking out immediately?
Kody: Pussy Glitch, Collapsing Cities, Parallel Dance Ensemble, F in Math, DHDFD’s, Coco Solid, Badd Energy.
Bowlegs: Wow – there’s a few names we haven’t heard of – will get onto those asap!