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August 3, 2009 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

Family Cactus interview


Seven-piece Wellington blues/rock/pop band Family Cactus is currently in the midst of a country-wide tour, which concludes in Wellington 21 August at San Francisco Bath House. The tour is in support of their recent album release ‘Come Howling’, reviewed in this fine publication on 20/7/09. Salient’s Maggie S caught up with Cactus members Adam Ladley and Graeme Cummack.

Salient: So not only did you play Camp [A Low Hum ’09], but you opened Camp…

Adam: Yeah, and that was fucking tough. Jesus. I haven’t learnt, and none of us really have learnt yet, how the first night of camp you have all that bustling energy, and you’re keen for three days of partying. You buy all this booze and you think it’s going to last you, and then you just demolish it all on the first night.

Graeme: We had to play at eleven so it was quite shaky.

Adam: It was a bit shaky.

Salient: Well, it sounded good. But I was shattered, so my standards were really low. Just kidding. How many times did you play at Camp?

Adam: Three times. We opened it, we did a live-to-air for National Radio, and then we put a renegade gig on at one in the morning and Graeme caught on fire.

Graeme: That was my highlight.

Salient: How did you catch on fire?

Graeme: Rich, from Mighty Mighty, we asked him to do pyrotechnics for the night.

Adam: We asked him? Or he just did them… I had no idea that I was gonna have to dodge, like, rockets and sparklers. Basically, we started playing, and there were just fireworks going off everywhere in amongst our pedals, and on the drums, and in the drums.

Graeme: Cheap fireworks. And there was quite a lot of spirits involved so there was alcohol and flame—doesn’t tend to go together.

Adam: And you were in a polar fleece ensemble, weren’t you?

Graeme: Yeah, made in China. Highly flammable.

Salient: That’s the kind of thing that burns and, like, sticks to you.

Adam: Yeah, turns into napalm.

Graeme: Yep, napalm.

Salient: Is that what napalm is?

Adam: (sarcastically) Yeah, it’s polar fleece.

Salient: Shit. I’ll be editing this part out: I’m going to try and make you sound stupid, not me. So, you’re a seven-piece band—that’s a lot of pieces…

Adam: I thought you were trying to make us look stupid. Can you put that in? As a burn.

Salient: I also have stupid questions. These are the good ones.

Adam: I just got asked before, “Okay, time for the silly question: would you pick up a hitchhiker?”

Salient: Would you pick up a hitchhiker?

Adam: Yeah, but there’s that sort of code of ethics, you know—if they looked like a real sort of derelict undesirable, and, you know, they’re carrying a gun or something.

Salient: Probably wouldn’t have it displayed, if they were. Presumably.

Graeme: But it’s a good sign. Something to avoid.

Salient: I’d avoid polar fleece, now. But that’s just me. Mostly from an aesthetic point of view, though. Why were you wearing polar fleece?

Graeme: I wasn’t.

Salient: Do you have any previous recordings?

Graeme: Only on cassette tapes, for our ears only.

Adam: And we’ve done some recordings since, up at Roundhead, Neil Finn’s studio. But no, this is our debut record.

Salient: Must be exciting.

Adam: Yeah. We just saw it before.

Salient: Because it came out today. Today is the day! Are you doing anything to celebrate?

Adam: Yeah, we’re gonna go back into the studio and do a radio edit. Then probably get really drunk.

Salient: Preferably after the edit?

Graeme: We’ll see how it goes.

Adam: Yeah we could add some bits in there, you know. Auto-Tune on the vocals, or something.

Salient: And your album was produced by Lee Prebble?

Adam: Yeah, recording it at The Surgery with Lee Prebble was just such a great experience. That guy has a particular aesthetic to what he does, which was very analogue, DIY, hands on, is keen to try anything out and, yeah, it was awesome. So recorded it mostly live in one week, but then we did another week of sort of twiddling knobs and adding instrumentation and stuff like that. So it was pretty much done in two weeks.

Salient: Your song ‘Kingmaker’ is ridiculously catchy. Like, ridiculously catchy.

Adam: Sorry about that.

Salient: Yeah, if you could just… maybe with your radio edits.

Graeme: De-catchify it.

Adam: Maybe we can put white noise in the “whoa whoa whoa” bit.

Salient: (joking) Yeah, that’s what I was thinking when listening to the album; I was like, what this really needs is some white noise.

Adam: That keeps getting brought up, but I don’t think we ever sat down and thought “Let’s write a pop record.” It’s literally just what sort of came out. I think we’re all really interested in melody, and that art of song craft. The pop element has just kind of come, really. I think the content of a lot of the songs is a little bit dark, quite dark in some places, but you wouldn’t really get the feel from a melody—big guitar hooks, or whatever. It’s actually been a very organic sort of process. I think the nicest thing about this bunch of people is that none of those creative doors ever get shut. It’s not like we’re trying to play a genre, I mean it’s quite an eclectic record. And it’s just about experimenting. Some songs we like to play straight, and that’s what serves the song best, and then others. It’s good if we try lots of tape delays and envelope filters, and weird sort of stuff.

Salient: Ummmm…do you only let good-looking people into the band?

(Graeme laughs nervously. A long pause ensues)

Adam: No, no—we made a special policy so that Graeme could come in.

Graeme: Adam writes the songs so we kind of need him… otherwise…

Adam: I dunno, well we got asked the other day whether we’re into “fashion” and “following fashions” and… I said something like “no.”

Salient: This is gold. No, but come on, honestly, you must have noticed when you’re standing on stage and you’re looking at the people around you and you’re like “this is a good looking band, and it just is.”

Adam: No, not really.

Graeme: We’re all just all buddies, eh.

Adam: It’s never crossed my mind once.

Salient: Really. Two people asked me to ask that question. In fact, I was like “what should I ask them?” And it was the only thing. That was it.

Graeme: No. No.

Adam: No, no. Quite interested in the musical side of things.

Graeme: If you can play a musical instrument well.

Adam: It was never like should we get Graeme in the band because he’s a babe.

Salient: I didn’t mean that exactly. It was a shallow question.

Graeme: Is that not what it was, cause I had to go to auditions.

Adam: His choreographed dance moves need a bit of work, but he was such a babe that we thought, well…


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Comments (24)

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  1. Antonie says:

    I also interviewed The Family Cactus, with erotic results…

  2. Guy Who Owns Hotel says:

    antonie hates

  3. Kate says:

    I hope you get satisfaction from making yourself look like an arsehole Antonie. Because no one else cares.

  4. Kate says:

    Also, Salient, I think you should delete the above comments. Having a link that leads to defaming of a pretty damn decent band is not professional. And makes you look like people are making a mockery of you.

  5. Antonie says:

    Making fun Salient, who would ever do that? Salient is beyond reproach, clearly.

  6. Kate Bush says:

    Kate (omfg we have the same name).

    Lighten up sistah!

  7. Kate says:

    Yes, yes we do. I just know the boys and don’t think it’s funny to rip into them.

  8. Antonie says:

    What a shock, you know the band…

  9. Matt says:

    Fuck, I haven’t even heard this band, but already I don’t like them because of Kate. Jeez Kate, way to make your friends lose a potential fan.

  10. Yeah, we’re not deleting anything here. People can post whatever they like, so long as it’s within the confines of JJW’s strict “Whatever the fuck” guidelines (AKA, it won’t get the mag in any legal strife).

  11. Hank Scorpio says:

    more like 0800 post something funny ahaha owned

  12. MC Chris says:

    yo my name is mc chris and yo i can’t get laid

  13. Ralph says:

    Kate failed Laws 121

  14. live wire says:

    Can we formally establish a rule that states anyone who is in the process of defending a band because they know them must first think “hmm, I should really shut my mouth and fuck off, because no one gives a shit”.

  15. Shmuck says:

    Antonie is a giant rat faced cunt, far too absorbed in his own ego… but then again, who really cares?

  16. Graham says:

    who the fuck is this antonie guy anyway? Sounds like a pretentious faggot to me!

  17. Lana Bee says:

    Who reads salient these days anyway?

  18. Shmuck says:

    I mean, to be honest…Family Cactus do suck (big time)… But thats no reason to rub it in their face…regardless of how amusing it may be!

  19. Lana Bee says:

    Blues/rock/pop – make up your mind

  20. Matt says:

    It’s every fucking reason to rub it in their face.

  21. Mary-Kate says:

    Fuck all of you. Family cactus are great, and I know them!

  22. Hannah says:

    What is with people gay bashing? It’s disgusting. Please don’t.

  23. Matt says:

    Yeah and what is with calling people pretentious? What does it even mean anyway?

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