Earmilk: Hey Nick- You are in New Zealand. So that means you’re a day ahead of us?
Nik Brinkman: Hey, yeah, it’s sort-of like the “future country” down here.
EM: Well how is it? How are we doing?
NB: It’s alright. It’s a bit cold, actually…
EM:I shouldn't be surprised I guess. Global Warming.
NB: Yeah. Global Warming.
EM: How old are you?
NB: I just turned 27.
EM: So this probably isn't your first project, then?
NB: Yeah, no, I did two other bands before this. One was called Over the Atlantic. We were signed to Carpark Records in America in 2006, and we did a record with them that was called “Junica” which is actually where the name for this project came from. After taht we did a tour with Beach House across the US- it was like 40 dates or 45 or something crazy like that. And then after that we did another record in New Zealand.
NB: After then I did a new record with a band called Psychic Powers, and we did some stuff in LA. I actually lived in LA for about 3 months with my bandmates. So I’ve been slowly albums as much as I can with different bandmates.
EM: Is music pretty much the only job you’ve had during this time? Have you had to support yourself with a day job or any side gigs then?
NB: I’ve had a side job doing some video stuff- video editing, sound, recording, for some pretty boring projects at times. But lately it’s only been music, and if I can keep that going that would be great.
EM: So, that’s the dream?
NB: Yeah. That's the dream.
EM: How long have you been working on music for Junica then? Was it a side project for a while, or is this all relatively new?
NB: Yeah, it kind of started off as a side project for a while, but now it's my main thing. I started in early 2011 and made a bunch of demos, and I showed a bunch of people. I showed EMI Publishing, because they're really keen to hear my stuff, and then I signed a deal with them and went on a writing trip to LA, London, Stockholm and did a bunch of demos with other producers and stuff and then released an EP is mid-2011. So now we'll release the album in late July of this year. It's been quite a slow process, but it's been a really good one.
EM: Who are some of the people you've been working with?
NB: Well, in LA I worked with Tim Anderson. He's done a bunch of quite good stuff recently- he goes by the name "Timmy the Terror". And then I did some stuff with stuff with Jimmy Harry who's a great pop producer in LA who, like, lives up in the Hollywood Hills and stuff. It was quite crazy.
NB: And then in London there was just so many people- Elliot, Anders Kallmark, and some other guys. And then in Sweden I worked with Peter Bjorn & John. Just a whole lot of producers.
EM: We actually blogged a Peter Bjorn & John remix that you did, and they actually tweeted it and put it on their Facebook and stuff. It was one of the biggest posts on our site at the time.
NB: Yeah, I think they were really happy with it. Usually with a remix people go down the path of more energetic or more electronic and dancy, but I wanted to try and take out all of the drums and stuff and give it kind of a sound-trek-y, synth-y vibe.
EM: What's your process then when you're writing? Are you thinking about melodies while you're driving your car, or do you just sort-of sit down and fiddle? What's that process like?
NB: Well I always start with a drum ped, so I always program a basic beat. And then I always get some bass-lines down, and then usually by that stage I hear some melodies in my head for vocals, and then I lay out guitars a synths. I've just always had a particular process of doing it in that kind of order- that's how I find a work space. I never really work, like, trying new things like, "Maybe from now on, I'll start with a vocal line, or I'll try writing lyrics first". I've always done the lyrics and the melodies when the song is more structured. So it's always been quite a standard process.
EM: Have you been recording analog at all? With actually instruments? Or is everything pretty much done electronically or on synths?
NB: That's solely what we've done on the record. I've always been a fan of it. I never have used soft-synths because I've never really wanted to go down that path. So I've always used 80's or 70's used synthesizers, and then all the guitars. I'm just such fan of 80's and early 90's stuff that I really wanted to try to keep that production. And, for the Junica Record, we've done it all in quite big studios with real drums and stuff to get that Hi-Fi sort-of sound for this record.
EM: Is there an emotional state that you feel like you're more productive in?
NB: Well, yeah, I mean things do become easier when you've gone through bit of a rough time or something. Frustration is always something that makes me want to kind of push my writing. And you get frustrated so often the Music Industry because there's so many ups and downs with it, so you always try to out-do yourself as much as you can. So I think that's when I the most productive, because that's when I feel like I can really go out and try and say something.
EM: Who has really influenced you throughout his project? Don't feel obligated to give us references that we may be familiar with, and I don't necessarily mean just musically- it could be something you've read or seen, or a relationship, whatever.
NB: Yeah, yeah, a lot of the record is influenced by my personal relationships and even my relationship with my girlfriend. A lot always comes from that part of my life. But musically it's always been 80's and 90's stuff for some reason. I do love heaps of contemporary stuff, but I do find myself always going back to older stuff. I don't know if it has to do with hearing it when you're younger and you grow up listening to these things that your parents play, and it gets ingrained in your brain, or what. A contemporary artist would be someone like M83. I'm quite inspired by him because he's got the whole epic emotive thing going on, but he's managed to turn it into a pop thing at all. Which, I love trying to blend those two- the emotive side with the pop stuff. Trying to find that perfect balance.
EM: What about your folks? Are you close with them? Do they live near by?
NB: They live about an hour away from Wellington, which is where I live, by a beach kind of area. But yeah, I'm pretty close to my parents.
EM: So did you grow up on the beach then?
NB: Uhh, no not on the beach, but the coast was always pretty close. It's always pretty close in New Zealand.
EM: Oh, sure. So are you a surfer then?
NB: No, not a surfer.
EM: What about snowboarding?
NB: (laughs) No, I'm not really a sporty type. I used to be when I was younger I suppose, but ever since I started doing music when I was 13 or so I never really went back to the sports stuff. I probably should, though.
EM: Well, maybe. you seem to keep pretty busy though. Are your parents involved in music at all?
NB: No, no one in my family is directly. I mean, my parents are both sort-of creative types. My dad does lots of video and documentary work and has always been known for his creative and film work, so I've always grown up in a way where you can always try and make creative stuff a living. That's kind of how I was brought up. So it's good to have that, to keep that in mind.
EM: When people listen to Junica, what do you want them to know about this project and about the music?
NB: Well, I guess it's good for me to say that for this album a goal for me was to make a pop record. My version of a pop record. So if people know that, that's sort of cool, to know that was my goal for this. I've tried to make pop records with other bands in my own way, but it's always gone in some sort of quirky direction. But with this one I've really tried to nail structures and arrangement and have tried to make a concise pop record. Not top-40 pop record necessarily, but like the stuff I remember from childhood.
EM: What makes something distinctly pop, then?
NB: I guess it's memorable melodies, and it's not waffling on tune or with structures, making things quite short and sharp and making changes quite regularly in the song. I mean, I guess it's hard to pop is actually, or what makes things pop. But my memory of pop is mainstream things you would hear growing up like Peter Gabriel and Kate Bush and Human League and stuff.
EM: Yeah, pop music always seem to try and take on a timeless or an iconic sound or feel…
NB: Yeah, and we really tried with this record to you know… Like, we tried to make everything really real and analog, you know, like using only real drum kits, and not trying to make things too fashionable or a reflection of what might be happening now. Staying away from things that might date quite fast. Making things sound as timeless as possible is always a nice challenge.
EM: Now, switching gears a little bit- if I'm visiting New Zealand, what's the one thing that I probably won't do, that I should do?
Maybe… Bungee Jump? I mean it's hard coming from a place like America, because there's just so much going on.
EM: Are you tired of talking about Hobbits?
NB: Yeah, I mean when I talk with people from the States they usually bring them up. Another thing is that people think that New Zealand is some kind of tropical island, which is always funny because, you know, there's plenty of cities and stuff. It's like America, but a smear version. The only thing is I wish the music scene was a bit bigger, because it's just not big enough to warrant more venues and stuff.
EM: So the new record- do you have a release date?
NB: It's coming out in New Zealand on July 20th, and we're still working out the details on America and the European releases.
EM: The title?
NB: The Celebration, which is also the first title of the track. It's like an instrumental track.
Well, thanks a lot for hanging out Nick. I'm really excited to hear the new record!
NB: Yeah, thank you! I'm excited for you all to hear it.