Track By Track: Old Loaves’ Ben Ward Takes Us Through Banks

After a seven year hiatus, Kiwi metal band Old Loaves has finally released their second album, titled Banks. 

The band has gone through a lot in those seven years as guitarist Ben Ward struggled with depression, drummer Cameron Reid suffered a stroke and they’s taken on board a new bass player, John Strange.

Even now, things are a bit difficult as the three bandmembers are all living in different towns…Auckland, Rotorua and Hamilton.

Tonight they’ll all be together for a show at Whammy Bar.

The 13th Floor’s Marty Duda spoke to Ben Ward a few days ago and had him run through the 8-track album, song-by-song.

Click here to listen to the interview:

Or, read a transcription here: 

M: Obviously it’s been seven years since the previous album, so maybe you can tell the folks a little bit about why that is the case.

O: Well I guess just life got in the way and I actually was living in Sydney and the band was just kind of in a hiatus and when I moved back to Auckland I saw that the drummer was living in Hamilton and so I thought oh let’s try and do this again and the original bass player was living in Melbourne so we got someone else on and we just kind of started from there but during that time I had a baby, I’m not sure if you saw in the press release, but our drummer had a stroke. He’s fine, he recovered completely, but he kind of had to relearn how to drum while we were writing it.

M: Well that’s plenty of trauma.

O: Yeah it definitely is

M: And all that stuff kind of makes itself known within the songs here would you say?

O: Well I don’t think so cause the album was kind of written I think the majority of it, it was more around it was kind of when we were about to record it I think we had written the whole thing but before he had the stroke. And then for the lyrical content, I kind of went  back and looked at a time in my life when I was unwell with depression and there was a time when I was living in my hometown in Mt Maunganui and I guess all the songs are basically little stories of that time. Although I really use it as a time of looking back and reflecting from a happy place in my life and looking back and reflecting cause obviously that depression always weaves in and out through your life and basically used it as that tool to kind of look back and say ‘hey there is always light at the end of the tunnel’.

M: This is back when you were working at this glass factory is that right?

O: Yeah so that’s kind of where it all started I guess. There’s signs around kind of when I was younger at school and stuff and, and there was obviously signs of it, but I think that the glass factory that was when it really became something that I needed to figure out.

M: So the album itself starts out with a track called ‘History‘ which is the shortest one on the album. It is just two and a half minutes long, beginning with this droning distortion thingy and then kind of crashing in from there so tell us about that one to start off.

O: Well I got on a real love of Shoegaze as well as writing this album, and I still can’t get the Shoegaze sound right but it is my go at it. This song I always kind of saw as like an intro into the album, an opener to the album I guess, and potentially our live show. We’re actually gonna try and play it for the first time on Saturday. We actually wrote that one a bit longer than two minutes but the music stopped in the recording and it kind of ended up as it is, but we were way happier with the shorter version, so it’s kind of a happy accident. Lyric wise, Cam our drummer wrote the lyrics for this one. I’m pretty sure it was written last, so he took what I’d written and I’m pretty sure it follows a similar theme but I’m not too sure, I’d have to ask him that one.

M: Whereabouts did you record the album?

O: The album was recorded in Kelston, in this studio called The Dank which is basically just this lock up/home of this guy called Dave Hime. We recorded it all live, well the music live, then I kind of overdubbed guitars and yeah over two weekends. So we thought ‘Oh we’ll book in two weekends and see how we go,’ cause we didn’t know how Cam, our drummer was going to go, cause obviously still kind of, not relearning, but he was getting exhausted really easily and we kind of just played it by ear but he actually did the drums in the one weekend.

M: Nice

O: Yeah, he smashed through it

M : The next one is one of the singles from the record, it is called Teenage Dreams. What can you tell me about that.

O: That was probably one of the first or second ones we wrote when we started writing the album. I do remember it was completely different in terms of the ending. We had this process where I would go down, we would practice in Hamilton and, I would go down and we actually had an electric drum kit and we would all plug into a computer and record the demo straight onto there so it gave us a really good platform to work on the song. And this one it was never feeling right at the end, so I completely kind of rewrote that one afternoon and I think the first time we played it together was like ‘ah ha, this is what it was missing’. So after a bit of iteration it came to be and I guess the lyrics the title probably gives it away…teenage angst and being young and confused. There’s a reference to the mountain in there which is  cause the album is based in Mt Maunganui, where I grew up and where this album is about and I think It’s just that teenage angst really. That’s what that songs about.

M: Why is the album called Banks?

O: That’s another reference to the Mount. The album cover is actually shot from above this surf break called Banks Ave. And I grew up surfing from the age of 8 and I guess I think surfing in the water is kind of my happy place and that’s why I chose that cover and did kind of references throughout the album of being on the coast and probably the best place for me. Banks I guess too in surfing, sand kind of forms these banks and therefore forms good waves and so it kind of has a few meanings directly of the place in the photo and then also around surfing.

M: Track three is Great Months.

O: So this is another slower one on the album.

M: Very of doomy sounding isn’t it?

O: Yeah, I think I really got influenced by kind of Neurosis and that kind of style for this song. I remember we recorded, when we started this was the first song we recorded cause we wanted to start slow and then kind of work into the fast ones but we just couldn’t get it, we couldn’t click we just had to pause it and move onto Teenage Dreams to just get one in the bag. But this one kind of focuses on the time, the “great months” I call them, they’re not that great during winter kind of during this time. In the Mount, people just seem to kind of hibernate and disappear. I kind of bring in this idea of this precious town because I think growing up in this beautiful place, this beautiful coastal town, if you talk bad about it is frowned upon because you’ve got all this beauty but I feel like it’s the town, everyone kind of held it as a precious town, and it’s not perfect everything you know, not everything goes to plan here and that’s probably the kind of feelings I would have in those winter months. But then you would probably never see anyone…I guess yeah there’s that, that winter I’d always get up in the morning, it’d be dark and then I’d leave for work and then it’d be dark when i got home. You never really saw the day. So those winter months yeah, they were quite grim down there. Especially during this time.

M: Sounds pretty bleak. We can laugh about it now though.

O : Yeah, and that’s it, I think it’s all about reflecting back on that time and from a happier place and really helpful for me. I don’t know, I hope anyone who listens to it that you can look back on times and know there is light at the end of the tunnel.

M: Now the next song is another single, it’s called Hounds.

O: Yeah it is a faster one. You’ll probably find with the mix of the album we tend to have slower and fast ones and try to mix that up a bit. This was written like in 2013 parts of it. I remember I brought this back from Sydney. We went through a lot of changes being that this is the main single that went out when we were doing a lot of interviews. This is directly around the glass factory and the night shift there. I think the main thing is that the culture in that time was in that place was so relentless and when I was  in this unwell place. If you showed any emotion you’d get ridiculed by the staff and it was pretty awful and I think it probably captures this time and that that job catches this culture and frames this kind of masculine culture that we have in New Zealand and probably still in a lot of the places it’s the norm. For me being in that environment and not thinking clearly and not feeling 100%, it was really quite hard and really brutal actually. But I think it kind of comes to the end and I do kind of have some reflections on it at the end of the song. This is kind of a real key and a real hard one to write because I think that was the pinpoint of when I started to realise that I needed to do something.

M: Now the next one is kind of the big epic track, it’s almost seven minutes long, right in the middle of the record. It kind of begins quietly and then explodes back and forth so how….

O: Yeah, this is another one that we kind of wrote a few times and I think about three iterations. Yeah, always wanted to do a slow epic one and I’m really stoked how this one comes out. It’s really fun to play and it does go on a bit of a journey. I remember the ending when we wrote that, our drummer ripped into this fast beat that it ends in which was totally unexpected but we absolutely love it just shows how much of a journey it goes on. This one, it was more about being at school and friends and kind of failure and again that kind of culture of losing and if you fail you really hear about it where it’s actually not that bad. It’s kind of more of a might sound doomy but it’s kind of, there’s moments of fun and being with your friends at school.

M: Then we move onto Stolen Night, which is pretty much straight ahead rocker all the way through isn’t it?

O: Yeah, like you said, we kind of have the faster ones and wrote this one pretty quickly. I tend to find the faster ones are easier to write. I’m pretty sure we only needed two takes when we recorded it. It was the last one we recorded in the session and I’m pretty sure we used the first take anyway. The lyric is about my older brother and the time in his life and well, his kind of crossed over same stuff I was going through. I’m not going to get into it too much, it’s personal for him but, the Stolen Night is in reference to a night that we had and there was a disagreement and we ended up spending the night arguing and it got stolen by our arguments but we have a very good relationship now. I was kind of thinking about this when I was thinking about the interview and I guess I think it was quite funny, I was going through my stuff and he was going through his and we probably just needed each other to talk to and it would have been fine but we got there in the end.

M: What’s the age difference between you and your brother?

O: Two years. I’m the middle so my younger brother, he’s all good playing his Playstation I think at the time, but yeah we’re two year. Me and my older brother, we grew up surfing and we went through a lot together.

M: Track number seven is called Unrest.

O: Again, the music pretty straight up in this one. It’s kind of a steady pace and really love that kind of bridge we came up with this and the dual vocals I do with John where he’s doing the  lower harmonies, really like that. This one is, at that time I was in a relationship and it’s kind of about that. I think when you’re really unwell you’re trying to look for someone for strength to hold you up and I think I was probably trying to lean on her a bit too much and I thought it was her who could offer that strength but it wasn’t. This song just goes through that journey about that and probably when she did leave me, it really allowed me time to focus on myself which I definitely needed and allowed me to focus on not needing anyone else to be able to get through my day.

M: Gotcha.

M: Well let’s get to the last track which is called Dead Town. It starts with the drums it kind of setting the tone for the thing.

O: It is probably pretty similar to our, I think it’s in threes, which our last album, oh maybe that’s five, I’m not too sure but I always like try to finish the album on a slower one and I had the idea for this song and I just worked on it a lot by myself. Again I guess the slow ones seem to take the time to write and I wanted it to be a conclusion. I kind of took it to the boys and we played through it once or twice and it just ended up writing itself in terms of putting it all altogether with those guys. Sometimes songs just seem to click and this one really did. Then for me, I guess the Dead Town is the reference back to my hometown but, it’s kind of the conclusion and I think it’s about me opening up and addressing that there’s something wrong and I need to talk about it. It’s kind of about the road to happiness I think and that the strength that I was looking for was right there with me and it was my family. I didn’t really talk to them about this, but when we did, it was like it just made everything so much easier and made me be able to put in the steps to get better really and they helped me through this a lot. As soon as I could start talking to them, I felt like I was getting better. There’s a reference there to the towering pines, which is the Norfolk pines along the coast of the Mount which, like I said earlier, I grew up surfing and this is my happy place. I guess there are a lot of us that wasn’t surfing cause I just couldn’t get out there and I just couldn’t do it but I ended up doing it but there was another thing that kind of helped me get through it all, so it’s not all grim by the end.

M: Well we had the line in there, ‘The kids are all better now’ so there’s a little bit uplifting.

O: Yeah

M: Leave people on a high note.

O: I try to, I guess we’ve always written pretty minor music and I said in earlier interviews I set out I was going to write this as a kind of completely different subject and nothing about me but I couldn’t really connect with that so I kind of went back to this time and it’s been really nice. It’s gonna be a nice stake in the history of life and something I can look back on at times if I’m feeling sad and know that you can get out of it.

M: Yeah, and how are you looking forward to these you got gigs this weekend right?

O: Yeah, we got one gig where we are playing Whammy Bar on Saturday some great bands. We had a great practice on Sunday and it’s sounding really good. We’ve had this music, I was thinking actually kind of mixing it about a year ago, so it’s been sitting there quite a while and I’m really looking forward to getting it out there and it’s been really cool talking about it all. I haven’t done a breakdown of the whole album so this has been really cool and makes you really think about the songs.

M: I find that just in general when you do this you get a much better feel for what the whole record is all about.

O: Yeah, really looking forward to it getting out. It comes out on Friday and go and play and party and celebrate the release.

Old Loaves perform at Auckland’s Whammy Bar Saturday, July 27th. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marty Duda
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