Big Fish in a Small Pond: Labretta Suede and the Motel 6 ‘Bait’ EP Release launch party

On the eve of their first Auckland gig in over a year, the feisty frontwoman from “ass-whippin’ high-kickin’, low down rockin’-an-a-reelin’ rock’n’roll” band Labretta Suede and the Motel 6 talks to Natasha Francois about being underdogs in the scene, why their new EP contains their best material to date and why they’ll be making a commotion in the ocean on March 18.

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It’s been a while since Labretta Suede and the Motel 6 last played live in Auckland. Why such a long time between gigs?

We’ve been focusing on our overseas touring circuits and since our return (from NYC three years ago) have been on tour to the US and the EU a few times with various releases. Along with being invited to festivals in Australia too. Working on new material, hence the release of our new EP Bait and spending time with friends and family after so long.

We’ve  felt a little out of place being back in Auckland. So much has changed. In the six years we were away it doesn’t feel like the city we left behind. It seems to have lost its edge and its hangouts. So much revolves around money. The days of going to the local to debate, create art, philosophize and form bands seems to have gone. Many of our old haunts are not what they used to be and we can’t afford to go to them anymore.

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How did you come up with the idea to charter a boat for a live gig? Was it quite tricky logistically to pull off?

Being that the EP is named Bait I was toying with a few ideas. Logistically, after so many off-the-rails shows for us it’s doable but crazy expensive. I find it so odd that being that we are all live in the City of Sails, hiring a charter for such an event is so wildly overpriced but fuck it, when do you ever get to go a boat cruise with ya mates and a fun band? Not every day. Not every New Zealander has a bach and a boat. I’m from immigrant stock, so no luck with the bach and beach house for me!

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So, is this your first gig on a boat?

No, we have played a few boat cruises of sorts. A highlight being a steam paddle boat on the East River in NYC. This adventure took us around the Statue Of Liberty as a part of the Mermaid Parade celebrations. The Mermaid Parade is a HUGE event! It’s the opening of Coney Island Beach for the summer.

What can we look forward to at the upcoming EP release party?

Expect a night to mark our 13-year anniversary as a band. This four-hour evening on the high seas of Tamaki Makorou (Auckland) includes delicious antipastos in your ticket price, bad ass rare and intoxicating music from DJ Tito Tafa of Rebel Soul Records and the one and only DJ Toilet Tits (Barber Dan). Affordable, delicious cocktails from our sponsors Sailor Jerry. With a main meal of loud, loose, good-fun rock n roll, featuring new songs from our EP and old, favourites and a lot of heckling I’d imagine.

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Tell us about the new EP Bait

Our new EP was supposed to be a 7” but the pressing plant we were booked in to press the 7” moved without telling us and therefore lost our booking. Extremely stressful situation when you have a whole two-month US tour booked. Thus, I had to think quickly and I put together the EP, which arrived a day before the tour started. Wild!

It’s partly recorded in NYC with our US band members Capt’n Gerry on drums and Max Speed $1000 on bass with Matt Verta-Ray of Heavy Trash and Speed Ball Baby fame engineering again. Matt recorded our last 7” and most of our Dirty & Dumb album too. We have a great working relationship with him, he even features on guitar on the song Bad News.

The two newest songs Bait and Etiquette For Suckers, were recorded in Auckland at Roundhead Studios with Troy Ferguson producing  and engineered by Jordan Stone. Always a fun duo to work with! We had worked with them when we came back for a brief tour in 2012 for our Dirty & Dumb album release and recorded a live-to-air for BFM’s ‘In Sessions’. In which we caused a fire from the bass cabinet blowing up mid recording. Can’t take us anywhere…

The EP was all mastered by the extremely famous, talented and charming Ivan Julian of bands such as The Foundations, Richard Hell and the Voidoids and he has also performed with the Isley Brothers and The Clash.

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Have you played many of these new songs live before?

We have played some of the EP in the past in New Zealand and much of it on our last tour releasing the EP in the US last year. It’s always fun to break in new material.

How has your sound evolved from all the international gigging?

As a band we have grown and I actually think we can play now. American’s have such an advantage, as they are raised playing instruments from birth with their roots and folk influences. Whereas in New Zealand, my generation mostly started picking up instruments in their teens and it was considered rebellious by our families, so were offered very little support. It made for good songwriting though!

As a band we have really hit our stride and will go toe to toe with any band no matter how big or small. We’ve had the great fortune of sharing stages with many of our heroes and have played our hearts out, out of desperation (in need of money and food) and for absolute joy and glory playing to sold-out venues. We tour extensively and by touring I don’t mean a weekend away. I mean four months plus, on the road, in a van, coast-to-coast US and Europe.

I guess we’re not the New Zealand band that many people might have seen some years ago… We are brave, risqué, quirky, cheeky, cocky and most of all fun. We are a real crowdpleaser!

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Who’s in the current lineup?

Myself and (Johnny) Moondawg of course along with our original bass player JL (Jamie Vodanovich).

On drums we have Stuart Kett who has been working with us on and off since our return to New Zealand and our rock solid Capt’n Gerry from New York City who has been with the band for something like seven years

You guys are toasting 13 years together as a band this year, what do you put your longevity down to?

An absolute love of what we do. Moondog and I are no weekend warriors, we believe in the music we play and the ethos of being outsiders and underdogs and not compromising on the music and atmosphere we create and deliver. Doing everything on your own is a trial and it’s been a hard road at times but all-and-all rewarding.

Knowing that we have done it all on our own merits is a pretty special feeling that no one can take away from you. I am so glad we never signed with Sony, EMI or Capitol Records when the offers arose. We stuck to what we believed in and stayed true to ourselves. We have never even been a government sanctioned with a NZ music grant either. Everything has been off our own backs and that keeps you fighting fit.

13 years of music and touring has been a great vehicle to see the world and mix with our kind of people all over the globe. It has been mind altering and opening meeting and performing with people we admire and who have been huge influences in our music and lives… So yeah, at times it’s kinda of like living the dream and being eternally childlike and open minded. Therefore, giving both ourselves and our audience a real sense of joy and excitement because we still love what we do, and no show is ever the same. We are still loose but just well shaped nowadays.

I gotta tell ya, there are so many people in the world with excellent taste in rock ‘n’ roll that open their minds and their homes to you as a musician. These people are the people that keep rock n roll alive and kickin. I would never deny them a high-energy show with everything that we got. It’s the least we can do.

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Where do you see yourselves in another 13 years?

Who knows? Being that we don’t plan on stopping, there have got to be a few stones unturned. A nautical-themed country album anyone? Ha! Although, in all seriousness I do want to highlight my vocal range in the coming years, so we might end up a bit more accessible as a band. 

What are your favourite nautical themed songs?

The Ship Song – Nick Cave

The Fish – The Superbs

Creature From The Black Leather Lagoon – The Cramps

Commotion in the Ocean – Dee Dee Ramone

Favourite nautical-related movies?

Jaws – Moondawg’s favourite ever movie, EVER!

Creature From The Black Lagoon

This Life’s Aquatic

Sponge Bob Square Pants in Spanish

Battleship Potemkin

Any doco about the Loch Ness Monster. I have been obsessed with Nessy since I was 5.

Finish this sentence: “It’s not the size of the ship but the……………..”

Monster’s in the ocean!

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WHAT: Labretta Suede and the Motel 6, Bait EP release party on the high seas.

WHEN: 18th March 2017.

WHERE: Berth 14, Viaduct Harbour Basin, Auckland (Boat departs at 7pm with boarding available from 6.30pm – don’t be late!)

TICKETS: Available from Under the Radar.

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