It’s definitely not every day we receive great music from New Zealand in the inbox, but we did this week in the form of System Corporation. The five-piece project combines the rich musical background of their various parts in previous and existing indie bands, including two members of The Datsuns.
Having first formed while in Sweden on tour a few years back the exciting Kiwi band – formed of three brothers Scott, Andrew and Kent Newth (vocalist, guitar/keys, and guitar respectively), along with Datsuns’ songwriter, guitar and bassist Phil Somervell and drummer Ben Cole – will release debut single Dismal Universal Hiss next Friday (28 April) while they continue recording the final tracks for their first full-length album Fiction Dept. later this year.
It’s a uniquely flexible band lineup, of which Scott tells us: “We began in Stockholm when Phil and I were sharing a flat. We both had a bunch of songs and ideas for songs floating about that we decided to collaborate on, and we roped Ben in pretty quickly too.
“Once I got back to New Zealand I asked my brothers to help me flesh out my songs, and we ended up collaborating on a whole bunch of new songs for System Corporation. Now we all pretty much play on most of the songs, but not all of them. We don’t all have to play on all the songs if it isn’t necessary, you just do what is best for the song. We are all playing on Dismal Universal Hiss though.”
The quintet are still fine-tuning their sound, but from what we’ve heard it’s so far, so good in terms of their feel-good indie-rock.
Scott said: “This has been a hot topic with us lately. I can hear all our influences coming through, but as there are five of us with very wide musical tastes, no one influence has managed to break through. I think we have a sound that is quintessentially New Zealand, to a degree, as we all like and admire various Flying Nun bands. But we all bring a range of influences and we all push the songs in various directions, rather than try to push them in an agreed direction.”
Andrew added: “This is one of the trickiest questions to answer. Maybe indie/alt rock? But everything seems like a bit of a generalisation. We certainly don’t try to cater to any one genre in a deliberate way. We’ve recently been compared to Sonic Youth or NZ band Bailter Space which is incredibly flattering.”
While Phil describes their sound as “Pop music with a shadow around it.”
The latter hits the nail on the head for me, with the enjoyable indie-meets-rock feeling of Dismal Universal Hiss. It opens up with a gradually building call and answer guitar riff with big rolling drums in the background, a pause with keys leading into a bigger sound with a cool guitar riff leading the way into the opening verse. The vocals are surrounded by big instrumental sounds that give it that ‘shadowy’ feeling Phil refers to, in an almost Arcade Fire-esque manner.
The track has an intriguing sound that really grows on you with every listen, particularly the almost mesmeric combination of the rolling drums and repetitive guitar riffs which accompany the chorus. Speaking of which, the vocals in the chorus are fairly unusual given they’re a collection of short phrases of what people “in the ivory towers” won’t be doing: “To see you, To help you, To wait on you, To feed you, To bring you up, To teach you, To tell you what to do.”
The theme for the song is indicative of the band’s shift towards a more political theme in their lyrics. It opens with the lines “All the little people holding up their little signs in their little countries, All the little ideas floating in the ether but no one sees the bigger picture,” and that theme continues throughout.
As Scott explains: “The song is about the futility of the situation we are in. That even when you vote for change, when you vote in a non-politician like Trump or John Key in NZ, you end up getting more of the same, or in these cases, things get a lot worse for the poorer end of society. It also has hints of hope that, one day, real change might happen, while touching on the futility of protest movements like Occupy Wall St, that in the end, changed very little.”
And in terms of how it came together, Phil added: “I played the guitar part on it and programmed a basic beat to it that Ben later recorded over, then the bass line came which changed the mood of it but it wasn’t until the vocals came on that I thought we were onto something good. Scott changed it from something that sounds pretty 90’s to something that sounds more like the early 80’s which I preferred a lot more, then I immediately related to the lyrics and it was suddenly much more of a song than just some music I had sitting around. Such is the beauty of collaboration, things get taken to levels an individual can’t always achieve. Well, for me anyway.”
You can check it out for yourself in the video below:
System Corporation are the first band we’ve spoken to from New Zealand so we asked Scott to give us his insight into the country’s music scene. He said: “We are more involved with the indie scene in NZ, we are all in other bands that play more in that scene. However, the rock and metal scene has always been really strong in New Zealand.
“It would be fair to say that bands like Shihad have dominated the scene for a really long time, and are one of New Zealand’s most respected acts, from any genre. Recently Devilskin have been racking up the successes. They just completed a European stint that included the UK. Arc Of Accent just released a new album worth checking out too.”