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In this issue:
Jakob, Death And The Maiden, The Doqument, Nadia Reid, Thee Rum Coves, Dictaphone Blues, Randa, Darren Watson, Ekko Park, Eyreton Hall, Jed Parson, MEL
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Kids Of 88 - More than Quick Thrills and Sugar Pills

Author: Lydia Jenkin

 
When Sam McCarthy (left) and Jordan Arts (right) started making music together at St Peter’s College in Auckland, it was a fun hobby, exploring their way around a donated music production software package. They both went on to play in various rock or punk outfits (first as 2004 Rockquest winners Incursa), McCarthy later becoming known as the talented Goodnight Nurse guitarist, before deciding to embark on their own electronic pop project in 2008. As they release their debut album ‘Sugarpills’ it looks like their bedroom recordings as Kids Of 88 may become some of the most popular and innovative Kiwi tunes of 2010. The pair spoke to Lydia Jenkin about the oxymoron of their completely unexpected, but also carefully executed rise to fame.
 
For a pair of 22 year olds who seem to have a world of possibilities at their fingertips with hit singles, screaming crowds, an international record deal and radio itching to play their music, Sam McCarthy and Jordan Arts are delightfully humble and polite, yet completely infectious in their excitement about what is to come next.
Kids Of 88 have had a whirlwind 12 months. While the name may not yet be of the ‘household’ variety, their first two singles have clearly infiltrated the minds of young New Zealanders. My House entered our singles chart at #4 in June last year, went gold after 8 weeks and spent a total of 17 weeks in the chart. Just A Little Bit followed in February this year, entering at #13, earning gold status after 10 weeks and enjoying 19 weeks in the chart.
Having My House as the C4 theme song in April last year gave them a kickstart, and the accompanying videos, all suggestive, sly, and hilarious fun have enjoyed high rotate on music TV. With the simultaneous release of ‘Sugarpills’ in Australia and NZ due mid-August, that whirlwind may well become a tornado. This type of success never crossed their minds when they gave themselves the name Kids Of 88 and started posting music on their MySpace page, as McCarthy explains.
“We’d been making electronic music for ages, but we’d always been in rock bands or punk bands, and so we actually said to each other, ‘Okay, let’s finally just do an electronic-based project’. And I think it just kind of came together over time… We never thought we’d play a live show, never thought we’d have it on the radio, never thought we’d do anything with it. But I think that kind’a worked because it meant we didn’t put any pressure on the songs.”
“We weren’t thinking too hard about it really,” Arts adds. “Weren’t taking it too seriously.”
Although they may not have had ‘international success’ stars in their eyes, their diligence in songwriting (in which they are aided by McCarthy’s ex-Goodnight Nurse band mate Joel Little) and production, and the focus with which they make music, belies their casual attitude. With a talent for writing catchy hooks and pulsating beats, Kids Of 88 injected a sense of sexy, humorous, fun back into the local music scene. The appeal may partly lie in their ability to make it all seem like a throwaway, feel good activity, but there’s no denying that these guys are meticulous pop craftsmen, they’ve worked hard at setting up their own studio spaces and finding ways to harness their fleeting motivations.
“We used to be really, really loose in regards to song writing, but we found that we didn’t have as much material as we could, so then we tried to push ourselves to be inspired and be creative all the time,” admits McCarthy. “So we’d do weird things like set up our room in a really fruity way, so that all you needed to do was flick off the lights, turn on a few lamps, light some incense and you’re there. It helps though!”
That statement conjures images of studios in the ’60s and ’70s, which is fitting as Kids Of 88 take a lot of creative inspiration from past trends and eras, particularly aspects which others might laugh at.
“It’s usually things of yesteryear and kind of tacky things actually. We kind of like latching onto things that other people now would find really unappealing or taboo, and then we try and shape that into something appealing.”
I hazard to comment that there’s also a strong sense of nostalgia for the era of their birth in some of their songs – references to the TV show Full House, an Annie Lennox sample, a Michael Jackson-esque intro etc.
 
The hard realisation of concrete
and the happiness of blurry vision.
An alleyway gangbang between
Grandmaster Flash and The Knack…’

“Nostalgia can be a lot of things,” McCarthy muses. “It can be a place, it can be a smell, it can be a sound, it can be a mood or an actual physical item, or materialistic thing, and there’s so many ways of trying to inject that into your music… I think the thing that people do like about music is that it takes them somewhere, whether that’s somewhere they’ve already been, or somewhere they imagine they’d like to go. So in every one of our songs, we do try and put a little bit of that in.”
The songwriting approach differs constantly, with Arts, McCarthy and Little giving each other space to come up with ideas and bring them in for consideration. They rarely sit around trying to force themselves to ‘bash heads’ as McCarthy puts it.
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