Conducting an interview with Nic Mckenzie, frontman for Sydney based, psych-prog outfit Deep Sea Arcade is akin to chasing a lop bunny around a room. Never quite able to predict which direction it might hop. This year (coincidently) Mckenzie became the proud owner of ‘Lagertha’, (affectionately named after a character in the Vikings tv series) the ‘cutest’ lop bunny. Alternatively she also goes by ‘Bunny Ball’ (she looks like a ball) and her somewhat unexpected entry to Mckenzie ’s life has provided the slightly off-the-wall musician loads of merriment to muse over.
“To Beyonce (be honest) it wasn’t my choice, she was given to me as a birthday present, apparently, often it’s bad luck to give people a birthday present that is an animal – it’s like a rule you don’t give someone an animal for their birthday. But… in this case, I was so thankful. I got the present, and I could smell hay and then I opened it up and there was a tiny, little fluffy bunny in there.”
Oddly, the advent of the new pet (a gift from his girlfriend, talented songstress Jordan Leser) triggered an immediate sense of recollection for Mckenzie of artists who belong to the psych-prog persuasion.
“Looking at Lagertha I instantly got this feeling of shoegaze and rock and roll. Why is it that Lagertha made me think of that? I decided that it’s like every psych-rocker kind of looks like like a lop bunny, he says wryly.
“If you put a picture of Kevin Parker of Tame Impala next to a lop bunny – yeah that’s his spirit animal for sure,” he explains further.
It’s this sort of warped logic that exposes Mckenzie’s mind as adrift in a myriad of distraction and wonderment.Time spent with his astute and eccentric mind will reveal any number of entrepreneurial ideas bubbling away, at any one time. Combined with ideating on how to make ‘Sydney fun again’ (and for that matter the East Coast/Australia in general) his newly discovered penchant for posting on the band’s recently relaunched social media accounts there is also his love of curating band lineups under his brand: Visions.
“I never realised how much I enjoyed curating lineups until I started doing it and the way you can actually shape the experience of the whole event by just the sort of acts that you get and where you place them in an event is such an art form and is so enjoyable.”
Band curation aside, the obvious question Cyclic dared to ask, is whether anyone else has noticed, or in fact is asking where the band’s sophomore album, follow-up to the acclaimed 2012 release, Outlands is and why it’s taken so long to be born?
“No one’s really asked that heaps – we normally nod to it in interviews in case they don’t pick up on it,” Mckenzie chuckles.
“It has taken a while, we kind of put that down to being, (drawing out his breath and exaggerating) massive procrastinators and massive perfectionists at the same time. Which is why it’s taken so long. We wrote a whole bunch of material – probably 50 songs or something, it just took us ages to write the ones that felt like they’re the right songs for the album.”
In fact, Mckenzie along with best mate (since primary school) and playing partner Nick Weaver traveled to and lived in London for a period of six months to gather fodder for the new album back in 2013. There they immersed themselves in experiencing the current crop of ‘new psych’ acts which were on the rise.
Incredibly the influences for the new album are diverse as they are varied. Hints of new-psych soundscapey-Horrors and Melody Echo Chambers along with a dabble in disco with artists like The Bee Gees and Andrea True Connection can be felt throughout however McKenzie reveals the collection is also tinged by a little soul and heartbreak too. The conclusion to a relationship lending thematic and lyrical inspiration.
“Retrospectively, the album is a bit of a breakup album. I was in this relationship, and I was so in love but it wasn’t really working out and so a lot of it was kind of inspired by those kind of artists, especially Frankie Valli, as he’s got that full heartbreak element to his vocals so I got into him.”
The time span for creation of the album spanning then, somewhere between English Summer of 2013 and right now, you could be forgiven for wondering as Cyclic have what the boys have been occupying their time with if not releasing the album. The answer, again, true for any musicpreneur, creative side projects!
For Weaver, his alternative projects include a new album release via his involvement with a former Deep Sea Arcader Simon Relf for The Tambourine Girls and playing in McKenzie’s younger brother’s band – Hedge Fund, while for McKenzie an array of creatively led projects are providing steady distraction.
In fact for the latter half of 2016 he has done anything but put out the album. Instead his attentions have been drawn (as formerly mentioned) to curate a Sydney-centric music festival; compose music for an upcoming Australian feature film; record tracks for his girlfriend – Jordan Leser’s soon to be released EP and amidst all this pay due to the album with the recent release of current single: Learning to Fly providing the first taster for their fans.
The unexpected fall out regarding the creative direction the accompanying film clip for Learning to Fly was headed in reinforced the band’s desire to put out perfection, and has prompted Mckenzie (himself a qualified filmmaker) to assume the reigns once more on this project.
Whether the film clip is released in time for the band’s upcoming (throughout December) national tour is anyone’s guess at this stage, McKenzie attributing patience being paid by their label, in their quest to achieve quality.
“For the label, we’re like these crazies, must be their most annoying band ever. Now we’re remaking this video clip and doing it with miniatures and cool shit. And making it space themed but, he says dryly, we have no money left. It’s going to be really, really budget.”
Whatever the current calamity of recreating a space themed video film clip presents, Mckenzie’s fervor for fun and passion for perfection align to his overall longer term vision for Deep Sea Arcade.
“I feel like Deep Sea Arcade, we want to write music forever – hopefully. I’d love to be able to. My dream is to be able to continue to write music forever, and be a producer and a composer and that’s what I’d love to do, produce other bands, have my own label.”
Catch Deep Sea Arcade ‘Learning to Fly’ when they tour throughout December:
Fri 2 Dec – Woolly Mammoth, Brisbane QLD
Thu 8 Dec – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney NSW
Sat 10 Dec – Howler, Melbourne VIC
Fri 16 Dec – Jive, Adelaide SA
Sat 17 Dec – Jack Rabbit Slims, Perth WA