Just before Christmas, Cheese on Toast launched a new special feature – a series of letters or virtual postcards from Auckland/Dunedin duo TWO CARTOONS who relocated to England to pursue their musical career. They promised to write regularly and share their experiences, the highs and the lows.
Here is part two plus some snap shots…
Any city will shrink when you are poor. The excitement is on the horizon, yet the trains have stopped travelling. I can’t walk there; the streets stretch longer and longer until I am forced to turn back. The city will shrink when you are poor, and it has shrunk for me.
As in many parts of life, you succeed at some things; you have to keep working on others. We have been here a month now, here being an industrial stop off on the London Overground, Hackney Wick. Stratford is next door, the home of Olympic Stadiums, filled with politicians who decided that the Wick was not fit for tourists to see, and erected walls to cover it up. ‘Ugly’ the street tag reads on the canal wall framing our view of the stadium, at once both revelling in our communities ugliness, while also calling that white elephant stadium what it really is after the games are over. Hackney is just like Dunedin, it’s a wonderful slum filled with people who are old enough to do what they want but not old enough to know what they are going to do. The life of Peter Pans with drugs and beards, a dislodged generation or movement, paying too much for rent and fast food, not keeping savings and not making careers. Having fun. The only difference is the bustling flats here have insulation.
As a musician however there is a difference. New Zealand has the fans of music and it has the industry, people who enjoy it and the business side. These sides are almost indistinguishable in New Zealand, everyone goes to shows to enjoy a band they like, to help and work with them if they can too. Venues are available for anyone reeling from a Smokefree Rockquest ska band failure to Lorde. However here in London I find a dissonance. Venues are for bands with a following and their fans, or bands without a name and audience members with business cards. It is the same process but distilled, in the open. Showcases are the name of the game and the accepted avenue to success here, “industry first, fans will follow”. It’s a proven theory but it’s boring. I don’t enjoy people sitting throughout a whole performance, it’s not fun. And fun is why we do this right? Fun is what New Zealand is, fun and fucking brilliant. We haven’t yet heard an act that wouldn’t be blown completely away by The Eversons, Males, A Distant City, Tommy Ill or Sherpa. There are still more fun avenues available, and I believe the grassroots path to success is still a viable option here in London, however with the huge amount of gatekeepers and industry here you have to bend to them at some point for some small concession. Focusing on a small community to make your own first is probably the best way to start, and luckily we have landed in quite the community.
We have a local café called Muff; it makes a great Mexican breakfast wrap, great people and ok coffee. The Wick is filled with graffiti and Australians, and even some graffiti painting Australians. We have met most of them, Brad is known as the guy that dances on tables now, thanks New Years Eve. We have a canal on our back step filled with houseboats and swans, the tube station is three minutes away, the off licence shop is one. We are settled, having fun, making friends, and playing shows. But not everything is easy. Our Australian friend Judy told me she doesn’t mind not having money, it feels like you don’t have any troubles, you can do what you want to make your own fun. I couldn’t agree with her. The city will shrink when you are poor, and it has shrunk for me. It is one of the problems of our lifestyle ideals coming into contact with the economic realities of our time, there are too many people and not enough jobs, no job no money, no money more anxiety and less opportunities. I hate relying on people.
My memory of New Zealand is becoming sharper, more colourful, and most importantly bigger. I love it here, this is where I need to be to have a chance to do what I like, and I feel at home here. It’s Dunedin with less couch fires. Once I am bending over for the corporate man, I can take the hard earned cash and pull those horizons back into view. But until then its small time living and album finishing, it’s finding fun in the cracked industrial wonderland we are living in, and missing my friends.