We've finally reached the end of the CMJ New Zealand showcase interviews and we're going out strong. What follows is a conversation I had with Princess Chelsea. And an added bonus, Pikachunes joined in for the chain and playlist questions. Check it out!
TWD: What I've been asking everybody – since it's the New Zealand showcase – is: if I were to get to New Zealand, what would be something I should check out that's probably not in Lonely Planet or a guide? Something off the beaten path.
Chelsea: I'm trying to think of something you haven't heard of. You should eat a feijoa. That means you'll have to come to New Zealand in April, they're only in season in April. It's a really great cross between a guava and like a green apple. It's a crazy fruit and it's the best thing ever. It's only in New Zealand and maybe one South American country.
TWD: That sounds pretty delicious.
Chelsea: Yeah, I'm just going to say feijoas and then go to all the stuff in Lonely Planet (laughs).
TWD: Are you familiar with This is Spinal Tap and Almost Famous, the films?
TWD: So if I ask you for a Stonehenge moment and a Golden God moment – you know, the bad and the good – as a musician, could you give me one of each?
Chelsea: Playing with people who play the saw onstage is a golden moment [Princess Chelsea had a saw player with her that evening, who was hanging out nearby]. As a musician, making friends and getting people to jump up and play with you is pretty great. Having a photo taken that sucks and having people blog about you and comment about you is the worst part in some ways. (Laughs) Not in the way you're doing, I mean gossipy ways. Like "Oh, I heard she's going out with so-and-so and she's got a monobrow," something like that.
TWD: Does that happen to you a lot?
Chelsea: No (laughs). No, it's fine.
TWD: I can see how putting yourself out there leads to it.
Chelsea: Yeah, anyone who does as a musician, there are always people that don't like it.
TWD: Sure. I tried to get inspiration from your music for some questions. On the first track on the album, "Machines of Loving Grace," you talk about finding confidence in something that may not be clear. What's something that helps you do it?
Chelsea: I think spending time on your own is really good. Getting out of the environment where that's coming from. Maybe taking a week away somewhere. I think as long as you're confident in what you do, that's the main thing. Honestly, I enjoy what I do and I like it, so I've gotten to the stage in my life where I really just don't care what other people think, which is really good (laughs). It took me awhile to get there. Sometimes I flinch, sometimes I get all self-conscious, like have little bouts of it.
TWD: That's great. I'm a little envious of that. I read that interview you did recently where you're talking about the idea of a modern fairy tale in your music. I was thinking a song like "Overseas," is kind of equivalent to a magic godmother that grants a wish, "Oh, if I could only get over to a new place, it'll all be better." I was wondering, A) is that something a lot of people in New Zealand are like? And B) don't you think that can be a flawed thing?
Chelsea: Yeah, a lot of people feel like they have to escape New Zealand. The "OE" is what people call it – the overseas experience. A lot of young New Zealanders, usually after the leave University or high school will go over. London is quite popular, or they'll move to Australia. They feel like it's needed to be successful. Which in some ways is true because they are bigger places. I mean, look at me. I'm overseas (laughs). But I think it's important to realize, like you said, just because you go to a bigger place doesn't mean things are going to get better. It's really about what you do with your life. A big city like New York is exciting, but there are things about it that stink. Quite literally as well (laughs). The subways. But yeah, it's an honest and probably negative take on the whole thing in that song.
TWD: Some of the other tracks, when you talk about cigarettes, or alcohol, or behavior like in "Ice Reign," I never really thought about it through the lens of a fairy tale, but it made sense to me. How did you come to that fairy tale look at things?
Chelsea: I really like the style of lyricism where it's a narrative. I don't know if you've noticed, but I don't really use first person a lot in my lyrics. Whether it's me afraid of being too personal or if I just want to be different, I'm not quite sure why, but I just like telling things like a story. That goes hand-in-hand with the idea of a fairy tale. You're probably not going to find something in my lyrics like "Oh, babe, I hunger for you," (laughs) or "My soul is black." That's not my style. I'll use a story to put across an idea in a less personal way.
TWD: But that can still be very personal, which is cool.
TWD: The song, "Caution Repetitive," I find that to be a very compelling story. I think everyone knows somebody that has that sort of sense of entitlement with their gifts and doesn't act on them for whatever reason. What do you do to help a person in that situation?
Chelsea: I don't think you can. You write a song about them and hope they listen to it and change (laughs). People that are like that, I guess they're afraid and they don't want to admit it 'cause it's not an intelligent thing to feel afraid, or something. You can't really help someone like that, they have to help themselves. I know quite a few people like that, the song's not about any one person in particular. I'm not sure. I could have been one of those.
TWD: You have that song about robots ("Goodnight Little Robot Child"). It seems every now and then that comes up in music. I'm a big fan of the Flaming Lips album Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.
Chelsea: Me too, it's such a great album. I danced on stage with them when I was like 17. It was like my dream come true. I don't know how it happened, but I ended up being one of those animal people just through chance. They're just one of the best bands ever, of all time. They're so good.
TWD: Yeah. Anyways, I was going to say, you know there's the movie out with Hugh Jackman, he's trying to build a robot?
Chelsea: Oh, I actually don't know. I haven't been paying attention.
TWD: Well, the question really is: would you watch a movie about a bunch of robots who tried to build a human?
Chelsea: I would, that would be really interesting!
TWD: I think someone should make that.
Chelsea: I love Battlestar Galactica and Planet of the Apes, movies like that which have really deep human, important themes to them. I really love that kind of sci-fi. It's entertaining, but you're like, "Oh shit, that's really, really deep when you think about it!" (laughs).
TWD: One thing I've been doing is getting questions from the each band for the next band. Here's the question I was given for you: If you were a dog or a cat, what breed would you be?
Chelsea: I'd be a golden retriever for the dog. And if I was a cat, I'd be…what kind of cat would I be? [asking her bandmates]
Bandmate: You would be a Siamese cat.
Chelsea: You reckon? Maybe a Siamese cat, yeah.
Bandmate: Or a Maine Coon.
Chelsea: Oh yeah, a Maine Coon 'cause they're huge (laughs).
TWD: Hey, can you join us? [Pikachunes, aka Miles, played in Princess Chelsea's band, so he was nearby at the moment. He came over] I've been trying to get a question from each band to the next band, but we didn't get to finish. Since I didn't get that from you [Miles], could you [Chelsea]…
Chelsea: Ask Miles a question?
TWD: Yes, then he'll answer it.
Chelsea: Umm…who would you rather have eliminated from history: Paul McCartney or Bruce Springsteen?
TWD: Wow, no hesitation!
TWD: This is for both of you, I've been asking all the bands. Hopefully going to make a playlist of it. So, a spaceship comes by the earth, it's on a fact-finding mission, like anthropologist aliens basically, they're collecting music from all over the universe. What do you think they should get from Earth? What songs?
Chelsea: Just one song?
TWD: You could do a few. People were struggling to come up with one earlier, so…
Chelsea: The Shangri-Las. The Best of the Shangri-Las, the CD. Neil Young, Neil Young's back catalog. (Laughs) That's my answer.
Bandmate: Probably the Ronettes, "Be My Baby."
Chelsea: Yeah, that song.
Miles: Fuck, this is a tricky one. That's a tricky question.
Chelsea: Probably the Beatles.
Miles: (Laughing) Probably (Everyone laughs).
Chelsea: Neil Young's first, though.
Miles: I reckon some Phil Collins needs to be in there as well.
TWD: You guys did that Les Miz song ("Castle On A Cloud"), that was cool.
Miles: Yeah we did.
Chelsea: It was your idea. I like it.
TWD: Are you fans of the show?
Chelsea: I am.
Miles: Of Les Miz? Yeah, it's a good one. Especially the music. The score of that musical is exceptional.
Chelsea: I love it.
TWD: I don't know a lot of plays, but that's definitely my favorite one.
Chelsea: Yeah, that's a really good one.
Miles: Especially that song, that song's pretty moving.
TWD: Most of them are.
Chelsea: (singing) "At the end of the day, you're another day older." Yeah, I reckon "Overseas," kind of sounds like a Les Miz song. Sort of. I like to think so, anyways (laughs).
That concludes the New Zealand Showcase interviews. I had a blast meeting and talking with all of these artists, hope you enjoyed them!