Radio BurgerFuel

Interview: NO CIGAR

Posted by Lee Densem

A Triumphant Return

It's been a huge year for the NO CIGAR lads. After dropping their debut album 'Bienvenido' last year, 2023 has seen then tick off their first international shows and now they return to Aotearoa, triumphantly waving their second album aloft for all the world to hear! Josh Morrice (lead guitar) gives us the lowdown.

RBF: Kia ora NO CIGAR, welcome back from Europe! What were you up to over there - how was the tour? 

JM: Thankyou! The tour was something else, it was only our second time playing outside of NZ so it was pretty surreal to get such a good response from our shows. Aside from the shows we played over there we also parked up at a house about an hour north of Paris in a picturesque town called Chantilly. I think we spent about 13 days there writing new music and rehearsing for the shows to come.

“interlinking social connections, that's just NZ"

RBF: Let's take it back a little. Give us lowdown on NO CIGAR, where have you guys come from? 

JM: We're all from Auckland (pretty much), and have been friends for quite a long time before starting a band. Arthur and Ned went to primary school together, and I used to live across the road from Sam when we were teenagers. There's lots of interlinking social connections, but that's just the way NZ is I suppose! 

We started jamming around the end of 2018 - nothing too serious, mainly just something fun to do together in the evenings after work. Then we decided to put out our first song 'Tickets To Space' at the end of 2019 and had a really good response. We were having a lot of fun so just kept going.

“We didn't want to wait two years before releasing another project"

RBF: I'm keen to dig into The Great Escape now (congrats by the way!). How did you find album number 2? 

JM: Thanks! Stoked to finally be able to share it. The album was lots of fun to make, we worked with our good friend CJ (producer/bassist of Mako Rd) to produce it. He also produced our first album so it was very easy! The album was written at Willy's [lead singer] family bach in Mangawhai where we wrote the bulk of our music and spent a lot of time.

We spent about 3 weeks there in February just working on the songs and rehearsing them all to be able to record them live together in one go. Then we took the album into Roundhead Studios for 3 days and tracked almost everything we needed, so it came together quite quickly. It was a contrast to Bienvenido which was in the works for quite a while. 

RBF: Did you always plan to put it out so quickly [only 15 months ago] after Bienvenido?

JM: I'd say so. We knew we didn't want to wait two years before releasing another project. Most of us were planning a lot of travel this year so we knew we had to all get in a room for a good stint before then. We just committed to the 3-4weeks in February to get as much done in that time whether it was an EP or an album. It just so happened we ended up with an album!

“it can suck a bit of magic out of my playing"

RBF: How did you go about writing and recording this one? Was the process any different to the first? 

JM: Yeah quite different. On the writing side of things, Bienvenido has songs that were written years before - shelved and re-worked and shelved - and also songs that just fell out of us in pre-production. But as a project it spans a large amount of time every song has a different moment or point in time in which it was created.

With The Great Escape, the whole album bar one or two songs was created in those three weeks in February. So a lot more continuity from the writing and album craft, purely because the songs are all so closely related in age. As far as recording, we also tried switching it up. The first album we recorded piece by piece which is a great way to nail the take and perfect things, but for me it can suck a bit of magic out of my playing and the cohesiveness of the energy in the songs can suffer.

So, with The Great Escape, we tried rehearsing the songs over and over again before going into the studio for a short amount of time to record everything together at once. Replacing things if we needed to, but trying to use the live takes as much as possible. This also has it's pros and cons, so it was fun to experiment with this new process. I know it made CJ's life a lot harder in post-production though (haha), so it was far from the perfect way to do things.

Next time I think we will try a mix of both! It's a unique challenge recording our songs and protecting the live feel and realness that moves us, it feels like trying to capture lighting in a bottle one day and then sometimes it feels like shooting fish in a barrel. 

“less pressure, less ego to perform for”

RBF: Maybe this is just my first few impressions listening - but it seems a little more chill/laid back than some previous releases. Was this on purpose? 

JM: Nah I would say that is accurate! I don't think we ever discussed it out loud as a direction for the album, but more being in Mangawhai, writing most of the songs sitting down, and about the music we listened to while we were up there. Being album number 2 it had less pressure, less ego to perform for, and the sounds we were drawn to, led us all down that path. I think it was as much a conscious decision as it was an unconscious one. Don't expect it to be the same for album 3 though!

RBF: How many tracks did you get to road test in Europe? What was the reaction like? 

JM: I think 5 overall. It's always interesting playing an unheard song to an audience, it can tell you a lot about a song but I think even more about an audience. 'Great Escape' and 'Father Of Mine' both had great responses across the board which was cool too see. 

RBF: You have a HUGE summer of shows coming up in NZ and AUS - mixing up some festivals with a headlining tour right? What are you particularly looking forward to? 

JM: No offense to NZ but seriously looking forward to getting back to Australia for that bunch of shows. It was only February this year we played our first tour over there and it was seriously special for us. This time it's bigger with more stops so I'm very excited about that! 

RBF: And after you get a break? 

JM: Kind of! We half-wrote and half-recorded another album in France so I think we will be working on finishing that. I'm keen to spend a bit more time on this one though, so somewhat of a break!

You can listen to 'The Great Escape' from NO CIGAR on Spotify and all good streaming platforms now. Vinyl is on the way too. Catch them live all over downunder this summer with 10 shows right across NZ and 6 shows in Australia.