Given they gain so much from pushing proceedings so close to the edge, it’s perhaps unsurprising that they’ve had a few gigs go wrong. “I can think of a few really disastrous shows,” says the band’s guitarist, Courtney Loove. “Probably the worst one was a show in Montreal where we were playing a big old theatre.
“There was some weird problem with the guitar, and we couldn’t get it to work at all for the entire set, and instead the guitar was just making horrible screeching noise. After the set, everyone backstage was saying stuff like, ‘I’m so sorry’, rather than, ‘It wasn’t so bad’, so you know it was bad.”
“We had another really bad show the next time we played Montreal too, where right before we went on stage, I checked my phone and had about ten missed calls from the Montreal Police. Someone had broken into our van outside the venue. So we played the show, but we were really upset.”
Nonetheless, such catastrophes seem inconsequential when weighed up against the band’s incredible rise and resounding successes – successes like their powerful new album II, for example. A perfect second record, the album builds on the pleasures of their first without ever trudging over ground that has been covered before. Ultimately, there’s little wonder it took them a little time to produce.
“We wrote it over the course of about two years at our weekly band practice,” explains Loove. “I’d say the process was pretty organic. We just kind of wrote songs here and there between time spent rehearsing for shows, and eventually we had enough songs for a full album. When we write a new song we like to play it live for a while before recording, and let the loose ends tighten up in that environment.”
According to Loove, the band ensure that the live process always influences and strengthens their sound, relying on lengthy jam sessions to work out whatever kinks the material might initially have. “I would say that for us, our writing process is very much a live setting itself,” Loove says. “Almost all our songs begin as a jam, and I guess we feel like if the jam sounds cool to us and we are digging it, an audience will as well.”
II, set for release this month, is due to be distributed by the lauded New Zealand label Flying Nun. As a result, The Courtneys are the very first non-NZ band the antipodean company has ever associated with professionally, something they mark up as a true achievement.
“We’ve always been huge fans of Flying Nun,” Loove says. “When we were a smaller band just starting out we would email them and tweet to them and stuff – and then one day they tweeted back! We were so excited. Their [distribution] company, Flying Out, wanted to distribute our [first] album in New Zealand.
“Then, we got a chance to do a little tour of New Zealand, Flying Nun booked that tour for us. We were so impressed by those shows. They were some of the best shows we’ve ever played, anywhere. So we knew they would do a great job with our record and were super stoked when they were on board to do it.”
That New Zealand influence has even seeped into The Courtney’s visual style – the music video for their lead single ‘Silver Velvet’ is a direct homage to the video Flying Nun band Bailter Space released for their song ‘Splat’. “We made the video a while ago too, before we even knew we’d be working with Flying Nun,” Loove explains of the clip, a highly choreographed exercise in lo-fi oddity.
“The shoot was fun: we just collected together some friends and had them all run through the [moves] a few times. The video is all one-take so we had to make a pretty detailed plan beforehand of exactly where people needed to be and when, and where the camera would travel. We got it right on about the seventh try.”
In terms of their plans for the future, right now the group’s priority is touring. Although Loove admits hitting the road can sometimes be hard, they manage to keep themselves sane by indulging in all-important downtime – after all, life is about the little things.
“We try to always eat a good breakfast every day on tour, and get outside into parks and take in some nature when we can, which helps,” Loove says. “Also, finding relaxing things to do on days off like going to a movie or the Korean spa. We already made a reservation at a hot springs in Oregon for our next tour.”
The Courtneys II by The Courtneys is out Friday February 17 through Flying Nun Records.