Sam McCarthy and Jordan Arts are worrying – they’re currently touring this side of the Tasman, far far away from their respective homes, families, friends and their regular daily lives. They’re worried that in their absence, the lack of Chinese takeaway purchases in their home town of Auckland may prompt the New Zealand economy to slide back into recession. Yes, they’re two young men living the dream, travelling the country, seducing all with their music – what they describe as a cross between “late ‘80s police drama intro theme and a sophisticated super-hussy”.
Both possess a love of all things electronic, both are Aquarians, and both are 22 years of age – yes, these are the Kids Of 88. But how did the KO88 begin? We caught up with Sam & Jordan in the midst of their Aussie tour and began by asking them just that.
“We somehow got streamed into the same English class. There was an exercise one Monday morning and we were told to bring in our favourite song on a CD. This was at a time when the boyband thing was very prominent – like Five/Backstreet Boys. Then you had the other crowd who were into 2Pac and that sort of stuff. And then somehow we brought the same CD – it was Jimi Hendrix. So we knew at that point,” says Jordan, who lets Sam do most of the talking for the rest of our chat.
“I see that you’re trying to be way cooler than anyone else in the class and that you’re peacocking right now. But I was okay with that because I was trying to do the same thing,” chirps in Sam.
Kids Of 88 released their first single ‘My House’ independently in New Zealand back in 2008. Through some rather amazing support, things started to take off altogether organically.
“We wrote the track in 2008 and we didn’t really expect it to do much. It had been in demo format, it was up on the Myspace for about a year, but our manager Ashley always had a fair plan of where he wanted it to go. It got a synch with music television in Singapore and New Zealand, got on one of their promo reels and from then on, people just started writing in. But we didn’t have a music video, didn’t have any kind of front as such.
“So we started up our own independent record label, ‘Dryden Street Records’ and released it through that. And the rest is kind of history in regards to New Zealand. It was just like a rash. It got up and spread all over the show,” Sam laughs.
Word about the pair quickly spread, and they were off on treks around the world to further the Kids Of 88 cause. Sony Music saw the potential and snapped them up.
“We had released ‘My House’ in New Zealand and through Ashley it started to find its way into particular little offices.” Sam jokingly says ‘orifices’ and we all giggle like naughty schoolkids, but we’ll let that one fly through to the keeper…
“We found ourselves on a trip – we went to LA for a week and we came back to New Zealand, regrouped, went off to the UK, went to New York and it was really just through this song and this thing we’d dreamt up. So in regards to Sony, I guess it really came from that. And it’s really good because it’s meant that we’ve been able to channel everything and we’ve got this fantastic team behind us and it’s probably the kind of most shiny, well made trampoline at the end of the day. So we’ve been really… ‘lucky’ I guess is the key word in this project.”
The KO88 Wikipedia entry suggests that both Sam and Jordan are “somewhat elusive and do not give many interviews”. Seeing the irony in us interviewing a reportedly elusive band, we ask them if there’s any truth to those rumours.
“Well it definitely started off that way,” says Sam, “We are a couple of hermits. We stay indoors. We’re very pasty and we don’t see the sun that often. And that’s how we’ve kept things while we’ve been writing music. But to be honest, that’s not really true. Is IS Wikipedia after all. But I’m okay with that, because it makes us seem way more endearing than we actually are.”
So in truth they’re actually media whores?
“Oh we’re slutting ourselves all over the show. We’ve definitely picked up a few STDs on the way. We do keep things fairly low key and we do like to be as… not elusive ‘cause I think you can get a little bit wanky like that, but we do like to keep it more about the music and we like to keep our image intact,” Sam says.
Their debut Aussie single is their previously independently released track ‘My House’. It was released to digital retail a couple of weeks ago. Sam explains how the song came to be.
“Well with ‘My House’, I wanted to make something that screamed ‘really badly filmed police footage from the ‘80s and these sirens spinning around against a New York skyline’ or whatever. Then the big guitar line came up and I just had that looping around and there’s a little bit that’s Knight Rider theme-esque as well. Then the vocals came on top of that and that brought that slightly suggestive and slightly sweaty and gross vibe to things. So that’s how we’ve always liked to combine things. Slightly retrospect with a bit of punk aesthetic. And that how it seems to work,” he says.
Like all artists from New Zealand, should Kids Of 88 achieve any kind of success here in Australia, they’ll automatically have to renounce their NZ citizenship and become one of us. We ask the boys if they’re prepared to do so.
Sam answers jokingly, “Well look, I’m okay with that because New Zealand can only handle so much at the end of the day. Like I said, the two of us are here, so the economy there is really losing . They need us right now. I haven’t bought takeaway from there for the last two weeks now, so I think they’re going to slide into recession. But at the same time if Australia is, like we said before, the trampoline that springs us upwards, then hey why not?”
With the overseas market now beckoning, there may have been a delay in the release of their debut album, but the boys assure us that everything is still on track for an August release, here and in New Zealand.
“We’re still looking at titles. ‘Down The S-Bend’, ‘How Deep Down The S-Bend?’.” They are joking. “There’s definitely a few floating around (excuse the pun). We’re hopefully going to be able to scoop one out of the bottom sometime soon. If you left it up to us, we wouldn’t finish the album ever, but it’s good that there have been deadlines set. I like that added pressure because it’s given us a work ethic and we’ve been concentrating a lot more on delivering. So it should definitely be out then. Everything’s all finished – all the writing’s been done, we’re just going through a stage of mixing the album, so it’s kind of more the technical side. Final touches, but I think August we’re pretty confident about.”
This will no doubt excite KO88’s fans, who tend to be rather passionate.
“Yeah, it’s pretty full on. We just created, whether we knew it or not, something that people wanted, especially in Auckland. I would come across people and they would say, ‘oh I hear you’re in a band, what’s the name of your band?’ and I’d say ‘oh Kids Of 88’ and they’d say ‘oh my god – me and my friends listen to your song all the time when we go out to town’ and therefore we’ve created a niche in the market,” says Sam.
“Sometimes they mistake me for the singer, which is definitely not a good thing,” pipes up Jordan.
“Oh look, just go for it, I reckon,” replies Sam.
“Spoken word over the next single… ‘Like a Backstreet Boy…’,” Jordan sings softly.
“Like those ‘90s romantic pop songs with a little breakdown. But it’s been cool. Not that it’s been super intentional but I guess our songs have been slightly anthemic in that ‘My House’ was that nightlife induced song and ‘Just A Little Bit’ was a little more provocative, so it kind of works. So I think that’s why people do appreciate us because there’s something that they’ve always wanted to have in regards to being cheeky and we’ve supplied that. I guess that’s why it works,” says Sam.
Meanwhile, they maintain a high level of concern for the New Zealand economy and feel that in their absence, there’s something very important and constructive that the people of Auckland can do to help the cause.
“Absolutely. Focus your energy on Sky Crane Chinese Takeaway at Roskill in Auckland, that’d be fantastic – thankyou very much.”
Kids Of 88’s debut single ‘My House’ is available digitally now.
Their forthcoming debut album is due in August.
Catch Kids Of 88 live, supporting Cassette Kids on their current Aussie tour at the following dates;
June 18 : Sydney (Oxford Art Factory), June 19 : Brisbane (The Globe), June 25 : Adelaide (Ed Castle Hotel), June 26 : Perth (Amplifier Bar).