“There was a moment in the studio where I was recording vocals, and Paul Cooke, Bernard Butler and Edwyn Collins were all in the studio, I felt slightly out of my league!” exclaims Nick Johnston, lead singer of New Zealand punk outfit Cut Off Your Hands.
Chatting with Clash from a London studio, the 22-year-old Aucklander is somewhat in a state of disbelief as he explains how the band – school friends who only formed in 2006 – have found themselves under the production wizardry of Suede, Libertines and Manic Street Preachers’ cohort Bernard Butler. “Coming from a DIY background, it was a really good experience and the first time we’ve worked with a producer whom we’ve gotten along with. He brought a whole new direction to the songs.”
We probably wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for these amazing bands
Johnston is painfully humble when he says that he “has a knack for writing catchy pop tunes” – a rare personal quality amongst a minefield of cocksure ‘punk acts’ (remember Donny Tourette anyone?). But rest assured, his confidence isn’t misguided.
Debut UK single ‘Still Fond’ stands tall as a fest of dance-fuelled energy, set to pulsating bass lines and Smiths-esque guitar lines – apt considering the band managed to use Johnny Marr’s old 12-string. With the melodic vocals of ‘Closed Eyes’ comparisons can be drawn to some of Suede’s best, but surprisingly, “This track was one of the songs Bernard was least involved with,” he laughs.
Counting The Smiths, The Buzzcocks and Joy Division as influences, it’s no surprise that the band’s musical style owes much to Manchester. “We probably wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for these amazing bands. I’m no Noel Gallagher but it’s been said I write both Smiths and Buzzcocks-style pop songs.”
Coming from a DIY background, it was a really good experience
Perfecting their live act within the “hardcore” punk scene back on home soil, COYH soon became infamous for beating up members of the audience who talked over their live shows, Will they shake up the UK indie scene during their tour with The Foals this month?
But we can’t expect anything less – Johnston’s idol is Iggy Pop – and he has performed onstage with him, all be it during a crowd rush at Auckland’s One Big Day Out. “He has absolutely influenced my live performance. There is nothing like Iggy Pop live. He really broke down the barriers between the audience and rock stars, and that is what I try to do, but in no way am I going to be violent to the fans,” assures Iggy’s lovechild.
But what if he does? The foursome from NZ are welcome to bring a much-needed dose of raw attitude back to these shores.
So, what does the future hold for COYH? “We’ve got a whole heap of songs together and so are currently in the studio working with producers in the preliminary stages of what could be the first tracks on our album.”
Watch this space for more sincere, passionate pop from what could be the biggest export to come out of NZ since Jonah Lomu.