Geek Monthly blog article on the guys

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Geek Monthly blog article on the guys

Post by Dave on Mon Jun 16, 2008 11:12 am

Article here.

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Flight of the Conchords get down to their socks.

// Words: Jeff Renaud

You would think following up a Grammy win for best comedy album with their first ever full-length studio release would push Flight of the Conchords into at least the Top 3 in the race to become New Zealand’s most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo, but alas, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement remain the odd band out.

“We are waiting for the latest charts to come through,” says McKenzie from a hotel room in Phoenix, Arizona as he and Clement prepare to perform a “secret gig” the next day.

“It’s actually just a crappy corporate gig,” deadpans Clement. “It’s for HBO.”

And while HBO claims that it’s not TV, whatever it is, it certainly launched the careers of the Kiwi characters into the stratosphere in 2007.

Last summer, HBO unleashed the New Zealanders on America with the first season of the band’s self-titled comedy series where the two play trumped-up versions of themselves trying to make it Mary Tyler Moore-style in the Big Apple.

Critically acclaimed for its relentless self-depreciation and drawn-out awkward pauses, Flight of the Conchords is first and foremost a showcase for the band’s catalogue of mother-flippin’ rhymes and bottomless lyrics—all work-shopped to perfection over the last six years at folk festivals, comedy clubs and as an award-winning series on BBC Radio 2.

That said, fans the world over have been enjoying the band’s songs for the past two years on YouTube; clips of their 2005 HBO: One Night Stand special all boast view counts in the millions.

This phenomenon alone, says McKenzie and Clement, fueled the need to record a proper studio album. (The EP, titled The Distance Future, won the Grammy.)

“If you are driving and you can’t get YouTube, then what,” asks McKenzie.

“Or if you can, but you get caught in an area that doesn’t have wireless internet,” adds Clement.

(Insert drawn-out awkward pause here.)

With frequent flyers like “Business Time” and “Robots,” the eponymous album from Sub Pop Records makes the duo’s first, full-length release—for all intents and purposes—a “Best of” collection.

“Yeah, that’s true,” laughs Clement. “And that is what we wanted to do. Bret wanted the first album to be called Best of and while it was a joke, that’s kind of what happened.”

“It’s kind of weird because we’ve hardly released anything that we’ve done,” he continues. “We did a live album, which we put together ourselves years and years ago, which had some of the same songs on it. But not many people know about that or have that.”

McKenzie and Clement agree their songs may be best enjoyed in a live performance but Flight of the Conchords has another purpose too.

“Here in the US, we can’t get played on radio through YouTube,” says McKenzie.

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“Because radio aren’t ready for this shit,” inter-rips the Hiphopopotamus (Clement’s gangster rapping alias).
“In the arrangement and the mix, we’ve tried to make songs that we would almost listen to if it wasn’t ourselves,” says a reverted Clement.

“This was our first real studio experiment and I love how it came out,” says McKenzie, who adds the songs from the show’s forthcoming second season will also be released as a studio album. “But I’m not convinced that it’s the funniest way to do a comedy album.”

McKenzie cites the comedic delivery of the now-deceased Mitch Hedberg on Strategic Grill Locations as something to strive for in future endeavors.

“I love the mishaps and the accidents. The problems that come through on a live album,” says McKenzie.
“And we realize that people may have wanted a live album. We know that’s what people will complain about. But this is a different sort of album,” explains Clement. “It’s more like High School Musical.”

McKenzie, a former member of the dub-reggae-funk band, the Black Seeds, says he and Clement didn’t start off thinking they would play for laughs.

“We started off thinking about being a band, and then we very quickly became more of a comedy band,” explains McKenzie, who met Clement at Victoria University of Wellington where the two studied film and theater. “I guess it’s because we developed all the material playing in stand-up clubs on comedy nights where if we played in dive bars, maybe we would have ended up being more like Ween.”

“That’s probably true,” adds Clement. “Or maybe Chemical Brothers. Or the Beatles. Yeah, we would have been like the Beatles.”

And while the Fab Four weren’t usually playing for laughs either while visiting the Ed Sullivan Show, Clement says he does find a unique brand of humor evident in the stylings of his favorite musician, legendary singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen.

“I find him funny in a very different way,” explains Clement. “He’s quite witty.”

And who does McKenzie tap as his lyrical muse?

“I am a big Hall & Oates fan,” McKenzie offers up without a hint of a snicker. “But I have an iPod. I don’t need a favorite. I can listen to them all.”

Clements, apparently a bit less out of touch, quickly injects, “We both love Stevie Wonder. And Prince is a big influence. There’s a New Zealand band that’s quite a big influence called The Front Lawn. If anything has influenced us it’s their first album, which is called Songs from the Front Lawn. They are mostly not funny but there are a couple of very funny songs there.”

When not stretching, as he was reportedly doing during this interview, McKenzie is writing Season 2 of Flight of the Conchords, which HBO plans to air in 2009 while Clement is filming Jared Hess’ follow-up to Napolean Dynamite and Nacho Libre—Gentlemen Broncos.

“It’s about a kid, not played by me, who has written a sci-fi story and goes to a writers’ camp where a famous author, played by me, steals his idea,” explains Clement.

With Flight of the Conchords released on April 22, McKenzie says there are no plans yet for a world domination tour to support the album.

“We want to play this town called Concord in Massachusetts,” says McKenzie. “We’re definitely going to play there in the summer. You can see the headlines already. They write themselves.”

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