Before departing for the United States and Europe, Nik Brinkman of Over the Atlantic spoke to BRANNAVAN GNANALINGAM about sound shifts, album Junica, and the Bermuda Triangle.

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OVER THE ATLANTIC have been making a quiet name for themselves in New Zealand and overseas for a number of years, with their assured, complex blend of shoegazer, electronic sounds, and sweet pop. Their music seems to flow past like a languid river. The brainchild of former Ejector frontman, Nik Brinkman, and featuring the electronic wizardry of Bevan Smith (Signer, Skallander) the duo released the excellent 2006 album Junica and they have another album on its way later this year. Brinkman is about to hit the US and Europe for a while, and is playing one last show in Wellington before Over the Atlantic leave.

Brinkman was a member of Wellington rock band Ejector, a band who wild predictions were being made about. However, they self-destructed leaving the still very young Brinkman a little confused as to what to do. That “was a hard time. From memory I was in a rather dark place during that time. I just, just came out of high school, and everything seemed up in the air and I think my DNA was changing or something weird.” He enrolled in film school in 2003, but was also recording demos “with no major intentions, but to relieve oh so dark symptoms.” A song ended up on ALOWHUM compilation, and from there he met Bevan Smith. Suddenly his whole sound shifted.

Bevan Smith is coming up to veteran status in the music scene, but his eclectic and critically well-received background proved a crucial moment in Brinkman’s musical career. “I met Bevan through that ALOWHUM compilation. He was mastering the CD and he heard my first track on it, and he loved it and got in touch with me. It was my first song released under the name Over the Atlantic.” His knowledge has proved invaluable for the production side of the music. “He has helped me loads when it comes to mixing and producing. And getting the right sounds. His sample banks are gigantic. I think he has every sound imaginable. He wont let me use the good ones though. He says he is saving them for his new ‘Signer’ record...”

The resulting sound was a merger of electronic and acoustic sounds, however that wasn’t really Brinkman’s intention, or the signature he wants to be stuck with. “I am not that interested in merging these two elements together. It was just a financial thing. If I had the money to record an amazing drummer in an amazing studio I would. But I can’t. So I programmed beats on my laptop. This started my fascination with electronic music I guess. Before Junica I had never made any electronic music. I just knew how to play loud distorted guitar.”

Junica ended up being a rather unheralded release in 2006, and the album’s reputation remains largely underrated. It’s a moody work, with weighty layers trapping subtle melodies. “I was living in my first flat in Mt Cook when writing Junica demos, and I was just so frustrated with not having an album out, because it seemed like I had been doing music forever. So my inner tension and urge to get the music out there played a big part in the mood of Junica. Also, girl troubles. I hate girls.” The album took a while to release, the duo having worked together since 2003, and given the time taken to release the new album, I wonder if there’s a perfectionist element that goes on in the studio. “I don’t find it a necessity to spend hours and hours in the studio. If I could have my way, I’d get it all done asap. For me, I’ve always liked my demos more than the final product. I like the Junica demos more than the actual album. Re-capturing the essence of a song is so difficult.”

“I was living in my first flat in Mt Cook when writing Junica demos, and I was just so frustrated with not having an album out, because it seemed like I had been doing music forever. So my inner tension and urge to get the music out there played a big part in the mood of Junica. Also, girl troubles. I hate girls.”

He admits the new one has taken much longer than he intended too. “It has taken about eight months longer to complete than anticipated. Bevan Smith who is mixing the album left the country abruptly in August last year and was away for four months. So that kind of put the album to a stand still for a decent amount of time. Plus, Bevan likes to take his time mixing. Me on the other hand, would prefer to spend two weeks staying up all night drinking soy coffees and plugging away until finished.” He’s not a fan of breaks of either. “There is nothing worse than having to wait for your mixer to boil the jug and sip his coffee with perfection.”

The album is not due until around August. Brinkman admits that it “seems so far away to me. So I’m thinking I would like to release it in NZ asap. I can’t stand waiting so long for people to hear your music. By the time it is out, I will have moved on from all those tunes and it just won’t be exciting when it comes out. I finished recording the album in July last year, so it’s been a while for me. Maybe I will burn off 500 CDRs of the album, and leave them in a bucket somewhere in town, and then post the location of them on myspace or something?”

The direction of the new album looks like shifting again too. “I guess the new direction is less ‘cutesy’ and more ballsy. I have been listening to lots of R&B over the last 8 months, so I really wanted to go for a Britney Spears, Timbaland, Pharrell styled prouduction. I have grown to love chart music. Not so much for lyrical content, or messages that are being sent from these artists, but the production of these superstars is amazing. I will never make the same album twice, because that is simply a silly thing to do. So I have tried to make a noticeable change with this album.” But never fear, he’s not aiming for some sort of sell-out at all costs type of approach. “I would never record and release music that I don’t have my heart and soul in. I would have to love it. I think each album a band or a musician makes has to show evolution of some sort.” He also adds that “there are some 80s moments on the record.” However he does confess that “for OTA album 3, I hope to have a real drums.”

Whereas Junica buried its vocals underneath layer upon layer (“I really enjoy layering it all up.”) Brinkman suggests the new album will bring the vocals out. “I used to be so scared of hearing myself sing. But now I feel I have lots to say in my music, and it is the perfect opportunity to speak your mind to a potentially large number of people, so why ruin that chance by making the vocals impossible to hear?”

He’s soon off to tour the world, something which has been helped immeasurably by having booking agents over in America and Europe. “For this tour I have Rhys Telford on drums, and Ash Smith on bass. I wanted to go for more of a ‘band’ sound this time. I’m not so keen on using laptops live. More exciting with a live drummer.” He’s also looking forward to playing Europe for the first time after the States. The band are probably going to have to go ‘over the Atlantic’. (awful pun/segue intended). The name came when he needed one quickly for the original compilation. “It was either going to be Over the Atlantic or Under the Indian. I was just obsessed with the idea of the Bermuda Triangle. And I was reading a 70s space-type book, and in the paragraph about the Bermuda mystery, they were talking about some aeroplane that was flying over the Atlantic when it vanished. I just liked that combination of words.” There’s a final chance to see the band in Wellington on April 11 at Room 101 with Little Pictures. If not, there’s album no.2 to look out for in August or in buckets.