Isle of Man’s Postcode have just put out their latest release about zebras, in the form of the sequel to last year’s Year of Zebra Part 1. Tomatrax caught up with Mikie from the band to have an in-depth discussion about zebras.
How did the band form?
Back in 2005 Marie asked me to write some songs with her, as she was a fan of my work with Nanaki. Over the next couple of years we wrote and recorded what would end up being our first album ‘Zebracore’. It was only when we were gearing up to release that album that we decided to make it into an actual band. It happened to coincide with most of my bands splitting up for various reasons, so from then on Postcode became my main focus.
Where did the name Postcode come from?
That also came from Marie. At first we were intending to call ourselves ‘Vow’, after the Garbage song, but then Marie suggested Postcode and we both liked how it sounded. I think it was definitely the right decision. Apart from the fact that there have been a number of bands called Vow, Postcode just feels right and seems to suit us somehow.
What is the significance with zebras in all your album titles?
Basically Marie and I both love zebras. It started with ‘Zebracore’ and we decided to keep it going with each new release.
Will the trend with zebra album titles continue?
We certainly have no plans for it to stop, as long as we can continue to think of titles we like. I guess if we reach the point that we have run out of ideas we may have to re-think things, but until then the zebra theme shall remain.
The term Zebracore has been used to describe your music, do you have any ideas in mind of what Zebracore sounds like?
Originally ‘zebracore’ was just a title to express our appreciation of the animal, as well as being a bit of a joke about the seemingly endless parade of genres ending in the word ‘core’. Given a little more thought however, I realised that it actually fit the music we make very well. The black and white stripes of the zebra can be used as an analogy for the opposites found within our music: quiet and loud, male and female, beauty and noise, digital and analogue, etc. Realistically you could just call us ‘alternative-rock’, but that’s less fun!
You have a tradition of putting out releases on your birthday, how did this come about?
It started with ‘Zebracore’; it just seemed like a good time to release it. Since then a lot of our records have been released on that day – ‘Zebracoustic’ in 2010, ‘Zebranthology’ in 2013, ‘Zebratronic’ last year and now the latest EP. There’s no real reason for it, it just became something that we do. If we’re ready to release something near the beginning of the year we tend to wait until my birthday.
Year of the Zebra part two is much darker than part one, what was the reason for this direction?
The two records were actually recorded simultaneously. Originally the intention was to recorded an EP, but as we went we kept writing new songs, until we had a full album. When it came time to put the finished record together, sequence it, etc, Marie felt that it was too long and that it didn’t fit together properly as a record. I wasn’t entirely in agreement at the time, but when she suggested turning it into two EPs instead and collecting the lighter and darker material as separate records I realised she was absolutely correct. There’s still variety on each record (something that I’ve always liked, in our records and other people’s) but they feel much more coherent and cohesive than a single album would have done.
What was the inspiration behind the dual scene videoclip for Take me as I am?
That was all down to the director. We’d mainly done performance-based videos before, so it was time to do something different. It’s intended to represent a day in the life of the band, with Marie getting ready, going out, etc and me being boring and making music, which isn’t too far from the truth!
You also produce music as Nanaki, how does this compare to Postcode?
Although the music is different in some ways, the process is pretty much the same, at least when talking about the Postcode material that just features Marie and I. When working with the full-band it’s a different matter. Usually in that situation I’ll have written the basics of a song on the guitar and then the others will write their own parts to it, which will be completely different from anything I would have come up with myself, especially in the case of Steve, our bass player. Songs we’ve written recently have been even more collaborative, with some of the initial coming from our new guitarist Keiran. Both approaches are rewarding for me, but I definitely like the fact that Postcode is becoming more of a real ‘band’ again, which is what I always wanted.
When you write music, do you initially know if it will be for Postcode or Nanaki?
Yes, generally if I write something it will be for Postcode, unless I’m writing specifically for Nanaki. Technically most of what I’ve released as Nanaki could have been used for Postcode, but it was written as Nanaki material and intended from the outset to be instrumental.
What is the music scene in the Isle of Man like?
Ten years ago I’d have said it was incredible – vibrant, exciting and supportive. Nowadays that doesn’t feel true, to me at least. Not that there aren’t great artists now, in fact in recent times there have been a lot of brilliant acts, like Post War Stories, The Clown Calls For War, Clara Barker, Cartesian Jetstream and Your Gold Teeth. From that perspective in some ways things are better than ever. But in terms of support from gig-goers and unity within the scene itself it feels like things took a turn for the worse some years ago. A special mention should be made for Ed Oldham, who hosts a great radio show on Saturday nights and often plays manx acts, not because they’re local, but because they deserve to be played, and Steve Leach, who provides coverage of local music in one of our papers.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
Yes, quite a lot. After we’ve released something I’m usually sick of hearing it because I’ve listened to it over and over during the recording, mixing and mastering process, but after a while I enjoy it again. I love the music that I make, I write things that excite me, move me, etc so I like to listen to it. I realise that could sound a little vain, but if you don’t believe in and love the music you release, why are you doing it?
What other music do you listen to?
I listen to loads of music. I could write a ridiculously long list, but I’ll try to keep it a little more brief. Broadly- speaking my taste tends to fall somewhere within the indie/alternative category, though of course that’s a pretty vague pigeonhole. Bands that I really love and that have influenced me over the years include Sonic Youth, Pixies, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, Mogwai, My Bloody Valentine, Low, Mclusky, Smashing Pumpkins, R.E.M., Aereogramme, Brand New, the whole Deep Elm Records scene of the late ’90s/Early ’00s… I could go on for a long time! I also love Akira Yamaoka’s soundtracks to the Silent Hill games and certain albums by artists that I don’t necessarily like everything else by, like ‘The Holy Bible’ by the Manic Street Preachers (one of my all-time favourite albums) and ‘Life Is Sweet’ by Maria Mckee. I like some things that people maybe wouldn’t expect of me as well, like Tom Petty and early Queen.
Now that the EP is out what do you plan on doing next?
We’re hoping to finally record the next album with the full band this year, which has been a long, long time coming. Firstly though, we’ve been asked to record a session for Mark Whitby’s Dandelion Radio show which is an honour and something that we’re really excited about. We’re aiming to include some brand new songs for that, which that I’m looking forward to a great deal. Hopefully we’ll be doing that pretty soon and then moving on to getting the album recorded not long after that. I’m currently in the midst of recording the Nanaki Dandelion session for Mark too, with luck that won’t need too much more work and then I’ll be free to concentrate on Postcode, which I foresee taking up a good portion of time this year if we’re going to do everything we hope to.
Check out Postcode’s Facebook page to find out more!