Double helping: Dictaphone Blues and Tono and The Finance Company

Ed Castelow from Dictaphone Blues (left) and Tono and the Finance Company's Anthonie Tonnon. Photo / Supplied
Ed Castelow from Dictaphone Blues (left) and Tono and the Finance Company's Anthonie Tonnon. Photo / Supplied

DICTAPHONE BLUES: Over a date scone and a coffee in the back garden of Remuera's charming and rickety Dreamers Cafe, Dictaphone Blues' main man Edward Castelow is pondering everything from his new song Spicy Fruit Loaf to finding his true musical calling.

The latter, by the way, is playing as part of a power trio. Not that he has lost his oddball pop minstrel ways, with album opener Radio Heart a lovely rousing tune.

"I love rousing music. But essentially we are a power trio," he says of the band also made up of Myles Allpress (drums, vocals) and Rob Collins (bass, keyboards). And on Beneath the Crystal Palace, their second album and follow-up to 2009's excellent On the Down and In, they conjure up a big, ballsy and quite often brash sound with added trippy and psychedelic moments inspired by bands such as the Who and Big Star.

"We like trippy music and if something comes in over on the left speaker, we love all that sort of stuff," laughs Castelow.

It's a contrast to the chin-up guitar pop, and sometimes quirky electronic mood of his debut.

"Around the time of On the Down and In I was playing in the Brunettes and the Ruby Suns and those kind of intricacies they had in their music, I was trying to get that kind of thing into the music I was making. Sometimes it worked, but sometimes it's hard to do that in the shape of a rock band."

Dictaphone Blues cut back to a three-piece a few years ago and during the creation of the new album they would get together at a band room they shared with Dunedin rowdies Die!Die!Die! and write songs.

"It was more traditional and I think the songs reflect more of the energy of three guys bashing it out as opposed to one guy in a bedroom trying out different things. It's a more raucous album," he says.

It's a record about the internet-driven world we live in, love, and other Castelow catastrophes. Though he is a fun-loving chap and he's not scared to wear his heart on his sleeve.

"I love revealing music," he says.

On the fruity Spicy Fruit Loaf (with the recurring line "watch the television, hear what it has to say") we get an insight into Castelow's lounge as it escalates into a deliciously fuzzy slacker guitar graunch and groove.

"It came about because I live with my brother and he's a bit of a silly bugger and he said, 'Let's watch the telling vision', or something like that, so that's where the lyric came from."

Then there's As I of You which smoulders along sadly but sweetly before settling into a heavy, transitory groove, and it's the jaunty, sonic squall of first single, Cliche, that perhaps sums up Dictaphone Blues best.

"It's an ode to not taking yourself too seriously," says Castelow with a grin.Scott Kara

TONO AND THE FINANCE COMPANY: As Anthonie Tonnon, the ex-Dunedinite frontman of Tono and the Finance Company, talks to TimeOut, a middle-aged woman sitting within hearing distance in the Herne Bay cafe is so intrigued by Tono's comments, she comes over to introduce herself (she's a cousin of Dave McArtney of Hello Sailor). She asks if he would sing her a few lines, to get an idea of the music. He generously agrees, serenading her (and other cafe-goers) with a lovely a capella crooning version of ballad Twenty-three. Mr McArtney's cousin buys an album from Tono on the spot.

What seems to strike a chord - and not just with the 20-somethings he observes and portrays with his story-like songs - is the comedy, subversion, parody, and searing honesty in Tono's music.

"I'm a huge fan of Lawrence Arabia, and all of his stuff seemed to be written in character, rather than using any direct confession. I started out writing like that, but somewhere along the line I realised I'd been writing often scarily confessional songs."

Tono revels in the fact that he's had a few friends wondering if particular lyrics have been pointed at them, despite the fact that he's often talking from personal experience.
"Lately I've been writing in the second person a lot, because I like how uncomfortable that makes you feel. 'You've used up all your monologues, about the handful of authors you've actually read' - I'm actually talking about myself."

His "kind of protest song" Tim, is actually inspired by a friend, after a lengthy evening out at the Wine Cellar. Tono sees it as a song for a slightly lost generation slowly coming of age and struggling to commit to any ideals.

"There's the line 'and in the stone smoking garden we talk tar into each others' mouths, making intellectual sounds, like I'm hungry, I'm tired, but tonight I can't guarantee that I'm going to eat ethically' - because I'm going to end up at the kebab place. And it's the pathos of people trying to be intellectual, but running away from making any art of any kind by hanging out in the Wine Cellar smoking area. And that's totally me and Tim."

His songs address everything from the housing rental crisis, to the difficulties of skinny jeans, and (of course) finding a girlfriend who isn't still hung up on her ex. It's delivered with humour, in a delicious Kiwi croon, matched with jangly guitar pop that ranges from lush to sparse, from bandmates Stuart Harwood, Chris Miller, and Jonathan Pearce (and several guests).

With its sometimes unusual phrasing and fresh rhythmic patterns, it's not an album Tono wrote for dancefloors (although it's perfectly sway-worthy) but he feels the album title Up Here For Dancing matches his hopes.

"I don't particularly write in solid 4/4 'nice to dance to' beats. But I'm hoping that the dancing does happen up here, in your head, because of the stories and wordplay and the twisting of expectations."

LOWDOWN

Who: Dictaphone Blues and Tono and the Finance Company
New albums: Dictaphone Blues - Beneath the Crystal Palace; Tono - Up Here For Dancing
Where and when: Kings Arms, Auckland, Saturday

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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