With their new album gleaning rave reviews, TimeOut's Chris Schulz gets bashed around by the boys from Clap Clap Riot.

At the back of an unassuming Grey Lynn flat there's a little slice of magic waiting for some action.

Dirt has been removed. Concrete has been laid. Green turf has been stapled down. Wickets have been tapped into the ground and bails are sitting perfectly in place.

Behind the wickets, a neat little net has been arranged to snare any erratic bowling and nicks behind.

Yes, the boys from Clap Clap Riot are responsible for what might just be the best backyard cricket pitch TimeOut has seen.

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We've gathered with the Auckland-based five-piece for an afternoon of cricket, chips and beer. And things are about to get more than a little heated on that stunner of a pitch.

The band's guitarist/keyboardist Jonathan Pearce has a killer fast ball. Bassist Tristan Colenso is a spinner in the mould of Dipak Patel (his words). Guitarist Dave Rowland's bowling is slow and wayward - but watch out for his killer cut shots.

Singer Stephen Heard is a killer fielder in the covers, often snaring seemingly impossible one-hand, one-bounce wickets with beer in hand.

And new drummer Alex Freer has a streaky batting style that sees him set an early top score - aided by some atrocious fielding that has TimeOut wondering if anyone's taking this seriously.

Turns out they are - but more on that later. First, Clap Clap Riot have a new album, the Kody Nielson-produced Nobody/Everybody, to talk about.

TimeOut: Nobody/Everybody is a vastly different album to your last. Was it a deliberate decision to make a grimier record?

Dave Rowlands: We wanted it to be a lot more honest to what we're like as a live band. We wanted the sound coming out of the speakers to be as close as possible to what people who come and see us would hear. You have to have those minor flaws in the takes - it has more character. The biggest thing with us is that we're a real band that plays real instruments. Our flaws are out there.

TO: Kody Nielson produced the album. How did he help shape the record?

DR: We really had complete freedom, that's what Kody encouraged. We could pitch an idea for a song, and that idea would be encouraged and tried out. If it didn't work it wouldn't go on the track. Equally influential was Alex [Freer's] drumming. We wanted something groovier. We have always had a really big love for 60s music - Alex is the first drummer we've played with that's shared that love. It was an era of music where you had to work a lot harder to nail your recordings. These days anyone can do it in their bedrooms with a computer.

TO: You've had trouble keeping hold of your drummers. What keeps happening to them?

DR: That's a bad question to ask (laughs).

Stephen Heard: One got married and moved to Christchurch. They split up. Another bought a bus and now he's living off the land, and he trades Skittles for food. Another one was me ... We've had 10 different drummers.

TO: Sweet Patricia is a lovely song about a girl. Does Patricia exist?

SH: She's my girlfriend. She loves it. I gave it to her for her birthday. It wasn't fully finished, but it was mixed.

AF: She was like, 'What is this?'

SH: I was like, 'Close your eyes - I'll show you your birthday present ...'

AF: ... Dick in a box ... (laughs)

SH: ... and then I pressed play and she opened her eyes and she fully didn't get it to start with. She was like, 'What the hell is this?' Once she listened to the words she said, 'Oh that's great'.

TO: Is it weird for the rest of the band to play a song about one band member's girlfriend?

DR: There's a degree of tongue-in-cheek to that song. It's authentic but that's not the way Steve talks. He's not a lovey-dovey type of guy. That's where the tongue-in-cheek element comes in.

Jonathan Pearce: I've heard you guys say this before, and I think you're making an excuse for good songwriting.

DR: But Steve's never like: 'I love Pat. Pat is so great'. In that song, he's like, 'I loooove Pat soooo much'.

JP: But there's things you can say in a song that you can't just normally say.

TO: Is the new material freaking out old fans?

DR: It's not - but I don't think anyone would tell us that. The big thing for us is radio. The mix of the new stuff is not as crisp and clean as the radio stations like. The Rock [radio station] market won't hear it. We had always said we'd rather do something we're super-happy with than do something that's catering to a particular market.

TO: How do you feel about the album now that it's out?

SH: I'm always a bit nervous to start with, like, what are people going to think about what you've made? But after a while you just don't really care. If you like it, then that's great.

DR: There's so much work that goes into an album. It's not a case of just whipping into a studio and doing it and then putting it out. It's at least a year's worth of work to get everything put together. There's that awkward time, after you've finished recording and mixing it where no one's heard it. Now people have heard bits and bobs and you start getting feedback. We were always really happy with what we did with it. Part of how well a record does is how well it is received. It's always nerve-racking.

And there are plenty of nerves etched on to their faces when TimeOut starts whipping some wayward bowling to the boundary. It's all fun and games until Pearce - the pitch's owner - realises we're starting to close in on Freer's top score of 31.

Then, while on 26, TimeOut smacks a ball with full force into the fence. This sparks fierce debate over whether it's a four or six - or, in fact out.

After some negotiation, it's agreed it's a six, giving TimeOut the day's top score by a measly one run.

A fired-up Pearce asks for the ball, takes the longest run up he can, then fires in an unplayable yorker that thumps into off stump, knocking it out of the ground.

After a round of handshakes, Pearce admits he's been told by his grumpy landlord he has five days to rip up his beloved pitch.

But as TimeOut waves goodbye, he says defiantly: "They can tell us to rip up the cricket pitch, but they can't stop us from playing."

Who: Clap Clap Riot
What: Second album Nobody/Everybody, out now.
On tour: March 7, Galatos, Auckland; March 8, Puppies, Wellington; March 14, Dux Live, Christchurch; March 15, Chicks' Hotel, Dunedin.

- TimeOut