I honestly don't know a helluva lot more about New Zealand then that it's supposed to be beautiful, that I want to visit it someday and that one of the most overrated trilogies ever was filmed there (fight me!). So we caught up with Swallow The Rat bassist/vocalist Stephen Horsley who was kind enough to show us around his hometown of Auckland. Virtually of course because... you know, corona.
Swallow The Rat's new album 'Leaving Room' is out now via Shifting Sounds (order here). If you are a fan of all things noise, post-punk and shoegaze, then you will probably want to check out the band's ten meditations on change, empathy, and regret, which pack dynamics and shades that are every bit as sprawling and varying as New Zealand's landscape.
PRT: What made you first fall in love with the city?
Stephen: I’ve lived much of my life here from when I was a little kid, so that’s a hard one. But what I love about Auckland (or Tāmaki Makaurau) is its diversity- it’s one of the most diverse cities on earth with over 220 different ethnic groups living here.
PRT: If you had to come up with a marketing slogan for the city, what would it be?
Stephen: Its not as shit as it used to be. Auckland used to be a pretty boring place to be honest. Its getting a lot better, but of course this is causing lots of other problems- gentrification, out of control housing costs etc.
PRT: Best place to play?
Stephen: St Kevin’s Arcade on Karangahape Road. There are two venues in this building- Wine Cellar and Whammy Bar. Both are great dive bars, with awesome staff, sound and punters. Auckland’s music scene revolves around these venues, and going here is kinda like Cheers- everyone knows everyone. They host both local and international acts- we recently supported Sebadoh at Whammy Bar when they passed through town.
PRT: Best place to go for a late night drink after the show?
Stephen: Peach Pit (352 Karangahape Road). This is my favourite place to eat and drink in the city. The staff rule, the booze list is fantastic and they serve this bonkers spicy Chinese fusion food that I cant really describe. Great prices too.
PRT: Best place to go for a late night snack after the drink after the show?
Stephen: Spicy House (557 Dominion Road). This place is open late and rules. The must have dish is the chilli fried boneless chicken which is super addictive and will also blow any booze related cobwebs out of your brain.
PRT: Best touristy thing to do in the city?
Stephen: Go out to the end of Queens Wharf in the central city to see “The Lighthouse” by renowned NZ artist Michael Parekowhai. It’s a 1:1 replica of a 1950s NZ “State House”- government built and provided housing. Inside is a huge mirrored statue of Captain Cook, the British explorer who completed the first European circumnavigation of Aotearoa New Zealand in the 1770s. Also inside are neon representations of seabirds and the constellations. It’s a challenging piece that combines many of Aotearoa New Zealand’s key stories- the explorers who found this place, both Māori and Pakeha (European), colonialization, our natural environment and the role of the state. Its also beautiful and right out into the harbour with all the port traffic going past.
PRT: Best hidden spot in the city?
Stephen: French Bay, Titirangi. A beautiful beach nestled in the Waitakere Ranges in the west of the city.
PRT: One thing you would like to see changed in the city?
Stephen: Make it less car dominated and a better place to be a pedestrian or cyclist. This is happening but not fast enough.
PRT: What's your best memory about the city?
Stephen: Nothing good or bad really happens in Auckland so I got nothing here. I still have fond memories of bored teenage delinquency in the burbs. Throwing shopping trolleys off the roof of malls and suchlike.
PRT: Where in the city did you get your heart broken?
Stephen: Probably out in the soulless burbs of East Auckland. One more reason to never go there.
PRT: Is there a historical fact about your city that makes you chuckle?
Stephen: Auckland is named after Lord Auckland, an incompetent English aristocrat who governed India in the 1830-40s. He lost his post after a disastrous military campaign in Afghanistan. He never set foot in New Zealand.
PRT: Favorite song about your city you'd like to share, either yours or someone else's?
Stephen: 'Bunga' by Swidt. There’s a bunch of great songs set in or about Auckland, but this one hits the hardest. It not about Auckland per se, but about the realities of being Polynesian in New Zealand. Auckland has the highest number of Polynesian people in the world, and there is plenty of discrimination towards both them and Māori, the indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand. This song calls out some uncomfortable home truths about the place.