Family Cactus – Biography 2011

On June 6th Family Cactus release their second album “Spirit Lights” through Arch Hill Recordings

A lot has happened for this Wellington band since they released “Come Howling”, their critically acclaimed debut album in 2009.

During these two years Family Cactus released “Come Howling” in the USA, recorded “Spirit Lights” in Wellington (The Surgery) and Auckland (Roundhead Studio), mastered it in New York (Sterling Sound), lived for a few months in an apartment in Brooklyn, played shows in New York and Washington DC, had a number of line up changes, had a close and mutual friend of the band pass away and moved to a new record label.

None of this has been easy, but it has made their album “Spirit Lights” all the better for it.

Following the initial tracking and mixing of the album in New Zealand, the band relocated to New York and all seven of them moved into a Brooklyn apartment. The aim of the trip was to play some shows and soak up the inspirational atmosphere that only New York can offer. Adam Ladley from the band describes their apartment as follows:

“We rented an old ‘Brown Stone’ in a neighbourhood called Crown Heights. Biggie and Scarface were from there. It was part Cosby’s street – with all the beautiful old conjoined houses, really friendly neighbours, and loads of stoops! We saw a car-jacking, cornerstore’s emptying when seven New Zealanders walked in, with guys whispering “five-o-five-o” under their breaths…”

They turned the basement of the flat into an underground rehearsal space. This meant they could practice, write new material, and jam with the folks they met. One night a jam session somehow ended up including some free jazz horn players and Hamish Kilgour on guitar.

They also released Come Howling in the USA - which received strong airplay on College Radio there (going to 71 in the CMJ Top 200 Charts), played at CMJ Music Festival (where they named among the top 12 acts there by the influential NPR radio show “All Songs Considered”) and mastered their album with Greg Calbi. Calbi has worked with everyone from Dylan and Lennon (who’s hand written notes to him are framed on the studio wall), to acts like The National and Grizzly Bear.

Back in New Zealand, with a great album under their belts and energised by their overseas sojourn, the band immediately got stuck into building their Blue Barn studios in Wellington. It is an old warehouse that acts as band rehearsal rooms, a studio and a home. They also filmed and re-recorded most of the “Spirit Lights” album, live in the dilapidated Erskine College – to document and capture a different version of the band. A number of these performances can be seen on youtube and there are more to come.

All of these experiences have helped make “Spirit Lights” the great album it is. Filled with songs that creep up on you, wide-open sounds and a mysterious depth.