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By Martyn• 27 Jul 2015
Earlier this year, Groeni frontman Alexander Green and his bandmates James Paul and Mike Alexander crowded around a small table with me inside an Americana themed burger bar in Newtown. We'd spent a wet and mildly windy afternoon attempting to play a round of nine on the hilly Berhampore Golf course. As things hadn't gone to plan, sustenance and conversation seemed like a natural substitute. "I think creativity provides a fantasy world that people can turn to as an escape from the drudge of normal life," Alexander mused. "It shapes our taste and makes up self-expression. I think it is responsible for a lot of what is worthwhile and beautiful in our otherwise miserable existences."
A singer, multi-instrumentalist and bedroom music producer, Alexander knows plenty about creativity as escapism. After he dropped out of music school several years ago, moved to Melbourne and created Groeni by turning a set of acoustic guitar based songs into electronic compositions, creative escapism was his companion. When he returned to New Zealand and developed a new set of songs by himself at his mother's house at the foot of Mt Taranaki, it was his companion as well. And again, when James and Mike began playing the music with him, it remained a guiding light.
"I think creativity provides a fantasy world that people can turn to as an escape from the drudge of normal life."
Not long after our aborted golf game, Groeni's sophomore EP 'Hewn' was released globally via Project Mooncircle and HHV.DE, a boutique record label and a vinyl record distributor, both based in Germany. Lauded by international media outlets like BBC Radio 6, The 405 and KCRW, its reception confirmed something genuinely special was happening. Joining the dots between spiritual folk hymns, lo-fi sound art and the skipping rhythms and bass pressure of post-dubstep and future garage, the songs on Hewn take feeling as a central statement. From that root, live or recorded, Groeni rebuilds them in elaborate half-live/half-electronic shapes located within the same musical traditions as James Blake, Darkstar and Jamie Woon.
Since the release of 'Hewn', they've been playing a steady series of shows around the country and opening up for international electronic music stars like Lunice and Oscar Key Sung. Groeni has also been busy working together in the recording studio to finish a follow-up record. While Alexander created the songs on 'Hewn' in isolation, their next release will be something more collaborative, a sound honed through regular performances. At the time, he told me, "I’m really enjoying working with other people again after so long. I’m happy it's with these guys; the dynamic is good. I think it will be easier to write together now that we have gone through the ordeal of realising the live show."
Outside of recording and performing, Groeni has also been involved in the development of small D.I.Y art/musical collective Backwoods. As well as promoting the creative efforts of the members online, they've been throwing small invitation only showcases around the city, giving open-eared listeners a chance to hear and see something different and local.
"Without working on music for a while, I tend to flip out a bit."
For Alexander, the creation of music is what he calls a "craving". "Perhaps [it's] driven by a growing lack of ability to express myself by other means. Without working on music for a while, I tend to flip out a bit." Alongside that craving, he trusts his gut. He dropped out of jazz school and created music that's resonated with the right ears worldwide. Now he's working with bandmates on the same musical page as him, who knows what they might accomplish together?
On Saturday the 1st of August, Groeni perform alongside Average Rap Band, Raiza Biza and Third3ye at Red Bull Sound Select's Young, Gifted & Broke event at Meow. RSVP for $3 tickets via www.redbullsoundselect.com, $10 with no RSVP. R18.