A bold step forward - Regional News | Connecting Wellington
 Issue 215

 Issue 215

A bold step forward by Madelaine Empson

In 2020, UK folk-fusion duo Good Habits – Bonnie Schwarz (cello, vocals) and Pete Shaw (accordion) – found themselves happily stranded touring on our shores… for two years! Now, they’ll return to their Antipodean second home for a mega tour of their new album that hits Meow in Wellington on the 27th of March. While Quarter-Life isn’t out until April, there have been two tantalising monthly single drops so far.

Tell me about Quarter-Life and the two collaborations that are out now.

Quarter-Life has been an ambitious venture, boasting five collaborations with artists who have inspired us since we’ve been back in the UK after our New Zealand beginning. Delving into the realms of folk-fusion, Quarter-Life spans indie-folk, classical-folk, electro-folk, and introspective folk melodies – essentially capturing the essence of a live Good Habits performance. Our sound has evolved significantly since our last album, with meticulously crafted arrangements that we feel truly encapsulate our sound and selves.

The debut single Sunday embraces a cello-driven groove, championing the importance of rest – a much-needed anthem against burnout, especially for a touring duo like us. Our collaborator, Kate Griffin’s mellow banjo adds depth to the mix, resulting in a blend of intricate yet punchy vibes, fronted by a strong, jazzy vocal line.

On the flip side, our second single Space Buns / Hiccups is a spirited folk-dance fusion, showcasing two vibrant tunes. Space Buns, by Pete, and Hiccups, written by Kiwi violinist Shimna Higgins; we found they blend seamlessly. Our collaborator, Alex Garden’s virtuosic fiddle takes the lead, supported by Pete’s synth-like accordion, while soaring cello lines and percussive beats tie it all together.

Is there a common thread tying the songs on the album together?

Definitely. Thematically, Quarter-Life is an exploration of existential optimism, weaving tales of imposter syndrome, anxiety, and existential ponderings into a tapestry of hope and empathy. Despite the varied sonic landscape, our signature cello-accordion arrangements and indie folk songwriting style serve as a unifying thread throughout the album.

From the outset, finding our place within the folk genre was a challenge, given our unconventional approach. Yet, with Quarter-Life, we proudly embrace our unique blend of folk elements, drawing inspiration from Irish traditions, intricate storytelling, and evocative instrumentation. We feel this album is a testament to our identity and a bold step forward into the ever-evolving landscape of folk music.

What are you most looking forward to about playing good ol’ Wellington again?

There are so many things we love about Wellington, which definitely feels like a home away from home for us whilst we’re on this side of the world... We’re excited to play at Meow, we’ve had our eye on it since the start of things in 2020. We’re also extremely excited to have Jenny Mitchell supporting us! We’ve been friends with Jenny for years and had an Aotearoa tour planned with her in 2021 that was scuppered by lockdowns. This will be a great chance to reconnect in person and continue to collaborate and celebrate each other.

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« Issue 215, March 12, 2024