“I want to be a one-hit wonder”The songwriter/producer Taste Nasa has taken his ‘soft dance music’ to LA, where he now rubs shoulders with a legion of Kiwi star exports
Te Awamutu is a name etched into the minds of New Zealanders thanks to the town’s two most famous sons, Neil and Tim Finn. Their musical legacies with Split Enz and Crowded House make the small area in Waikato a place of pilgrimage for fans all over the world. Just a 10-minute drive away is Pirongia, a township of just 1,335 people. Minus one. While Pirongia may not be on the musical map like its neighbour, the departure of 21-year-old Leroy Clampitt for the bright lights of Los Angeles could soon see its name ring out like Te Awamutu’s.
As Taste Nasa, Clampitt makes sun-kissed disco-pop that’s as refreshing as a Californian sea breeze, so when former Kids Of 88 frontman Sam McCarthy invited him to play bass with his new LA-based band, Strange Babes, the move made perfect sense. Since then, Clampitt has toured with the band, and befriended Kiwi expats like The Naked and Famous, Kimbra, and Lorde producer Joel Little.
The Red Bulletin: You debuted Taste Nasa at Red Bull Sound Select. Did that platform provide the kick in the pants you needed?
Leroy Clampitt: Before [Red Bull Sound Select curator] Connor Nestor invited me, I’d written three EPs’ worth of music and shelved it all. I was at his place and I played him my track, Night Guy. I had a lot of tracks and a month to prepare, but I realised none of the music made sense with this new song he liked. So it was definitely a big kick in the bum to put out new music.
Not long after that, you jumped from Pirongia to Los Angeles, where you set up shop in Echo Park. That neighbourhood has a strong Kiwi flavour, doesn’t it?
Yeah, we’re taking over. There’s Sam McCarthy, The Naked and Famous, Kimbra, Joel Little, Brad Carter from Steriogram, plus some New Zealand actors. It’s one of the cheaper, more artist-friendly areas, so there’s a tight-knit community of Kiwi creatives.
Any brushes with fame in La La Land yet?
I was playing a gig with Strange Babes and I saw one of my teen idols in the crowd, [Vampire Weekend’s] Ezra Koenig, which was pretty cool. Whenever there’s a public holiday, we go around to Joel’s place, and I’ve met heaps of people around there: Ladyhawke, Nik Brinkman from Junica, Brooke Fraser…
Was trading smalltown life for LA a gutsy move?
Yeah, I reckon. Pirongia’s got a small supermarket, a bakery, two cafes and a bar, and that’s it. I just thought that if I was going to move somewhere, it might as well be the biggest hub I could find. It’s moved quickly for me in LA. I’ve had Taste Nasa tracks picked up by radio and I got a nice write-up from Buzzbands.la.
You identify your sound as ‘soft dance music’. EDM rules the rave, so what’s the purpose of SDM?
It’s music that makes you want to dance, but only really lightly. It’s what you put on when the club has shut; it’s transition music, what you listen to before going to bed. And it’s definitely pop.
Is it important to you that your music is pop?
I’ve always loved pop music. I’m a real sucker for one-hit wonders. It’s hilarious that a musician’s whole career can come down to one hit, but that song can be so special it changes their life – and other people’s, too. I’d love to have my own one-hit wonder.
As a muso, why would you want to be a one-hit wonder?
I love the whole nature of them, the funny stories behind the songs. How is it that you could write one classic and never follow it up? It’d be a dream, too, because all I want is a nice studio. I’d set it up in this great area near LA called Arrowhead. And if I got sick of making SDM, I’d become a builder or something.
Why is LA the best place to write that breakthrough hit?
I see LA as the spiritual home of Taste Nasa. The songs on my new EP all refer to this cool breeze that you crave when there’s a heatwave, but it never comes. If these tracks could create a cool breeze of SDM for someone on a hot day, that would be awesome.
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