The new ‘Dunedin Sound’ - Two Cartoons’ (from left) Isaac McFarlane and Brad Craig.
Third-year students Isaac McFarlane and Brad Craig have come a long way since recording their first single in a spare room of their student flat.
The young emergent band, Two Cartoons, has received plenty of air time on student radio stations, Radio One and 95bFM, with their single Better Coast catching the ear of the New Zealand Music Commission’s export coordinator Alan Holt.
He liked what he heard and entered the track in a New Zealand compilation of songs featuring on the CMJ compilation album at the US student radio station’s annual festival in New York.
Back in Dunedin, Otago University guest music lecturer and music agent Scott Muir liked what he heard too. “It absolutely turned my head and I was blown away by it - I haven’t heard anything like that for a long time.”
NZ On Air funding
Together with Otago University music graduate Jason Schroeder, Mr Muir signed up as Two Cartoon’s agent with immediate success. They applied for NZ On Air funding, resulting in Two Cartoons' biggest coup to date: $10,000 to professionally record and make a video of Better Coast.
It debuted on television channel C4 and since then the talented duo have performed in a new band showcase in Auckland, opened for Ladyhawke at Re-Orientation week, performed and fronted at some of the regional Smokefree Rockquest competitions and featured on TV3's ‘Seven Days’.
“It’s ridiculous really,” frontman Isaac (20) says.
“Everyone was just saying it’s amazing going from there [the spare room of the flat] to where we are now.”
But it was no fluke. In May Two Cartoons received another round of New Zealand on Air funding, this time $6000 to make a professional video for their most recent track, Rainbows, which has been No 1 on Radio One for a couple of weeks and in the Top 10 for several.
"Better Coast" music video
(3min 40sec - 19.7MB)
Structure meets chaos
Mr Muir puts the band’s success down to the creative collaboration of both Isaac, an English major student and Brad, who is returning to Otago to do a Bachelor of Music with Honours.
“I call it ‘structure meets chaos’ because Brad has this structure to his music and Isaac brings the chaos.”
Isaac is predominantly the guitarist and Brad the drummer, but cleverly they can switch and Brad considers the fact that they both sing is a strong point.
“We have a lot of vocal harmonies. I’m a massive fan of the Beach Boys and Beatles. I grew up listening to a lot of that and singing with my family so it’s nice to be in a band that can do that too.”
While reluctant to pigeon-hole their music into a particular genre, they all agree there’s a strong pop guitar influence.
The Beach Boys and Beatles are an influence as is Fleet Foxes and Wavves. But Isaac considers himself “a melting pot of ADHD music thrashing” - you just never know what’s going to influence the next song.
The Dunedin Sound
Two Cartoons is well aware of Dunedin’s music heritage and revel in having people like The Verlaines’ Graeme Downes, now the Head of Department of Music at the University, who they can call on readily for advice.
“Dunedin has a really vibrant music scene where people take it quite seriously,” Isaac says.
“It does help us that Dunedin still seems to have this aura because of what’s gone on here before, of having this special sense of importance.”
Brad says studying alongside many other musicians who are writing music or performing, then watching and listening to them, is a great opportunity.
“And, when you have lecturers like Graeme Downes from the Verlaines, that’s just massive.”