Bands Across the Water: Quarter Acre Lifestyle

Rich Horton writes on Quarter Acre Lifestyle, a New Zealand transplant with one foot still in the old country.

Quarter Acre Lifestyle

I know some cities in Minnesota have a sister city. How about Minnesota having a sister country to share its music scene with? New Zealand might fit; they have about the same population and from what Aaron Pollock says (who plays drums and dials up the electronics for the 80 percent local band Quarter Acre Lifestyle), New Zealand also has a very cool music scene.

Pollock moved here from New Zealand to be a graphic designer, because of the large number of advertising and graphic design firms that inhabit the Twin Cities. He also brought with him an urge to make music and got involved with the local music scene by getting into a local hip hop band soon after he arrived.

Pollock really liked the fact there was so much music happening in the Twin Cities and fell in love with some of the bands: The Ashtray Hearts, Halloween Alaska, Haley Bonar, and Digitata. He did feel, however, that the town was being overrun by too many guitar-driven rock bands.

“I wish sometimes there was more diversity and experimentation outside of the standard rock formula, especially in what’s played on the radio,” said Aaron.

Along with his brother Cameron Pollock (still in New Zealand), who plays bass and does vocals for Quarter Acre Lifestyle, he joined up with some local musicians: Jack Wilcox on guitar and vocals, Kristin Brown singing, and Sarah Anderson playing keyboards.

The thing initially started out as a recording project in New Zealand with Pollock and his brother experimenting around over different beats and creating songs that way. When Aaron moved to Minnesota they had to write long distance; they’d send song files back and forth and each work on them separately.

“The recording process for the most part is me and Cameron writing the bulk of the music, and then we pull in collaborators. Our songs usually start from a rhythm, a bass line, or an interesting combination of weird sounds. A bunch of the songs on the album were born out of a simple idea, and then layering the other parts over the top, with vocals coming much later. Jack writes a lot of the vocal melodies, and the lyrics are spread across the three of us. Cameron and I played all the instruments on the album except for the guitars on “You Are Here” and “I’ll be O.K.” so recording tends to be a very concentrated effort.”

Out of this unique arrangement their self-titled debut CD came about. It’s a mix of styles that evolve between electronica, rock and a much-defined rhythm section. They focused on getting all the ideas down and recorded onto Pro Tools before they headed into the studio to do the final recording.

“We can develop really high quality demos before we invest in studio time. We use the studio for re-recording acoustic instruments that need the warmth like drums, bass, vocals and we keep most of the electronic parts of the demo in the final result. But outside of the technical stuff, I love the ability to sit back with some distance from the ideas, slowly developing them over time. Pro Tools allows us to write our music outside the context of a practice space, have them grow in the real world, where they’re ultimately going to live.”

When the album was done—especially since they weren’t intending on being a live band, one of them being thousands of miles away and all–they needed to get it out there and promote it. They used their website and Myspace to make the music available; they also used a local radio promotion company for getting their record to radio and Aaron’s graphic design background came in handy for designing posters and a clothing line. They also managed to get some local press, which is not an easy feat in a town with thousands of bands. One thing that seemed to work really well was the word of mouth they were getting.

“Word of mouth has been really good for us. There’s nothing better than the word getting around that someone likes what you’re doing. We put 5 songs on our website for free download and I think that was a pretty smart move too. It got our music to some people faster than if we kept it under lock and key. Myspace is a fast way to spread the word too, but you never know if you’re getting a music lover or an axe murderer. But I’m not sure if anything quite compares to just playing a good live show.” said Aaron.

Quarter Acre Lifestyle didn’t have playing live in mind when they produced the album but after finishing the album they were very excited about what they had accomplished and really wanted to play it live. A local venue provided that chance.

“Jason at The Varsity Theater heard the CD and offered to have our Release Party, which was huge for us because it was literally our first gig! So the challenge was recreating what we had written, because in the studio we didn’t put any limitations on ourselves in terms of a band format. We’ve really moved our live show forward since that first outing earlier in 2006. The album has sounds and layers that really give our music depth and interest that we are trying to make our own. So I’m now incorporating an SPDS Sampler into my drum kit for our live show. It’s allowing me to trigger some of the sounds that I weave into the percussion tracks that are impossible to play any other way. We’ve also got loops running through some of the new songs that sound great, but require another level of focus to execute well. So we are really excited about how our live sound has evolved,” said Aaron.

The band hopes to take this live show to another level, by playing with bigger bands and exposing their music to a growing audience. All while writing new material and adding it to their live set. If they haven’t done it by the time this article hits, they also plan on heading to Minnesota’s sister country (New Zealand) to play a few shows. I am sure many of their fans will also be happy to hear the new album, floating in the mists of the future, which the band hopes to do when it’s worked up enough new material.