Troika band Christchurch

Troika is an atmospheric-experimental rock 3-piece from Christchurch. Their sound ranges from gentle and atmospheric passages to dynamic, intense walls of distortion and feedback and is influenced by the likes of Pink Floyd, Sigur Rós, Tool and Mogwai.

Formed in 2009 and comprising of Dorian Lemonnier on drums/vocals, Alan Kang on guitar/vocals and David Webber on bass/vocals, they recorded their first album "Prototype" in 2011. The recently released follow-up EP "zero-one" sees a progression in their songwriting with a deeper, more progressive soundscape coming to the fore.

2014 sees the band embark on a new songwriting cycle that promise to journey deeper in the dark sonic landscapes that have guided their output to date. interview with Troika, January 2014

(Interview by Logan Ellis, Spiderhands Productions)

So what is Troika? How long have you been around, and what does it mean to you guys?

Alan: “Well, Dorian and I have been together since 2009…”

Dorian: “Well Dave (bass/vocals) was with us since 2009. Troika really started when I moved to New Zealand from France. I didn’t have a drum kit, got a drum kit when I could, and so I put myself out there when I could (to start a new band). We met here (C1 Coffee) in ’08, and since then, it has been on and off.”

Alan: “So we’ve spent a few years with Dave as well, who started in 2009. Our movement has been pretty glacial. I guess what makes it tick is that Dorian comes from a different background to me musically in that he’s sort of played heavier metal, whereas I sort of love Pink Floyd… I probably come from more of the experimental atmospheric side. Dave is more alternative rock, so yeah, it’s not like we all think along the same lines. So it’s kind of a combination of all of those things, I guess.”


So what bands are you into?

Alan: “You’d get a different list from all of us. What we aspire to… such as with Tool, you could say that they’re metal, but they’re more like art-rock… in the sense that, it’s not about the technicality, dexterity, or proficiency… it’s actually about the art of what they do.  T’s what we aspire to, as opposed to writing a formula.”

Dorian: “Every time we have a band practice, I revert on my iPod to go back and listen to heaps of post rock. These are bands like Jakob  (from Napier),  Mogwai, Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Ros. All of those bands that create soundscapes. These are bands where you can put your cans in, and enjoy.”


So it sounds like you have a wide range of influences in there…

Alan: “Yeah well, individually we do listen to a lot of different stuff.”

Dorian: “Heaps. I’m very eclectic with my music. Extremely eclectic, from you know, Alanis Morissette, to Refraction, Dream Theatre, I love my progressive metal… also a huge fan of Echolypse. There’s a whole bunch of influences in there. I’d say that Dave and Alan have more influences in common that I do with them. I’m slowly getting into what they’re into, like Pink Floyd… I’ve been kind of foreign to that. I can hear the Pink Floyd in what we do, though.”

Alan: “Our common ground is where we agree that it’s atmospheric rock, I guess. So it’s definitely about atmosphere and the way that the energy kind of builds…”

Dorian: “Soundscapes as well…”

Alan: “Yeah, it’s definitely about the mood and the atmosphere, rather than the verse chorus rock structures. And I think that fans of heavier music like it because it has that progressive aspect to it, even though we’re not technical metal… we’re not even metal, really.”

Dorian: “But, it’s good that the people come to see us, because they can relate on so many levels. Anybody from the post-rock genre will relate to us because there are those much defined soundscapes. Then, I’ll throw a few double kicks in there and so it’ll sound kind of heavy, and that’ll bring all of the metal-heads in, because they can relate to that.”

Alan: “What’s interesting to me is that, in a typical three-piece, the drummer and the bassist will be holding the rhythm section; however, Dorian’s a very expressive drummer, so when we’re on stage, he leads the dynamics in the songs as much as the guitars. Dave’s nature is more reserved, so he holds the rhythm section together.”

Dorian: “There’s definitely the odd moment that you can catch with Dave where he will venture in this area and I wonder if he realizes that sometimes. It’s good!”


So what is your favourite part about being musicians?

Alan: “The fame and the money?” *everyone laughs*

Dorian: “I can think of the worst part of being a musician straight away! I mean, it’s a hobby, and it is a passion. It’s everything for me, it’s what I do. My spare cash should be going towards the band rent, but it doesn’t.”

Alan: “Dorian is very organic with how he makes his payments!” *laughs* “He makes large lump sum payments at irregular intervals.”

Dorian: “To me, it’s not even doing it, writing it, playing it, or learning it. It’s about gathering the reactions to it once it’s done. If someone comes to you and says, “Oh you fucking asshole, I hate you and your music!” I don’t care, because I know that it touched them on way or another. Obviously it’s better if it’s positive, but you know, that to me is the ultimate carrot on the stick. Whether it’s good or bad feedback, it’s good because at least our music has had an impact on another person.”

Alan: “I think that it’s expression, really. I guess that it’s like how a painter will express something, except for us, it’s our music. What’s nice about music is that there’s the recorded side of it, but when you’re playing live, there’s energy to it. It’s sort of like a living, breathing thing. And that’s the contrast to a painting. Someone will do a painting and stick it on a wall, and it’s done and you can interact with it; whereas with our music, whenever we play it, it’s different… sometimes unintentionally!” *everyone laughs* “But that’s the beauty of it, where it’s a living breathing entity. It’s not just you… it’s the dynamic that you’re creating with other people, and also what the crowd brings to it as well. That for me is like an intangible energy.”

Dorian: “We all bring seeds to the garden, and then we water them.” (Edit: At the request of Dorian, the former quote line has been copyrighted. It’s an inside joke, he will get this). “To me, it is mind-blowing that three guys from completely different backgrounds… that had never met each other before… and that are into completely different styles of music can come to some sort of chemistry, leading to this. It’s awesome!”


So in terms of production, have you done any recording? And how did that go?

Alan: “Well, that’s where Dave comes into it…”

Dorian: “I feel fortunate to have those guys in the band, because he (Alan) is tremendous as a musician and the ideas that come from him in terms of song-writing and concepts… I still don’t quite understand it, but it’s good! And look at the artwork (On the Troika Zero-One EP)! It’s tremendous.  Then you have Dave, who to me is a qualified sound engineer. He does all of the mixing. He’s a really clever guy.”

Alan: “Yeah, he’s the tinkerer. He’s the kind of guy that will build things from scratch. He knows which microphones to use, and he knows the software inside and out. He built a tunnel to show how the bass drum’s sound-wave takes 2.5 metres to procure.”

Dorian: “Yeah, he was telling me this and I was like “phwoosh!”… such as where to get the best sound from a kick drum ie. “it’s at this amount of metres!”, and he made a massive tunnel. He looked real pro! And then he had the microphone right at the front…”

Alan: “…And then he goes onto something else. Like, he’ll lose his interest halfway through. He’ll be building an electronic kit… he’s really, really clever. Really technical… his mates call him “Doctor Dave”.

Dorian: “One of his distortion pedals wouldn’t work at band practice, so instead of fixing it, he by-passed it and created a new pedal that would activate the one that didn’t work. He’s an incredibly clever guy, and he’s funny!”


So it sounds like, overall, everyone in the band puts in an equal effort. How do you write your music?

Alan: “Well it’s interesting, because I do stuff, and Dave does stuff. Dorian and I can just sit down and write something, and Dave and Dorian can start jamming on something. The writing process is different each time. One of the songs on the (Zero-One) EP was written by Dave… he pretty much wrote the whole song, and we just built it over top of what he’d written. It was the same with “11:11”. With “Reptilian”, it was made up of half of a song that I wrote, and half of a song that Dave wrote. As a band, I don’t think that we’ve found a rhythm in how we write. Dave is naturally gravitating towards the driving rock, which is quite atmospheric; whereas we’ll try and build in that “Black Emperor” stuff, which is really atmospheric and is more like a soundscape.

Dorian: “It’s funny, because the situation is like I’ve got my arse in two chairs. On one hand, I can relate to what he (Alan) does, and jam; but when he plays, I know that it’s not gonna be a straight 4/4 beat with a snare in it. There’s going to be nuances, and nice shimmering on the cymbals; whereas when Dave and I jam, he quite often starts with waves of sounds, and then he reverts to a simple bass line, and finally, a normal beat. It’s fine for me to play, because I play a lot of different styles, but it’s really me being able to adapt to those two. The big thing for me is that great stuff comes out of both, so it’s just a matter of making it work.”


So the jamming process sounds really interesting. What was your favourite gig?

Alan: “The first gig that we played with Dave at the Dux was pretty cool, just because it was a big deal to finally be doing it.”

Dorian: “Definitely that one. I had a friend from France that came to visit me as well that I hadn’t seen for many years, and I used to be in a band with him when we were teenagers. He was there for that night, so that really made it special. There was another one that I really liked. So I have the Dux gig, and the other one is when we played with a band called “Fornax Chemica”. A friend of ours was nice enough to record us with a really nice camera. I’ve got the DVDs, and every time I look at that performance, it’s actually quite amazing.”

Alan: “Like I said, we’re not the most technically proficient band, or accurate, so it’s very much about the energy. You look at bands like Nirvana… Kurt Cobain was a good guitarist, but he wasn’t a great guitarist, but that was part of the energy that they were creating at the time. You look at bands like “Echolypse”. I love their music, but they are so accurate; they’re like a watch. It’s like watching a Swiss watch spin around, and they would probably flagellate themselves if they missed some beats. That’s awesome within itself. It’s like listening to a finely tuned machine do its thing and it is very impressive. There’s no way that we could do that kind of thing, not even with the loops! Dorian is a “feel” drummer, not a mechanical drummer, or a metronome…-“

Dorian: “Nathan, Marcus; we love you!”

Alan:” What I’m saying is that what they do is aesthetically and technically impressive, but we could never aspire to that. We’re about feel; and purists would probably be sitting there going “oh my god, it’s so sloppy!” but it’s about the energy at the time. On here (the EP) is where we try and put the technically accurate version.”


Nice! Well I’m looking forward to listening to the EP. It sounds like your shows are great! If you could perform anywhere in the world, where would that be?

Dorian: “I’m not a very big fan of outdoor gigs, so that cancels out all of the stadiums and festivals…”

Alan: “I’m a big fan of outdoor gigs! One of my favourite gigs was down in “Ohau”(?), near Twizel. That was fucking awesome! The thing with our sound is, at the Dux, it was so compressed whilst we were performing on a tiny stage. It’s quite interesting how sound needs the right environment to breathe. It’s also quite interesting to see how that sound fills up the whole arena.”

Dorian: “There’s this DVD of Incubus, and they play “Redrock”… I can’t remember whether it’s in Sydney or in the States, I think that it’s in the States. It is a beautiful venue that it out in the desert, and there’s red rocks everywhere. The stage is there, and it’s beautiful. So I guess, if I could gig anywhere, it’d be there!”

Alan: “What about way north of Norway… we’ve got a song called “Dark Auroras in the Sky”. It’d be cool to play under the auroras there, because apparently they shimmer like crazy and it looks really trippy. That’d be great.”


Those ideas sound really awesome! Where do you guys see yourselves in 5 years’ time?

Dorian: “Wow. Honestly? Keep doing what we’re doing. I like it how it is now. I mean if it leads somewhere then of course! Great! But you know, we’re three guys, we’re all married, we’ve all got kids, we’ve all got work and the way that we are making music right now works for all of us. We’re at the point now where if any of us were to quit the band, I think that it’d be the end of it altogether. The chances of us finding someone that A) has the right chemistry which is… almost impossible… B) Someone that is married with kids and has a work commitment, because if Alan were to quit, we’d get young guys that wanted to rehearse 3 times a week; and we can’t do that.”

Alan: “The challenge for us is that we’ve been going for a few years, but if we were a young band, we probably would have packed all that we’ve done into 12 months or something. For me, the ultimate would be if we could play some festivals and build a bit of a following that way; but we don’t push it. We’ve all got families. Even to get together once a week is a real challenge. It’s not that we don’t want it to go further… it has an important place in our lives. We’ll keep doing this and make sure that our music keeps evolving. That’s the great thing about online media these days; you can kinda build a presence without having to play every single day.”

Dorian: “Yeah, we sold a few of our albums for “Prototype” over in Brazil, Japan-“

Alan: “South America, places like that-“

Dorian: “And one day, Dave was on YouTube, and he sent us a link, saying “oh guys, check this out!” Someone from the States got a hold of the tracks, and of the artwork, and put it on YouTube. Two songs off of “Prototype”, and the videos got over a thousand views… and then it got deleted, and I don’t even know why.”


What are three things that Christchurch could provide that would help you to make/play your type of music?

Dorian: “See, that’s a difficult question, because Christchurch is predominantly heavy music and metal, and nobody can deny that.”

Alan: “Our genre of music doesn’t get a lot of mainstream press, or presence on the radio; so maybe another outlet for our music. “

Dorian: “In terms of the internet, you’ve got iTunes, which has a plethora of different radio stations. And Bandcamp is amazing, because you can search via countries or via town. Quite often at work, I plug my headphones into the internet + Bandcamp, and pick up random stuff from Christchurch. I got to discover a guy that was from New Orleans, but now lives in Auckland. He calls himself “Empty Self”; it’s pretty nice metal music. I think that Bandcamp is one of the answers.”

Alan: “To answer your question… the heavier acts in Christchurch support each other, but there’s not as much support from… some venues are better than others. Some of them are supportive, and some of them aren’t.”

Dorian: “Shout-out to the Dux! They’ve always been good to us. It has always been a good place to go. When it was back in town, and it was called “Dux Delux”, it was the kind of place that people would go, no matter who played. It has good food, and a good vibe; people are nice, you know? Ross [Herrick -the manager] is amazing.

Alan: “I think that they see their role as supporting music as well, you know? They’re not just there as a bar.”


Wicked. Mad Props to the Dux for their good work in the community. What do you guys do as a band, outside of your music?

Dorian: “Time outside of the band? Absolutely none. We try to sometimes, but it’s just the odd “heeeeeeeey you know, we haven’t had the old drinking party in a while… the last time that we had one was in 1896… should we do that? Yeahhh… noooo… “. We don’t have time outside of work. He (Alan) has got two kids, I’ve got two kids, and Dave has recently got two kids. Honestly, my social life is band practice on a Wednesday, and the odd gig that I go to listen to or play. That’s it. I don’t really go out with friends at all.”

Alan: “We should go fishing and stuff…”

Dorian: “With you eh? Wouldn’t it be cute?” *everyone laughs*

Alan: “When I was younger, I’d be with bands who wanted to live together, like “We’re gonna live together!” … like, they must have been reading someone’s biography where the band lived together…”

Dorian: “Nah it wouldn’t work.”

Alan: “He (Dorian) would always be using my toothbrush.”

Dorian: “And he (Alan) would always use the last leaf of toilet paper and never say anything…”

Alan: “Nah I’d replace it later, and do a fancy little fold in it…”

Dorian: “… Asshole.” *all laugh*


So what’s next for you guys?

Dorian: “Next we’re organising a… a tour. I hate the word tour.”

Alan: “We should definitely organize that. The thing with tours is that you have to organize them months in advance… there’s a lot of coordinating and stuff involved. Plus, there’s getting time off of work…”

Dorian: “We’ve only ever had one gig outside of Christchurch, which was Nelson. Thanks to Echolypse for the invite, again! It was a fiasco, but a hell of a laugh. It was a bloody disaster, but it was fucking funny.”

Alan: “That’s the difference between a 20 year old kid and us, is that we can’t just take off for a couple of weeks and live in a van.”

Dorian: “But it was cool, because we only had fuel costs… the place that we stayed at…” *laughs and points at containers* “one of those containers would have been more comfortable. There were so many people in there!

Alan: “It was wall to wall beds, and it was this tiny room, and there were about 7 to 8 people in there… Dorian was like “I’m not taking any of my clothes off!””

Dorian: “I played a gig and I was sweating buckets, so I changed my t-shirt, and went to bed… and I looked at the bed, and said “Fuck that!” Even my shoes stayed on my feet. It was good fun though! I enjoyed it. Good trip.”

Alan: “Dave took his wife up, and she was actually really cool, but they stayed in a nice hotel.”

Dorian: “And good on them as well! Plus, she was studying, so she brought some study with us.”

Alan: “That’s the way to travel, not like us.” *laughs* “We should do it again sometime.”


Wicked! It sounds like there were some good yarns. Final question time; if your music was an animal, what would it be?

Dorian: “Woah!”

Alan: “That’s quite an interesting question, actually. I’m gonna say a tiger, because not that we’re dangerous, but it’s quite an interesting animal. It’s kinda camouflaged, but actually when you see it out in the open… orange is the most visible colour to the human eye. I guess that it can go from being very placid to being…”

Dorian: “I’m thinking… a sloth. “ *everyone laughs* “You know why? I’ve actually thought of this. It doesn’t do much, but you know that its presence is here, and at the end of the day, it’s needed! It’s here for a reason, it was naturally selected for a reason; and at the end of the day, it’s quite a beautiful animal! The sloth knows that there’s shit to be done, but he’s like “Fuck it, I can do it later! No rush!””

Alan: “Maybe we should have that as our mascot?”

Dorian: “Nah nah, a sloth is just what came to mind.”

Well! This interview was fantastic. Do you have any closing words?

Dorian: “Thank you for what you are doing. I got into you through the website last year and I think that it’s great what you’re doing. I’ve read everything on the site stuff that you do, it’s amazing. Thanks to anybody who supports us, and thanks Alan, for being part of the band! And Dave!”

Alan: “Yeah, I’d echo those sentiments. I guess that our level, music only happens because people are passionate about it, whether it’s the likes of yourself being involved at your level, or people that go along to gigs, so… we are very, very aware of the people that make these things happen.”


Aaaand that’s a wrap! Thank you for reading this interview.
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Thanks to Spiderhands Productions for allowing us to reproduce this interview.