Interview: Lost Valentinos’ lead singer Nik Yiannikas on all things ‘Conquistadisco’

Lost Valentinos   You’ve just come back from a European tour, what cities did you go to? Any interesting stories?

Barcelona, Brussels, Paris, London, Manchester, Brighton.
On our way to Barcelona we missed our flight due to a massive TM (tour manager) fail. Ironically she was the only one who had slept the night before. However, just when it looked like our Barcelonan dreams would be snatched away from us,

we found the world’s most expensive flights on the world’s worst airline and made it to our show where we towered over 2,500 crazy Spaniards.

After the show, we hung out with other people from Sydney (because that’s what you do in Barcelona) including our friend Kris Moyes, who had just had his phone stolen by prostitutes. He claims they were ‘she-male’ prostitutes, but this was never proven. Later on, our chaperon Julie who spoke at least 17 languages took us to an illegal after-hours bar, where our TM went home with the enormous African bouncer, and we never saw her again. That night. End Barcelona story.

Your debut album ‘Cities of Gold’ took two years in the making and made in three cities – Sydney, Berlin and London, what has been the major inspiration for this album?

Well the making of the album itself was an epic journey of sorts, and so we feel that the finish product loosely reflects a voyage too. Perhaps a voyage to the New World in search of El Dorado, with all the highs and lows, storms and battles, gold, riches and heartbreak that such a journey would have entailed.

And obviously there’s the name of the album – ‘Cities of Gold’. The name comes from a cartoon series that we all watched when we were kids and re-visited while we were making the album. The series, a quest to find the “Seven Cities of Gold” is basically a mix of ancient South American history, archaeology and science fiction set in 1532, and was obviously an inspiration for the album. However, its influence is probably more obvious on some of the ideas surrounding the music (i.e. the album name and artwork for the album and singles) rather than on the songs themselves, which aren’t literal or direct references to the Mysterious Cities of Gold story.

Working with a guy as lovely and talented as Ewan Pearson was a major inspiration in itself. He even invented our own genre for us – “Conquistadisco”.

Why three cities?

All good things come in threes. We like taking our time, but mainly because Ewan who produced our record is from London/Berlin and we are from Sydney. And so, he came to us in Sydney to begin the recording process way back November 2007. When November was up and the record still wasn’t finished we spent the next 6 months chasing him around the world, like that game ‘Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?’ – except with Ewan instead of Carmen.

The band is also touring during July/August, how would you describe your live performance?

Gold. Black. Samba whistles. Air horns. Sometimes two drummers, sometimes one drummer. Kwaito. Forceful krautrockin’ techno. Manchester. Guitars. MS-20. All of these words go a little way towards describing the spectacle that is the Lost Valentinos’ live show.

There are some regional places in the tour schedule, what made you decide to venture outside of the major cities?

We’re starting to take the metaphors of voyages and quests for gold too seriously and we’re thinking that maybe there’s gold hidden out there somewhere…

Or perhaps it’s the more standard reason of looking to broaden our fanbase, hoping that the country kids dig what we do as well. We haven’t really done the regional thing yet, so it’s a bit of a journey into the unknown…

When you’re on tour, what do you do to keep yourself entertained between those long drives/flights?

Maybe it’s a bit boring, but we love a good in-flight movie. We all caught “The Wrestler” on the way to London in May and were blown away.

Do you have any good luck rituals before going onstage?

Before a show we need to conjure our spirit animals for guidance and inspiration. Jaguar, Condor, Piranha, Snake and Coyote require us to devote a half-hour to shamanic chanting and a focused drum circle before they will show us the way…

Musical influences of the band?

So, so many. And it varies from day to day, week to week!

The Santamaria brothers used to play in a string quartet. They also played in a band that specialised in James Brown covers, somebody who is definitely a unanimous favourite amongst the band. As is Prince. As is the famous video of James Brown invited Prince and MJ up onstage at one of his concerts.

We all grew up on hip-hop in the 90s. The Wu, Public Enemy, Dre, Snoop, Nas, A Tribe Called Quest and NWA all defined our teenage years.

And of course we love guitars too, especially when mixed with techno… From Can and Neu! to Joy Division and New Order, Happy Mondays and Stone Roses to My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive. All these bands have had a massive influence on the Lost Valentinos sound.

And then there’s the classics like The Beatles, The Kinks and Nirvana. Enough said!

Tell us the story of why you had to change your band name from Valentinos to Lost Valentinos

There are various stories floating around relating to ‘the whole name change thing’. Some say we received threatening letters from Bobby Womack who had a band in the 1960s called The Valentinos, demanding a name change. Others say we jumped before we were pushed, to avoid legal problems later on. All we know is that now we have our own name, and nobody else can touch it!

What are the Lost Valentinos’ goals for the next 3 years?

To win more ARIAs than The Presets. That’s pretty realistic right?

If you could tour with any band in history, who would it be and why?

There’s too many to name. Touring with any band that has inspired and influenced us would be incredible. So far we’ve been there with Soulwax and The Church, hopefully we get to add a few more names to that list.

Where can people check out the tour dates of your upcoming National tour?

On our MySpace. Or right here:

Thurs July 23rd- Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay
Sun July 26th- Splendour in the Grass, Byron Bay- Sold Out
Fri July 31st- The Cambridge, Newcastle NSW
Sat Aug 1st- Oxford Art Factory NSW
Thu Aug 6th- Moth Presents @ Somabar, Brisbane
Fri Aug 7th- Neverland Bar, Gold Coast QLD
Sat Aug 8th-The Woombye, Sunshine Coast (special guest line up w/ I Heart Hiroshima, Ghostwood & DZ)
Thu Aug 13th- Karova Lounge, Ballarat, VIC
Fri Aug 14th- Roxanne Parlour, Melb VIC
Sat Aug 15th- Club 4 Play, Geelong VIC
Thu Aug 20th- The Harp, Wollongong. NSW
Fri Aug 21st- Club Academy, Canberra, ACT
Thu Aug 27th- Jive, Adelaide SA
Fri Aug 28th- Amplifier, Perth WA
Sat Aug 29th- Norfolk Hotel, Fremantle WA


Lost Valentinos’ album, ‘Cities Of Gold’ comes out on 09/09/09
Lost Valentinos Conquistadisco Tour : July-August 2009