Celebrating 20 years by the lake

Buskers come and go, but a Queenstown ‘‘folktronica’’ duo have been mostly earning their keep this way for 20 years and, what’s just as noteworthy, only ever play their own original music.

To celebrate their rare feat, Claire Forrester, who plays violin, viola and guitar and sings, and Paul Marcham, who’s on drums and percussion and produces their samples, last Friday released a 20-year anniversary album on Bandcamp.

The duo, who play under the name, Choice (aka Musicbychoice), first met, then got together, after they’d been busking independently in Queenstown — she’s from Belfast, Northern Ireland, and he’s from High Wycombe, England.

In the 20 years since, they’ve had a 10-year spell overseas — in Ireland and England — but they’ve been back here since 2016.

‘‘We really just missed Queenstown and the lifestyle here,’’ Marcham says.

Most nights, if the weather’s fine, they can still be found busking, and selling their albums, on the Queenstown Bay waterfront.

Marcham: ‘‘The reason we’ve kind of decided to do this [latest] album is every time we’d say to somebody we’ve been playing music together for 20 years, their jaws would drop.

‘‘We thought, basically, we’ve got to put an album together of the last 20 years ’cos we’ve got 20 years’ worth of recording together.

‘‘I thought, why not take a track from each year and make the old ones a bit more modern — put some basslines in them and some dub effects over the top.’’

They’ve also added three new tracks — a single, Holiday, and two previously-unreleased tracks, Doctor and Dublion.

According to a publicity release, they’ve developed from tribal folk to folktronica.

‘‘Starting out with a simple guitar, vocals and djembe [drum], their set-up has morphed into a labyrinth of looping, incorporating
heavy sub basslines, haunting violins, melodic vocal layers and weird and wonderful noises whilst still maintaining the poignant
lyrics and songwriting of their original singer/songwriter sound.

‘‘Their unique fusion has been described as Celtic dub, trip-hop, ambient electronica and atmospheric DnB, amongst others.’’

Marcham says playing on the street you get instant feedback.

‘‘Like, if your song’s not making you any money, you don’t play it any more.

‘‘People give you feedback, like, ‘oh, we love them violin loops’.

‘‘Ok, we’ve got to make more songs with more violin loops.’’

Forrester: ‘‘It’s really good practice for us, if we’ve got some new songs, we’re seeing what works.’’

Marcham adds: ‘‘We play to an international audience, we have a website that tracks our plays, and last year we were streamed in over 150 countries.

‘‘One month we had over 10,000 hits in a town in Brazil — next thing we’re kind of semi-famous in a part of the country we’ve never been to.’’

Famous musos who’ve seen them in action include Dub FX, Tiki Taane, Che Fu and King Kapisi.

Busking’s also got them noticed for festival work.

They start their next festival season with Queenstown’s Searchlight Brewery festival next month, followed by Rhythm & Alps at Cardrona over New Year.

They also regularly play Queenstown and Arrowtown markets and cross genres to play traditional Irish sessions at the likes of Queenstown’s Pog Mahone’s.

They’re both 45, but Marcham says of their busking, ‘‘we’re not even slightly tired of it, if anything we’re more and more hungry for

Latest album by Choice available on musicbychoice.bandcamp.com

[email protected]

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