30 Jan 2024

Good Habits play live

From Three to Seven, 4:00 pm on 30 January 2024

There's been a bit of a folk takeover on RNZ Concert Three to Seven this week.

Not only has the show been brought to you by the letter "B" for Bluegrass, but host Bryan Crump had real live folk musicians making sweet sounds in the studio.

Bonnie Schwarz (cello & Vocals) and Pete Shaw (accordion) are the British duo Good Habits.

Good Habits in the RNZ Concert studio with Bryan Crump

Good Habits in the RNZ Concert studio with Bryan Crump Photo: Tom Riste-Smith

The plan was to host them in the studio talking about their tour of Aotearoa and their forthcoming album Quarter Life

But when Schwarz and Shaw asked if they could bring their instruments with them, Crump could hardly say "no".

It was the first time Crump's had guests making live music in the Wellington studio since he began hosting Three to Seven last year, but with some judicious placement of chairs and microphones he was able to capture Schwarz's beautiful alto voice and cello, without Shaw's accordion drowning the whole thing out.

Ahead of the live music, Good Habits told Crump a bit about themselves.

Schwarz came to the cello via her grandmother who, “absolutely loved world music of many different cultures, so there was always a really holistic approach to it”.  

She started playing the cello in a more free-form way aged 16 when her Mum, a rock blues singer and guitarist stepdad taught her to play the bass-line to The Police hit 'Message in a Bottle'. 

UK folk-duo Good Habits: Pete Shaw and Bonnie Scharwz.

UK folk-duo Good Habits: Pete Shaw and Bonnie Scharwz. Photo: Supplied

Still, when she studied music in Manchester, she initially focused on the instrument's classic side, as was her eventual partner in life and music, Shaw, who was studying classical piano.

However, inspired by his Irish family background, Shaw developed a side-hustle playing the accordion, so he could earn a bit of extra cash busking.

“I made the best money I'd ever made, looking like an old Dickensian street urchin”.

The pair's first musical collaborations were classical, with Shaw's piano accompanying Schwarz's cello.

When those sessions started getting a bit improvisational in a folk-bluesy kind of way, Shaw whipped out his accordion.

Schwarz didn't know what to make of the squeeze-box at first, given her misconception that “it was going to play German polkas and was a very brash not very sensitive instrument”.

Four years and three albums later Shaw has won her over.  

Good habits have a strong relationship with Aotearoa. A tour in 2020 ended with them spending lockdown in Paekākāriki , generously hosted by New Zealand band In the Shallows.

“We had about 24 hours when we were getting the repatriation emails saying borders were closing,” says Shaw

They decided to stay.

“We thought well if all goes to pot we can pick fruit.” 

A view of Paekākāriki

Paekākāriki; not a bad place to be locked down. Photo: Mark Amery

They didn’t end up picking fruit, but they did teach music, play football with the local club, and make their first album Going For Broke as well as writing several songs for the aptly titled follow-up Antipode - because it was made on the opposite world from the first one (back in the UK).

On their new album Quarter Life (because they're both now in their mid-20s) Good Habits collaborated with five UK folk musicians, including Kate Griffin who features on their debut single 'Sunday' with her cello banjo. Schwarz describes the music as "existentially optimistic”.

 Which brings us to the live music making.

Good Habits performed a lo-fi version of their song 'I will still be here' from the Antipode album. Schwarz says “We wrote this song when we didn’t know what to do with all of our gratitude.” 

A bit or re-jigging of the microphones so one is close to the bridge of Schwarz's cello, and the other is capturing her voice (don't worry - the accordion will still come across from the other side of the room) and Crump - riding the faders on the sound-desk - is existentially optimistic he's got the balance right.

You can judge for yourself at the end of the recording above.

The full album Quarter Life isn’t set for release until April, but if you are heading to any of the duo’s concerts this summer, you’ll be able to pick up an early exclusive copy.  

The two-month tour includes dates in both islands, and a slot at Womad Taranaki in the middle of March .

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