Posts Tagged ‘Christchurch’


The day before the release of our third album, ‘Truth or Consequences’, the World Health Organisation declared COVID-19 an official pandemic. We’d arrived in the United States that morning to play the first show of our North American album release tour in Washington D.C. At this point, all of the tour dates were still set to go ahead, and we were excited to promote an album we had worked on for the last two years. This run was set to be our first ever fully sold-out US tour. The atmosphere was excitable, a little tense, optimistic. However, the chain of events that followed meant that by the time we finished our set that evening, restrictions on venues had been enacted by local governments across the country, and one-after-another, all of our remaining tour dates were cancelled. The performance at DC9 was the first and last show of the ‘Truth or Consequences’ album tour. It was all over, we went our separate ways and flew home the next day – on our album’s release day.

Touring is often the final piece of the puzzle that is an album campaign – the part you fixate on alone in a room, when you perfect a song and imagine how a crowd will react. You may have listened to certain songs a hundred times during the making of the record, but when you’re out on stage, face-to-face with an audience, this is when you start to truly re-contextualise and re-interpret the music, exploring the boundaries, focusing in on different parts of each song’s musical fabric. A new vocal harmony there, a new bassline there – perhaps you add different chord voicings on guitar, or new drum fills that set a new-found intensity to a section.

So after returning home and spending a few numb weeks adjusting to this strange new way of life, April came, the reality set in, and we quickly started to miss that feeling of exploring our new songs by night. We’d missed out on such a crucial part of the process – with no concrete idea of when we might next get the chance. It felt too soon to move on – we felt the pull to work on new music, but still felt a strong attachment, an unresolved connection to this new record that we’d laboured over and had waited so long to release.

Writing new music around them, we took the songs of ‘Truth or Consequences’ and found ourselves a new way of re-contextualising them safely, amidst the tragedy and fear going on in the world outside our windows – and the Alternate Versions were born. We encouraged each other to be bold, fearless, and to experiment like we would on stage – but from the comfort of our own bedrooms, living rooms and hallways. This new reimagining of ‘Truth or Consequences’ is the result of that process. Ten new arrangements that reflect our feelings of optimism, helplessness, and a desire to keep exploring.

Yumi Zouma are:
Christie Simpson, Josh Burgess, Charlie Ryder, and Olivia Campion.

Releases October 28th, 2020

flying nun

It’s often said that isolation leads to innovative music. That’s certainly true for a country like New Zealand, 2,500 miles over the Tasman Sea away from its closest neighbor, Australia. The country is famous for producing a pioneering brand of guitar music that has influenced artists from Sonic Youth to Pavement, to the late Memphis punk legend Jay Reatard. Since the 1980s, the “Dunedin sound,” as it’s become known, has been used as a touchstone to define a group of bands with jangly guitars, lo-fi production, and a deadpan Kiwi approach to writing and recording music; it was really just a fancy name for a localized subculture related to punk rock. At the heart of the “Dunedin sound” were groups like The Clean, Sneaky Feelings, and The Chills,

Much of the fanfare centered around the workings of Flying Nun Records, an independent label founded in 1981 by Roger Shepherd, who at the time was a relative novice with no prior experience in the business. Shepherd’s approach was fiercely DIY. In the early days, he maintained his job at a Christchurch record store (he eventually quit in 1986) and ran the label on the side. His philosophy was simple: if he liked it, he’d find a way to release it. The financials would be arranged later, sometimes for the better, sometimes for worse. It depends on who you talk to. But as the label’s popularity grew, record industry figures came knocking, and in 1990, with Flying Nun close to bankruptcy, Shepherd signed a deal to incorporate the label with Festival Records (later known as Festival Mushroom Records). A further transaction in 2006 between FMR and Warner Music Group effectively turned Flying Nun into a legacy label.

Today, that heritage is well documented. A film titled Heavenly Pop Hits – The Flying Nun Story premiered in 2002; last year, Shepherd released a book, In Love With These Times: My Life With Flying Nun Recordsand in 2013, New York record label Captured Tracks started reissuing records from the Flying Nun back catalog.

In 2009, Flying Nun was purchased from WMG by a consortium of New Zealand music professionals (including Shepherd), and in recent years has started signing and releasing music by contemporary artists such as Fazerdaze, The Courtneys, and Mermaidens. Those artists undoubtedly benefit from the past and present versions of the label. Many other New Zealand artists benefit, too, simply by sharing a home base. But the association by proxy hasn’t always been welcomed. As Flying Nun has been mythologized in New Zealand music folklore, many contemporary artists have come to view the label as having an overbearing presence.

Referencing Flying Nun has become somewhat of a tokenistic gesture, a way of pigeonholing every New Zealand guitar band without really saying anything unique about them.

No matter how you slice it, in a small market like New Zealand, a label with a history like Flying Nun’s is going to cast a long shadow. On one side you’ve got the label’s legacy, which helps to draw attention to music being made in the shaky isles, while on the other side, it’s easy for music fans to flick through the Flying Nun catalog but bypass the artists sitting right next to it.

Today, much like in the past, there’s plenty of independent record labels operating in the margins. Many have cemented their own histories amongst a dedicated community of fans, but few have found the type of global infamy that is bestowed on New Zealand’s most recognizable label.

Fishrider Records

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Ian Henderson started Fishrider Records in 2006 to release an album by The Dark Beaks. He says he had no intention of making it a permanent gig. “Enthusiastic feedback from customers, radio hosts, and reviewers around the world [and here in] Dunedin inspired me to continue,” he says. Early releases such as The Puddle’s No Love – No Hate and The Shakespeare Monkey resemble the famed “Dunedin sound” (the band has also released music with Flying Nun), but in recent years a swath of bands with new wave and post-punk tendencies have dominated the label’s roster.

“Today, there is even less of a ‘Dunedin sound’ or even a scene,” says Henderson. “Music and art have always overlapped here, and that overlap is where the interesting people and sounds are, and it’s always changing… I’ve always believed Fishrider releases the artists and albums no other label would release, and also that the label is more music arts and crafts than music industry.”

Henderson runs the label from his home in Dunedin, but partners with U.K.’s Occultation Recordings for European and U.K. distribution. It helps him save on the cost of shipping and allows him to run the label with “an art-before-commerce” approach. “The bands organize their own art and decide how they want to present themselves and their music. What I do is mostly project management and coordination, plus PR, administration, and bookkeeping. And lots of packaging and mailing,” he says.

Remaining partial to the creative process also allows him to enjoy music as a fan. “Everything released on Fishrider is something I really like and want to have in my own record collection and play,” he says. Henderson’s curation is central to the label’s success, and also helps the label maintain a certain aesthetic and sound. His love of tempered melodies and earnest storytelling define the first six years of Fishrider, which were dominated by The Puddle, Dark Beaks, and art-pop band Opposite Sex. Psychedelia started to become a theme with the first Shifting Sands record in 2012, and you can start to hear the influence of British shoegaze and American indie rock.

Melted Ice Cream

Christchurch label Melted Ice Cream is responsible for releasing some of New Zealand’s most defiant punk music. The label was started by Salad Boys guitarist/vocalist Joe Sampson in 2011 as a digital bootleg label, and later evolved into an original cassette label based out of his apartment. Brian Feary, who was living with Sampson when the label began, is now its custodian. Addressing the label’s origins, Feary recalls, “In the early days we were dubbing cassettes by hand on whatever tape recorders we could get our mitts on. We actually devised a method where we were playing all of the tracks into a four-track and recording both sides of a tape at once… In 2012 I managed to find a cassette duplicator being sold for $24 by a studio that was closing down. That was a watershed moment for the label—we could then dub a whole run of 50 tapes in about three hours!”

Feary highlights the release of a compilation called Sickest Smashes from Arson City, which features artists from the local Christchurch punk scene, as a pivotal moment in the label’s evolution. “It probably could be viewed as the initial launch of Melted Ice Cream as it is today,” he says. It included early singles by Salad Boys, as well music by dance-rockers The Dance Asthmatics and thrash punk band Transistors.

Like a lot of small independent record labels, Melted Ice Cream relies on the local music scene to keep the label upright. The label’s roster reflects this volunteer-run spirit. Feary says, “It’s a pretty casual thing, generally we know members of the bands or are even good friends with them, and of course we release music that we are involved with.” Feary is a member of X-Ray Charles and plays in The Dance Asthmatics alongside Sampson, who also plays in Salad Boys and T54. Both their fingerprints are scattered across the back catalog.

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trace / untrace

Julie Dunn cites Melted Ice Cream and Fishrider Records, as well as Auckland’s Prison Tapes and Australia’s Flightless Records, as the inspiration for her label, trace / untrace. Dunn and Richard Ley-Hamilton started the label in 2017 and have released cassettes by four of their favorite Dunedin bands: The Rothmans, Koizilla, asta rangu, and Bediquette.

The label is headquartered in Dunn’s kitchen, which is where her tape machine is located. “Tapes are such an incredible format,” she says. “I had a tape player in my car for years and some of my favorite albums are ones I’ve listened to way too many times while driving. I also really like the compressed sound that tape lends to music, which acts as a kind of lo-fi gloss for anything. Design-wise, I love making up J-cards and think you can be so creative with the artwork for a tape case.”

Dunn says before starting her own record label, she had no prior experience in the music business—“other than going to a lot of my friends’ shows and helping them as their roadie and driver”—but she has big plans. Dunn wants to use her position to promote more inclusivity in the Dunedin music scene, which for decades has been heavily dominated by male artists. “I’m really interested in exploring ways to remove barriers to making music, especially for women, non-binary, and young people, Another big aim for me is to start a platform for sharing knowledge on really solid DIY practices for musicians, like how to make good quality merch cheaply, how to host a successful DIY show,how to record inexpensively—anything that makes it easier for people to make music and get it out into the world.”

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The highlight of the trace / untrace catalog thus far is Asta Rangu’s excellent debut EP, PlasticineIt’s the work of label co-founder Ley-Hamilton, and is a fluid rock ‘n’ roll record full of tightly wound guitars and soaring vocal melodies. In the post-grunge era of the late ’90s it would have slotted in nicely beside some of the greats, but in a contemporary setting it still sounds fresh.

Lil’ Chief Records

Scott Mannion cites the lack of New Zealand record labels interested in pop music as one of the reasons for his decision to start Lil’ Chief Records with Jonathan Bree in 2002. While working together at a record store, the pair noticed a shift in the musical landscape—particularly in Auckland—towards a more aggressive style of rock music that emerged during what could be described as the post-Flying Nun era. “If Flying Nun had been around to sign The Brunettes and The Tokey Tones in the early days, we probably wouldn’t have started Lil’ Chief,” Mannion says. But given the circumstances, starting a label to release their own bands’ brand of pure-of-heart pop music made the most logical sense.

The first two releases on Lil’ Chief were of Bree’s band The Brunettes, a duo characterized by Bree and Heather Mansfield’s deadpan romanticism. Their love of ‘60s pop was endearing to fans, who saw them as a bedroom version of bands like The Beach Boys or Shangri-Las. The success of the first two Brunettes records was great for business. It cemented them as Lil’ Chief’s flagship band and helped to create the framework for a functioning, albeit very DIY, record label.

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Those early releases proved the need for a DIY pop-friendly label to exist, and the Lil’ Chief roster expanded to include The Reduction Agents, Voom, and The Ruby Suns, who along with The Brunettes went on to sign with U.S. label Sub Pop.

thanks Bandcamp –Nick Fulton

Christchurch, New Zealand’s Salad Boys are back with “This Is Glue”, the follow up to their critically acclaimed 2015 debut album “Metalmania”. Recorded once again by bandleader/guitarist Joe Sampson at his home studio, “This Is Glue”s twelve songs dig deeper, with sharper hooks embedded deep within a more mature musicality.

This Is Glue” hones Sampson’s songwriting chops to a razor edge, with many of the album’s songs sounding utterly timeless. The riffs and melodies seem all too familiar, perhaps recalling greats that came before them this entire scene owes a heavy debt to New Zealand’s Flying Nun Records and the various bands that recorded for it in the 1980s. On songs like “Psych Slasher” and “Blown Up” the Salad Boys share the propulsive drive and rich guitars of Rolling Blackouts, charging ever forward into deeply satisfying pop territory, but with an almost metallic heaviness rarely found in bands like the Clean or the Chills. That edge might make them the best bet on this list to break out in America like Rolling Blackouts have.

From the album “This Is Glue”, out January 19th, 2018 on Trouble In Mind Records,

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On their first LP, 2015’s brilliant Metalmania, New Zealand’s Salad Boys built hooky, radiant songs from silvery strands of guitar, recalling the same effortless gift for melody as fellow countrymen The Bats as well as Reckoning-era R.E.M. Every song on the album felt wide-eyed and optimistic, frontman Joe Sampson’s voice front and center in the mix, the guitars ringing brightly behind him. The mood is decidedly grimmer on “This is Glue” which, like its predecessor, was recorded and mixed in Sampson’s home studio. Those claustrophobic environs suit Glue’s paranoid mood. Opener “Blown Up” rides a tense, krautrock rhythm, and Sampson’s voice is hushed and distant. When the guitars finally enter, one minute into the song, they arrive in great, furious slashes, a far cry from Metalmania’s church-bell pealing.

The result is a record that is marvelously tense and coiled; “Psych Slasher” is aptly named, a big, roaring garage rock song that wouldn’t be out of place in the Goner catalogue. “Choking Sick” heaves and stutters, Sampson repeating the same two-note vocal melody over and over as the drums kick and clatter behind him. “Under the Bed” is draped in funereal synths; “Scenic Route to Nowhere” is a three-minute festival of scuzz and rattle. “Hatred,” with its open arpeggios, is the closest in tone to Metalmania, but Sampson sighs out his vocals, undercutting the spiraling guitars with a twinge of melancholy. The album’s title is appropriate—every song feels caked in gluey layers of distortion, but instead of capsizing the record, the bleariness instead makes the record feel drifting and dreamlike. If Metalmania was a crisp, hi-res photo of a mountain range on a sunny day, Glue is that same photo during a rainstorm, with the focus off.

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Summing up a two-song barrage in the KEXP studio by New Zealand’s Salad Boys, DJ Kevin Cole remarked that the band sounds like “the best of The Feelies, The Velvet Underground and Yo La Tengo in one song.” While it makes a lovable racket — channeling those and other legendary bands from its hometown Flying Nun label — the Christchurch trio dreams bigger and woozier, infusing all kinds of influences (classic indie rock, fuzzy dream-pop) into its energized psychedelic sound.

Singer-guitarist Joe Sampson took the band’s name from misheard lyrics of The Feelies’ “Fa Cé-La,” thinking he’d heard, “You said it was the salad boys / Everything is all right.” But those last words couldn’t be more true when you listen to Salad Boys‘ exhilarating session in the KEXP live room.

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Salad Boys came together at the end of 2012 with members from other illustrious Christchurch groups T54, Bang! Bang! Eche! and the Dance Asthmatics. Recorded, the Salad Boys are deceivingly charming, presenting a careful but curious balance of well-informed pop melodies, hypnotizing rhythms and heady instrumentation.

The group’s self-titled mini-album released in 2013 caused something of a mini-sensation, receiving praise from the likes of Stolen Girlfriends Club, Mess and Noise, hhhhappy.com and many more. In real life, the Salad Boys perform a wondrous assault: a charged up blitz of clanging guitars, intoxicating drones, head-down acid repetition and an abundance of dazzling pop hooks. This notoriety has scored the group a wealth of engagements up and down New Zealand including slots at the Camp a Low Hum and Chronophonium festivals, gigs with Sebadoh, The Bats, & Parquet Courts as well as a highly honorable spot performing as backing band for David Kilgour of legendary NZ group The Clean.

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2015 finds the band prepping their proper full-length debut “Metalmania” out in September on Chicago label, Trouble In Mind Records & routing a full coast-to-coast US-tour in Sept/Oct including a stop at Gonerfest in Memphis, TN.

Life has ways of letting you temporarily forget that it’s one big shit show, ultimately balancing things out to a bearable normality. The sophomore album from New Zealand outfit Salad Boys cushions the blow of front man Joe Sampson’s less-than-cheery observations within fuzzed-out, lo-fi garage guitars, the sounds of jangling indie-pop circa 1987 and Sampson’s own calm-cool-collected vocals. The lo-fi production suits the mood, recalling the melancholy charm of indie acts like The Chills and The Bats.

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“Blown Up” kicks things off with Krautrock rhythm and an aggressive flurry of guitars, as Sampson laments the pressure to constantly “concentrate and utilize our time.” “I’m useless to to myself and doomed to follow/Someone else,” he sings on “Psych Slasher,” the punk energy and triumphant vocals turning all that angst into a good time. “Scenic Route To Nowhere” takes things in a Parquet Courts direction, the angular guitar lines emphasizing Sampson’s mention of “anxiety,” “choking” and “stumbling.”

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Yumi Zouma’s music – budget-plush, instantly poignant – sounds placeless. It could have come from anywhere, and yet it was made everywhere – or at least in countries as far-flung as France (Charlie Ryder), America (Josh Burgess) and New Zealand (Kim Pflaum), where the three members live. It’s a very modern way of operating, via Dropbox. They used to live together in a house in Christchurch, until it was destroyed in the city’s 2011 earthquake. They used that terrible event as the impetus to scatter, but their connection lingers in the songs they file-share into existence. It’s dreampop, only this time there is a good reason for them to be making hazy, drowsy music – it was often assembled in half-waking states after the demos arrived across conflicting time zones.

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You would never know that Ryder and Burgess (who works in NYC for Captured Tracks, specifically on the label’s Flying Nun catalogue) used to be in NZ disco-punks Bang! Bang! Eche! They’re all about softness, hardly sharing rock’s essential mistrust of the mellifluous, flaunting Pflaum’s cut(i)e vocals, which rarely reach beyond a whisper. If you measure a band’s worth, their ability to convey authentic emotion, by volume and technique, be warned that Pflaum is more Sarah Cracknell than Sarah Vaughan. Her voice works perfectly as part of Yumi Zouma’s music.

girlboss

Lucy Botting’s latest project, Girlboss, has the genial slackness that’s long been associated with kiwi guitar music. It’s perhaps telling then, that she only recently learnt to play the guitar and is already writing and producing quality music.  On her latest single, “Kind Face”, she sings about a compliment she once received from a stranger, and constructs a simple guitar melody to revel in the selfless, spontaneous act.  She explains, “I was at this gig and a girl I didn’t know came up to me and said, ‘you have the kindest face’. She was going on about how I have a kind face and I was just taken aback – it’s such a specific compliment to pay someone.”

The song delivers the same joy you might get from listening to Teen Dream-era Beach House, there’s plenty of jangle, a hint of reverb and a snoozy vocal melody.

Lucy tells us that the name Girlboss was inspired by a self-employed friend, who she saw hashtagging #Girlboss on Instagram. “I didn’t know much about the girlboss thing until my friend started hashtagging. She’ll be recording her debut album over the South Pacific summer with her friend, musician and producer Jon Lemmon. But for now, you can listen to  “Kind Face”, right here.

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Written by Lucy Botting
Guitar by Lucy Botting and Darian Woods
Drums by Olivia Campion

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The Salad Boys are a splendiferous discovery from down under,second generation players of Kiwi pop, who have obviously learned much at the feet of the masters, what a blessing and a luxury to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world, remote, beautiful and wild New Zealand, (Christchurch and Dunedin in particular) plus, having a wealth of so much super-fine music buzzing around your head with a historic label like a Flying Nun.

The trio Joe Sampson, Ben Odering and James Sullivan  have been playing for a few years under this name, a mondegreen of a misheard lyric in the Feelies song, “Fa Cé La,” ‘silent void.’ It was supposed to be temporary, but they never got around to changing it. But, rightfully enough, their music on this debut album, shares many qualities with The Feelies, as well as classic Kiwi bands The Bats and The Clean/David Kilgour and the Heavy 8’s, bands that they’ve played with, along with Parquet Courts and Sebadoh.

“No Taste Bomber,” is another contender for my Best Song of the Year designation.

Yumi Zouma’s EP is wonderful, It’s a delightful taster of what’s (hopefully) to come from this artist and let’s hope sooner rather than later. As many have already noted, this is summer music and just as Theme Park did last year, Yumi Zouma would be utter fools not to consolidate their dominance in the genre by dropping something else around, say, July.” The band based in Paris, New York, Christchurch are  Charlie Ryder, Kim Pflaum, Josh Burgess. Yumi Zouma’s music – budget-plush, instantly poignant – sounds placeless. It could have come from anywhere, and yet it was made everywhere – or at least in countries as far-flung as France (Charlie Ryder), America (Josh Burgess) and New Zealand (Kim Pflaum), where the three members live. It’s a very modern way of operating, via Dropbox. They used to live together in a house in Christchurch, until it was destroyed in the city’s 2011 earthquake. They used that terrible event as the impetus to scatter, but their connection lingers in the songs they file-share into existence. It’s dreampop, only this time there is a good reason for them to be making hazy, drowsy music – it was often assembled in half-waking states after the demos arrived across conflicting time zones.