Posts Tagged ‘Flying Nun Records’

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Aldous Harding release her third album, “Designer”, on 4AD Records. Designer finds the New Zealander hitting her creative stride. After the sleeper success of the internationally lauded Party, Harding came off a 100-date tour last summer and went straight into the studio with a collection of songs written on the road. Reuniting with John Parish, producer of Party, Harding spent 15 days recording and 10 days mixing at Rockfield Studios, Monmouth and Bristol’s J&J Studio and Playpen.

The New Zealand songwriter Aldous Harding with her third studio album “Designer”. At first glance it’s another album of her signature soft-spoken folk sound, but this time around there’s more meat on the bones. It’s her first record with drums on almost every song, and a broader instrumental palate lends the album a newfound sense of gravity. The emotional lows are lower and the highs are even higher than before.

From the bold strokes of opening track “Fixture Picture”, there is an overriding sense of an artist confident in their work, with contributions from Huw Evans (H. Hawkline), Stephen Black (Sweet Baboo), drummer Gwion Llewelyn and violinist Clare Mactaggart broadening and complimenting Harding’s rich and timeless songwriting.

The amazing new album from Aldous Harding is out today on 4AD Records/Flying Nun Records, on limited gold vinyl pressing.

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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

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Vancouver all girl trio The Courtneys are exponents of a catchy harmonic new wave pop, whilst also being home to some very gnarly guitar textures. Their sound is fat and driving, and, on “Minnesota,” Courtney Garvin’s guitar manages to sound like an overdriven keyboard. Vocalist Jen Twynn Payne is also the band’s drummer and she keeps the rhythms lean and uncluttered. The highlight is the closing “Frankie,” where Twynn Payne’s sad autumnal vocal melody is kept in motion by a precise motorik groove.

There may be trace elements of Sonic Youth or Joy Zipper in their sound, but over the spread of this album, The Courtneys create their own distinct world. Sunshiney slacker pop with just a pinch of melancoly that could have featured on one of my cool older sister’s pre-grunge mix tapes from the early 90s. Both this and their debut album are absolute gems

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released February 17, 2017
The Band
Crazy Courtney: Bass + backup vocals
Classic Courtney: Guitar + backup vocals
Cute Courtney: Drums + lead vocals

Flying Nun Records 

Vancouver garage-rock trio The Courtneys are the first non-New Zealand band to sign to Flying Nun Records, an independent label known for its influential catalog of 1980s and ’90s guitar pop. Fitting for the band, devoted students of the sound they now recall and push forward with their sophomore LP, expanding the “jangle without sacrificing their cozy, lo-fi charm,” . Blending punk simplicity with hearfelt lyrics and good old-fashioned fun, these are bold songs “to be shouted into hairbrush-microphones everywhere.” Former tourmate Mac DeMarco once asserted: “The Courtneys are gonna melt your face off.”

Indie fuzz rock trio The Courtneys debuted in 2013 with a set that impressed on an international scale. The Courtneys II. The aloof, sugary singing from drummer “Cute Courtney” binds nicely with “Classic Courtney’s” exciting phaneritic guitar work. Together with “Crazy Courtney” on bass, the trio takes us on a highly engaging ride through lo-fi slacker culture and bubble-gum garage punk. The disc opens with “Silver Velvet”. “Country Song” bursts with a wall of guitars, the album’s standout jam. “Lost Boys” pays tribute to the 80s’ vampire craze while surf rock dresses up “Mars Attacks”. This was easily 2017’s best rock album.

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Jen Twynn Payne – Drums/Lead Vocals
Sydney Koke – Bass/Vocals
Courtney Loove – Guitar/Vocals

The Clean

After rejecting the Hall of Fame accolade twice in the past five years, members of The Clean have agreed to accept it at this year’s Silver Scrolls ceremony on September 28th.

“I think when we were asked it just didn’t feel right for us,” Robert Scott, the band’s bassist, “We feel we are outside the industry, and in the past we were shunned and dismissed, and it seems like by saying yes we would be forgiving the industry for that.

“Of course, with time they are proved wrong as our music has stood the test of time.

“It’s a strange thing dealing with other people’s perception of your music and what you stand for as a band.”

The Clean pulling faces in the back of a car

Inspired by obscure sixties garage and psychedelic bands, as well as the punk revolution of the 1970s, The Clean helped introduced New Zealand to what would later become known as ‘The Dunedin Sound’.

It was 1981 when a young Roger Shepherd was in the process of launching his new label, Flying Nun Records. He wanted to promote the many post-punk alternative bands that were springing up in his hometown of Christchurch, and further south – Dunedin.

Shepherd chose The Clean’s ‘Tally Ho’ as one of the two singles he released to the launch the label. It made it to No. 19 on the NZ singles chart, much to the delight of those involved. Not many people realised it at the time, but it was the start of something that would influence music and culture in NZ – and beyond – for decades to come.

The Clean helped cement The Dunedin Sound’s popularity – and Flying Nun’s finances – with their EP Boodle, Boodle, Boodle, also released in 1981. Surprisingly, it reached number four in the NZ charts and remained in the Top 20 for nearly six months. “To make Boodle and then it be so successful was just incredibly encouraging for everybody involved … like, ‘Hey, we’re on the right track here. Maybe we aren’t so crazy,’ David Kilgour recalls.

The band’s members include guitarist Kilgour, his brother – drummer Hamish Kilgour, and bassist Robert Scott. Each has forged a life in music including multiple bands and projects including The Bats, The Great Unwashed, Bailter Space, The Heavy Eights and more.

But it was The Clean that made it onto US college radio in the 1980s; garnered an enduring fan base in Australia, the UK and Europe; and influenced generations of NZ musicians and fans. And they’re still touring successfully across the world today.

As a reminder of how great The Clean really is, and to get you in the mood, here’s some quality gear to binge on:

The story of Boodle Boodle Boodle (2012)

“By the time we got to do Boodle Boodle Boodle, The Clean … were such a wonderfully great live band. Most of those songs were done in one or two takes.”  Boodle producer Doug Hood

A video tracing the history of The Clean’s iconic first EP. Featuring Hamish Kilgour, David Kilgour, Robert Scott, producer Doug Hood and former band member the late Peter Gutteridge:

Earlier this year Boodle Boodle Boodle was awarded the 2017 Independent Music New Zealand Classic Record Award. We spoke to David Kilgour about the record“We only [play live] every three years, so that’s how we do it. We take the mickey out of each other, in a kind and caring way. You can have a laugh at someone’s expense, but to a certain degree, and then you cross a line and the expression changes, and you know you’ve gone too far.”
Robert Scott

The Clean: selected discography

  • Boodle, Boodle, Boodle – 1981
  • Great Sounds Great, Good Sounds Good, So-so Sounds So-so, Bad Sounds Bad, Rotten Sounds Rotten – 1982
  • Odditties – 1983
  • Live Dead Clean – 1986
  • Vehicle – 1990
  • Modern Rock – 1994
  • Unknown Country – 1996
  • Getaway – 2001
  • Mashed – 2008
  • Mister Pop – 2009

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Mermaidens are a three-piece outfit from Wellington, New Zealand, who are defined by intricate and unique songwriting, and a hypnotic live synergy.

Drawing inspiration from bands like Warpaint, Fugazi, Exploded View and Sleater-Kinney, Mermaidens’ sound offers a mesmerising dip into the realms of post-punk and psych where warm harmonies and dreamy, hypnotic lyrics, entwine with dark and moody riff-based melodies.

Taken from the forthcoming album Perfect Body, which is due out on 4th August via Flying Nun,

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II artwork

When word spread that the Courtneys almost got their own animated TV show, only to have it falter over Nickelodeon’s insistence on singling out a “leader,” longtime followers of the Vancouver band couldn’t help but chuckle. Onstage and in interviews, the trio of singers come across as an ideal ensemble cast. Plus their 2013 self-titled debut was rife with chunky guitars and peppy choruses ready for primetime, including one song named after “90210.”

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Instead of a TV show, with their sophomore album the Courtneys became the first non-New Zealanders signed to Flying Nun, the influential kiwi-pop label. But II’s sticky-sweet bubblegum could still spark singalongs anywhere Saturday morning cartoons are viewed. Nick may have missed the mark, but fans of whip-smart fuzz-pop should tune in anyway.

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Amelia Murray’s Fazerdaze project began as a string of late night bedroom experiments. Those recordings, written and produced by Murray herself, soon turned into her self-titled EP and captured the attention of all those with a hankering for dreamy, DIY champer-pop. With debut album Morningside out now via Flying Nun, the New Zealand born artist has captured such a specific moment in time, creating something intimate and altogether beautiful.

Directed by Garth Badger of Theivery Studio
Filmed in Hobsonville, New Zealand.

debut album ‘Morningside’ comes out May 5th on Flying Nun Records ,

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The Courtneys II arrives as the band themselves are on something of an ascent. In the three years since their self-titled debut, The Courtneys have signed with their dream label renowned New Zealand giant Flying Nun and have netted slots opening for Tegan and Sara and mac DeMarco. In that context, II feels like a collage of moments, the band reviewing the highs and lows of their journey so far, with their eyes fixed firmly on the horizon.

A rarity in contemporary surf rock. Where their counterparts—and, for that matter, their forerunners—are chiefly concerned with both brevity and blown-out instrumentals, The Courtneys are deliberate and unabashedly heartfelt. Underneath all the fuzz and reverb on their second album, The Courtneys II, there are honest displays of emotion.

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On the blissful “Tour,” the band is determined to remain optimistic, even during long periods of “slacking off and hitting the open road.” “If it’s in your heart, you’ll find a way,” they sing, “who you are and who you wanna be can take a long time.” Songs like “Virgo” and “25” use buoyant, punched-up slacker pop to explore feelings of isolation and the headaches of having a crush. And it’s not all growing pains and heartbreak; on “Lost Boys,” the trio schemes to find a vampire boyfriend with whom they can ride off into the sunset.

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Crazy Courtney: Bass + backup vocals
Classic Courtney: Guitar + backup vocals
Cute Courtney: Drums + lead vocals

Flying Nun Records

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It’s kind of hard to believe that The Bats have been back for a decade now — this is their fourth album since their 2005 reunion, and like its predecessors, it shows that the band have lost none of the songwriting chops that made them one of the most prominent exponents of the much-lauded “Dunedin sound” in the 1980s. (They’re actually from Christchurch, but close enough.) While their music is timeless, their songs are very much rooted in the present. “Not So Good” (above), this album’s closing track, lambasts a leader who sounds awfully familiar: “Every time he opens up/ He’s filling up a liar’s cup / He knows better, and that’s for sure/ It’s your fault if you are poor.”

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