It’s time to get nostalgic.
Bands get together, then bands break-up. That’s just the circle of life for musicians and something we have to accept. Or… do we? Lately we’ve seen Fur Patrol and Opensouls reform for one-off shows and it got us thinking: if we could bring one New Zealand act back from the dead, who would it be?
To get a definitive answer, we asked a few friends.
Gussie Larkin, Mermaidens
The Avengers: This is not so much of an omg-this-band-is-so-sick-I-wish-they-would-get-back-together kind of scenario. Rather, this band has got me convinced I was raised in the right city, but 50 years too late. The Avengers were formed in Wellington in 1966, and pretty much slayed the scene with their swinging pop bangers. They were put together by entrepreneurial promoter/manager Ken Cooper, who was looking for a band to play at Wellington’s first purpose-built teenage nightclub, “The Place” – which was of course, James Bond themed. Plz. Take. Me. Back.
The Avengers are by no means an incredibly unique band, but there’s something so groovy, so danceable about their music, which I haven’t found in many other New Zealand acts. Their last album, Medallion, kicks off with my favourite track from the band, Fisherwoman. I think I love everything about this song; the vocal harmonies, the groovy little percussion parts, that distinctly 60s organ… I think I would love this band regardless of where they were from, but knowing I’m playing gigs in the same city as they once did makes me pretty happy.
Matthew Crawley, The Conjurors
The Brunettes: Once upon a time, everything was super dang easy. You bought records with your rent money, buried your face in books that changed your life in, like, totally meaningful ways, rented five 60s French movies for $10, and dreamed of even simpler times (as if that was even possible). I am of course talking about the all-too-brief reign of The Brunettes in Auckland City. Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks wasn’t just the name of their debut album, man; it was a way of life.
Now, I’m not saying that I’d trade this complex existence of obsessive social media stress, grappling with grown-up taxes and Donald Trump news takeovers for any of this, but… I wouldn’t mind heading to the ghost of the Odeon Lounge for a chai latte and some good old fashioned indie pop this Saturday, y’know?
Fronted by the classic boy-gal combo of Jonathan Bree (whose solo output since has been magic) and the artist formerly known as Heather Mansfield, my daydream version of the line-up was filled out by James “Lawrence Arabia” Milne on bass, and Ryan “The Ruby Suns” McPhun on drums. The lineup chopped and changed, expanded and evolved, as did their sound, but it’s the above-mentioned line-up I’m conjuring up today with rose-tinted fondness.
At the last Lil Chief Xmas Party (an annual gathering of the twee version of juggalos at the mythical Lil Chief HQ in Sandringham) I managed to pester all four of these Brunettes into the garage to play Mars Love Venus, and boy was it a fun two minutes and twenty four seconds. In this little wishful wish-world of mine, they’ve totally still got it. Get your tickets now at Crawlspace Records on K Road.
Scot Brown, The DHDFDs
Mother Goose: I first heard of Mother Goose when I was about 17 or 18 years old. I’d stay at my bandmate James’ house and we’d go smoke out of this hideous alien bong while his father sat around on the computer listening to music. Mother Goose stood out to me as they were the most bizarre and strangest band in James’ dad’s 10 song YouTube jukebox. They have a few good bangers but Baked Beans and a cover of Paint It Black particularly won me over. I’m hopeful that one day I’ll find myself at Western Springs watching Mother Goose perform. Not on the main stage - probably in the band rotunda by the lake, with the geese, James, his father and the alien bong.
Hussein Moses, The Wireless
The Mint Chicks: They say life should be lived without regret, but I don’t believe it. Otherwise I would’ve been at The Mint Chicks’ very last show and not at Burger King on Dominion Road.
Look, it felt like the right decision at the time. I had sussed tickets for me and a friend to head out to the show but it was clear we weren’t going to be able to see this one through; we had overdone it at happy hour, like true amateurs, so we bailed and went in search of something to line our stomachs. I felt like I had seen them enough at the time anyway; no doubt that I would have the chance to do it again.
You probably already know the band would never play again. They infamously imploded on stage four songs into their set after Kody Nielson ended up in some sort of destructive fit and totalled the band’s gear. They’ve all got lots else on these days anyway, which is sweet. But I’m confident that there are heaps of people out there that have fantasised about them getting back together. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure it’d be mean. But if I’m being fully honest, I really just want the chance to see them break-up all over again.
R.E.S (Red Eye Society): I don't recall ever seeing an R.E.S performance, unless I watched it off an old VCR recording of them at the Aotearoa Hip Hop Summit back in the early 2000s. Being the younger brother of J1, I've only experienced rehearsals they did for shows and radio. I also remember songs being recorded in my brother’s bedroom with a few microphones connected to a four-track Tascam covered in dust; it had a cassette in it with tape across the top heavily penned with tagging that said "RES".
So yeah, it's only right. Witnessing them live would definitely inspire and allow me (and others) to really appreciate the raw hip hop they brought not only to Onehunga, but to New Zealand. Imposing their will on DJ Sir-Vere's Major Flavours vol. 1, 4 and 5, plus the Deceptikonz album Elimination, shows us they were nothing less than heavyweights during that era of New Zealand hip hop. Technique, aggression, energy. Bad Muthafuckaz.
James Dann, RDU
The Fanatics: Well, given that my favourite New Zealand band the Shocking Pinks are currently together, the band I would like a chance to see again would be The Fanatics. They played a show for OneFest in Dunedin in 2003 that I went along and saw, then panned in a review for the student magazine Critic. Subsequently, their self-titled EP went on to be one of my favourite Kiwi releases, and I’ve often thought about that gig, and why I hated it so much. They were a two-piece, consisting of guitar and vocals, with most of the beats coming from a Minidisc. Their set didn’t last long, maybe 25 minutes, so when they were done, instead of an encore, they just played the whole thing again. I’d like to see them play again, as I didn’t appreciate it at the time, but their music ended up meaning quite a lot to me.
Kiki Van Newtown, HEX
Hell Fucken Rumble: Hell Fucken Rumble were three fierce wahine who formed in Wellington around the early 2000s. This is a guess because they were around pre-internet, which elevates them to mythic status. Their music was like Babes in Toyland meets Lydia Lunch, all glued together with DANGER. Words that could definitely be used to describe their music include pulsing, growling, lashing, sonic, powerful, and force. They always seemed to have a smoke machine which is indicative of their commitment to the SHOW. They wore excellent stage wear like ball gowns and heaps of fake tattoos. They were hot chic bogans. They were a snake in the manger and they totally wailed.
I’m not sure if they ever released anything officially, but somewhere we have a burnt CDR with permanent marker inscription that Julia gave us. Unfortunately I have been unable to find this because we have children, and it appears their sole job is to move objects around our house in a disorientating and subtle way so I always feel like I’m in a Buñuel film. Paradoxically, being able to listen to that CDR would be the antidote to any surrealist drifts a stay at home parent might experience, because Hell Fucken Rumble were so fucking real. To HEX they are our grandmothers, our peers, and hopefully our children. They should really reform and come on tour with us.
Maggie Tweedie, Radioactive
Look Blue Go Purple: Although they were before my time, Look Blue Go Purple showed me what a strong kiwi, all-female band looked like. I would never be able to see them in my youth while in Dunedin; by then the city lacked a vibrant live music scene and instead it was saturated with drum and bass flat parties. As a substitute, I relived such an existence through archived Flying Nun footage of the Dunedin Sound movement in the 1980s. I would sit at the top of Signal Hill and imagine the five in 1986 swinging their legs on the marble statue for the filming of Cactus Cat.
It was their quality choral vocal arrangements, jangly guitars and steady drums that made LBGP so unique. If only The Cook was reopened and the five would deliver one final set; I could grasp what I was short changed of while living in the city.