The Auckland-based psych-pop group Opossom were originally the creation of ex-Mint Chicks front-man Kody Neilson (vocals, keyboards, drums), though some Opossom recordings we’re also performed by Kody and Bic – Neilson alonside girlfriend girlfriend Bic Runga (drums, vocals, guitar, keyboards). This duo were eventually joined by Neilson’s former Mint Chicks band-mate Mike Logie (bass) to create a touring 3-piece group.
The group experienced significant positive press on the release of their debut album ‘Electric Hawaii’, and the single ‘Blue Meanies’, in late 2011 / early 2012.
There was a great buzz around this show, well before either group had taken to the stage. Rumours of an early sell-out end up filling Darkroom’s limited capacity several hours before the show had the begun. With a bustling trade the venue was humming, the room warm with eager music fans packed wall to wall, downing craft beers and sheltering for a chilly night in Christchurch.
It was left to T54 to get things started, and the slick local 3-piece we’re just the ticket, drowning the audience in volume with thick, rolling bass, rollicking, snappy drumming and the soaring guitar-work of frontman Joe Sampson. I caught bassist Sam Hood next store at Galaxy records before the show and he was picking up a copy of the new box-set of rarities from German group Can – the flowing, organic vibe of the 1970’s Krautrock mainstays gives a pretty good indication of where some of T54’s many influences lay.
Speaking of Influences, it’s pretty tangible the impact the likes of the Zombies and other 60s/70s Psych-rock groups have had on Opossom’s Kody Neilson. The former Mint Chicks frontman now envelops his songs in a sunny West Coast of the USA haze that sounds particularly wonderful when you have the likes of Bic Runga and Mike Logie as your support band. Runga surprised me with her immense talent as a drummer, pulling of slinky rolls and driving the groups opening 3 songs. F in Math / Die! Die! Die! and former Mint Chicks bassist Mike Logie has altered his own sound to fit the retro sound of Opossom, gorgeous plucked bass rhythms that had the room jumping. With Kody and and Bic sharing vocal and instrument duties the group flew through an infectious array of songs which I wish didn’t end – thankfully their debut album is a ripper!
Formerly Christchurch and now Paris based vocalist with a delicate folky pop-rock sound. Possibly New Zealand’s most popular vocalist (outside of opera-teen Hayley Westernra), Runga started out playing acoustic ballads as Love Soup with now Heavy Jones Trio vocalist/guitarist Kelly Hogan, and quickly garnished attention thanks to the Smoke-Free Rock-Quest, and a string of popular and minimal videos on the fledgling Cry TV regional music channel (now defunct).
Runga has since gone from strength to strength, signing with Columbia Records, touring the world and scoring some high-profile soundtrack slots in the United States, and breaking the 100,000 record sales barrier for second album Beautiful Collision. Though I prefer Runga’s initial, low-key and under-produced singles, she has retained an aura and understated grace through-out her career.
Mark Tierney and Paul Casserley’s production outfit, the Strawpeople have been a vehicle for many talented kiwi female focalist – with Fiona McDonald, Bic Runga and Stephanie Tauevihi gracing a number of their hit singles. Unfortunately at times their late 90s albums sound a little too close to their contemporaries in massive attack (an obvious comparison), which is not helped by their almost session musician approach to recording songs.
Just been stuck on hold with Telecom; with the ole’ New Zealand Music Industry cranking over choons from Davey D to Lady Bic and noticed that miss runga’s new single has a certain little piano motif that sounds an awful lot like one Carol King’s uber-hit It’S Too Late Baby…. Surely that can’t be an accident?
Maybe Bic’s treading the same fine line of tribute that’s seen a bunch of television adverts imitate popular tracks recently; the Violent Femmes are a common target, NZ’s own D4 were mimicked in an Export Gold ad (remember Export Gold has apparently built an identity of being ‘The Beer To Enjoy When Seeing Live Music’, Tui is all about ‘Having A Good Laugh With Your Mates’ etc…), though it actually WAS Sir David on the Labour party ads a couple years back.
Dynamic, flowing rock with electronic influences and dark musical overtones. basically the one-man project of former Doublehappys / Straightjacket Fits frontman Shayne Carter, Dimmer spent the best part of 5 years living off the expectations that their solitary debut EP Crystalator produced (as well as Carters’ impeccable previous track record).
In 2001, the catalyst of this seclusion was finally released – I Believe You Are A Star – and its a stunner.
Carter followed up in 2004 with You’ve Got To Hear The Music, expanding his sound with an all-star list of contributors (some even in the pop field) and toured the album with Ned Ngatae on guitar, Mike Hall (Pluto/Sola Rosa) on bass, Andy Morton on keys, Willy Scott (King Kapisi / Sola Rosa) on drums, and Anika Moa on backing vocals.
Other guests on the album include, SJD who added production wizardry on ‘case’, Graeme Downes of the Verlaines, who arranged and conducted strings on ‘Only One That Matters’, Nick Roughan and Andy ‘Submariner’ Morton kept things appropriately phat in the beat and production department, while Dimmer tickman and animated video genius, Gary Sullivan, added his own trademark sly touch. Anika Moa appears on a number of tracks bringing a new dimension to Carter’s voice, and teams up on ‘Happening’ with Bic Runga with a spine-tingling effect.
From Festival Mushroom’s promotional blurb
Shayne Carter (Vocals/Guitar/Bass, 1995 -)
Peter Jefferies (Drums, 1995)
Lou Allison (Bass, 1995)
Gary Sullivan (Drums, 1999 – 2009)
Nick Roughan (Guitar/Bass/Drum Programming, 2001 – 2006?)
Andy Morton (Keyboards/Drum Programming, 2001 – 2006?)
Ned Ngatae (Guitar, 2003?)
Anika Moa (Vocals, 2004)
Bic Runga (Vocals, 2004)
James Duncan (Guitar/Bass/Keyboards, 2009)
Kelly Steven (Bass/Flute/Vocals, 2009)
Dino Karlis (Drums/Percussion, 2009)
Michael Prain (Drums, 2009)
Crystalator (7″) (1995, Sub Pop/Flying Nun Records, SP326/FN310)
Don’t Make Me Buy Out Your Silence Single (1996, Flying Nun Records)
Evolution Single (1999, Columbia, 668560)
I Believe You Are A Star (2001, Columbia, 5024222000)
Getting What You Give Mini-Album (2003, Columbia)
You’ve Got To Hear The Music (2004, Festival Mushroom Records)
There My Dear (2006, Warner Music)
Degrees Of Existence (2009, Warner Music, 5186551402)