Carb on Carb are the Auckland-based Indie-pop duo of Nicole Gaffney (Guitar and Vocals) and James Stuteley (Drums) – an outgrowth of former group Mammal Airlines (which also featured Giles Thompson). Friday’s show at the Darkroom featured the group supported by top-notch local emo group Coate and Dunedin trio Males.
Coate have settled in to regular performances at the Darkroom, their intricate songs catching many a keen ear. With front-man Will Roud delivering melodic, driving vocals and exchanging guitar lines with 2nd guitarist Taylor Welsh, the 4-piece are one of the most technically accomplished groups in New Zealand.
2nd group Males are new to Christchurch, the poppy trio wearing their hearts on their sleeves as they flew through a selection of indie-rock numbers. Bassist Sam Valentine caught some flack for his haircut, one particular punter pointing out the young guy’s resemblance to Blur bassist Alex James. Their songs push the low-frequencies to the front, and the trio displayed an infectious enthusiasm throughout their set.
Both Carb on Carb members have been heavily involved in the Auckland all-age music scene – Gaffney’s previously played guitar, synth and sang with popular Auckland teen group Moron Says What?!, whilst Stuteley is partly responsible for Papaiti Records, an independent record label that compiled and released the excellent ‘Pressure to be’ album (distributed in the United States by Calvin Johnson’s legendary K Records). I was impressed by the groups catchy, shuffling songs, noisy guitar and Gaffney’s subdued vocals – they’re well worth tracking down on BandCamp.
Smashing line-up friday at Dux Live, with a great mix of young, up-and-coming groups from Christchurch, with poppy Auckland group Sherpa headlining.
Youngest of all would be opening trio Zen Mantra. Fronted by the barely 17 year old Sam Perry, Zen Mantra take on a psychedelic approach to clean and concise indie-pop. With swirling guitar, bass and rolling drums their songs are warm, fuzzy and comforting and are simply drenched in melody. A young group absolutely absolutely overflowing with potential.
Dance Asthmatics make for quite a contrast. Brian Feary (drums), Joe Sampson (guitar) and Ben Odering (bass) create a tight, flowing and often groove filled backing with more than a little krautrock style rhythm – but frontman Stephen Nouwens can steer the group in any number of directions. He can take a plaintive but acerbic and poetic approach to singing (like a young Mark E Smith of the Fall), and then the next minute rip into an aggressive rant, gasping for breath between each delivered sentence. Always exciting and always a lot of fun.
Despite lacking practice since previous shows, Bang! Bang! Eche! lived up to their reputation as one of Christchurch’s finest and slickest live acts – with the best reception of all the groups on the night. Particularly on form was bassist T’Nealle Worsely, though the group lock together like a syncopated, pulsing singularity.
Out-of-towners Sherpa have been making quite a reputation for themselves up in Auckland – their album Lesser Flamingo and stunning new video Turtles are unabashed slices of pure New Zealand power-pop. Gleeful and with great dollops of catchy guitar and keyboards. Frontman Earl Ho is a colourful character – leading the group through a sharp set of songs at blistering pace. A lovely way to end the evening.
Continuing our review of Camp A Low Hum 2012; a 3 day music venue set in the scenic natural reserve camping ground Camp Wainui; nestled in the hills of Wainuomata, Upper Hutt.
Parties tend to run all night at camp, so sleeping can be a bit tricky at times. However I arose fresh, but a little sweaty in a sun-drenched tent. The weather had improved markedly over night, so I enjoyed walking around the camp in the sun, putting together a make-shift camping breakfast, drinking (a lot of) water and planning my strategy for the next two days.
Strolling down to the lagoon I was welcomed by the lovely, reverb-laden voice of Whanganui’s Castlecliff Lights. A tremendous vocalist who entertained the crowd with her sultry voice, layers of acoustic guitar and even some tastefully utilized melodica. A nice way to start the day.
While eating breakfast I happened to meet a young Wellingtonian named Flo Wilson, who mentioned she was performing a renegade slot later that morning as Foxtrot. These shows pop up through-out the festival, with makeshift poster adverts placed around camp to entice the festival goers, along with word of mouth advertising. You often find the best parties at camp are these renegade shows! Flo performed a solo set of songs based on vocal manipulations. She utilized loops and even an old tape player to create a particularly unusual sound; including a surprising cover of the Velvet Underground’s ‘Waiting for my man’.
After a dash to the Wainui shops and back, I sprinted to the lagoon to witness what promised to be the classic pool party of the festival; the appropriately named Auckland pop duo Spring Break (James Dansey of the Sneaks and Ryan McPhun of the Ruby Suns). Spring Break are hilarious; hamming up their performances with skimping (and soon to be discarded) outfits, dancing and singing like a 1980’s era Prince covers act. With incredibly catchy songs with that get stuck in your head for days (‘No Tango Dinero’, ‘Do You Want Me?’), I can’t imagine anyone walking away from their performances without a smile on their face.
Brutal Melbourne rock act Dead revved up a sizable crowd gathered on the lawn. With just bass and drums the duo showed incredible chops, releasing a pulsating, distorted sonic attack on a crowd just barely waking up (at mid day!). It would be a hard act for Christchurch act Dance Asthmatics to follow in the noisy room, but the 4-piece led by Stephen Nouwens (also front-man of the rather more shambolic BnP) showed why they’ve become a bit of a crowd favourite back home; with drummer Brian Feary pulling out some slinky drum beats, and talented guitarist Joe Sampson letting his fingers do the talking.
I didn’t get to see a great deal of Adelaide act Terrible Truths at the lagoon, but Wellington musician Jon Lemmon (playing as a duo with supplementary vocalist Ben Bro) brought a smile to my face playing a set of dancey, blissful numbers in the forest. Dressed in all white and with long hair, Lemmon led the crowd through his songs like he was commanding his faithful (‘I love it when you sing along!’ he proclaimed). His recordings and also appearances with former Christchurch act Wet Wings, never cease to impress me.
After a more conventional minimalist dub performance from Melbourne’s Absolute Boys and a couple of songs from ‘Holy Fuck’ vocalist Brian Borcherdt, I made my way back to the forest to catch (ex-Christchurch) Wellington sorta-prog duo The Shocking and Stunning. With Sam now possibly New Zealand’s finest drummer, and involving, enveloping keyboards from Jack Hooker they really do live up to their name.
Sydney downbeat R’n’B producer Guerre was next on the lawn, with some tasty, smooth songs with a real understated quality. Understated is something that popular auckland rock group Rackets are not – their songs are full of big, catchy verses and punky bravado, but I was surprised at just how pop and accessible they’ve become recently – they could very well be New Zealand’s next big thing, and if the attention they’ve been getting of late is anything to go by they’re well on their way.
The Phoenix Foundation we’re probably the most prominent name on the festival’s bill; making their first appearance at the festival since 2008 to a large audience on the big stage – which included their children in the front-row. The group ran through a familiar set of songs, stopping only for some somewhat awkward between song banter. I got a little tired and wandered off for some food, stopping off at the ‘Karaoke Dick’ van; a rolling Karaoke machine set up near the camp kitchen. Witnessing Teen Wolf’s Bradley Artesque run through his own take on Biggie Small’s ‘Juicy’ was a delight!
Things got very very fun from this point on; I was glad to have stuck to all water! Melbourne dance-duo Forces absolutely tore up the forest with their authentic retro house tracks; I swear for a period I was witnessing Bomb the Bass the beats and bass were so catchy. With my eyes wide open and my heart racing I was enticed into the noisy room where an intriguing trio had set themselves up in the middle of the room. With Alphabeathead adding colour on the turntables, All Seeing Hand are based around bombastic drumming and truly absurd vocals, the crowd simply lapped it up.
Wellington metal crew Beast Wars showed that camp isn’t all about skinny indie kids. Dominating the big stage, vocalist Matt Hyde couldn’t resist joining the dozens of kids that flung themselves into the crowd. After watching a rather under-whelming Vice Cooler in the forest running through Hawnay Troof material I stopped by the noisy room and witnessed an odd site – Brooklyn duo Prince Rama leading a small crow through their own home-filmed Yoga excercise video!
Auckland group Poor You Poor Me advertised themselves around camp as containing ‘the least interest members from…’ a variety of New Zealand groups; but I really dug their very later performance at the lagoon. With violin and gang-vocal singing, they had a nice party vibe going to keep the late-night punters warm. I ended the night with a repeat performance from Spring Break – this time crammed into a sweaty noisy room. Things got a little dubious towards the end of their set as clothing went flying and the crowd hit the stage, all great fun though. What a terrific day!
O’Lovely began as a duo (originally named The O’Lovelys) consisting of Laura Lee Watson (Synth/Vox – also of Pop Hits City) and Brooke Singer (Keys – formerly of the Ragamuffin Children and now French for Rabbits). In 2007 the pair were joined by Matt Scobie (Drums – formerly of Black Market Art and now T54 etc) and Joe Sampson (guitar – formerly of Charlie Bones, now front T54).
Sampson left the group to be replaced by Lee Devinish, but with the groups impending tour of Europe in mid-2008 (where they would be performing as a 3-piece), the line-up was then reverted back to Sampson on guitar for their final few shows. The group were the focus of a lot of attention in late 2007 and 2008, and eventually released their debut self-titled album with distribution through Global Routes.
Around this time the group fractured, with Singer leaving to pursue different avenues, and Watson establishing more authority, quickly building a new line-up. At the same time Watson had been playing in Pop Hits City with Ross Heath (formerly of Bang! Bang! Eche!), Will MacFarlane, Chris Andrews (Bass – Palace of Wisdom) and Tim Woods (Drums). The new O’Lovelys took the rhythm section of Woods and Andrews, and added Perry Mahoney (also a former Bang! Bang! Eche! member) on guitar.
This line-up recorded the ‘Lost Love’ EP with Dale Cotton in Dunedin – songs that eventually made their way onto the groups 2nd album ‘Constellation’. However by the release of the album the group had relocated to Auckland, had cycled through a small handful of supplementary bassists and had been renamed ‘O’Lovely’.