The Undercurrents

Excellent Christchurch guitar band that evolved from earlier group The Centre Will Hold. From that group Jamey Holloway (Guitar / vocals), and Nathan Bycroft (Drums) were joined by Nik O’Keefe (Bass, Vocals) and Marcus Winstanley (Guitar) to form the original line-up in mid 2003. This original line-up played in a low-key manner, with just Winstanley’s guitar adding an extra layer of Shoegaze type guitar into the mix (as he had done with previous band Barnard’s Star).

Eventually Bycroft left and after a short stint by Stephen McCarthy (Pine) the ever-versatile Simon Nunn (also of the Steffan Van Soest Hit Machine, Hi-Tone Destroyers etc) filled the drummers seat more permanently, and beefed up their sound quite a lot. Michael Summerfield (Palace of Wisdom, Cowboy Machine) joined on viola, adding a level of country/folk inflection to their sound. The group managed to win the 2004 RDU Round Up band competition, released an EP with the help of Michael Brassell (aka Michael J Hex) / Arc Life Records and set up All Plastics – a small recording studio.

Simon Nunn eventually found himself committed to his regular gigs as a professional musician, so young drummer Matt Scobie (Black Market Art, T54) was brought in to replace him, and long-time bassist Nick O’Keefe also left, replaced by Vaughan Watson (Pumpkinhead, Squirm). The group has continued a low-key existence, with only a handful of shows a year and recordings few and far between.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Undercurrents (Blue Stripes) EP [2004 Arc Life]
  • Undercurrents (Big Ears) EP [2005 All Plastics]
  • Undercurrents EP (Black Birds) [November 2006 All Plastics]
  • Heavy Sky [July 2010 All Plastics]

See-Also

Repertory Theatre Fundraiser

Fundraiser event for the majestic Repertory theater organized by Flip Grater, who (with her new band) played alongside Pine, and electronic artist Module playing a piano performance. Hosted (with a quiz) by Spanky and Wammo, and with a guest appearance by the Minuit peeps as the Cole Porters.

Click here for the photoset.

Alec Bathgate [November 2004]

Alec Bathgate isn’t a household name in New Zealand. Though his most famous group (Tall Dwarfs) and his subsequent partner-in-crime (Chris Knox) may have achieved a level of recognition slightly beyond the typical indie-rock crowd, Bathgate remains one of New Zealand’s best and lowest profile song-writers. I spoke with Alec on the eve of releasing just his 2nd solo LP, ‘The Indifferent Velvet Void‘, due to be released in November 2004.

So it’s been a clear 8 years since [debut solo release] Gold Lame came out. Have you gotten sick and tired of people telling you to release another album yet?

Well, actually, not many people have been hanging out for another album! I occasionally have someone tell me how much they like gold lame, which is nice, but not many people seem to have discovered it.

What was the inspiration for the Indifferent Velvet Void?

Lyrically there seem to be some deep issues being thrown around.

There’s a few themes that run through the songs on the album (death, loss, self-doubt, confusion… All that good stuff). So, yeah, it’s a bit dark, but quite poppy as well, which hopefully offsets what the lyrics are saying.

Is your writing and recording methodology different from the way the tall dwarfs work? Has much changed from the early days of Chris’s 4-track?

Tall Dwarf songs are recorded pretty quickly as we don’t normally have long together. The songs tend to then evolve over a period of time (whenever we can get together to do further work on them). Generally we don’t know when we begin how they will end up. With the solo album i would completely write a song before recording it and would have a fairly clear idea of how i wanted the final track to sound. My album was recorded on computer which has sort of replaced the 4-track as the preferred recording medium for the home recordist (even though tape is still better). Having 24 tracks is pretty insane after years of struggling away with a 4 track, plus there’s lots of effects built into pro-tools that you couldn’t possibly afford to buy as outboard gear.

The album is coming out on Auckland label Lil’ Chief. How did you connect with them? Do you still feel part of the Flying Nun roster?

Chris Knox gave them a CDr of the album late last year (after Flying Nun had turned it down). I really liked the records they had put out and their enthusiasm for what they were doing, so was really happy that they wanted to release it. I’m still signed to F.Nun for Tall Dwarf releases and they’re reissuing the Toy Love album (early next year i believe).

Scott Mannion from Lil’ Chief / the Tokey Tones appeared as a Tall Dwarf [along with Pumice‘s Stefan Neville] for a recent Helen Young Studios session. Are there any plans to release the material?

I was impressed by the re-takes of ‘The Brain That Wouldn’t Die’ and ‘Nothings Going To Happen’. We were really happy with how the Helen Young session worked out, particularly as we only had a short time to learn the songs with the other people (we hadn’t played with any of them before and only had two days to practice). We’ll possibly do a short-run pressing of them sometime in the future to sell at gigs.

What’s your most proud moment on the album?, I guess your aware I’ve been thrashing ‘Should I Wake Up?’

Most people who hear the album seem to mention ‘Should I Wake Up?’ ‘Slow Fuzz’ and ‘Broken Cup’ are probably my favorite songs on the album.

Are you a picky song-writing?, do you think taking such a long-time between releases has worked well for your albums?

I never intended to do another solo album. It just requires soooo much work, so i guess it took 8 years to muster up the enthusiasm to go through it again (plus we did three tall dwarf albums in that time)…All the songs were written over the 18 months i was making the album, i didn’t have any songs hoarded away, and in the year since i finished it i haven’t written anything. I think it’s good to have a break from writing (and playing music) to keep it interesting and enjoyable.

Any plans on any live performances or videos for the album?

I did the Wunderbar gig in Lyttelton a few weeks back and also did two shows with Pine in Auckland last weekend. I’ve always been reluctant to play solo, but I’ve actually been enjoying it! I ‘d actually really like to play some more. As for videos there’s a plan to do a video for ‘Slow Fuzz’, so hoping that works out.

Arch Hill Recordings

Biography

Small Auckland-based independent label that sprung up out of Flying Nun Record’s corporate changes in the late 90’s and run by (former Superette bassist) Ben Howe to release material for his own band Fang, along with associated other musicians (fellow ex-Superette members Dave Mulcahy and Greta Anderson, and Jim Laing’s Lanky).

Characterized by having quirky pop moments (Pine released their debut in 2002 on the label) and a simple / flexible approach to recording, they’re a promising label to look out for.

In June 2004, Arch Hill Recordings announced that Kiwi music legend David Kilgour would be releasing his latest album (tentatively titled Frozen Orange) in September of the year, adding to a band roster that now also includes Ghostplane and Australian outfit Dappled Cities Fly.

Arch Hill Recordings also offer their recording facilities for non-label artists, with reasonable charge out fees. Arch Hill Studios record digitally onto Pro-Tools24, but has a well used selection of off-board analogue pre-amps, EQ, compressors, effects and other equipment.

– Arch Hill Studios

Using a pretty standard Pro-Tools/Focusrite/Genelec monitors setup along with what looks like a pretty good selection of microphones, along with solid-state and valve compressors and effects, they currently (July 2004) offer an NZ$50 per hour engineer-included rate, or NZ$350/$400 per weekday/weekend day, which isn’t bad for an Auckland-based studio.

Compilation Discography

  • Introducing Arch Hill (2001, AHR006)
  • The Hill Is Alive – Compilation 2 (2003, AHR009)

Contact Details

  • Arch Hill (Official Website)
  • Ben Howe (Label-Head / Email Contact)
  • +64 9 360-0772 (Phone Number)
  • Arch Hill Recordings
  • 331 Great North Rd
  • Po Box 68-194
  • Newton
  • Auckland
  • New Zealand (Postal Address)

Links

 

Pine – Longplayer

2002, Arch Hill

Christchurch, New Zealand’s Pine have been crowd and college radio favorites over the past 3 years, crafting simple, elegant and often catchy pop hit after pop hit. After 2000’s Speeding EP, expectations nationwide have been high for their anticipated debut.

Thankfully the album is very faithful to their live sound, a nice and cheery combination of guitar, minimalist drumming (their live set entitles lead singer Stephen McCarthey donning a snare drum as the sole percussion instrument), gentle keyboard drones and wilting vocals.

McCarthey’s vocals have always been a bit of a talking point – taking on a Liam Gallagher-esque inflection. For the first time though, both keyboardist Hannah Beehre and guitarist Aaron Beehre have lent their voices to their recordings, and the results are very pleasing. The album basically expands on their previous EP – with re-recorded takes of some of their biggest successes.

‘Wanted boy’ has been beefed up with McCarthy on melodica, and Aaron’s subtle backing vocals add a level of warmth to an already great song. ‘Make way for the king’ is perhaps the albums most upbeat number – filtered vocals over a tight, short and ultra-poppy backing.

Pine

minimalistic 3-piece pop from stephen mccarthy (vocals / snare), aaron (guitar / vocals) and hannah beehre (keys / vocals). producing sunny pop of the most intimate and well-formed, pine’s songs are short, chripy, and perfectly formed.
with all three members prolific behind the scenes in new zealand music, art and web design, they quickly established a firm image in their home-town of christchurch, and signed to ben howe’s arch hill label for the release of their debut full-length.
2003 was a good year for the band, touring japan, england and the united states, and developing a strong following back home.
discography
picks in bold

Minisnap, Pine [17/12/06]


minisnap and pine, 100 year anniversary of longfellow street [17/12/06]
see more photos from this show at flickr
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