The Brunettes

Biography

Sunshine and candy-canes, The Brunettes were a hard-working and extremely promising, genuine kiwi pop band – a rare thing in this day and age.

Forming around Heather Mansfield and Jonathan Bree’s girl-boy vocals and a plethora of instruments used both on record and live (Heather being a rather talented multi-instrumentalist and Bree taking on the role of recording whiz Svengali), the band expanded to a 5-piece for the release of their brilliant 2002 release Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks – a Beach Boys / 50’s girl-group pop inflected album which was to be released independently, before EMI scooped them up for distribution at the last minute

After the albums release they furiously beavered away at new material, putting out the charming (and often bizarre) Boyracer EP and making low-key tours both nationally and internationally.

The Incisions‘ Nick ‘Harte’ Hodgson joined as drummer in early 2003, as the band entered the studio for their follow-up release. Harte left the band on the brink of 2004, concentrating on what would become his signature group, The Shocking Pinks.

By mid-2004 The Brunettes had once-again cemented a new line-up, and their sophomore release Mars Loves Venus (taking the name of their ultra-rare debut lathe-cut 7″ EP) was completed with the line-up of Mansfield, Bree, James Milne (aka Lawrence Arabia) and new drummer Ryan McPhun (soon to find fame with his own group The Ruby Suns).

With the success of their 2nd album the group once again departed for foreign shores, taking in South-By-Southwest and building an overseas audience.

Over the course of the next 3 albums the group would court US audiences (releasing their 2007 album Structures and Cosmetics through legendary US indie label Sub Pop), go through a myriad of line-up changes and some internal conflict.

Paper Dolls and the Red Rollerskates EP would be their final releases – both put out via the Lil’ Chief Records imprint in 2009. Bree would go on to release his debut solo album The Primrose Path in 2013.

Members

  • Jonathan Bree (Guitar/Vocals/Bano/Sitar/Keyboards/Drum Machine/Percussion/Arrangement, 1998 – 2009)
  • Heather Mansfield (Vocals/Glockenspiel/Harmonica/Marimba/Organ/Piano/Clarinet/Arrangement, 1998 – 2009
  • Jia Xin Cheng (Cello, 2002)
  • Kari Hammond (Drums/Percussion/Vocals, 2002)
  • Scott Mannion (Guitar, 2002)
  • Dominic Blaazer (Harmonica, 2002)
  • Tom Dale (Saxophone, 2002)
  • Kingsley Melhuish (Trumpet/Trombone, 2002)
  • Peter Wood (Vibraphone, 2002)
  • Andrew Gibson (Violin, 2002)
  • John Fennell (Violin, 2002)
  • James Milne (Guitar/Bass/Vocals/Chamerblin/Vibraphone/Percussion, 2004 – 2007)
  • Ryan McPhun (Drums/Percussion/Vocals, 2004 – 2007)
  • Mike Hall (Bass, 2005)
  • Amee Robinson (Saxophone, 2005)
  • Nick Hodgson (Drums, 2004)
  • Harry Cundy (Trumpet, 2005 – 2007)
  • William Cotton (Vocals/Saxophone/Celesta, 2007)
  • Dionne Taylor (Guitar, 2007)
  • Jamie Power (Drums, 2007)

Discography

  • Mars Loves Venus 7″ Lathe EP (1998, Self-Released)
  • Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks (2002,  Lil’ Chief Records, LCR001)
  • The Boyracer EP (2003, Lil’ Chief Records, LCR002)
  • Mars Loves Venus (2004, Lil’ Chief Records, LCR007)
  • When Ice Met Cream (2005,  Lil’ Chief Records, LCR010)
  • Structures and Cosmetics (2007, Sub Pop/Lil’ Chief Records, LCR019)
  • Brunettes Against Bubblegum Youth CD Promo (2007, Sub Pop, PROCD122)
  • Red Rollerskates EP (2009, Lil’ Chief Records)
  • Paper Dolls (2009, Lil’ Chief Records, LCR025)

Links

 

Golden Axe

Bizarre Auckland synth and vocal duo (Chris Cudby and Daif King) who play a gritty, distorted and, err, wiggly take on drone-pop. I had an unfortunate habit of missing each of their sets on a recent excursion up north, caught between being witness to the Shocking Pinks shedding members during their Eden’s Bar show, and rushing to see Sonic Youth as the duo busked outside. But i did pick up their debut cd-r, a rambling and chaotic mix of blurred vocals, white noise and…. catchy melodies! All recorded in sub-atomic ultra-lo-fi goodness and packaged in unique sleeves. Made for a positively jolly ride to the airport, surrounded by a bus full of chart-pop fan swedes.

As A Low Hum‘s Blink will attest (one of their first releases graced the 2nd edition of his excellent fanzine), there’s something magnetic about their Casio-tone driven grind and junk-shop music mentality. Kinda like if the Tall Dwarfs indulged in a little more La Monte Young action (huge distorted walls of droning lo-fi – in their case in keyboard form) while wearing live squid strapped onto their faces. warped.

Late in 2004 the duo finally made it south, touring as part of the A Low Hum collective, this time carting CD-r’s of Hypercolours – their third release, an album-lengthed EP. Its bit more cohesive and full-formed than the debut, its a pretty twisted, but enjoyable sunday afternoon headphone piece.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Golden Shakehands CD-r [2004 Self-Released]
  • Yum CD-r EP [2005 Self-Released]
  • Hypercolours CD-r EP [2005 Self-Released]
  • Party Alarm Bells [2006 Stink Magnetic]
  • Peaceful Planet Live Cassette [2008 Crystal Magic]
  • Fabourite New Machine (Thought Creature) Remix CD-r EP [2008 Stink Magnetic / Crystal Magic]
  • Best Of Both Worlds Cassette [2009 Crystal Magic]
  • Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’ Digital Single [2009 Crystal Magic / Cheese On Toast]
  • Hot And Cold EP [2009 Crystal Magic]
  • We Walk In Circles (Computers Want Me Dead) Remix CD-r [2009 Crystal Magic]
  • Golden Axe Ampler CD-r [2010 Crystal Magic]
  • Free Time Digital EP [2010 Crystal Magic]
  • Fantasy Footwork [2010 Crystal Magic]
  • Telephone EP [2010 Crystal Magic]
  • Sexual Angel (Featuring Princess Chelsea) Digitial Single [2011 Crystal Magic]
  • Liquid Bacon [2011 AMDiscs]

See-Also