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

Opossom and T54 at Darkroom

Joe Sampson of T54
Joe Sampson of T54

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.

Bic Runga of Opossom
Bic Runga of Opossom

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!

Check out more photos here

[Published in the Christchurch Press 06/07/2012]

Tono and the Finance Company with T54, Brown and Miniatures at Dux Live, May 4th 2012

I started the evening checking out the newly opened and somewhat controversial ‘Smash Palace’ bar on the corner of Victoria and Bealey Avenue. Run by Johnny Moore (former proprietor of the red-zoned ‘Goodbye Blue Monday’), Smash Palace is an outdoor bar with a focus on the social environment. Those familiar with Moore’s previous bars will feel right at home at Smash Palace, with plenty of seating and a good selection of Beer and Wine.

Opening the show at Dux Live was the low-key 3-piece shoe-gaze band Miniatures. I’d recommend checking out their BandCamp recordings as they’re about to relocate to Melbourne. With shimmering, glacial guitar, simple electronic drumming, groove-heavy bass and ethereal vocals reminiscent of Scottish shoe-gaze cornerstones the Cocteau Twins – they are an immersive experience.

Dunedin 3-piece Brown took things in a more conventional direction, with poppy songs that focused on tight performances and snappy lyrics. Garnishing a good response from what was now a decent Dux Live crowd, they set the scene for Tono, who was up next.

After recently hitting the New Zealand album charts with their terrific album ‘Up here for Dancing’, Tono and the Finance Company have been on the up and up, and it’s easy to see why. With songs full of catchy melodies and deadpan lyrical platitudes, the group relive the prime pop groups of the britpop era – the influence of Morrissey is particularly prominent in the style of Tono’s vocals. With the support of a top-notch touring band behind him, Tono commands the stage with the authority of a slick professional frontman.

The night concluded with bombastic 3-piece T54 – a common site at the Dux these days, the boys have been trying out new material and of course performing with as must gusto and technical skill as any local group.

Camp A Low Hum 2012 – Part One

Megalex at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Megalex at Camp A Low Hum 2012

Ian ‘Blink’ Jorgensen starting calling the events, zine’s, festivals and tours that he organized ‘A Low Hum’ back in 2001, so the 2012 Camp A Low festival marks his 10 year anniversary as a rather prominent force in New Zealand live music, of particular note in independent circles, as well as being the sixth such festival he has helled.

The festival is a full 3-day / 4-nights: on site camping, multiple environments, BYO alcohol, a particularly diverse array of musical acts and attendees. This year was located in the scenic surrounds of Camp Wainui, a campsite located in natural bush in Wainuomata usually occupied by Boy Scouts. The 2012 event brought together 70 booked acts from the USA, the UK, Canada, Germany, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand – along with an equally large of amount of ‘Renegade’ acts, who popped up during the length of the festival.As one of approximately 800 campers I may not be the only festival attendee who drank a little too quickly on the first night and failed to party into the night that evening, and I also may not be the only camper that experienced the delights of acts from across the world, as well as from their very own household – but with my unique perspective in mind I present my own recollections of Camp a Low Hum 2012:

Bare Grillz at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Bare Grillz at Camp A Low Hum 2012

This was my fifth appearance at Camp, however this prior experience unfortunately couldn’t prevent my own excitement on the first day, so the first part of this review ends around 10pm on the first night, a little after catching a returning So So Modern in driving rain, and feeling the pain (fortunately only in my head) of quick drink and not a lot of food.

After a quiet pre-festival night things kicked off proper on friday morning, though a little slowly. It was drizzly and a bit of a breeze was flowing through the Wainui hillsides, but the weary camp goers eventually awoke to the sounds of Wellington based free-style rapper Megalex, improvising rhymes about suggested topics in front of the camps pleasant (though pretty chilly at this point!) lagoon. A surprisingly shy Street Chant vocalist/guitarist Emily Littler is who I caught next. Performing as Emily Edrosa she played a short set of acoustic songs at an intimate site surrounded by band accommodation dubbed the Lawn.

Camp A Low Hum sets are typically around 25 minutes, giving attendees a nice short introduction to an act, whilst not bombarding them with a long set. Performers often play twice, resolving conflicts when simultaneous shows are on (which is throughout the majority of the festival), and so-called Renegade shows can pop up at any time, often resulting in party like atmospheres with enthusiastic crowds. Venues go from typical camp-site rooms where bodies cram in to every corner, to a seated forest site, to expansive lawn areas that can easily accommodate the entirety of the festival crowd.

Wintercoats at Camp A Low Hum 2012
Wintercoats at Camp A Low Hum 2012

Adelaide solo act Rites Wild took things back to the lagoon, the first of quite a few loop-pedal warriors  that played throughout the festival. Playing very dark synth drones with a lot of reverb – it was quite a somber performance – or maybe that was just the weather, by this stage starting to get on my nerves. However the second loop pedal aficionado, Melbourne violinist Wintercoats was more my style, playing an emotionally driven set of songs reminiscent of Owen Pallett (aka Final Fantasy). Things really kicked in to gear when Auckland based rap duo $noregazZm hit the lagoon, switching slots with an absent Spring Break (who arrived the next day) and playing a spastic, snotty set of songs, enticing the crowd to join in their fun. Their vocalist Lisandru Grigorut had previously made his Camp debut in equally spazzy Dunedin punk outfit TFF, despite being thoroughly under-aged.

While roaming the ample camp grounds and enjoying the setting, food and the taste of my deadly beverage I managed to breeze through performances by rather-great Sydney rock trio No Art, Auckland-based Flying Nun fans Lost Rockets, kitschy but cute and catchy Melbourne keyboards and loop-pedal soloist Kikuyu and Newcastle, Australia based guitar and keyboards soloist Alps – who has been quite a regular visitor to our shores over the past 8 years or so, and plays a very personal style of experimental pop music.

T54 at Camp A Low Hum 2012
T54 at Camp A Low Hum 2012

Seems appropriate that it was Christchurch’s own T54 that ushered in the bigger stages in the late afternoon. The recently signed Flying Nun act thrilling with sharp guitar playing, pulsing rhythms, and even a random guest vocalist. I’m not sure if the next act I saw in the Forest was Melbourne trio Absolute Boys (though they seemed to contain the same members?), as they replaced the absent Glass Vaults, but their set of minimal electronics swirled and pulsated and sounded simply wonderful in this idyllic setting. One of the truly great finds of the festival for me was Newcastle, Australia power-trio Bare Grillz; totally at home in a house-party setting with a terrific drummer and two guitarists with equally terrific haircuts. Playing aggressive, dynamic punk numbers punctuated with anthemic shouting and a good dose of humor, I’d thoroughly recommend you check them out if you get the chance.

I think this is when my enthusiasm started to get the better of me. Melbourne punk rock trio Ouch My Face were on the main stage, making a second appearance at Camp A Low Hum in their own sassy, sarcastic way. Meanwhile I’d been indulging in my surroundings, eating and drinking with my friends, girlfriend and fellow campers as the rain started to get stronger, with gusts blowing in to the valley and bringing dark clouds with them. I skipped a couple acts for a dinner break, but returned for the magnificent So So Modern, fighting a killer headache to thoroughly enjoy their great set of songs new and old.

So So Modern at Camp A Low Hum 2012
So So Modern at Camp A Low Hum 2012

The Wellington trio (now without fourth member Aidan Leong) have become more laid-back than their debut recordings, with a more progressive sound in recent years, so It was a treat for them to run through some of the punchy older hits – a dynamic mix of bass heavy keyboards, stinging guitar, sing-shout vocals and truly ravenous drumming. Wind lashed the side of the stage which was thankfully covered in weather-protecting canvas – thankfully giving me a little respite and shelter as I took photos of the band going full tilt. That was it for the night though, I threw in the towel, formulating a new approach for day two of the festival as rain pounded my tent with my head pounding along concurrently.

Click here for more photos. Days 2 and 3 to come.

[published in the Christchurch Press 17/02/2012]

T54

Rock Power-Trio from Christchurch City, announced in late 2011 as one of the revitalized Flying Nun records new signings. Led by guitar-slinger Joe Sampson, with productive drumer Matt Scobie (Undercurrents, Black Market Art, Planet of the Tapes) and bassist Sam Hood the group only formed in 2009 but quickly shot to prominence in their home-town before ‘making our way to Dunedin in July 2010 to record 6 songs in Dale Cotton’s home studio’. They’ve since released those recordings on Jasper Bryant-Green’s ‘Gold Sounds’ label, plus a 2nd EP in late 2011.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Drone Attacks [December 2010 Gold Sounds]
  • Scammers [October 2011 Self-Released]

See-Also

The Dance Asthmatics

Christchurch-based 4-piece mixing up a bit of Dunedin-jangle with punk attitude and some level of funky/dancey type rhythm. Fronted by Stephen Nouwens (Bits and Pieces) with the very handy Brian Feary (Magic Eye etc) on the drums, Joe Sampson (T-54 etc) on guitar and Ben Odering on bass.

Formed in 2010, with an initial demo ep on BandCamp, which they followed up with the ‘Goddammfuck’ ep in 2011.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Homebake demos ep [2010 self-released]
  • Goddammfuck ep [2011 self-released]

See-Also

T54, Uncle Scrim at Dux Live

Uncle Scrim
Uncle Scrim

Shows at the new Dux Live are really picking up steam now, with a bumper crowd on saturday night.

I missed T54’s opening slot, they played a set of Hendrix covers as ‘Harvey Kaitowel’, but caught the majority of new Rich Densem-fronted blue-rock trio Uncle Scrim. Nice to see Ben Aldridge playing bass in the garden city once more, guys got some real chops!

T54’s closing set proper was a ripper, bringing the crowd in close to dance to their fast and tight numbers.

Check out the rest of the photos here.

 

Joe Sampson of T54 in the crowd
Joe Sampson of T54 in the crowd

Flying Nun 30th birthday: The Clean, Subliminals, T54

T54
T54

Another stunning Flying Nun birthday show at the CPSA! T54 we’re a great start to the night, showing why they’re one of Flying Nun’s latest signings with great rollicking tunes propelled by Joe Sampson’s Flying Nun-influenced guitar riffs. Meanwhile some very unusual independent short films we’re playing behind the bands, care of Stuart Page.

Subliminals
Subliminals

The Subliminals ‘United States’ album is one of my favorite 90’s Flying Nun releases, and seeing them last night bought back a flood of memories. ‘Uh Oh’ went off like no other, what a great, driving rock song from one of the label’s most under-appreciated acts.

The Clean played an epic set of songs that stretched from the earliest EPs, through to (almost) now, with the crowd singing along to all the early stuff, and some of the later songs making for surprise highlights too. Hamish was very vocal behind the kit, expressing his disgust at the nights election results, though most of this seemed to fly right past the packed audience.

 

The Clean via Stuart Pages IPhone
The Clean via Stuart Pages IPhone

See the rest of my photos from this show here.

Black Market Art

Biography

Fantastic youthful Christchurch pop-rock trio from the mid 2000’s.

Darian Woods channeling his inner Edgar Winter

Forming at Cashmere High School, Darian Woods, Joseph Harper and Matt Scobie were a popular band within the All-Ages and eventually the indie-rock scene within Christchurch, releasing a terrific debut album (which subsequently became their swan-song) in 2007.

Matt Scobie

Woods would go on to form Wet Wings before relocating overseas to study, Joseph Harper is a stand-up comedian and writer now living in Auckland, whilst Matt Scobie has become a big part of the Christchurch live music scene, playing in a handful of popular local bands (The Undercurrents, T54, Planet of the Tapes etc).

Joseph Harper

Members

  • Darian Woods (Guitar/Vocals)
  • Joseph Harper (Bass)
  • Matthew Scobie (Drums)

Discography

  • Kids (2007, Self-Released)

Links

 

O’Lovely

Biography

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’.

Members

  • Laura-Lee Watson (Vocals/Keyboards, 2006 -)
  • Brooke Singer (Keyboards, 2006 – 2008?)
  • Matt Scobie (Drums, 2007 – 2008)
  • Joe Sampson (Guitar, 2007 – 2008)
  • Lee Devenish (Guitar, 2008)
  • Chris Andrews (Bass, 2009)
  • Tim Woods (Drums, 2009 – )
  • Perry Mahoney (Guitar, 2009 – 2011?)

Discography

  • The O’Lovelys [2008 Self-Released]
  • Lost Love [2009 Self-Released]
  • Constellation [2011 Self-Released]

Links