The Renderers

The Renderers are New Zealand’s prime example of southern-fried country, and are indeed one of our finest ever bands. Brian Crook formed the Renderers with his partner Maryrose in early 90s christchurch when the Max Block Group failed to go anywhere. He was already part of the Scorched Earth Policy / terminals sequence of bands that was picking up wind again – but the Renderers were the Crooks band (they’ve cycled through line-ups, with John Billows, Peter Mitchell (also of squirm and Hiss Explosion), Denise Roughan (the 3Ds, Look Blue Go Purple et all), Robbie Yeats Dead C, verlaines) and Haydn Jones, whilst the Crooks’ have always remained consistent.

Their early recordings stuck to a strictly country approach and seemed a bit too forced and distant, it wasn’t until the band relocated to port chalmers, a small bay just outside of dunedin that the Renderers really found their sound. Maryrose’s vocal on the 7″ sincle ‘a million lights” is like a defining moment in New Zealand rock. An achingly beautiful, brief song that has since featured on many Flying Nun and xpressway compilations, the song typified the Renderers new found dark and country-tinged rock sound.

Over the course of the 90s, the Renderers albums grew stronger and stronger – culminating in the masterpiece that is 1998’s dream of the sea. Featuring a wonderful cover of Ritchie Venus forgotten gem forbidden planet and a swagger of fine, dark songs themed around the sea, it was welcomed with open arms by the u.s. Underground music scene, whilst going mostly ignored in New Zealand. The Renderers are still going strong, touring sporadically, whilst both Maryrose and Brian have released their own solo material (most notable Brian’s 2002 album as Bible Black, and Maryroses contributions to the Arc Life series of dunedin music compilations).

In early / mid 2004 during the process of organising a christchurch show with the band, i managed to conduct an interview with the duo, and have kept up to date on their schedule for future releases. Since the recent demise of arc life, plans are now intact for the Renderers to start their own label. With Maryrose’s first solo release, a further solo release from Brian in a form similar to that of his fractured solo debut bathysphere under his current Anti-Clockwise performing alias, and perhaps the 5th Renderers release on the way, to boot.
circa mid-2005 the group made further line-up changes, this time coinciding with a possible move back to christchurch. Original bassist john bellows was reinstated, and drummer mike daly (also of Eskimo and formerly YFC) become the groups rhythm section for a one-off christchurch show, still preceeding the highly-anticipated 5th album.

discography
picks in bold

  • trail of tears [1991 Flying Nun fn184]
  • ‘bigger than texas’/’revival radio’ 7″ single [1991 Flying Nun fn185]
  • ‘a touch of evil’/’howling at the moon’ 7″ single [1993 Flying Nun fn254]
  • that dogs head in the gutter gives off vibrations [1995 Ajax ajax042]
  • surface of jupitor [1996 Ajax]
  • dream of the sea [1998 Siltbreeze]
  • ghost of our vegas lives [2005 as ‘Maryrose Crook’ Tinsel Ears]

recommended songs

download from mp3.co.nz

  • dream of the sea
  • i hear the devil calling me
  • pure poison
  • a million lights
  • forbidden planet
  • dimmer waters

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Scorched Earth Policy

Legendary early Flying Nun band (1982-6) that would later reform to become the Terminals, marking the debut of a young Brian Crook (later to form the Max Block and the Renderers). They put out a couple of highly sought after EP’s which contained some of the original versions of Terminals songs such as ‘Lolita’ and ‘Mekong Delta Blues’.

Initially they seemed more pop focused (well pop in the way that say, the Verlaines are pop) but the dark, rattled approach of Peter Stapleton soon turned them into something far more nefarious and disturbing. The Keep Away From The Wires compilation was put out by Medication in the late 90s and collects all their recorded material, along with live out-takes (though they’re of questionable quality). Pick up anything you can find from these guys.

Initially Stapleton (drums / lyrics) was flanked by a young Mick Elborado (bass / vocals – who carried a few songs from his Drowning Is Easy days) and Mary Heney (guitar, vocals, organ and drums – came from 25 Cents, a short lived ‘party band’, along with short stints in both the Victor Dimisch Band and the Pin Group) and Mick’s old bandmate Ian Blinkinsop – though he left before their first public appearance. Andrew Dawson soon joined to replace Ian on vocals, and brought around recently arrived ex-hastings lad Brian Crook who…

Was into German music at the time, y’know, Can and Faust and that sort of stuff. Some weird hybrid between German music and the Beach Boys I think I was kind of thinking about. Yeah, when i finally got to the Scorched Earth practice, the songs were y’know, two minutes long, or something. And Peter was really into that ‘Pebbles’ thing. And Captain Beefheart. Y’know, just, every practise, out would come the Captain Beefheart album.
– Brian Crook, taken from Wade Churton’s ‘Glam, Punk and Scorched Earth Policy’

Over the course of the bands 2 year run, Onset/Offset label-founder Campbell McClay (bass) and Catherine Upson (backing vocals) made contributions to their recordings.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Dust To Dust 12″ Mini-Lp [1984 Flying Nun Fn028]
  • Going Thru’ A Hole In The Back Of Your Head 12″ Mini-Lp [1985 Flying Nun Fn042]
  • A.D. Cassette [Live Recording 1986 Passage Passage10]
  • Foaming Out Cassette [1991 Xpressway X/Way 20]
  • Keep Away From The Wires [Compilation 1999 Medication Med04]

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Sneaky Feelings

The Sneakies were a young and naive pop band discovering the world of music from a distinctly dunedin perspective. In original member Matthew Bannisters’ Positively George Street book, which describes their experience and neglectance to accept the ‘Dunedin Sound’ that had been labelled around them, he was quick to point out how they differed from other bands.

Whilst the clean and the Chills were indulging in Toy Love inspired post-punk, raised on a diet of the Velvet Underground and West-Coast psychedelia, the Sneakies were more accessibility orientated troubadores, attempting to ingulf pop, country, folk and blues influences into their simple, gritty rock – and with some success. ‘Theres A Chance’ is one of the landmark tracks from the brilliant Dunedin Double album that brought together the Sneakies with fellow Dunedin City up-and-comers the Chills, the Stones, and the Sneakies eternal brother band, the Verlaines.

Though Bannisters book tries to say elseward, the Sneakies would never quite raise to the level of Graeme Downes talented troupe, but through-out the years (they eventually broke up in the late 80s, Bannister going on to form the Dribbling Darts Of Love) they did produce the odd great pop track (the hit single ‘Husband House’ being another stand-out), and some solid releases. Unlike their contemporaries, the Sneakies went through few line-up changes, original bassist Kat Tyrie leaving as the band started to gain speed, but Bannister, Martin Durrant, John Kelcher and David Pine survived the majority of their existance.

Discography (picks in bold)

  • Dunedin Double 4xep [1982 W/ The Stones, The Chills, The Verlaines Flying Nun Dun1/2] Rn
  • Better Than Before 7″ Single [1982 Flying Nun Fnfeed1]
  • ‘Be My Friend’/’Amnesia’ 7″ Single [1983 Flying Nun Fn015]
  • Send You 12″ Mini-Lp [1983 Flying Nun Fnfeel1] Rn
  • Live At Windsor Castle Cassette [1984 Industrial Tapes Industrial017]
  • Take Sides Cassette [1985 Compilation Flying Nun Fnmcfeel001]
  • Husband House 12″ Ep [1985 Flying Nun Fnfeel2] Rn
  • ‘Better Than Before’/’Wouldn’T Cry’/’Here’S To The Other Six’ 12″ Single [1986 Flying Nun Fnfeel3]
  • ‘Better Than Before’/’Wouldn’T Cry’ 7″ Single [1986 Flying Nun Fnfeel3]
  • ‘Coming True’/’Wasted Time’ 7″ Single [1986 Flying Nun Fnfeel5]
  • Sentimental Education [1987 Flying Nun Fnfeel6 / Fne14]
  • ‘Trouble With Kay’/’Its So Easy’ 7″ Single [1987 Flying Nun Fnfeel7]
  • Waiting For Touchdown [1987 Au Go Go / Flying Nun Fn Anda / Fnuk2]
  • Hard Love Stories [1988 Flying Nun Fn112 / Fne26]
  • Long Time Gone 7″ Single [1988 Included W/ Fn1192Flying Nun Fn119]
  • Send You [1992 Reissue Flying Nun Fn205]
  • Positively George Street [2000 Compilation Flying Nun Fn441]

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The Stones

The Stones were an anarchic, anything goes rock band – in Matthew Bannisters’ Positively George Street novel on the Dunedin scene, Bainnister recalls Wayne Elsey (The Stones brilliant singer / guitarist) exclaiming in disgust that Sneaky Feelings think about their music, an idea that seemed foreign to the Stones. But then, the Stones didn’t need to think about the music they made, they were primal, raw, things just fell into place.. But they weren’t by any stretch of the imagination a simple band.

Their contribution to the Dunedin Double release were 4 starkly contrasting songs – one more than each of the other contributors to this seminal document of the birth of Flying Nun as a movement. On ‘Something New’ a huge pulsing wall of guitar slows just out of sync with the songs rhythm creating a beautiful shuffling melody, on ‘Surf’S Up’ they ripped apart a piano, wildly plucking the inner workings of the piano to create a rising crescendo of noise.

They had a detached irony that was never forced – their name and the sleeve for the Dunedin double piece both a brash play on their british name-sakes. Unfortunatley The Stones (who were completed by fellow former Bored Games member Jeff Bats along with Graeme Anderson) were far too short lived – Elsey’s life ended by an accident while travelling by train with the band.

Discography (picks in bold)

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The Weeds

[Profile thanks to Tim Davey]

The Weeds were around for about a year in the mid-80’s, formed with the intention of having fun and seeing just how stupid they could be, while also entertaining people. The band provided a great distraction for its members from the more ‘serious’ music they were making in other groups at the time. The name supposedly came from the fact that all the members were quite skinny at the time.

Robert Scott and Michael Morley had been playing together in the Pink Plastic Gods in late 1984. Following the end of the group Scott (Bass, Vocals) And Morley (Guitar, Vocals) got together with Jeff Harford (Vocals) and Chris Healey (Drums) and The Weeds was born. All except Healey had had much experience in other bands; Scott had been in The Clean and was frontman with The Bats, Morley was in Wreck Small Speakers On Expensive Stereos and Harford had played with Bored Games. Following the tragic end of Doublehappys in mid-85 Shayne Carter (Guitar , Vocals) And John Collie (Drums) were also added to the line-up. An odd feature of the group was that they had two drummers.

Every gig they played involved some sort of dress-up theme which the whole band would participate in. One night they would be playing draped in foliage and weeds, another would be in glam gear or bad taste clothes. Their most outrageous ‘dress-up’ was playing in their underpants on the town hall stage as support to the Verlaines and the Rip at a 4XO dance. Their only out-of-town gigs were at the Gladstone in Christchurch as support to Look Blue Go Purple and in Auckland at Windsor Castle. The latter gig didn’t go down very well and the band realised that dressing up stupidly and playing music was best done only around people who knew you.

The essence of the weeds was not about serious music or writing meaningful lyrics but about having a good time. A review by Sharon Guytonbeck following a gig at the empire spelt this out:

with a couple of friends helping out The Weeds were a lot of groovy fun. Who needs ‘Live Aid’ when you can have this. Yes, The Weeds confirmed my belief that Dunedin is where it’s all happening musically. We don’t need the rest of the world when we can be at The Empire with The Weeds.

– Critic 6/8/85

Band rehearsals were for the sole purpose of writing new material which gave their on-stage sound a very fresh feel. In mid-85 the band made some recordings at Dockside Studios on Wharf St which emerged as the Flying Nun single ‘Wheatfields’, a very Velvets-influenced piece that buzzed along with the chorus line ‘It’S Been A Hard Day On The Wheatfields …’. further recordings were made later in the year at Chippendale House which to this day remain unreleased.

By late 1985 the members of The Weeds were being pulled away by their other musical projects and the band faded away. Scott continued with The Bats and Carter And Collie went on to form Straitjacket Fits. Morley was later involved in Dead C, Gate and This Kind Of Punishment while Harford became part of My Deviant Daughter.

The Weeds played only around 15 gigs but will almost certainly be remembered by everyone who saw them for their mix of shock, humour and good music.

Discography (picks in bold)

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alpaca brothers

dunedin based outfit comprised of nick wilkinson, bruce blucher (trash), a young steve cournane.

they were fast furious guitar [band] with thumping bass, made one ep and had a great song called the infinite tick. later they became trash hotel [who recorded as just trash] and were involved in a more theatrical chaos.. started performing the trash hotel at the art gallery … infamous performance and that ended with a supicious burglary of the art gallery.. no one found to blame.
later bruce and nick wanted to take the trash hotel overseas and went to thailand and bought a bar here they were to form the real “trash hotel” although it was short lived as the local prostitutes that wanted to protect their patch forced the boys to leave by gunpoint.

donald harman (ex-weetbix boys)


blucher returned to dunedin, performing alongside sandra bell and in the mid-90s outfit cyclops. wilkinson went way up north into obscurity, whilst cournane joined the verlaines, and later the skiffle group the weetbix boys, performing settling in to make a living as a touring jazz musician (with the likes of c.l. bob).