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Hugely popular Christchurch hard-rock all-girl group with a very 90’s grungy riotgrrrl sound and a line-up that changed a bit over time. Formed by vocalist, bassist and song-writer Reta Le Quesne, guitarists Joanna Billesdon and Fleur Walden (aka Fleur de Lis), and Lisa Preston on drums. Le Quesne and Billesdon had both been in the short-lived Stepford 5 together the year prior but took a break for the birth of Le Quesne’s first child.

Snort are influenced by heavy metal and 60’s garage mainly, which results in a crossover of the two creating a heavy trash amalgam. The material Snort write about ranges from love songs to songs about psychotics running over Elvis impersonators, songs about the devil, fast cars and of course how to scare men.

Reta Le Quesne

The 4-piece rehearsed at Into the Void‘s High Street practice space, coming up with the name Snort just before their first live gig – a house party in Spring 1993. The group immediately gelled as a group of strong wāhine with a fervent interest in music, plus each member of the original line-up were the mothers of young children. They played all around Christchurch at venues like His Lordships, The Subway, Dux de Lux, Quadrophenia and Warners, and toured up and down the country:

I think we were always a 4 piece, travelling in cars or utes. We were always our own roadies, nobody really support us then. Posters went up, we got the gear together, the PA and mixer.. used to have to hire the PA & baby-sitters.

Sharon Billesdon

I want to mention John Billows (The Renderers, Dark Matter, MEDaL, Thee Strapons), as he mixed us and lugged all the amps and mixed the record as well.

Joanne Billesdon

Elvis Roadkill‘ from the ‘Flat City 2‘ compilation on Peter Mitchell’s Flat City Records

So true don’t know how we did that when I look back. My car always breaking down on the way to a gig.

Joanna Billesdon

At the time I don’t think any of us had really heard about riot grrl. It was harder to find similar music from overseas etc. I think it was just a natural progression for me as a feminist and young mother. Every woman who played in Snort was obsessed with music, all kinds from country to death metal. All with unique taste, knowledge and opinions about what made good music. It was refreshing to have women to talk to about music, guitars and vintage clothes, as it seemed to be a male dominated sport at the time.

We all had punk roots I guess and strong social justice influences/backgrounds in the form of protest, unemployed rights, Union parents, etc. I felt we had more to be angry about than men, or at least needed to express that, which wasn’t really done so much by women in NZ music at that particular time. I wanted to lean into harder musical expression from garage to metal. I guess we came under the grunge moniker. We slowly started finding out about the riot grrl and grunge all-girl groups like L7 so it was just in the air.

Reta Le Quesne

The group played with (male-dominated) great local and touring groups like Squirm, Ape Management (the Ape’s Rob Haakman drew the distinctive cover of their ‘Hey Creep’ 7″ single), King Loser, Pumpkinhead, Loves Ugly Children, Space Dust, Solid Gold Hell, Hoover, Into the Void, Future Stupid, plus a variety of choice international support slots – Dead Moon, the 5678’s, and Jello Biafra‘s spoken word tour.

Snort at it’s core was reactive. It was a response to the male dominated music world (I don’t want to say industry because there wasn’t much of that in Christchurch at the time). We had great experiences with the other bands we shared stages with but it really was hard to find any women who played harder music in Christchurch or wider Aotearoa at the time. I was drawn to the energy of of the mosh pit but being surrounded by men, with men on the stage playing aggressive music, I felt like it the music wasn’t made for me, like I wasn’t really supposed to be there. With Snort we set the tone and reflected women’s experience and anger. Our mosh-pits were predominantly made up of women.

Reta le Quesne

With Walden leaving the group to have her 2nd child, Le Quesne switched to guitar and Ninakaye Taane-Tinorau (sister of Tiki Taane) stepped in on bass. Eventually she introduced her friend Carla Potter to the group:

“Carla was a shit hot drummer and could play metal drums which was where Snort was headed so I switched to the old Electone til I got a bit bored and left.”

Lisa Preston

When Ninakaye left the group, Joanne’s twin sister (and the groups 3rd former Stepford 5 member) Sharon Billesdon was brought in on bass to complete their final line-up. Through-out their handful of line-up changes, the group were always well received:

We always did well, thanks to lots of friends all over the country. Wellington was great, we had already played in Auckland with The Stepford 5 and we played at the Nile River Festival with Sticky Filth. Shihad were babies; we were next to each other in a motel, well you can imagine!

We played in Palmerston North and New Plymouth, (New Plymouth music scene stalwart and founder of Ima Hitt Records) Brian Wafer was really good to us. We had some crazy times on that tour up North.

We won the battle of the bands in Dunedin after that North Island tour, the organizers were peeved we won.

Joanne Billesdon

We actually had a green room next to the judges room and we heard conversations we weren’t supposed to haha…

(Major label and event sponsor) Festival were saying they didn’t want us and were going to announce Atomic Blossom as the winner, but the musicians on the panel fought for us (Shayne Carter, Dave Imlay from Into the Void and the wonderful Lesley Paris).

Reta le Quesne

Their prize was a recording session and album paid for by the label, which they recorded in Dunedin with Brendon Hoffman at Volt Studios. However when it came to release the album, Festival delayed and delayed it’s release, and though they recorded a New Zealand On Air funded music video for the single ‘Poison‘, it was apparently ‘lost’ before it could be sent out.

It was salvaged when my old housemate went to work for Festival and she found it and sent it back to us, but by then all the music channels (ok maybe just one) had closed down so we didn’t have much of a use for it by then.

Reta le Quesne
The ‘lost’ New Zealand on Air-funded video for ‘Poison’.

I moved to Wellington 1995, Snort toured our Festival release ‘Hell Hath No Fury‘ while I was there but we found it was unsustainable to keep going from different cities. So I ended up playing in The Hell City Slickers, The Long Collars, Flamejob (RIP Marty Edmond was singer), Five Car Pile Up, Thee Royal Family and The Wrong Doings.

Reta le Quesne

Fleur later surfaced with her band The Dialtones and has recently located to Wellington where she fronts The O’Rollers. Lisa (who now resides in rural Oamaru and was a member of Cuticles until recently), Joanne and Sharon formed the excellent Lo-Liners with Rustle Covini on drums, along with playing in many other groups such as Dark Matter and Outsiders. Reta le Quesne now resides in Melbourne after her prolific period in Wellington – she performed with ex-Hi-tone Destroyer Matt Johnstone’s Melbourne group Levitating Churches. Carla Potter made waves locally in band management and promotion, eventually compiling and organising the Brat compilations which featured songs by various local groups, she’s since moved to London and is doing really well in the music industry. Ninakaye has had a brilliant career in the music industry (as Tiki Taane‘s manager since 2007, and as a board member for multiple Music organisations), an activist, a harmful sexual behaviour therapist and as a mentor to young Maori.




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