Terrific Wellington-based synth and guitar troop – greatly exciting, fun and wacky group. Often costumed and running through sets at breakneck pace, the group had a give it a go and home-production bent, distributing their own self-produced recordings (with art-work from the very talented Neon Sleep), hand-crafted pins, stickers and posters.
The group evolved out of youthful stints in underground hardcore groups – and they took elements of that (breakneck pace, gang vocals, building a community) to the group, but expanded the sound to make it more palatable to a wider audience.
They fused frenetic hardcore vocals, math-rock guitar breaks and dancey electronic sounds. With a feverish, young fan club their shows were always an absolute blast. With explosive drummer Dan Nagels putting on marathon shifts behind the kit the trio of Grayson Gilmour plus Mark and Aidan Leong (unrelated, btw) would constantly exchange vocals, guitar leads and synth run.
Palmerston North-native Grayson Gilmour released his own solo album in 2006, with attention from the A Low Hum peeps – actually his third home-produced release after a duo of unofficial, teenage years releases. So So Modern were closely tied to A Low Hum – driving a big part of A Low Hum’s all-age scene popularity and inspiring the likes of Carb on Carb, Bang! Bang! Eche! and others while they were still teens.
“He came from a different scene, so we took some time to find out where he was coming from. We asked him about the sponsorship deal he had, because we were quite an independent band and money doesn’t come unconditionally when it comes to sponsorship. But the pros definitely outweighed any other negatives. We also told him it was important to us that as many of our shows as possible were all-ages. He was like, ‘yeah, I’m down with that.’ Often we ended up playing two shows in one night – an all-ages show, followed by a non-all-ages show. It made for a grueling tour, but it established that it could be done. Some of the kids who went to those shows ended up forming their own bands and playing with us (and exceeding our success in some cases!) From then on, I think we influenced each other. Ian became quite passionate about all ages shows and we did quite a few tours with him and also played at pretty much every Camp A Low Hum, including a lot of the New Year’s things that he’s put on. We have so much fun working with him.”Mark Leong, from AudioCulture’s profile of So So Modern
They toured relentlessly – building an excellent reputation and some fairly substantial crowds across successive European tours, with English indie Transgressive Records releasing the slew of their EPs and the Crude Futures album.
Eventually Aidan Leong decided to leave the group to continue his studies and this lead to the remaining group slowing down what was previously a breakneck pace. Shows became more sporadic and the group was no longer a fulltime endeavor.
The full four-piece line-up of the group did finally come together again in 2016 to celebrate 15 years of A Low Hum, which was marked by a special New Year’s Eve event at Tatum Park. Yet the chance of longer term reunion was unlikely with the band members spread across the world: Aidan lived in Europe for a while before returning Wellington; Mark Leong moved to Sydney; and Dan Nagels relocated to Shanghai (where he plays in a number of bands, most notably Mirrors).AudioCulture profile on So So Modern
- Aidan Leong (keyboards / vocals)
- Daniel Nagels (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, drums / vocals)
- Grayson Gilmour (keyboards / guitar / vocals)
- Mark Leong (keyboards / guitar / vocals)
- EP0001 CDr EP (2005, Self-Released, EP0001)
- Friends and Fires CDr EP (2006, Transgressive Records, TRANS060)
- Skeleton Dance CDr single (2007, Transgressive Records, TRANS061)
- EP0003 CDr EP (2008?, Self-Released, EP0003)
- 0004 CDr EP (2008, Self-Released, TRANS0004)
- Crude Futures (2010, Transgressive Records, TRANS108)
- Dendrons CDr single (2010, Transgressive Records)