James Milne’s reduction agents spawned out of his Brunettes association with Ryan McPhun – which also created the McPhun -led Ruby Suns. Milnes variation create country-tinged pop tunes, infused with a dose of Dennis Wilson era beach boys harmonies and white-boy soul.
The group released a wonderful debut single with urban yard in 2005, a slippery, groovy pop classic.
In 2006 the group made a big splash with their excellent full-length debut, plus Milne’s own solo debut as Lawrence Arabia – both a highly recommended pop sensations!
Discography (picks in bold)
- Urban Yard lathe-cut 7″ single [2005 self-released]
- Dance Reduction Agents [2006 Lil Chief LCR014]
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.
- 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)
- 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)