Overblown now have a presence in New Zealand. Check us out. Slow global dominance.
Having moved over from Scotland just over 6 weeks ago, I thought it was time to inform the good folks of the UK of some great local Kiwi acts I’ve had the pleasure of seeing so far in a series of interviews, introducing us all to New Zealand’s alternative music scene. Comprising of interviews, reviews and some other cool things I’m sure it will be good fun.
The first in the series, is a threesome of interviews. I caught up with Yukon Era, Couchmaster & Earth Tongue.
Auckland crew Yukon Era are a quartet from the North Shore. In their two years together, Yukon Era have notched up opening slots for some big name international acts – including Mac Demarco, Viet Cong, METZ and Mini Mansions.
Pinching their name from The Bat’s 1995 studio album are Auckland shoegaze ensemble Couchmaster. The band released “Tumor”, a 5 song EP was released on 25 May. The EP is a wonderfully eclectic mix of guitar rock heavy on the atmospheric effects.
Earth Tongue are a duo from Wellington – Gussie Larkin and Ezra Simons with a psych sound. Their debut EP Portable Shrine thumps with heavy Sabbath like riffs while beautifully conjuring up a textured and captivating wall of sound which seems like it’s emanating from at least twice as many people.
Firstly, what is the music scene like here in New Zealand? And what venues should I add to my list when staying in this country for the next few years?
The music scene in NZ is pretty close knit. Everyone knows each other (or through a friend) which is pretty cool, and there’s a whole lot of great music coming out at the moment. Check out Whammy Bar, Wine Cellar, and Kings Arms in Auckland, The Stomach and Snails in Palmerston North, Caroline, Meow, Moon, and San Fran in Wellington, Darkroom and Wunderbar in Christchurch, and None Gallery in Dunedin. Well, at least those are my favourites!
Everyone we hang out with loves Whammy Bar, and we do too! It’s the perfect size, with amazing sound, and run by even better people. You should definitely check out The Kings Arms as well before it get’s demolished next year. Everyone from Mac Demarco to The White Stripes have played there, and it’s been a staple in the NZ live music scene for years and years. It’s such a shame to see it go.
Well we have a pretty small population so the “alternative” music scene here isn’t huge, but it’s dedicated and full of wonderful people.
Earth Tongue: (Gussie)
The scene in New Zealand is very special. Although we’re a small country, there are so many really unique and talented bands here. I think this might actually be because of the size – it’s like there isn’t room for ‘filler’ bands or for recognisable trends to emerge like there is in big cities. Whenever I’m overseas watching bands it always makes me appreciate what we’ve got going on here.
Some great venues in Wellington that have regular gigs are San Fran, Meow and Caroline. They all have great events as well as being great places to play. Whammy is super divey and there’s always interesting characters hanging around there. At one gig we played there this guy in the audience had an egg shaker and shook it continuously through the whole set – much to my confusion. If you’re going to Dunedin None Gallery is cool and also Darkroom in Christchurch.
O: Being from New Zealand, where do your influences lie? Were there home-grown bands you looked up to as young inspiring artist or were these bands from overseas?
Earth Tongue: (Gussie)
A lot of my favourite bands are from Wellington and I’m not even being biased or trying to plug my friends’ bands – only a little bit. Some current local bands that rule are ONONO, Church of Goya, Draghound and Mr Amish. I think a lot of my peers – myself included have been influenced by The Mint Chicks. If you haven’t checked them out make sure you do. Flying Nun’s back catalogue was/is hugely influential to a lot of bands, not just in New Zealand. I’ll admit I never really got into the old Flying Nun bands when I was younger, but now that my other band Mermaidens is signed to Flying Nun perhaps I should do my research! When I was really young and just starting to write songs I was listening to a lot of Bic Runga and I find her very nostalgic now.
Definitely a solid mix of both. For me the more inspiring was/is seeing NZ artists/bands doing well overseas and developing a following. It makes us feel really proud.
There’s a lot of wonderful NZ bands that helped shape the way we sound, Snapper, Bailterspace, The Dead C, The Clean, The Bats (from whom we stole our band name) have all had a fairly marked influence on us. As well as overseas influences like My Bloody Valentine, Neu, Can, BEAK, Deerhunter, Pavement.
O: For our fans back home, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? When did the band form and how do you all know each other?
Couchmaster has been around for a few years, has had a few different line-ups, and more bass players than we can count. We started when my old band Space Ventura died in around 2014 and me and the singer Manon Revuelta started Couchmaster along with our drummer friend Rachael Elf. Manon then moved to Berlin so now it’s just Rachael and I that remain from the original line-up taking turns on vocals, currently the rest of the band is made up of talented young musicians I met through Rachael, our lovely friends Daisy Wells on synth, Adison Whitley on guitar and Scott Kendall on bass.
Yukon Era formed in June/July 2015 after a band that Christian and I (Lachie Thurlow) were in disbanded. After that happened, Christian and I started writing some songs together, and then we asked Pierre to play bass because we thought he was sick. So us three all met through school, but for a while we had our friend Ben playing keyboard but he left the band in mid-2016 if I remember right. At that point in time I was playing drums, but then we asked our buddy James to take over and I switched to guitar. Then James left the band at the start of this year, and now Christian’s brother (also called) James drums for us. So a few lineup changes! We’ve released two EP’s since we started and we’re currently recording our debut album at Red Bull Studios in Auckland.
Earth Tongue: (Ezra)
We’re two twenty-somethings who met at a warehouse party in Wellington about three years ago. We started dating, and about a year and a half later we decided it’d be fun to start playing music together because we were both the ‘driving members’ of our other bands. We’ve always had similar tastes in music, and at the time we were both in bands that didn’t completely satisfy our to play really loud and heavy. So Earth Tongue was born! We released an EP around the same time that we started playing live shows, and word spread pretty quickly and we started getting some great gig offers.
O: How would you describe your sound and what could we expect to see during a live performance?
Earth Tongue: (Ezra)
We’re a heavy pysch two-piece, focusing on off-kilter grooves and weird time signatures. We try to write songs and melodies are simple but interesting, normally formed around one main riff that drifts and repeats and expands and explodes. The interplay between delicate female vocals and thunderous male vocals is also important to the sound, with dynamic structure being a major thing we think about in the writing process.
We have relatively droney psychedelia kind of sound, lots of repetition, some weird chord progressions, lots of shoegaze like walls of reverb and distortion. Live it can vary depending on our mood on the night, we very rarely practice and try to keep things pretty loose, sometimes we just open with an improv jam. Song structures can often shrink or extend by minutes depending on how good the vibe of the song is in the moment. We like to do the occasional cover too, I get a lot more confidence when I’m singing the words of Townes Van Zandt or Waylon Jennings than I do when singing my own. Also, Adison tends to bleed on his guitar.
Always the hardest question to ask a musician! I guess we try and classify ourselves as post punk, but our sound has been constantly evolving over the past two years, so it might change again pretty soon! I think our music is best heard live, and we always try and make it an experience for the audience members.
O: Lastly, who are the bands we should be looking out for in New Zealand currently?
Kane Strang, Fazerdaze, Oscar Dowling, Cut Off Your Hands, Die! Die! Die!, and Wax Chattels!
We have lost of great NZ bands, i.e. crazy, Seth Frightening, Milk, Greenfog, Girls Pissing on Girls Pissing, Nae Nae Express, Charlie, David Adison, Iskse, Bespin, Jim Nothing, Daily Keno, Sere, Wax Chattels, The Pleasure Magenta, BOZO, Baton De Cul-de-sac, Mermaidens, Earth Tongue and that’s mostly Auckland bands there are so many more that I’ve left out, we are overflowing with talent here.
The All Seeing Hand spring to mind instantly – they’re an amazing trio from Wellington consisting of a throat singer, a punk drummer and world-class turntablist. Check them out! Some other favourites are NIISA, Greenfog, Wax Chattels, Hans Pucket, Hex and Womb.