As an unabashed fan of The Map Room’s perfectly-formed pop songs and sister of its singer, guitarist and songwriter Simon Gooding, I approach every one of their releases with heart-palpitating, blubbering excitement.
When their debut single ‘Pilot’ dropped in March and their self-titled album was released in June, followed by appearances on major TV and radio shows, newspapers and blogs, I teared up with pride. I virtually tugged on the sleeves of everyone I knew on Facebook and Twitter. “Look at my brother! Isn’t he good?”
But isn’t it always like that with something you love? You tell the world!
Fandom has been a driving force in all of my creative pursuits; being physically related to the artist you’re writing about just makes it more special! Sheer enthusiasm, inspiration, and a desire to feel connected to the things and people I admire have always been my reasons for writing on EMJ.
And with that, I coax this blog out of its slumber, to share this shiny game of Chinese Whispers.
With some of its members being involved in recreational film production (via Lense Flare’s 48-Hour Film Festival entries), The Map Room was able to utilise talented friends to turn out a super-professional, visually-stunning first video.
Beneath its glossy surface is underlying drama, playing out with that eerie removed feeling that accompanies party scenes with muted ambient noise. Girls glide through rooms in slow-motion, sharing secrets while scenes shift from showering confetti to a deck of cards tossed in the air.
The song’s reflective qualities are illustrated with a warm, glowing light, and are done so in a way that only someone truly close to the band can.
I first met Headaches’ Jeff Bell at DOC, a tiny bar in Auckland. He bounded up to me and asked if I could play bass. I told him I could. I soon realised he was going around asking pretty much every person in the bar the same question, but his excitement and energy for finding the final member of his band was fun to witness. Little did I know his band was perfectly formed already, and (to my mind) didn’t need a bass player at all.
Headaches are one of those two-pieces that don’t need any “fleshing out”. Like the White Stripes, the Black Keys (of old) and so many others, their restrictions are what makes them so great. By relying solely on catchy songwriting, solid drums and a couple of good pedals, Headaches make the kind of shimmering, glitzy pscyhedelic rock and roll that’s perfect in its simplicity. Singer/guitarist Jeff (from Las Vegas) and drummer Kerry Forde’s (Freudoids, Malenky Robot) time-warped garage punk sits perfectly alongside bands like Thee Oh Sees, who they supported in Auckland. Of their many great demos on Bandcamp recorded by Alex Bennett, ‘Bear Bait’ is a standout, with its jagged and jarring guitar chords, spacey echoes and Kerry’s primal drumming providing a lurching rhythm. Jeff is known to do a great cackling laugh-type-thing with his voice that adds a kind of scary, foreboding vibe.
Having played Two-Piece Fest in Wellington in February alongside DZ Deathrays, The Shocking And Stunning and Seth Frightening, Headaches are now preparing for the release of a vinyl compilation with Raw Nerves, High Society, Death Valley and Proton Beast. They’re also playing a special gig at Whammy/Wine Cellar next month. In the meantime, download some of their awesome free jams on Bandcamp and read this interview with them.
Since Cool Rainbows’ debut single came out in December I’d been looking forward to hearing their full-length album. Now Whale Rocket is finally out and making a fine impression. With various veins of psychedelic pop and pretty layers of reverb-soaked guitars pushed along by jumpy drums, it’s a cohesive release that brings together central member Djeisan Suskov’s wistful voice that belies his years, with the influences of other musicians that have since come to be an integral part of the band.
Though primarily a solo affair, Cool Rainbows sounds a lot more fleshed-out on Whale Rocket, and with the pristine engineering Djeisan is known for – having grown up hanging around Revolver Studios (which his dad started) – it’s a winning combination. With a lush, shimmering quality that was first explored on ‘Southern Summer Sun’ (the initial single, now the first track of the album), Whale Rocket shows the full extent of Cool Rainbows’ depth. Standouts include ‘Forty Two’, featuring female vocals duelling with Djeisan’s voice plus a sweet, complicated drum beat, and the gentle, chugging guitar lullaby of ‘Tidal Wave’.
See Cool Rainbows play at Auckland’s Casette #9 on April 20.
Auckland’s Autumn Splendour have a new video to share that was shot on Super 8 film and processed in Germany. We got the band to explain what they’re about and why they have an obsession with naming songs after themselves.
(EMJ)When did you start Autumn Splendour and has it always been the same line-up?
(AS: Natasha Cantwell) In the Autumn of 2009 Cait and I started the band with our friend Toby who has since moved to Dunedin. Ryan is our third bassist. He joined a year ago but he’s always been part of the Autumn Splendour gang.
What is each of your musical backgrounds?
(N) I hadn’t really played guitar before Autumn Splendour. We’re all pretty much self-taught on the instruments we play in this band. I like how it gives us an unconventional approach to making music. I have a pretty spazzy style, but I’m cool with that.
(AS: Cait Roberts) I learnt to play the drums by playing along with friends who were kind enough to be patient with me. Ryan helped me out quite a bit.
(AS: Ryan Perry) I started playing bass when I joined Autumn Splendour but have played guitar for 10 years.
What do you all do away from the band?
(N) I’m a fashion photographer and artist.
(C) I recently graduated as a psychologist but am currently unemployed.
(R) Writing a thesis on human nature (not the band).
Why punk music? What attracts you to fast, loud, aggressive guitar music?
(N) It was never a conscious decision; the music that we play is just what comes out when we get together! There are a lot of musical genres that I enjoy listening to but wouldn’t have nearly as much fun playing.
(C) I think loud aggressive music was a good way for me and Tash to vent our anger. Plus it’s just an easier style of music for beginners – which is what we were when we started the band.
So far you’ve been pretty active in Auckland, but what about the rest of the country? Have you visited many other towns and how was your music received?
(N) We’ve played in Wellington and Christchurch and we’ve generally found the student and independent radio stations in New Zealand and Australia to be really supportive. Our show at Mighty Mighty was heaps of fun. Wellington showed me a great time!
(C) I thought Wellington was a cool audience – they seemed really into our music and seemed less inhibited or something.
“They represent things Natasha or I have said, or stories about extreme behaviour.”
Auckland has a pretty solid alternative punk scene, have you played any particularly memorable shows?
(C) I really like playing parties – so any house parties we played were memorable. There is less pressure and everyone is just having a good time rather than paying to see a band.
(R) My first performance was an impromptu set after The Crabbs at a house party in West Terrace. Memorably, Peter Crabbs introduced us as Awesome Blender.
(N) Pushing that over-eager drunk girl off the stage at Mighty Mighty was pretty memorable. I never know how far you can take things when you’re on stage. She was fine though, drunk people bounce back.
You released your first EP on 7″ vinyl. Have you recovered the costs yet?
(C) Gosh, I have no idea.
(N) We still have some available for sale. Once they’re all sold we’ll almost break even! It was never a financially motivated decision. It’s so exciting having your songs on vinyl, we just wanted to do it and make something we’d be proud of.
Are you about to release your debut album or another EP?
(N) Currently we’re just releasing singles one by one rather than as a whole EP or album.
How does your new music differ from what’s on your first EP?
(N) The EP is the first six songs we ever wrote, recorded only six months after we’d formed the band. We used to just write songs on the spot, now we spend a bit more time trying out different ideas.
(R) The new songs are darker and more aggressive. We’ve probably developed as musicians or something, but in the very least there is ever-increasing bass distortion.
(C) I think it has more depth to it – musically, that is. We’re more confident to try out different things now. I’m not so worried about playing my drums “right” like I used to be.
You seem to like using your own names as song titles, ‘Cait’ on the first EP and now ‘Natasha’. What do those songs represent?
(C) They represent things Natasha or I have said, or stories about extreme behaviour.
(N) All our songs are named after our friends, but I swear it’s only a coincidence that we end up recording the songs about band members.
When is Ryan going to get a song, and what will it be about?
(R) I have one! Everyone is going to get to hear a recorded version really soon that we did at the same time as ‘Natasha’. It’s about schoolyard anxieties and a fear of germs. It’s probably exaggerated.
You’re releasing your new video today. Tell me about it?
(N) We’re releasing a video for ‘Malcolm’, which is on the EP. My friend Tom and I shot this video before the band had recorded our new songs, but difficulties in getting the film processed in Germany has meant we’ve only just finished it now! It’s shot on super 8 (which I’m obsessed with) and features a wannabe Malcolm getting ready and hyped up for a night out. It was inspired by the gin drinking and dancing habits of my friend (who has requested to remain nameless) who stars in the video and references one of my favourite artworks, ‘Gordon’s Makes Us Drunk’ by Gilbert & George.
How can people find out more about Autumn Splendour and when can they next see you play live?
(C) : Come talk to us after gigs if you want to know more!
(N) We’re playing on Saturday, January 21st at Bodega in Wellington with The Eversons and we’re currently organising an Auckland gig with Mean Girls in February.
Juxtaposing a stout middle-aged man going for swim with shots panning over paintings of stately European mansions and fires amid snow, Cool Rainbows’ video for their first single sure makes an impression. A gentle, shuffling beat and warm atmospheric sounds make an idyllic bed for Djeisan Suskov’s gentle voice to coast along. From his roots five or so years ago in post-punk scene-stealers Nova Echo to the more recent pop of Trees Climbing Trees, Djeisan’s latest project takes a lighter, more ambient route. Little Chief signed him in March and he’s such a studio-bound perfectionist that it took him ’til 10 days ago to release his first single. But it’s proof that hard work pays off, as ‘Southern Summer Sun’ is a polished piece of pop bliss. The more embellished sound with quaint instrumentation including deft little touches of guitar and swaying melodies made with unusual sounds is testament to his sophisticated talent. The song is available for pay-as-you-like download and will be on his upcoming album Whale Rocket.
Last time we featured Pikachunes on EMJ someone commented saying, “(this) sounds more like a 12-year-old boy experimenting with electronic music programs in his room and just not getting them right.” Another commenter said, “these beats sound like they were made on fruity loops or some shit.” But the overall response was pretty positive and live crowds around the country always seem totally into it. Most recently, signed to Lil’ Chief Records, Pikachunes toured the USA with Princess Chelsea and received a mention on MTV Iggy. This new video, filmed while on tour in New York City sees him walking around the city in a Pikachu suit, visiting a few famous landmarks and bringing smiles to the faces of serious New Yorkers. The video was directed by Doug Schachtel who has previously made music videos for The Go! Team and The Brunettes.
Back in June our friend Matthew Scheurich was shot with a bow and arrow while living in the Papua New Guinean jungle. The attack made international news headlines. He’s now back living in Auckland, New Zealand, recovering from his traumatic experience. In an email today he said, “chest pains flare up from time to time”, but that his “lung capacity feels much better now.” Since his near-death experience Matt has been working on a new musical project, to help him deal with post-traumatic stress disorder. He’s titled it Bow Arrow and it’s very different from his previous work as rapper MC Stormtroopa and in punk band Damsels. Bow Arrow is a very gloomy project, full of rich electronic textures and dark motifs. There’s a lot of pain and trauma in the lyrics, with thundery echoes surrounding his voice. It’s got a dark, witch-house sound, similar to Salem, Nite Jewel and Chelsea Wolfe.
The first Bow Arrow release, titled Σ Of An Aftermath, can be downloaded from Bandcamp. Please donate generously, as Matt’s financial situation has been severely strained since leaving hospital and returning to New Zealand. You can listen to ‘Glitter’ here on EMJ.
We’ve already featured Cool Cult on EMJ several times this year – back in March when they released their debut album Try Crunch, and then in June as the featured artist for the global Music Alliance Pact. Now with the help of talented Auckland film crew A Soft Caress, the band has released their first video for ‘Tomorrow’, one of many standout tracks off Try Crunch. The video sees the band sitting in a lobby… perhaps waiting for… tomorrow? And is cut up to include footage of the band’s ferocious live set. Soaring guitars dominate the song, carrying a noisy post-punk shoegaze energy.
Remember American college rock from the ’90s? Superchunk, Sebadoh and Pavement appear to be huge influences on Auckland band Meese and their press release confirms it, also name-checking Modest Mouse and Built To Spill. This video for their single ‘Waiting For A Holiday’ is built upon a retro ’90s vibe, in the spirit of reckless DIY grunge videos and VCR-style technology. The three band members (Alex Angrignon, Sophie van der Linden and Sam Harper) build up an image of a psychedelic wonderland, playing in front of a green screen with a montage of nuns, biblical scenes and old cartoons. They even jump into the future, thinking ahead from circa 1995 and seemingly imagining the world of digital technology in 2002. It’s simple, catchy and fun – three essential elements of a good pop song.
‘Waiting For A Holiday’ is the first single taken from Meese’s debut album Pieces of You, Pieces of Meese, out on September 16. The single can be heard over on their Bandcamp page.
Former Christchurch – now Auckland – shoegazers O’Lovely have just released their debut album after months of reworking, refining and securing the approval of all three band members. Vocalist/keyboardist Laura-Lee Watson has no shame in describing herself as a ‘perfectionist’, and for those able to compare this album with the band’s previous, somewhat rare EP (20o9’s Lost Luck) , the smoothing and polishing off of several two-year-old songs is easily noticeable. Titled Constellations, the album contains four songs from the EP, all with subtle changes, ranging from tempo, vocal delivery and the rerecording of some guitar parts to sound stronger and less abrasive. Engineered by Dale Cotton (Die! Die! Die!, HDU), the album is the perfect accompaniment to New Zealand’s moody, unpredictable winter. There’s a lack of space in the songs that provide a warm, enveloping sense of safety-by-sound, where it’s hard to doze but easy to lie curled up in a warm cocoon. Slow to begin though, the album does require some patience, but once into songs like ‘Bright Lights’, ‘Wild Flames’ and ‘Wave’ you’ll be fully involved, as these tracks have a whimsical decadence, merging together in a traditional stark shoegaze manner. Right now you can check out the band’s latest single ‘Bright Lights’, streaming below.
Constellations can be downloaded from itunes and physical copies can be purchased by emailing the band at firstname.lastname@example.org