Journal: Driving around New Zealand listening to The Clean

As the seasons in London shift from summer to autumn, the slight chill in the air juxtaposing the still bright daylight, and a blue sky not yet obscured by grey bleakness, is reminding me of the similar climates of my homeland. Particularly Dunedin, which if memory serves me correctly often finds itself in similarly contradicting conditions. One of the most pleasant things about Dunedin weather, is that even when it is frozen cold, with morning frosts rendering grass crisp like icicles, the sky will nearly always be blue and welcoming. A cold day will always be bright enough to run about outside – which we did plenty of as kids, in the parks, streams and fields of my hometown, Mosgiel.

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A wet Dunedin day

The weather shift also reminded me of some music that seemed to go hand and hand with the chilly warm days of Dunedin. Before I moved over to London, I did a lot of driving around New Zealand – mostly in Auckland, Dunedin and Hamilton, as I strove to obtain my full license before embarking on a mission overseas. I moved to Auckland for several years before London, but I often found myself flying back to Dunedin to visit friends. During these visits, driving around in my Mum’s silver Kea or Grandma’s Mitsubishi, The Clean seemed the perfect soundtrack to to exploring the winding Otago Peninsula and sloped streets of Dunedin. So now that I’m roughly 19,075 km’s from Dunedin, and have been for over 14 months, it is maybe quite comforting to listen to a band such as The Clean, whose music seems to so strongly reflect the landscapes that the Kilgour brothers, and Robert Scott grew up in. Scott was born in Mosgiel, and the Kilgour’s in Dunedin, and I’m not exactly why their music seems to be to be the perfect companion for our vibrant student town and surrounding landscape. Perhaps it’s just that by me choosing to frequently play their Anthology during my cruises ingrained the comparison in my mind. But it seems quite possible that the landscape and energy of the town equally inspired the music – that which was born in student flats and bars of the 1970s, along with other reverb drentched, jangley, guitar based bands such as The Chills, The Verlaines, Sneaky Feelings, The 3D’s etc.. and all the other Flying Nun and Dunedin Sound family.

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Pulled over by the cops – on the desert road – North Island

I do favour the hilly roads on Dunedin, but the Waikato has it’s share of roadtrip memories as well, as after my Mum moved to Hamilton in 2012, I spent many weekends driving around those much flatter streets, and generally warmer climate, but again found myself often choosing Dunedin sound bands as the soundtrack. The Clean’s Vehicle seemed to suit these roads, their 1990 album recorded in London during a re-union tour. This is an album I’m returning to now, and perhaps finding an interesting existential connection the circumstances that surround that albums creation, seeing as David Kilgour was also lost for several years in this UK metropolis. Vehicle is the sound of The Clean again connecting with their homeland, and for me being all those kilometers away, it serves a nice replacement to actually standing on New Zealand streets.

So before I go off on another Europe adventure, I thought I would flashback to those cold New Zealand driving missions, where in one case we were off to shoot a music video at the abandoned World War II gun emplacements along the Otago Peninsula, just along from the favourite of New Zealand tourism, the Albatross colony. Or another time, heading off with my friend Anthony to explore the West Coast of the South Island, and both the Fox and Franz Joseph Glacier. Being in central London for more than a year, these experiences of freedom out in the Southern most countryside of the world do seem all the more special. There are many things going for London, but space and fresh air are largely not amongst them. That’s something that Dunedin and New Zealand has in abundance.

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Anthony Keenan (Ants) and I on the West Coast of New Zealand

Journal: A Kiwi in London, looking back on ’15

A few months ago, I wrote a blog on London weather. In it I complained that it had proved to be nowhere near as cold as I was told it would be. I had predicted eating my words, that it would get cold, and I had expected this by mid-December. It’s now at the end of December and about to pass into a new year, and yet I’m still not freezing. We had one Saturday that felt especially cold in the middle of November, but largely, the winter months have been underwhelming.

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Perhaps global warming is therefore doing it’s thing. I’ll try not spend the whole of my last blog of 2015 discussing the weather, but perhaps my interest in doing so shows just how the British have rubbed off on me. I’ve been in London six months now, and I feel I’m pretty used to the place now. The gimmick of being in the biggest Great Britain city has now worn off, and what was once unique is now commonplace. I no longer find the underground an interesting experience, instead it is a bore. I still find the European architecture, the mix of Georgian, Victorian and Industrial influences inspiring, although I much less frequently find new interesting places in London to explore. I frequently find myself at Oxford Circus, surrounded by shuffling tourists blocking my path and slowing my down – basically I’m finding complaining a standard part of my day to day behavior. That could only mean the London mind-set has rubbed off on me.

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I’m still happy I’ve moved to London, even though I do find myself missing things back on the other side of the world. I made some good friends living in Auckland, as well as many old friends back in Dunedin, of whom I miss equally, as well as my old job and lifestyle. I tend to get caught up in nostalgia and not appreciate what I’m doing in the present, but at the same time I think it’s good to remember where you’ve came from. I don’t plan to get lost permanently on this side of the world, but at least I can think fondly on having conquered the fear of moving out of my home country. When I move back, which I will inevitably do, I can look back on this experience with a sense of accomplishment.

I can look back on my 2015 adventures with pride. One year ago I was irritating my friends and family, quizzing them as to whether they thought I should move overseas. I had a Glastonbury ticket, but as late as March I was still dithering as to whether or not I would really leave.  For some reason I was able to pull the trigger and I don’t regret it. There’s a lot I’ve had to leave behind, but a lot I’ve gained as well. Experiencing Glastonbury, seeing Greece, Holland, France and Italy are just a few of the unexpected surprises that this year held. Not to mention experiencing being part of the UK workforce, working for major international companies, and making new friends on this side of the world. Back in June I started a series of blogs called, A Season Of Firsts – this tracked my progress making it from New Zealand to United Kingdom in more detail.

It was already an action packed year, even before this whole UK experience. Back in February, I managed to reunite with my high school band, Incarnate. This was also not something I’d ever counted on, given that I moved to a different city as them, and the rest of the members moved onto new projects (although I played with several of the members briefly after Incarnate as Ignite The Helix, a project which is still active). It was great to literally get the band back together, and the strong turnout we received at Dunedin (NZ) venue, Chicks Hotel was gratifying. We filmed this gig from a few angles, and I’m proud of the final result. Incarnate was a particularly memorably part of my music career, and I hope it won’t be the last time we play together (if it is, this gig was a good way to end the short life of our passionate young metal band).

I attended a lot of concerts through-out the year as well. Laneway kicked things off in January with memorable sets from Ariel Pink, Future Islands and Flying Lotus, later I was to see Drake at Vector Arena – and perhaps the most suprisingly entertaining musical event of the first half of the year was Auckland’s second Westfest. This mini-Soundwave for New Zealand featured such metal and rock big names as Soundgarden, Faith No More, Judas Priest and Lamb Of God. The organizers may have sold slightly less tickets than expected (there’s a rumour that losses ran into the millions) but those that attended received a great day of entertainment. Norwegian band Mayhem headlined a smaller stage during Faith No More, and as I had a high school fascination with this band, I was grateful to have the opportunity to see them live. At the after party I ran into Necrobutcher, original bassist of the band, who turned out to be a really cool guy. It’s not often you get to share Vodka with a member of an infamous band and discuss some pretty serious stuff. I wrote a blog on this as well, and I hope the band won’t object to me sharing some of my thoughts on their career. The music continued through-out the year, I wrote about Glastonbury here, and most recently Peaches, who played a great sold at show at Camden’s Electric Ballroom.

I’ve also managed to continue film and music projects throughout the year. In June, I filmed two music videos, one for Ignite The Helix (featuring members of Incarnate) and one for my rap project, Posse In Effect. Posse In Effect’s video for We Came Here To Party, off our second EP Lazarus has been completed and is now out of the public to digest (any views would be much appreciated). This is a slapstick comedy short film, and perhaps more disco/rock than rap. Directed by Andy Weston and myself, it was filmed in Melbourne and shot on a variety of DSLR’s (but mostly the Canon M3) so the footage is a little inconsistent, but I feel the humour was well executed. I also managed to include some footage shot in Athens, within a dream sequence. The video for Ignite The Helix’s Throwing Scissors is nearing completion, but still requires a few re-edits. I hope to have this released in the next few months, upon the release of the song (as the band is still putting the finishing touches on their debut EP).

I’m not sure if this blog will have been interesting to anyone but myself, but looking back on 2015 I realize, I’ve achieved a great deal I’m proud of. London’s not all bad, and though I’m glad I came here, I won’t feel negative to return home soon. I look forward to 2016 and whatever it will bring – and I hope for all of us, it will be as easy a year as any could possibly be. Lets hope the war in Syria ends without too high a casualty rate as well, and that the refugee situation does not get any worse, to get political. I also hope the New Zealand flag doesn’t change. More from me later, for now, 2015 is just another year of “auld lang syne” (good tune, Robbie Burns). 

The Chills New Album Gets a Release Date & Single: America Says Hello (+ lyrics)

The date has been announced and Martin Phillipps and band’s new album Silver Bullets is to be released 30th October on Fire Records. You can pre-order here. It’s only been 19 years since the last The Chills album, Sunburnt, which in my humble opinion was a pretty great album and an overlooked one – a trend of much of The Chills career. But it seems they’re set for a revival of appreciation, with all the big indie trendsetters such as Pitchfork spreading the word of the cult Dunedin band’s brand new release. The Chills performed to sold-out audiences through-out the UK last year; here’s hoping they return soon with more international dates, as well as playing the home land. The Pitchfork article does indicate a tour for next year.

the chills silver bullets album

In tandem with this news being released is a brand new single, America Says Hello, which following on from the previously released Molten Gold is another slab of classic atmospheric pop. This one features a drum and bass rhythm guaranteed to bang heads, dark jangling melodies and politically charged lyrics. The choice of vocals in the mid-section – “a rocket attack, and a property boom” are pretty telling. The bass riff of the chorus is almost Joy Division-esque, dropping the guitars for Phillipps’ hook to cut through with immediacy – “America says hello, and the world says welcome home”. The production is both rough and polished, suiting the reverb drenched, swamp-pop Phillipp’s has long mastered, but with a modern touch. The melodies and structure are complex, this will most likely be one on high rotation for some time.

The lyrics are up for interpretation, and although political in theme partially, I would be missing the point I think if I took criticism of foreign policies to be the song’s only meaning. The opening lines are about the wonder and scope of the universe; the futility of human endeavor in light of this seems to be another theme through-out. The planets and the symbolism of Mars are effective metaphors for waring powers. The chorus perhaps then alludes to the habit of the world to forgive America for the violence of their empire, and all it takes is a greeting. Stockholm Syndrome maybe. I’ll stop here before I get too university-student with this analyses. As with anything, give it a spin and come up with your own interpretation. It shows Phillipps has still got it – he’s given us a lot to chew on with this one.

The song can be heard on Soundcloud now.

Give the song a share and go pre-order the album now.

I’ve attempted to write out the lyrics, and I’ve probably got some wrong, let me know if so (comment down below)

The Chills – America Says Hello (Lyrics):


“When you gaze at the stars on a cool, clear night
– novas, sapphires, giants and diamonds, and all beautiful

But you grapple with fear as you stare at the sight
For they’re cold uncaring, moving, scaring – inscrutable

For it’s a small world after all – a lonely little blue and white ball
And the universe yawns at our plans – as another empire expands
For on behalf of the war-god Mars – here are fifty white, fightin’-fit stars
That make people want to wail and pray – saying Rome wasn’t burnt in a day…
…but hey, we shall see!

But then America says hello – and the world says welcome home
America says hello – and the world says welcome home

Yes, it’s a god eat godless world – as the galaxies around us swirl
While the poor run riot in spite
– to see stars they set the night alight

For the everyday people aren’t free – and they know they’re never going to be
With the powerful keeping them hushed – as the tyrants get noisy ones crushed
So they turn a deaf ear to the prophets of gloom
For there’s funding galore from the profits of doom
First a rocket attack then a property boom
A rocket attack then a property boom
Just a rocket attack and a property boom
a rocket attack and a property…

Yes – on behalf of the war-god Mars – here are fifty white fightin’-fit stars
That make people want to wail and pray – saying Rome wasn’t burnt in a day…
…but hey, we shall see!
…cause this isn’t the way it was always portrayed it should be

Now the cash has crashed, the dream-ship sailed, the gravy-train has been derailed at its own terminal
Let the fairy tale be an epic fail for no one found the Holy Grail and time’s terminal

But then America says hello – and the world says welcome home
America says hello – and the world says welcome home

We were on the wrong track, will you welcome us back if we say hello? (America says hello…)
We were on the wrong track, will you welcome us back if we say hello? (America says hello…)
Now, we’re back on the track – will you welcome us back if we say hello? (America says hello…)
Yes, we’re back on the track – will you welcome us back if we say hello? (America says hello…)”