Matthew Bannister of Sneaky Feelings
by Ian Duggan
Formed in Dunedin in 1980, ‘Sneaky Feelings’ was among the first wave of bands on the Flying Nun label. Almost 30 years since their last album, the band are set to release a new album, ‘Progress Junction’. We caught up with now Hamilton-based guitarist and vocalist Matthew Bannister for a quick Q&A, to discuss their motivation for getting back together, their aspirations for the band, lyrics inspirations, and releasing the new album back on their old label.
HUP: Sneaky Feelings split up in 1989, and have played together only a couple of times since. What has been the motivation for the band getting back together after all this time?
Bannister: We played together again in 1992, 1995 and 2007. We didn’t have David [Pine] in 2007, however. David had been overseas, came back to settle in New Zealand, and was keen to make an album. John had built his own home studio where we could record it. They’re both in Christchurch.
HUP: A lot of time has passed since 1989. What should we expect sound-wise from the new Sneaky Feelings material? Have you gone back to old influences and will pick up where you left off, or should we expect a stylistically different band?
Bannister: It’s a more equal split of song-writing now. There’s more Martin [Durrant] and John [Kelcher]. David’s learned a few more chords. It’s still basically the same though. We’ve got Nick Braae playing some keys for us live to fill out the sound a bit.
HUP: The new album, ‘Progress Junction’, features yourself, David Pine, Martin Durrant and John Kelcher, which is the classic ‘83-‘87 Sneaky Feelings line-up. How have you managed to come together to record your new album together?
Bannister: We’ve been getting together in Christchurch a couple of times a year for the last couple of years. We recorded the album over a couple of visits, took basic tracks away and did some overdubs on computer. David and John mixed most of the tracks, but I mixed mine in Hamilton with Jason Long at Wintec.
Bannister: ‘Progress Junction’ is John’s song. It’s a place near where he grew up – it was a gold mine. The song is about the environment; kind of a relevant topic right now.
HUP: What are your aspirations for the band and album from here? Is this a one-off, or should we expect more in the future?
Bannister: Make an album, do a few gigs. Put ourselves back on the map, and see what happens.
HUP: The lyrics of number of your old Sneaky Feelings songs seemingly came out of your relationship struggles. Your life is now seemingly different, being in a long term-relationship with Alice Bulmer. Should we expect that this change in lifestyle is going to lead to a completely different array of lyrics?
Bannister: My lyrics are all fiction, folks! Not a word of truth in them. Not to be taken literally anyway. I have a song on the new album about retirement homes, ‘Castle of Dreams’. Very rock and roll.
HUP: Your 1999 book ‘Positively George Street’ started with the story of Sneaky Feelings missing out on inclusion on Flying Nun’s 1991s ‘Getting Older’ 10 year retrospective. Roger Shepherd’s recent book ‘In Love with These Times’ was seemingly conciliatory, offering a fair amount of space discussing the importance of Sneaky Feelings to Flying Nun, and addressing points made in your book. I also note that Progress Junction is to be released on Flying Nun. Has that relationship been smoothed over now, and how has it worked out that the new album would be released by Flying Nun?
Bannister: Briefly, yes, we’re all buddies now. David talked to Flying Nun and everything was cool. Age mellows the mind…
HUP: Sneaky Feelings are playing Nivara Lounge on 30 August. Is this an exclusive show, or are you touring the release?
Bannister: Playing Nivara, Hamilton 30 August and Galatos, Auckland September 1. We hope to do more gigs before the end of the year.