G I G R E V I E W
The Chills at Altitude, 14 September 2018
It’s been a long time since The Chills last played in Hamilton—possibly greater than 20 years—so it was fantastic that they finally decided to drop by again.
The band played an excellent mix of songs over the night, constantly moving from old to new and back again. The Night of Chill Blue was a beautiful start to the night, off their 1987 debut album, followed by the two openers off the new album, Bad Sugar and Time to Atone. Then it was back to some classics, Wet Blanket and Male Monster from the Id, followed by another new song. And so the intermingling continued. It was clear from the voracity of the dancing along the front row the songs the audience were most familiar with, though it was unsurprising that most were unfamiliar with the newest songs; this show coincided with the release day of the new album, Snow Bound. Amongst everything else, we were treated to Pink Frost, and a sequence of Come Home, new single Complex and an excellent rendition of Heavenly Pop Hit to finish out the set. An encore, politely demanded, comprised of Doledrums, the 2017 single Rocket Science, and an excellent performance of the timeless I Love my Leather Jacket. A well thought out set, featuring some outstanding songs, that few could have gone away disappointed with. [continued below]
The band were also great to watch. Besides the main focal point, Martin Phillipps, drummer Todd Knudson was highly entertaining, his left arm seemingly defying all gravitational principles, constantly flying up into the air and having to be forcibly brought back down onto the drums. Erica Scally constantly demonstrated her versatility as a multi-instrumentalist, swapping between keyboards, guitar and skeletal violin. Meanwhile, bass player James Dickson looked equal parts like the long-lost brother of Martin Freeman, and that he was fresh from flying in on his Sopwith Camel following a dogfight with the Fritz. Or was that just me that was seeing that?
The down points? I hadn’t been to the cavernous and echoey Altitude since MSU released their ‘Best and Worst of Mobile Stud Unit’ about 10 years ago. While the venue name ‘Altitude’ is appropriate for a band called ‘The Chills’, on a tour called ‘Snow Bound’, the sound quality became especially problematic during the quieter songs, like Chill Blue and Submarine Bells, and did no favours to support act Reb Fountain. Thankfully, the bigger, iconic, pop songs like Leather Jacket and Heavenly Pop Hit were less affected. Another down-point was a lack of local support. The Scones, in particular, with their Flying Nun aesthetic, would have made for a perfect support act for The Chills, and in front of these punters would have gained some valuable new fans. Overall, however, you can’t fault The Chills for their part in the night. Come back; we need more of your kind.
R E V I E W
'Creative Evolution' album by The Changing Same
After seeing The Changing Same’s recent performances at Future City Festival and on their album release night, many of the songs on ‘Creative Evolution’ were already strangely familiar for me on the first listen to the album. The album kicks off with one of those tracks, ‘A Boy and a Girl’, with its mandolin-infused, country feel; this one for me feels reminiscent of a composition by R.E.M.’s Mike Mills (along the lines of, say, ‘Don’t go Back to Rockville’), and it’s instantly likable. Another favourite on early listens has been the more poppy ‘Dunedin’, a song that with added keyboards wouldn’t have seemed out of place on the ‘Present Perfect’ album by Dribbling Darts (a previous band of Matthew Bannister’s). An instant classic. Another well worth checking out, if you are wanting a further taster, is ‘It All Comes Right’. Besides the music, a further highlight of the release is the cover art, which is good enough to have belonged in the glory days of vinyl; it should be printed in 12x12 inches, simply so we could appreciate it in its full glory!
It’s been seven years since the release of The Changing Same’s previous, self-titled album, and five since their ‘Make up my Mind’ EP. The liner notes state the current album was recorded at Wintec in 2016, the date on the back of the CD says 2017, but the official release was not until well into 2018! Why the delay? I don’t know the answer, though Bannister did have an album release with Sneaky Feelings last year, so I guess he has been busy!
The album is available on Powertool Records via BandCamp as a physical CD or as a digital download.
- Ian Duggan
The Chills were one of a handful of New Zealand bands that I was aware of growing up on the other side of the world. In the 1990s, my more clued-up friends had their records, and would bang on about them for ages. As was often the case, I eventually cottoned on a year or so later, once my ears had 'matured', and I too would bow to the majesty of 'Pink Frost', 'Heavenly Pop Hit' et al. I never got to see them play live in the UK, and have not had the pleasure since. That is about to change and I am a very happy human being.
The Chills long-awaited return to Hamilton happens this coming Friday, September 14th, with a show at Altitude, the first date on a nationwide tour to celebrate the release of their highly anticipated new album, 'Snow Bound'. HUP posed some questions to chief Chill, Martin Phillipps, about the new album, his songwriting process, the state of New Zealand music, and some ideas of what Friday's show holds in store.
HUP: Congratulations on the new album! 2015’s ‘Silver Bullets’ was your first album in nearly 20 years. How would you say ‘Snow Bound’ differs from previous albums?
Martin: It’s probably the best produced Chills album ever and it sounds wonderful but the best thing is that it flows like a real album whereas previous Chills albums have often lurched around a bit stylistically.
Do you find inspiration for songs comes from a different place these days?
One of my rules is that my songs really must have some meaning and substance or I will not release them to add to the growing mountain of dubious rubbish accumulating in audio-land. The common theme I saw appearing in the new material was the more mature perspective of a person questioning their role in this time of enormous change.
Is your song writing technique the same as it was when you started out, or do you do things differently these days?
I still tend to catch melodic ideas on some recording device (which is my iPhone these days) and then combine them with lyrical ideas I have written down separately or stored in the computer. I look for interesting and evocative contrasts. But these days I do make myself come up with a song title and maybe a few lyrics every time I find a new riff because the subconscious can surprise you with its perceptiveness when you look back at those ideas further down the line.
To what extent does technology play a part in this? (capturing ideas/lyrics/home recording etc.)
Once I have caught the initial ideas on iPhone or computer then I have the advanced Garageband home-studio program to produce actual demo versions but I am still getting my head around that because I am notoriously slow with technology. Also I am very often plagued with technical issues that people “have never seen happen before!”
Your last few releases have been on Fire Records. How do you find working with this label compared to the Flying Nun days?
We still work with Flying Nun Records on our back catalogue for New Zealand and Australia and it’s great to have that connection ongoing but, of course, it has again become necessary for us to have an international label actively based in the heart of the industry, as is the case with Fire Records, and they have been doing a wonderful job for us on these recent releases.
What do you think of the state of New Zealand music today, and who, if anyone, do you consider to be a ‘must-listen’?
I think there is so much wonderful new music being made that I can’t keep up and it would be wrong for me to start picking favourites. But along with that there is a lot of very average and weak material where people are constantly re-inventing the wheel and are not even aware of it. Sometimes it seems the whole ‘X Factor Has Talent’ approach has squeezed much of the excitement, originality and spontaneity out of what is happening - but then there will always be that unexpected new direction and rebellious attitude appearing somewhere. I often feel sorry for those of my age-group who say that the music scene is not as good as the old days when, in fact, they don’t actually make any effort to search for the exciting new artists that are always out there.
It’s fantastic that you are coming back to Hamilton, and on the day new album is released too, September 14th. What should we expect to see on the set-list for the Hamilton gig; primarily new songs, or a mix of old and new?
When we finalised the basic touring set recently we were thrilled to find it is all A-Grade material that we love playing (no filler!) and that it is almost exactly half old classics and half new classics. The older fans have been telling us they love the new songs and that they fit seamlessly into the whole Chills sound so we know we’re doing the right thing and we don’t need to try and be some sort of nostalgia act. We perform live with the confidence of a band that knows this is an exciting ongoing saga.
Do you have any favourite songs to play live?
Any band loves to play newer material as a rule but we have carefully selected only the older songs which still excite us and some, like ‘Pink Frost’, are a joy to be a part of each and every time we perform them. They always change a little but they always carry you away with the atmosphere.
Do you have any specific memories of past shows in Hamilton, good or bad?!
We’ve always enjoyed playing in Hamilton. There is an energy there unlike any of the main centres and we’re looking forward to a great night. See you there!
Kia ora to Martin for taking the time to talk to us. HUP has a double pass to giveaway for the show at Altitude, this coming Friday September 14, with support from Reb Fountain! Head on to the post below on our Facebook page to answer a simple question and enter the draw.