G I G R E V I E W
1ST ANNUAL HUP XMAS PARTY
18 DECEMBER 2015
By Ian Duggan
Hamilton Underground Press’ 1st Annual Xmas Party featured a massive eight bands, from Hamilton, Auckland and the USA, over a four and a half hour period. Starting at the early hour of 7:30pm, bands moved from the quiet (DateMonthYear, Sam, Goth and the Pixie), through to the noisy (Former Friends of Young Americans), to the even noisier (Invisible Threads, Ghosts of Electricity, How Get, The Recently Deceived). All the bands provided great sets, and all delivered something different from the others.
The ‘quiet’ bands eased our way into the night with some highly listenable sets, with Goth and the Pixie, in particular, providing some really interesting sounds and directions. The night started getting really interesting, however, with Former Friends of Young Americans, a duo with a great name from the equally greatly named town of ‘Bowling Green’ in Kentucky, USA; it was their only New Zealand appearance, and the rest of New Zealand really missed out on a treat. Describing their music as ‘post-folk’ and ‘Americana gothic’, not everything went the bands way, with both their microKORG and their guitars’ bolt-on neck failing them. Despite this, they carried on (sans KORG, and with a guitar borrowed from the aforementioned Goth), to provide one of the most entertaining sets of the night. Both multi-instrumentalists, the pair somehow delivered a full band sound, and provided the use of the first really interesting instrument of the night; the wind-blown pianica.
Auckland’s Invisible Threads followed, and brought with them the next interesting instrument; the Theremin. This was in no way a gimmick, however. The songs were brilliant, and the band were enthralling, and their performance would have been strong even without it. However, the Theremin’s distinctive sound and use took the songs to a whole other level, making the music wash over the listeners, and watching it being played was mesmerising. The band reminded me somewhat of the 3Ds and Chug from the ‘90s, but at the same time they were something completely themselves. This is a band I will be looking out for more closely in the future.
Former Hamilton, now Auckland based band Ghosts of Electricity returned for another HUP show and continue to get better and better. Exploding right into their set with Another Saturday Night, they didn’t let up throughout, playing a good proportion of their recent Troll’s album. Please Ghosts of Electricity, don’t stop visiting.
The penultimate band, Auckland’s How Get, followed. These guys were seriously loud, seriously tight, and provided some seriously interesting rhythms. And I am no conspiracy theorist, but the speed at which the drummer was playing was not humanly possible. Another highly entertaining watch. The night finished with Hamilton’s own The Recently Deceived who delivered a full-on set of high octane punk rock that recalled the likes of Rise Against and perhaps The Offspring. The hardiest punters who managed to stay the course certainly lapped it up.
This was a night of excellent entertainment, which I imagine provided something for everyone. Special mention needs to go to sound guy Scott Newth, who did an excellent job behind the desk throughout the night, and also to Ngamihi Pawa for capturing all the action on camera. Although this was Hamilton Underground Press’ 1st Annual Xmas Party, it hopefully will not be the last.
R E V I E W
Terrorball - Art Of Darkness LP (2015)
Reviewed by Andrew James Bramwell
Terrorball dodged a bullet: Leading off tracks with vocal samples is risky, it's been so over-done in the last 30 years by artists trying to intellectualise and appear deeper. By picking pretty mundane monologues or deep drivelling dialogues, cleverly allows the listener to feel smarter. Even pop trends of bare melodic brainwashing have been avoided by having the melody nestled tightly within the progression of funky derivations. That culturally pervasive over-stated chord stab thingy is present from time to time, but Terrorball has to penetrate society's mass distraction and overpower the bleating noise of self-absorbed sheep. Non-sheep are also catered for in the clean approach to disco. This has deftly avoided falling into the enormous vat of festering disco house cheese. This Disco is sans the overbearing latin percussion, thankfully lacks heavy ducking or nasty rhythmic gating and has restrained and intelligent use of other mix effects.
The album starts with frequency filtered introspective spoken word over drone, answered by a wailing synthline, quite unexpectedly lets go into disco beats. The contrast is clever and the precise timing between the first two tracks lets the listener decide if it's actually a long intro or not. Carbon-dating of this work can be attempted by broad influences: Acid laden Electro Disco, cherry-picked from the decades from the likes of the Dazz Band, Man Parrish and Bassment Jaxx. Hiphop-derived heavy-bass, tweaker's bitcrush and a generous framework of Funky House, which can put it anywhere in the last decade. Euro-trance stabs of the last track bring the timeline to post 2010, it manages to be current, while not ashamed to extract goodness from the thrashed recent past.
Every track sounds great with space between instruments with each element staying nicely in it's own tight little area. The more staccato moments are largely held together on a bed of subtle pads and overarching sweeps and stabs. The pads have been left alone to do their thing without any of the over-compressed harassment posing as music in early 00s Disco House. The mix has the bonding strength of classics like late 70s funksters Main Ingredient, the attack Late 80s electrofunk and the punch of slower hard house from the mid 00s. Tight, big in all the right places and funky. Darker than Erasure's Vince Clarke, brighter than the Chemical Brothers and refreshingly unpredictable in overall emotional tone from track to track. That emotion tone is pushed back, staying classy, not wanting to intrude, yet still detectable to the worst case of empathy paralysis.
Terrorball is the prolifically self-published solo project of Gareth Pemberton. He has made something you can dance to without feeling like a dork. You can listen to this at nana's place on Xmas afternoon and play for a cooling brain-sluice after a night clubbing. It seems honest, like he is letting you see something of who he is. But it is not completely naked, not yet. Gareth may have work to do in either letting the themes cut deeper and taking a soul turn in the house of funk. Or, he can scratch all the unsalted disco itches and be even more shameless about it. His production is technically mature, his influences still open enough to allow ambiguity, whatever he does, we will be dancing.
About the artist: Hamilton's Gareth Pemberton is not shy about sharing mid 80s disco on public-facing social media. Keep scrolling through his FB and it gets complicated and very revealing to the depth of this artist's variety of taste. Don't make my mistake of stalking him 1st. Instead, listen to the album, then decide. If you still can't decide, listen to the Terrorball's ten other releases on Bandcamp.
Self-described as: Earth's penultimate sonic ensemble of one.
Self-defined as: lo-fi electronic noise disco electro
Admitted to be influenced by: Capsule, Perfume, Justice, Daft Punk
Terrorball Bandcamp Terrorball Facebook
I N T E R V I E W
Trevor Faville from DateMonthYear
by Ian Duggan
‘DateMonthYear’ declares themselves to be not a band, but a way of making music in the 21st century. Under this moniker, you might have seen a solo performance, a ‘typical’ live band, or a live band with experimental and electronic elements. Their recorded output is similarly diverse, including everything from electronic instrumentals and soundscapes, to experimental tracks and guitar driven pop songs. On top of all this, the personnel involved in recording and performing have also been highly variable over short and long time scales. In this interview I talk with Trevor Faville, drummer, vocalist, and the one constant in DateMonthYear since their formation in 2003.
HUP: Between 2003 and 2008 DateMonthYear (DMY) were quite prolific, releasing three albums and an EP, but besides the release of a couple of individual songs, you have been pretty quiet since. Can you tell us about what you were doing in the interim and the upcoming album?
Faville: After 2008, things got a bit unstable in terms of personnel; one of the consequences of the DMY approach. We had done some cool things — the albums, two live videos, a concert with Trust Waikato Symphony Orchestra, where I arranged our stuff for a full orchestra — but we were running pretty fast. After that came a redesign. The focus came on recording material. An entire album of collaborations and covers was scrapped because of a) the contentious material b) the high profile nature of some of the collaborators, and c) sabotage. DMY redesigned itself with almost the current line-up and road-tested a whole lot of new material. There is a great deal of new material stockpiled! Currently eleven songs are 90% ready to go. Recording has already started. The upcoming album will have no overtly ambient pieces. Those are being kept for other stuff.
HUP: Contentious material?!
Faville: Yep, I think two of the covers might have got me in trouble!
HUP: And what other future plans you have for DMY?
Faville: DMY is doing a triple music video release in January. The idea has been that three independent movie makers have gone through the DMY catalogue and have put the 'cinematic' element to the test. Each movie maker had complete artistic freedom to shoot the vid of their choice to the song of their choice. The results will be released on January 15th 2016. The future [also] involves an entire prog/ambient album... and a movie!
HUP: A movie?
Faville: The movie we are planning will probably be 2017s project, but will be a kind of musical, featuring our fair city Hamilton.
HUP: A number of your songs sound perfect for music soundtracks, and several of your songs were indeed included in a 2005 ‘erotic thriller’ called ‘Luella Miller’. How did that come about?
Faville: We had always had success with getting the songs placed in movies, T.V. and ads overseas. This was our first 'local' experience. Our songs were pitched to the directors, who thought they fitted perfectly. The end scene in particular, involving death by shovel, was really effective.
HUP: What movies and adverts have your songs appeared in overseas? And how did you get them considered?
Faville: Well, we are signed to a company in New York that does music placements. Part of the deal is that they don’t tell you where the music gets placed. I used to get statements telling me what T.V. channel they were used on. For example, MTV South America, The A&E Network, the Discovery Channel, but now I have to check the royalty statements to get clues!
HUP: A listing of your former personnel makes for interesting reading. Members have included Sehai Orgad as a vocalist, who ran for Labour in the Hamilton East seat in the last election, Bevan Galbraith of The Deadly Deaths and Big Muffin Serious Band, and guitarist Simon Hirst, who has just released his debut EP. Who is in the band now, and how have you attracted such a diversity of people?
Faville: Current members are Tyler Leet on guitar, Brooke Baker on vocals, guitar and keyboards, Emma Koretz on vocals and Jared Constable on bass. As to how we attract diversity, well, diversity is one of the central tenets of the DMY philosophy. Heroes of mine are people like David Bowie, or Miles Davis or Robert Fripp; people who consistently find new people to work with and whose music is always moving forward as a result. I love that. In DMY someone's commitment is defined by their contribution and that means people do come and go, but not in a negative sense (mostly!). The music develops depending on who is involved. It’s a fantastic way of making music, because while it can be stressful, there is a consistent sense of moving forward.
HUP: With the naming of DateMonthYear, I assume you were referring to the date notation used by most of the western world, which contracts to the nonsensical MDY format used in the United States?
Faville: The 'DateMonthYear' name does indeed follow the European system. It evolved from a discussion I had years ago with some colleagues. We worked in a prominent London hospital and we were bored. For fun we decided to find band names based on anything that we could see around us. The phrase Date: Month: Year: was on a patient admission form that was lying around. Second on the list was Sturflowe, which was a German brand name of an air-conditioner (or so I recall).
HUP: Given the diversity of everything that is DMY, what might punters expect to see from your performance at the upcoming Hamilton Underground Press Xmas Party?
Faville: At the Hamilton Underground Press Xmas Party DMY plans to play four songs from an upcoming album. They are ‘rock’ songs in the sense that they as close to rock as we might get! The material is still being road tested and every gig is a chance to refine. We are also taking the opportunity to work in our ‘sub’ guitarist, to prepare for future eventualities.
I N T E R V I E W
Tim Fowler and Patrick Girard from Ghosts of Electricity
by Ian Duggan
‘Ghosts of Electricity’ were formed in Hamilton, but despite now being based in Auckland, they are still good enough to come and visit. With their upcoming appearance at the Hamilton Underground Press Xmas party, I talk to guitarist and vocalist Tim Fowler and drummer Patrick Girard about being labelled ‘White Collar Punk’, their lyrics, and the communal nature of their name.
GoE, let’s talk first about your sound. Most of your songs I would describe as archetypal punk; they are short, fast-paced and riff heavy. And from various sources, I see you have firmly acquired for yourselves the genre description of ‘White Collar Punk’. However, in one interview you have stated “people said we were punk so we just took that, really”. Was having a punk sound not your aim for the band? And do you think your songs have increasingly become more influenced by punk bands the more these comparisons are made?
Patrick: We’re not into performance music. Writing punk rock is fun and efficient. You don’t need many chords, you don’t need solos or any kind of paraphernalia. You don’t need a fucking double-bass drum pedal either. It’s also a style of music that works well with Tim’s sardonic writing style. And since there’s no glamour in playing it well, we don’t suck at it. I guess we naturally gravitated towards it. The white collar thing is because that’s what we are: three professional dudes who go to bed at nine. Nothing punk about us. But is that necessary to play three chords at a fast pace for two minutes while screaming ludicrous shit?
Tim: In terms of the punk thing, I’m really hoping the next album will surprise some people. There will probably be at least one or two straight ahead punk songs and some people will probably still hear most of the rest as punk, but I’m hoping to get in some stuff that’s a bit more like Princess Chelsea, with quite prominent glockenspiel. We’ve only got one demo fully finished with the whole band, overdubs and vocals for the next album, and that’s 120bpm and in 5/4, which isn’t something you’d normally associate with punk. It does have some atonal vocals and heavily distorted guitar, so I guess it depends on what you consider punk. Ultimately no matter what we do, we’ll sound like us, and we’ll never escape that and shouldn’t try. We sound basic and rough and probably always will, and we love playing fast and distorted and probably always will, so I think we’ll never escape the punk thing completely. In terms of whether the tag has pushed us to be more like the tag, it’s double edged I think.
HUP: I think with the punk comparisons, it isn’t just the chords, or the short length of the songs, but the fact that you explore social issues in your lyrics also. For example, you deal with themes such as racism and gender. Your music is challenging from that perspective. On the other hand, [2015 album] Trolls did contain the more poppy love song ‘On the Beach’, a song which was one of the highlights for me, in large part I think because the lyrics had such clarity. Overall, your lyrics are strong and interesting. Will a move to prominent glockenspiel, can we hope to see the vocals increasingly up front in the mix?
Tim: That’s a timely question. I’ve always been interested in lyrics, often a lot more than the melody. Up to and including [our 2014 EP] We are all Bigots I put no thought into melodies at all, I just put my words into the song and if I could force the meter to work then that would be the song. On Trolls one of the big differences in my approach was to try to get a song with a melody before I added lyrics. For On the Beach, for example, the rhythm guitar was written first, then I recorded that and overdubbed a solo, then tried to use fragments of the original solo as the vocal melody and had to force the words to fit into those. Four of the songs on Trolls were written like that, which is still the minority, but I think as a tendency I’m in the process of taking out some of the early focus on lyrics. It’s not to say that I’m not trying to write good ones, just that I’m now trying to write a melody more than I’m trying to write lyrics. There’s that Talking Heads song Naïve Melody which is a fantastic song in my opinion and I love everything about it. I found out the vocals to that song were written by David Byrne mouthing different letter sounds until he found what fit, then choosing words that fit the sound of the letters he was singing in any given place. Yet to me that piece of music is totally coherent as a whole and I still think the lyrics are perfect. I think they match the mood of the song, and although I couldn’t tell you what the song is about exactly, I think I know the feeling that the song is about and it’s a feeling we don’t have a word for. Now I’m still a long way from using that approach, and I don’t think I could even get that method to work. However, it did really make me think about what I was doing and why, and whether that was the best way to do it. In terms of writing lyrics I will still use basically the same process and themes, but it will now tend to follow other parts of the song. I don’t think that that’s necessary a bad thing for lyrics either, just a neutral thing. My opinion has always been that the concept is more important than exact word choice, and there’s a million different ways to express a given concept once you’ve thought of it, so you can always modify lyrics to fit meter without too much trouble. Getting back to your question though, I think you can expect a bit more thought into the way words fit the song, but not necessarily too much difference in the focus.
Patrick: There’s plenty to be angry about, and I share that anger with the punk movement. I’d say Tim has it too, though he’d probably not admit it. But it’s definitely there in the lyrics. Is that what leads to the punk comparison? That’s an interesting point. You’re right, there’s a lot more to punk rock than short fast songs with three chords. I thought it was more in the way we sounded, but it might be about the content of what we say. Choice. Anger gets old though. It’s simple things in life that reconcile me with the world. The local, small things that people create, or that the world provides. It doesn’t take much. A beach, a partner, a tree… that’s what I like about On the Beach, Tim. It’s simple, it feels good. But don’t put glockenspiel all over the next album! Actually, glockenspiel is alright. But one fucking tambourine and I’m out!
HUP: With your new album ‘Trolls’ you have been gigging quite a bit, and I know from your last Hamilton show that there were a number of people who were pretty impressed with the set you played. Do you feel the hard work is paying off, and that the profile of the band is on the rise?
Tim: It’s so hard to try to measure your successes in the local NZ music scene. It’s certainly nothing like what a lay person would assume is success. If I go to play in another town and a single person turns up to see us specifically, and that person isn’t a friend of the band, to me that is tremendous success. When people ask me socially about how my band is going, a question I get all the time is whether I make any money off of it. Other musos will know the answer to this already, if you’re in it for the money, the best decision you can make is to choose another hobby. Being less cynical, we have got a lot of really positive press which is great and Trolls has been received better than anything else I’ve worked on, which I’m really stoked about.
Patrick: We put a lot of work in the pre-production of Trolls. We recorded demos of all songs, and took the time to discuss what worked, what we liked or not, etc. We even made spreadsheets — fucking engineers! But that made recording the album very efficient, and it also made the band a lot tighter. That definitely payed off live.
HUP: I note that there are a few bands around the world called Ghosts of Electricity. With a quick look on Facebook I can find namesakes in San Francisco (California), Austin (Texas), Berkeley (California) and Duluth (Minnesota). Any regrets?
Tim: I think the San Francisco band (who are a Dylan covers band) were around when we chose the name, but I honestly thought that one of us would have given up by now! They seemed tiny when we started, but they’ve hung around and so have we. I know there was also an electronic act that went by the same name for a while, not sure if that’s one of the ones you’re referring to. It’s just a result of the internet age I think, there was probably a bunch of bands around the world called The Dudes when Th’ Dudes were starting out. I thought of a few names at the start, and every one I thought of had a couple of bands somewhere called that already. The Dylan covers band is on itunes and so are we, so that does kind of annoy me a little bit because there’s an obvious opportunity to listen to the wrong thing for them and us, and both sets of people will be disappointed. In fact some of my Facebook friends ‘like’ the San Fran GOE, which I assume is a mistake instead of a love of Bay area covers bands. It has occurred to me to get a name that is unique, but even if we do that, we have to wait until publicity for Trolls has subsided. It’s hard though, because if we did change our name we’d lose some of ground that really hasn’t been easy to make.
HUP: Each band has a pretty limited time to play the Hamilton Underground Press Xmas party. What might we expect to hear?
Tim: We’re really looking forward to the HUP Xmas gig. The last show we played in Hamilton was a lot of fun. We’re not quite there for playing anything post-Trolls live yet, and we’ve only really been practicing stuff off of Trolls, so fingers crossed we don’t get any requests, haha.
R E V I E W
The burst of drums that opens Wizz Kids’ Humiliations EP is like being dragged behind a V8 as the event sped out of Hamilton. It’s fast and it’s brutal. On hearing drummer Ben assault his kit, it is almost like the rest of this Hamilton hardcore punk band were insistent on not being out done. They launch into opening track, Hybrid Vigour with, well, vigour. It’s a startlingly good opening to a startlingly good EP form these Hamilton stalwarts and the fact you can download it for free/koha only adds to the benefits.
The title track stands out here as both the longest on the EP, sitting at nearly two and a half minutes and also one of the more accessible. Lead vocalist Chris drawls out the chorus while he convinces the rest of the band to play at a speed the humans can keep up with. The crunching guitars that build into the song have a classic punk feel and the recording (apparently in Chumz’s practice room) adds a DIY touch to the song that fits it snuggly.
The pick here though is Bad Economy which also happens to round out an EP that just so happens to come in at under ten minutes. Bad Economy is rousing, riotous almost but with a laid back chorus. Some of the intensity of Wizz Kids can be a bit shaking at times, so when they hold back, even just slightly, the restraint allows them to shine. Nothing to be Humiliated about here, a great little EP.
I N T E R V I E W
HUP: Shane, what is your earliest Hamilton memory?
My earliest Hamilton music memory was being 9 and seeing Boney M at the Hamilton Lake, just after our family moved to the big smoke from Tokoroa.
HUP: What about the first small venue/bar type show?
I think I saw Pluto at Governors tavern when I was in high school, but that was primarily because it was the only bar we could get in to drink underage
HUP: What was the first live gig you played in?
The very first gig I played in was the Smokefree Rockquest in a band called Optimus Prime. This during the dizzy heights of Nu-Metal and we had convinced a school chum to join the band as a wicky-wicky scratching DJ. We were all pretty convinced that the inclusion of a DJ + matching Op-Shop suits was the X-factor combo needed to make the finals. We didn't make the finals.
HUP: IS there a favourite gig that you’ve played?
Any one of the Htown Circle Jerks are hands down favourite. They were always a genuine celebration of the Hamilton music community at large, crossing genres and combining the old and the new - a welcome antidote to the banality of NZ Music month. The night itself was also shrouded in mystery and anticipation too, which I think is a vital ingredient missing from gigs in general.
HUP: What was the inspiration behind Doteyes?
I had been fiddling around making beats in Ableton and really wanted to add instrumentation and layers to them but didn't know how to go about sync-ing it all up. Around the same time I saw Pikelet (multi-instrumentalist from Melbourne) play at Camp A Low Hum and I was blown away by how she built up and wove together these lush harmonies and soundscapes with a single loop pedal. I think I went out and bought a Boss Loop Station pretty soon after and started trying to sync it all together.
Ironically the more I played, I eventually dropped the live instrumentation and tried to concentrate on controlling one interface, rather than chaotically scuttling around the stage doing this wacky Dick Van Dyke routine.
HUP: What would be your favourite Doteyes track?
I definitely had the most fun putting together the circle jerk mashups, but to keep with the masturbatory metaphor, they're an ultimately self-gratuitous and frivolous endeavours. I'm not sure on a favourite track though, I mostly kinda cringe listening back to most old stuff I've made
HUP: Would you say that Doteyes or Dynamo Go being based in Hamilton was an advantage or a disadvantage?
I don't know, neither? I think both were just created out of killing the boredom of being young and living in a small town, so I guess in that sense being based in Hamilton was an advantage.
HUP: What was Mammoth and why did it end?
Mammoth was a music and events guide that was started by Matt Scheurich, Pete Dawson and I, about 8 years ago. The initial idea was to try and build some better visibility and awareness around music/underground events happening in town, but then it moved more into trying to foster some of that activity, such as by reviving the Band Experiments. It ended on my part, when both Matt and I moved to Melbourne, but then was continued for some time after by Gavin McDermott.
I'm really glad to hear the HUP is carrying the torch in that regard!
HUP: How do we fix the Hamilton scene?
I'm not sure what's broken about it, but I'm sure it's synonymous with the issues facing live music in most other cities. There's a lack of community with the demise of Contact FM and Student radio in general, so creating a relevant centralised hub is a key component. And aside from that, just start a fucking band or make some beats on your laptop and play some house parties! A lot of the fault is placed on venues shutting down or changing their attitudes towards live music, but I think that's more of a symptom than a cause. The way music is consumed has just changed massively, so it's on bands and musicians to adapt their offering and reach audiences in creative ways.
HUP: Are you seeing many shows in NY?
Definitely not as many as I should be, but I've been lucky enough to see a few shows at Madison Square Garden in the past year. Caribou playing at the East River Ampitheatre (as seen on Murray Hewett's Manhattan bandshell tour) was a big highlight this year for me.
Big thanks to Shane for taking the time, hop on over to Doteyes' Bandcamp to check out that fantastic and somewhat infamous Circle Jerk 2011 Mashup by clickinnggggg this -> http://doteyes.bandcamp.com/ Arpie Shirehorse.