The inception of Goldenhorse came from Kirsten Morell and Geoff Maddock. The two met when Maddock was still playing with the band Bressa Creeting Cake, and the two talents soon started playing together. As recounted in a 2007 Scoop article, “... Geoff and Kirsten had to get a band ready at the last minute for a friend's wedding, the beginnings of Goldenhorse stirred.”
Goldenhorse played all the usual traps around town, winning fans amongst the city’s old-guard musical elite – people like Tim and Neil Finn – and wowing a growing fan base with the idea that, yes, it was okay to make pop music after all, as long as it wasn’t condescending and cravenly commercial.
In a 2002 article for Gary Steel’s Witchdoctor, written soon after the success of Goldenhorse’s first album Riverhead, “It’s the creative process itself and writing something ‘real’ that appeals to Goldenhorse.”
In truth, the group played a form of folk-pop familiar to those who had lived through the late 1960s flowering of the music form, and their songs were both naggingly chorus-memorable and classically folk-pop in a jangly late 1960s fashion. Except that they were fronted by an opera-trained singer with a penchant for Kate Bush-like flights of fancy, and a guitarist who grew up listening to classical recording and never learned to read music.
The album made it to No.1 on the NZ charts in August 2004, nearly two years after its release, selling more than 50,000 copies.
Their debut album – released in October 2002 – was named Riverhead after the area the group were then living in rural West Auckland, and was a slow burning success that reaped several charting singles. The album itself finally made it to No.1 on the NZ charts in August 2004, nearly two years after its release, selling more than 50,000 copies in the process.
But who were Goldenhorse? The group had evolved haphazardly out of the critically acclaimed Bressa Creeting Cake, with both Geoff Maddock and Joel Wilton coming from that group, and adding Kirsten Morrell and Ben King. Maddock and Morrell, an item in the early years of the group, were the leaders and main writers and singers throughout the group’s short lifetime, while other members came and went.
By the time Out Of The Moon arrived in 2005, both Joel Wilton and Andrew Clark were gone, replaced by Vincent Hine and Ben Collier. While successful, it lacked the impetus or staying power of Riverhead.
One final album, Reporter, was released in 2007, but by then the group’s momentum had been lost, reflected in its disappointing chart placing: while Riverhead made it to No.1, and Out Of The Moon to No.2, Reporter could only manage No.38. The group went on hiatus soon afterwards.
Since they ceased duties, Ben King has been producing bands, playing with Greg Johnson and Tim Finn, and his own group Grand Rapids released its well-received first album, Faintheardedness, in 2011.
Kirsten Morrell has been involved in opera productions, singing in the chorus for the New Zealand Opera production of The Flying Dutchman. She also released the UK-recorded Ultraviolet in 2010, which briefly nipped into the Top 40. Since her album release and a brief time in London looking for operatic work, she moved back to Auckland to pursue an arts management masters at AUT.
Geoff Maddock lives in LA, works as a producer, and performs with Daniel and Natasha Bedingfield. He helped to write music for the play Station to Station by Michael Galvin (Chris Warner of TV’s Shortland Street), and wrote the soundtrack for Katie Wolfe’s short film This is Her.
Updated by Taya Kennedy Robbins, 2019
Kirsten Morrell - vocals
Geoff Maddock - guitar, vocals
Ben King - bass, guitar, vocals
Vincent Hine - bass
Nick Gaffaney - drums
Joel Wilton - drums
Andrew Clark - guitar
Ben Collier - drums
Maybe Tomorrow, written by Geoff Maddock, was the most played song on NZ radio in 2003.
When Vincent Hine joined the group on bass, Ben King – who had played bass to that point – switched to guitar duties.
The group used recording equipment on loan from Tim Finn to piece together their first album Riverhead.