In 2003, this Dunedin trio picked up on a very specific thread of NZ alt-rock: bands like The Gordons/Bailter Space, HDU and Straitjacket Fits, dried and salted those ingredients, boiling them down to a taut, minimalist attack perfectly suited to just guitar, bass and high-pitched barking vocals.
And by 2005 – just two years later – Andrew Wilson, Michael Prain and Henry Oliver found themselves ensconced in a Chicago studio with the legendary Steve Albini, recording their self-titled debut album. Their hard-edged art-punk wowed alt-rock crowds on the international circuit, and a second album, Promises, Promises, was recorded in New York with Shayne Carter at the controls, and when released, elicited rave reviews from publications like the NME and The Guardian in 2007.
Album number three, Form, was produced at home by former Skeptics man Nick Roughan, but despite rave reviews and a No.1 placing on the NZ alternative charts, there was trouble on the horizon.
Another album, Harmony, was recorded in France in 2010 and produced by Chris Townend of Portishead and Silverchair fame, but its release was delayed when the group – tired of six years of touring and being in each others’ company – considered calling it a day. “The band was sick of each other and ended,” Andrew told AudioCulture. “I finished Harmony on my own and there was no DDD for nine months. I didn’t know if I could be bothered releasing an album with no band. Then [new manager] Manu Taylor put the pieces back together.”
Wilson took a day job to pay off debts, but the recording surfaced on their own label in 2012, and it turned out to be a strong reiteration of the band’s strengths, with Shayne Carter bolstering the vocal presence on some cuts.
The group recorded a second album with Townend in France and New Zealand in 2013, S.W.I.M., and this was released in August 2014 in New Zealand, Europe and the US.
An intensive tour followed the release S.W.I.M. – including three trips to Europe in the space of a year. But this proved to be a little too intensive as the trio called it quits soon after.
As Wilson explained to Stuff in 2016: “We had been doing this for quite a long time, and you get in a holding pattern. Sometimes the music is not really enough, and you are too close to it to realise that you are not really enjoying it at all.”
But Wilson never stopped tinkering away at new songs and within six months he and Paine were back together again, planning to record. As ex-bassist Oliver mused to The Spinoff: “through it all, the constant is Andrew and Mikey, two high-school friends that have been making music together for nearly 20 years – an amazing feat for any act, let alone a band that has thrived on instability, uncertainty and unpredictability.”
With bassist Logie occupied with Opossum – the new project of former The Mint Chicks band-mate Kody Neilson and his partner Bic Runga – Rory Attewal joined the ranks. Attewal not only filled the role of bassist, but also producer and owner of an available recording studio – on a boat! With the floating studio, Lightship95, moored in the Thames near London, they recorded their new EP What Did You Expect.
In 2016, the band returned to Lightship95 to record their sixth album Charm. Offensive., with Attewal again at the producing helm. The year ended with a string of far-flung shows in China, Europe, the UK and New Zealand. After squeezing in additional recording sessions in New Zealand, Charm.Offensive. was finally released in October 2017, having been preceded by single ‘How Soon is Too Soon (It’s Not Vintage It’s Used’) in July.
The album was supported by a nationwide tour and a four-star review from the NZ Herald, with George Fenwick describing it as “perhaps their most seamless and confident record to date. The band’s trademark white-noise guitars and erratic drums are back on form, and there’s a dynamic rhythm in the song structures and their order that gives the album an engaging depth.”
Over the past two years the band have actively gigged at home and abroad, with consistent releases of singles, EPs and and remasters. Most notably, in 2019 the 11-year old album Promises, Promises was treated to a remaster and re-release. O, a new EP, soon followed on limited-edition vinyl. The band plans to record album number seven in July of 2020, in the city they laid down their self-titled debut – Chicago.
Updated by Rosie Howells
Andrew Wilson - vocals, guitar
Michael Logie - bass
Michael Prain - drums
Henry Oliver - bass
Kane Goulter - bass
Lachlan Anderson - bass
Golden Antenna Recordings
The trio has had ongoing problems holding on to bassists. Original bassist Kane Goulter left after the first two tours, and Henry Oliver was with the band for two EPs and their first album, leaving in 2006. Lachlan Anderson was in the fray from 2006 to 2011, contributing to three albums. Michael Logie – formerly of the Mint Chicks, and also of F In Math and Opossom – joined as bassist for their 2012 tour. And stayed on. But to complicate the story, Rory Attwell filled in on bass during the group’s 2012 European tour, because Michael was too busy.
Former bassist Henry Oliver went on to be the music editor of The Spinoff, and then editor of Metro magazine.