The Brunettes Profile

Gareth Shute
26 Mar 2015

The Brunettes were one of the most popular acts on local student radio in the early years of the new millennium and they seemed destined for international success when they signed to US label Sub Pop in 2006.

Instead, they toured relentlessly but never quite reached the tipping point needed to make a sustainable career out of music. The band ended in 2010, leaving behind four albums, four EPs, and an audience of fans across the world.

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The Red Rollerskates EP was released in August 2009, the title track being a taster for the Paper Dolls album. The other tracks on the EP were not on the album.
Brunettes manager Melinda Olykan in the midst of a US tour
A radio station recording session in Atlanta, with the final Brunettes lineup - Andrew Thompson, Heather Mansfield, John Parker, Jonathan Bree and Chelsea Nikkel
The Brunettes Orchestrette at Grey Lynn Festival, 2004
The Brunettes - Your Heart Dies (Radio NZ, 2009)
The June 2002 Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks album was released on Lil' Chief Records, via the multi-national EMI after Neil Finn put the duo in touch with the company
Brunettes manager Melinda Olykan with James-Mercer from The Shins
The Brunettes at Solar Culture in Arizona
The Brunettes' Boyracer EP from May 2003
The July 2004 album Mars Loves Venus
Jonathan Bree and Heather Mansfield
A Brunettes publicity shot – noir styled.
The "Librarian shot" – Heather Mansfield and Jonathan Bree, 2006
The Brunettes - Her Hairagami Set
The Brunettes in Milwaukee with The Shins in 2005
The Brunettes recreate the cover of Rumours by Fleetwood Mac
Jonathan Bree's June 2013 solo album The Primrose Path, released as a free download via Bandcamp
The Brunettes' Heather Mansfield with a brass section, Live at Helen's, April 2003. On saxophone is Eamonn Deverall, on trumpet Richard Cotman; both played with One Million Dollars. 
A flyer for The Brunettes' 2003 Back To The Future show, which included Jonathan pretending to hurt his hand and being replaced by Liam Finn, as in the movie
Heather Mansfield and Jonathan Bree being taught some moves by drummer, John Parker
The image used on the cover of 2007's Structure & Cosmetics album
Jonathan Bree and Heather Mansfield relax in style
The Brunettes - Red Rollerskates
The Brunettes - Small Town Crew
The Brunettes - Heather Mansfield and Jonathan Bree
The Brunettes- If You Were Alien
The final Brunettes album, Paper Dolls, released in October 2009
The Brunettes - Loopy Loopy Love (live)
James Milne and Heather Mansfield at Grey Lynn Festival, 2004
Jonathan Bree - You're So Cool (2017)
The Brunettes - Brunettes Against Bubblegum Youth (B.A.B.Y)
The Brunettes in Paris, 2008
A Brunettes poster in Spain in 2008
When Ice Met Cream, The Brunettes' EP from April 2005

Lil' Chief Records


Sub Pop


Etch n Sketch


Jonathan Bree - vocals, guitar, bass, drums, keyboard

Heather Mansfield - vocals, keyboards, clarinet, xylophone, glockenspiel, percussion

Mark Anderson - drums, glockenspiel

Marcus Sellwood - bass, guitar

Cameron Rowe - keyboards

Andy Baxter - drums

Simon Rycroft - bass

Mike Hall - bass, double bass

Kari Hammond - drums

James Milne - guitar, bass, keyboard

Gerald Stuart - bass

Nick Harte - drums

Ryan McPhun - drums

Harry Cundy - trumpet, banjo, percussion, keyboards

Amee Robinson - saxophone, percussion

Tosh Ahkit - saxophone, cello, percussion

Stu Kett - drums

Sjionel Timu - bass

Jamie Power - drums

Will Cotton - guitar, saxophone

Peter Smith - bass

Stephen Hart - guitar, saxophone

Hayden Eastmond-Mein - saxophone, guitar, bass

John Parker - drums

Chelsea Nikkel - keyboards, saxophone, percussion

Edward Castelow - guitar, bass

Gareth Shute - bass, guitar, trumpet, valve trombone

Andrew Thompson - bass, guitar


Scott Mannion helped Bree gain an all-encompassing 1960s reverb sound for Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks (2002) – the pair went to Mannion's workplace at Auckland University and blasted the album in a large auditorium, then recaptured the room sound with a microphone before mixing it with the original track to get a good balance.

The original DAT tape sessions for the Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks album (first recording sessions) still exist and due to technology available now could probably be put into time digitally for a completely different version of the album.

In addition to the core members, The Brunettes Orchestrette players included Bronwyn Robertson (violin), Edmund Cake (vocals), Tamasin Taylor (violin), Dionne Taylor (lap steel), Scott Mannion (keyboards, Omnichord), Mark Lyons (guitar), Jade Farley (Theremin) and Lawrence Mikkelsen (sitar).