Since 2011, Hugh Sundae, Digital Producer at the New Zealand Herald, and a charting artist in his own right (his 'What's Wrong With Huntly', recorded at age 16, was a Top 40 hit in 1995 and is a bonafide student radio classic) has created a series of video documentaries of New Zealand music acts and events. Central to these are the Barkers Sundae Sesssions. Hugh has the story and we have the videos.
The sessions were just one entry on a list of ideas for content on nzherald.co.nz, but it was the one that struck a chord with the boss – Jeremy Rees, editor-in-chief of online, and a music fan from way back. With the time and financial commitment required it would never have got off the ground without his backing. In fact, at that planning meeting, I remember thinking it was the least likely idea to fly for the same reasons.
If you wanted to cover a band on the late news you would be lucky to get three minutes to do it.
The major factor that sparked it (not that filming and recording a band in a studio is groundbreaking of course) was my experience in covering music for television earlier in my CV. If you wanted to cover a band on the late news you would be lucky to get three minutes to do it, and even on primetime for Closeup you’d be lucky to get eight.
Then of course when you covered someone you became the most annoying people at the gig. Asking the sound engineer for a desk feed while he/she is actually mixing the band in question … camera operator standing in the front row with a large camera on their shoulder, blocking the view of the crowd … then turning around getting audience shots with the sun gun on and blinding the audience … and so on.
Interviews were no better. Please distil this new album into two sound bites of between 25 and 40 seconds while I explain your entire career so far in three lines of voiceover. It’s no wonder bands hate doing press.
Before that, in my youth TV days, getting a band to perform live on a show was a little better – but they’re still performing one song in an alcohol-free studio … starting the moment the floor manager tells them to. Often awkward.
Of course it’s not all TV’s fault. Record companies, trying to fit as much promo as possible into a set time, were big fans of the hotel room production line. Five minutes to come in and set up, 15 minutes to interview in the same setting as all the other press have, 30 seconds to get out. No one enjoyed this experience.
So yeah, get the band into a studio where they’re going to sound great, where you are in control of the lighting and the camera angles so you can get the best result – and put some guests in there with a few drinks so the band aren’t performing to no one. It’s trying to get the best of both worlds. Doesn’t always work though – YouTube is full of comments from people who can’t believe people are sitting down watching Cairo Knife Fight or Beastwars. But that’s just the only way we could get good shots (lately we’ve been experimenting with putting the band on risers to combat this – but those were expenses we couldn’t justify before a sponsor came onboard – cheers Barkers).
Jeremy McPike from York Street Recording Studios was into the idea the moment I spoke to him – and it’s great to have him still involved as we move to Roundhead A after the closing of York Street. While the first year or so felt like I was going to be told each one would be the last one, with Barkers onboard, increasing audience and support from the NZ Herald, it feels like we could achieve what we set out to: an ever-growing online archive available to anyone who wants to sit down for a while and bask in music. In fact – a bit like AudioCulture eh?
The Drab Doo-Riffs November 17, 2011
Beastwars, August 22, 2011