Archive for January, 2012

Tahuna Breaks

Published in Groove Guide 2011.

Tim Gruar interrupts the hum drum of family life to talk with Tahuna Breaks front man Marty Green tree. Greetree has been left holding the baby, literally. When I call the vocalist and lead guitarist he’s just arrived home from work and has been abandoned by his wife to look after his two young daughters. His oldest is screaming “Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaady!” at the top of her lungs. “It’s ok. I just put them in the cat cage for 5 mins,” he quips, “not really.” He let’s slip that there’s a third on the way in January, too -right in the middle of winery tours and recording sessions. A far step from normality. During the day, he’s hauling bottles for a water cooler company – “but I get to go home early on Fridays. Which is cool.” ‘Cool’ is the best way to sum up this seven piece Funk/Reggae outfit from the Shore. Known as a force of Energiser Bunnies, the TB’s are regulars at major events, the band have done The Big Day Out, Homegrown, Highlife NYE and a ton of other festivals both here in Aotearoa and across the ditch. With a style that ticks virtually every crowd pleaser-box (James Brown-styled soul-funk; Light lover rock; Sentimental ballads; Commodores-styled funk and dollops of reggae, dub, dance hall and Marley) you’ll find them all over the gig guide and on wax, too. In 2007 they released their debut album Reflections which was followed closely ultra funky Black Brown & White in 2009. Both records charted strongly, won awards and have firmly cemented the boys place on the New Zealand and Australasian music scenes. “At the time we were influenced by ‘60’s, 70’s and 80’s and Mr Brown, even Daft Punk.” They gained a reputation for being unafraid to mix genres and honed their sound on the live stage. Over 5 years on the band is still going strong, despite hiatus for babies, work and other sojourns into domesticity. “we’ve been recording in a little studio, ourselves, no help. But we send stuff off to these cool guys in the UK called ‘Crazy P’. they are mixing a new album for us. Expect to see a new track out in December and hopefully a new album in the middle of next year.” Greentree says the focus this time will be all on dance-ability ad less reggae. Something to party to, drink beer and get down!” You too can get down to a range of shows planned through out the country in the next few months: October 22nd – Coroglen Tavern w/ David Dallas (live), COROMANDEL PENINSULA October 23rd – Gisborne Food & Wine Festival, GISBORNE October 29th – Tauranga Arts Festival, TAURANGA December 3rd – Wine & Food Festival, Hagley Park, CHRISTCHURCH January 29th – Tuborg Summer Sunday, MATAKANA

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Flannel Vision – Neil Finn’s Pajama Club

pajama_club

pajama_club

Published in the Groove Guide – December 2011

It’s been quite a while since I’ve talked personally with Mr Finn. In fact the last time I interviewed him he was in the studio at Radio Active pushing some new project he’d formed with the drummer of Split Enz and the brother of the front man from Hunter’s and Collectors.  This time I’m taking a little bit more notice!  It seems Neil is always creatively restless.  “I like what happens when you keep yourself open to new things happening. It keeps the music fresh and alive.” 

He’s done bands , duets  All Star Collisions, Student nights, solo projects, national anthems, and now a ‘family’ gig.  Story goes that when the boys, Elroy and Liam, left home Neil and Sharon finally got around to doing up the music room.  That led to rocking in their jim-jams and a pretty cool album as a result.  Since then the Pyjama Club, which includes SJD (Sean Donnelly) and road drummer Alana Skyring (the Grates) have been touring the wee beastie around the Northern hemisphere. 

 

Over the line Neil’s his usual charming, witty self.  He’s down Cambridge way visiting his 89 year old dad.  “A poached egg in the morning,” he quips “and a whisky at five.  That’s’s the template for a successful long life.  Bet you didn’t expect such sage wisdom? ” 

 

Ironically, Finn himself has become the elder lately, in experience at least, when it comes to touring.  He tells me how Sharon’s hard work to overcome her inexperience and get up to speed.  “She rehearses more than I do.  …I really admire her tenacity to jump up on stage…During Sharon’s second gig (in Brisbane) she was singing a semi tone down.  There was a fault with her bass amp, also a ‘semi’ down.  We had to stop half way through ‘Go Kart’ and fix it.  She was hard on her self but people were coming back stage and telling us ‘Go Kart’ was their favourite song.”  Finn says he enjoys living the experience of being new on stage, vicariously through Sharon.  “It’s great to be part of that excitement and thrill of being new on the stage, flying by the seat of your pants.”   

 

All and all the tour’s gone well, with the PC material being well accepted despite it’s newness.“We didn’t get any one calling out for Crowded House songs.” 

 

 There were one or two hiccups, some dates on the West Coast of the States which had to be cancelled when Donnelly became very ill.  And during a break at their London house, Neil and Sharon were awoken at 3AM by a drunken man who accused them of breaking into his house.  “He rang the police and asked us what the address was.  We gladly gave it and they were around to arrest him in five minutes flat!”

 

The couple’s favourite song to play, naturally, is ‘Golden Child’ about their boys, “I always have a soft spot for that one.”  Now back in Auckland, the Pajama Club are gearing up for a national tour of dates in December.  “Then, I think I’ll see.  I have about four albums of material but the music will decide which band or project I should use it in – could be solo, Crowded House, Finns or Pajama Club.  I need to get to work.”

 

Tim Gruar

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Rem-Urge – Urge Overkill are Back

Urge Overkill

Published in The Groove Guide – February 2012

It was halfway through my interview with Eddie “King” Roeser that I realised his band Urge Overkill had played the ’95 Big Day out along with Soundgarden.  And, here they both were back in the country over the next couple of months.  Roeser was ‘gutted” to learn that BDO was no more.  1995  was a big year for Urge, with the critically acclaimed Exit the Dragon already out and material for Saturation waiting in the wings.  They’d toured with Nirvana and Pearl Jam and were enjoying success on the festival circuit both in the States and Europe.  Add to that Tarrantino’s decision to drop their cover of Neil Diamond’s “Girl you’ll be a woman soon” onto the Pulp Fiction soundtrack and you’d expect the Urge star to be hitting galactic heights.  Then, it all went quiet.  What happen?  “I guess we just weren’t prepared, or ready.  We’d moved from small independent labels (and smaller shows) to Geffen.  The material was hard to play on stage and we weren’t that professional.  We couldn’t stay in the grind of the big corporates.”   

Over the following years line ups changed.  Roeser and founding members Nash Kato feuded, resulting in Roeser leaving to work with Jim Kimball, formerly of The Jesus Lizard as ‘L.I.M.E.’ and with his brother John in the band ‘Electric Airlines’. Roeser now looks back philosophically at that time as “a bit of a waste.  The solo projects didn’t really pan out.  I also did some school, considered teaching.  I didn’t really fit in with the “normal” working stiff lifestyle, either.” 

In the meantime Kato and drummer Johnny Onassis kept Urge going.  Finally after a break of several years, Kato and Roeser reformed Urge Overkill without Onassis.  “I think over time we just got together and couldn’t really remember what it was that made us split up.”  He described reforming with Kato in Soul mate terms – like “finding that band member that just fits and works right.”

In 2004 the reformed Urge performed shows at The Troubadour, (Los Angeles), Double Door, (Chicago), and Bowery Ballroom, (New York) and continued to tour through Europe, North America, and Australia.  But it wasn’t until September 2010 on a NY Radio show that the first new Urge song, “Effigy” was played.  “We’d all this material.  And we’d worked with it for a while but we were going to put out a big release with publicity and everything.  It didn’t work out that way”.  Roeser says his still a bit stunned by the changing in the music industry between the early 90’s and now.  “Back then the internet was hardly going.  We’d have to sign a record deal and give up publishing rights t-shirts (sales) and everything.  Now you can do it all yourself and all you have to do is get a good distributor. The really big stars are on big labels but everyone else now can own and control what they do.”  He describes the demise of the record industry in his hometown Chicago that used to house buildings of executives (god knows what they did) and warehouses of product, which are now all gone.  

This brings us back to the new release, 15 years on.  Rock’n’Roll Submarine is a collection of songs with the bands signature 70’s/Cheap Trick bombastics.  Initially a working title, it went on to be a metaphor of the band “like we’ve been submerged under the sea, in a time capsule.”  The upcoming tour will take in Australian dates and a return to Auckland “where I had the best hamburger ever!”  And also where he closely turned down the opportunity to fly into the erupting Mt Ruapehu in a Cessna flown by an inebriated dude he’d been partying with the night before.  “Hey, maybe I should look the dude up and take him up on the offer!”  

March 6, 2012, The PowerStation

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The Little Willies – For the Good Times

For the Good Times Album

For the Good Times Album

Published in the Groove Guide Feb 2011

It’s been six years between albums for this NYC country folk collective but the hunkering for twangy Americana still remains.  Norah Jones (piano/vox), Richard Julian (vox), Jim Campilongo (guitar), Lee Alexander (bass) and Dan Rieser (drums) are not really a super group per se’ but it’s clear each member has their own solid musical identity outside of the group and they combine to produce some very slick performances on this well thought out covers record.  There’s a good  sampling the legends here including a breathless and pleading and haunting version of Dolly Parton’s ‘Jolene’, courtesy of Jones plus Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson and a neat lil’ instrumental from Campilongo  inspired by long walks taken to shake of his nicotine addiction. Their respect and close study of these staples sometimes outstrips the power of the original, an important feature in a covers album. The steadier, more lamenting approach to Loretta Lynn’s “Fist City” fails to channel the fury of the original but has a more mournful tone when it really needs a more twisted and sinister edge.  However, the title’s an endearing rendition of a Kristofferson original and a good reminder of the Southern gentle charm that that walks tall in many of these songs.  In fact, were they not Yankees, this is a group that could even win over the Tennessee sweethearts at the Grand Old Oprey.

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