I met Maurice Beckett last year after his band Jakob played their incredible album Solace live at The Tuning Fork in Auckland. I sheepishly admitted that I was the one who had once referred to him as a “hairy behemoth” in a review. Beckett just laughed. He was great to chat to, super laid back and didn’t take things too seriously.
Regular Will Not Fade readers should need no introduction to Jakob, the mighty post-rock trio from Hawkes Bay. Desbot is another post-rock trio with Beckett on bass, but despite sharing these similarities, they are very much a different beast.
Desbot released their debut album Pass of Change back in October, and I’ve been thrashing it the entire time.
Something I love about Desbot’s music is the feeling of momentum that each song exudes. The drums [play by Tom Pierard] are often driving, especially with open hi-hats, bright crashes and harsh china cymbals – big explosive, washy sounds. And the bass – often the star – is usually pulsing, throbbing, compelling us to nod our heads and tap our feet – to feel the music and the hypnotic energy it radiates. One of the best examples of this is the breakdown in “Eclipsed” – crushingly heavy as the band pummels us with dense slabs of sound that they conjure up.
Rounding out the trio is Nick Blow on keys. Most rock music is centred around guitar riffing, so the omission of guitar is enough to make this mix unique. The keys here are more ephemeral, often just colouring the feel and creating the mood with sci-fi swells and interesting effects. It’s a great move, being able to draw on countless crazy synthetic sounds that keyboard soundbanks can offer.
It’s an interesting dynamic: the rhythm section locking in tight to push the music, with keys plucking flavouring from the stratosphere to make it all interesting. And while the structure can feel linear and a bit simple, it is never boring. The music is often incredibly heavy and distorted, yet somehow feels hopeful and not oppressive.
The band explores texture and tonality, playing with space and sounds to bring a fresh, otherworldly feel to a lot of the songs on the album. They use so many interesting effects and inorganic timbres that it borders on industrial at times, with odd mechanical screeches and whirrs that make me envision a robotic production line, or even a futuristic spacecraft. Listen to the fantastic reverberating drumming in “No Response or Benefit”, or the warning siren sound that phases out slowly during the outro of “Pass of Change”.
It’s possible that this experimental feel arises from their writing process. Drummer Pierard shares that the trio all wrote and demoed ideas at home individually during lockdown periods – which pushed them to be more creative – and delays caused by the pandemic forced them to slow down and really take the time to craft and hone these songs and add more depth to the music..
In short, Pass of Change is great. A solid album that I happily keep returning to. I’m really hoping that they come to Wellington at some point this coming year because I bet their music sounds absolutely monstrous played live through a decent speaker system.
My favourite gig of the year wasn’t a “big” band. It was The Prog Alliance Tour featuring Claemus, Elidi, Pull Down the Sun and distance. It just ticked all my boxes. Great musicians playing prog and post-rock. It must have taken a lot of planning to organise a nine date tour for bands from three different cities, but the Wellington one was a great success and I’m proud of what they pulled off. distance also put out a stellar album, everything in exchange for nothing in August. Really cool to see how that project has evolved from a lockdown bedroom project into a fully fledged amazing band.
Sam Butler of distance at Valhalla
Speaking of awesome local prog-rock, Ovus dropped a tasty wee EP earlier in the month. Josh the bassist lives in Christchurch, but I’m holding out for an EP release gig sometime soon.
I’ve been hyping them up for a few years now, and Adoneye finally released their long-awaited EP this year. It’s a beaut. It’s a shame that the band members parted ways and didn’t get to celebrate the wonderful music that they deserved to.
Alexisonfire continue to deliver the fire with recent album Otherness. I cannot get enough of the single “Sans Soleil”.
Reliqa were my favourite new discovery of the year. They killed it at Monolith Festival, and their new EP is fantastic.
Reliqa at Monolith Festival in Melbourne
Planet Hunter dropped their debut album. They’re Wellington’s best live band, so of course I’m a huge fan. And they managed to capture the energy and talent and distill it all into a fantastic record: Moscovium.
I’ve been friends with Vorn for many years now, and follow his projects with great interest. I actually joined one of his bands – Crash Bandihoot – on a brief tour in May. One of Vorn’s other bands, The Wellington Sea Shanty Society have enjoyed some relative success in recent years after the song “The Wellerman” started trending. I convinced Vorn to let me contribute backing vocals to their latest EP, so was very excited when that was released in August. I’m not credited, so maybe they weren’t impressed with my singing abilities? Anyway, TWSSS annual shows at Breaker Bay Hall have become a highlight to look forward to every year. This year was just as great as the others I’ve been to, and I also won best dressed – wearing a sexy mermaid outfit that I’d painstakingly created.
The Beths are progressing from strength to strength. They played The Opera House in Wellington recently in support of their third album – a big step up from the usual smaller venues they usually play here. And they crushed it. Seated venues are usually a poor choice for fun, energetic bands, but it wasn’t a problem.
The Beths at Peachy Keen, Wellington, 2021
Jakob rule. Returning to San Fran – their home venue away from home – they gave us everything we’ve come to expect of them, and also played a few new tracks to whet our appetite for the upcoming album. And Jakob bassist Maurice Beckett also released an awesome album from his side project, Desbot. Seriously worth checking out.
I was upset that Amy Shark cancelled her NZ tour with no explanation (and I’m still waiting for a refund, well over a months after the cancellation, and roughly a month after the scheduled gig date), but that freed me up to catch Avantdale Bowling Club that night instead. Playing the fantastic TREES album, ABC put on a stellar set of jazzy hip-hop. I love hip-hop with a live band, and this band was goooood. Also, it was pretty funny seeing people smoking it up and having a great time dancing and singing in a venue that feels as “classy” and conservative as the St James Theatre.
I caught my friend Taylah playing a bunch of times this year and was consistently blown away but the sheer talent that Tay and her band showcase. Always a fun night, and her songs are irresistibly infectious.
Taylah with Sam Nakamura at Rogue & Vagabond
2022 was a tough year for me on a personal level. Covid finally hit New Zealand and brought us up to speed with the rest of the world. This meant a lot of cancelled gigs, and missing a bunch of gigs that I was too exhausted to attend while I recovered from the virus. But I’m in a good space at the moment. I’ve been working with some local bands to build their profile and book gigs, and enjoying the challenge of discovering what success can look like within the creative fields.
The NZ borders opened and we finally had international bands return. I saw The Bronx in May – the first international band I’d seen in years. And I went across to Melbourne for Monolith Festival in August. It was an amazing opportunity to see a handful of my favourite bands on the same day, and a great reminder of what I had been missing.
The NZ music scene has flourished in recent years. Annual events like Newtown Festival and Cubadupa were the biggest gatherings in the world at the time – because NZ was covid-free and didn’t need to worry about social distancing – but sadly both were cancelled this year. But given the space, local bands had the chance to prove themselves worthy. I’m happy to see international bands touring here again, but it already feels like local bands are now struggling to book shows with reintroduced competition in a market already lacking enough venues for demand.
I’m not sure what 2023 will throw us. Life has been fairly unpredictable and anxiety-inducing for some time now. But I’m looking forward to releases from PROKOP, my favourite Italian post-hardcore group Winter Dust, and I can’t wait to see blues sisters Larkin Poe play in April. I saw that Trombone Shorty is coming to Australia as well, and hoping that he makes it over to NZ.
Welcome to Will Not Fade’s Artist Profile series, where we take a look into the people in the music scene who aren’t necessarily musicians.
Who are you?
Hi I’m Liam (He/Him), a 20 year old Queer Trans man who loves to ride his motorcycle and take photos here in Pōneke Aotearoa!
How did you start off doing photography?
Back in 2019 my mum got me a Canon 800d for Christmas as I had been talking about wanting a camera non stop by that point. I was pretty natural at photography and started doing photography for people ASAP
Why do you photograph musicians?
Music runs in my family, Mum played guitar as a kid, Dad was a music lover, Sister is a music lover as well, Brother does guitar, drums, and vocals, my other brother plays drums and piano, and I myself play guitar, bass, drums, keyboard and do some vocals. So I have a passion for music and when I started doing photography it was pretty obvious I was gonna do music photography and also the photographer who I have been obsessed with for years and inspires me is a touring photographer for bands (Bryce Hall) so he’s another reason why I do music photography…
Also photographers in music are very important, A lot of people don’t realise it but we are the reason you see photos or promos of your favourite bands. Our photos are everywhere on social media pages of bands that we photograph. I basically also accepted there’s not a high chance I’d be good at my own music as I have severe stage fright and commitment issues, but I still wanted to do sometime in the music industry and turns out I’m somewhat good at photography so yeah… that’s another reason why photograph gigs!
Saving Grace at San Fran
Film or Digital?
Mirrorless! Haha, nah jk I haven’t used a mirrorless yet unfortunately but hope so soon tbh. Digital! No reason, but I’ve been wanting to get a film camera like a Canon AE1 just to experiment and play around with, I sometimes like doing moody landscapes and would love to try it out with a film camera.
Colour or black & white?
I’m gonna have to say colour as I also do automotive photography and love Cinematic and dramatic looks, but I do love myself a good B&W photo especially when I’m photographing a gig!
What has been your highlight as a photographer so far?
Oh man, there’s been so many highlights so far in my career… I wanna say the people I meet cause I meet some awesome and talented people! But also again going back to the automotive side of things working with motorcycle brands has been something I never thought I would do… like it feels unreal to go on DucatiAusNZ Instagram or The official Ducati club here in NZ and see my photos up there like what the hell!? That’s my photo I’m pretty sure they hired the wrong guy, cause there’s no way my favourite motorcycle brand should use my photos haha but they have… Sorry I’m having another Fanboy moment writing this haha
Ducati Lamborghini Diavel Transmission gully
What band would you most love to photograph?
Motionless In White or Bring Me The Horizon! That Bryce Hall guy I was talking about earlier is their touring photographer and when I was obsessed with Motionless in White back in my teenage years I would see his photos and be blown away and it would be my honour to take photos of MIW (cause I still love them) and hopefully take photos alongside Bryce!
Have you got a favourite venue?
A year ago I would have said Valhalla but today imma have to say Meow on Edward street or San Fran on Cuba street. I don’t hate Valhalla – I love Valhalla – but I’ve photographed there so many times and I don’t like how small and intimate it can get at times and I’ve had some bad experiences with my camera at Valhalla before haha.
Elidi at Valhalla
What do you consider your most essential piece of equipment?
Listen up photographers, the most essential piece of equipment is a Variable ND filter… done, don’t ask any questions, go get one and thank me later… On a serious note the reason I say Variable ND filter is cause I shoot outside a lot and it really helps with lighting and it gives the cinematic look that my automotive photos have! But on the gig side of things the only essential piece of equipment I can think of is a proper camera bag so you can leave your stuff somewhere or have your other lenses and camera bodies on your back!
What kind of ear protection do you use?
Next question please……… haha I don’t actually use ear protection but I’ve been meaning to buy some more ear protection recently…. But the couple of times I have used ear protection I used D’Addario ear plugs and they worked amazing!! I lost them while riding my motorcycle unfortunately haha
Ducati Multistrada V4S waiarapa
Have you got any advice for aspiring beginner photographers?
Don’t worry about gear too much, it’s about how you use it and you don’t need to study photography to be good at it… YouTube exists and guys like Peter McKinnon or Chris Hau will teach you more important things in like 10 minutes haha.
How can people contact you if they want to use your services?
Another special one today whanau, far out I got an advance copy of the new Planet Hunter album that I’ve been spinning this week. I’m not too sure how many shows around the country Planet Hunter has done, so if anyone from outside of Wellington is reading this and doesn’t recognize the name, man give this fucking thing a spin and get woke to one of Wellington’s sickest bands.
Which Dragon Ball Super arc exactly was the Planet Hunter in?
Does this mean we won’t get an Aethea reunion?
What happens when stoner rock bands sound like they don’t smoke weed?
Planet Hunter is a complete anomaly man, they exist in this super weird space where they’re stoner enough for all the people who’ve never worn hemmed pants in their life to lose their fucking mind over them, but also calling them a stoner rock band actually kinda negates all the super cool shit they do. They’re like the guy at the show who gets way too drunk and annoying, does a few snortskies and turns into a maniac, so someone gives him a spliff just to not have the same fucking conversation AGAIN then post-spliff he’s actually really interesting and has dope riffs. That’s Planet Hunter.
I first got turned onto Planet Hunter because homie Chris Roberts, who most of you probably know by his stage name of “Dreaded guy who got murdered on Glassblower’s music video for Gatekeeper”, text me at like 2am and said they were basically the best band he’d ever seen and I have to see them. So obviously I didn’t go see them for like another 6 months, but man I can’t even explain how much I fell in love with this band when I finally saw them.
Planet Hunter is made up of William Saunders on guitars, Cormac Ferris on vocals Jed Van Ewijk on bass and David McGurk on the drums. God damn that’s a strong line-up, Will is the kind of guitarist that you know will always have the best tone of any show he’s on, but you have to avoid him after the set because you know he’s going to want to talk about his pedalboard. Jed is a monster bassist, I always remember when I first moved to Wellington he was playing in Aethea and even though they had the sickest live DM live show (Fuck Pixelated Stripper and Ringbinder were bangers) around at the time, they used to cover the Alex Kidd theme song too and everyone would always lose their mind so much harder at that, I love thinking about him still being punished about that 15 years later OH MAN YOU’RE THAT GUY ALEX THE KIDD RULES I LOVE SEGA MASTERDRIVE. I don’t actually know David well, so I really don’t wanna rag on him just in case he’s a pre-workout kind of guy and smashes my head in, but he’s a wicked drummer. Planet Hunter are also super brave because they’re the first band ever to my knowledge to have an actual art installation on vocals. Mark my words in 30 years people won’t be speaking about Marina Abramović without the mention of Cormac Ferris from Planet Hunter.
Image: Will Not Fade
Alright let’s talk about this album man, it’s a doozy.
Like everyone else in New Zealand, I also had to google the word Moscovium, because fucking hell, what? Turns out it’s a highly radioactive metal that only a few atoms have ever been made. Also turns out it has no biological purpose, just like Will’s dating life, I guess that’s why they named it that? Fuck yea concept album.
Generally, I like bands that are pretty fucking miserable, I fucking love the kind of band you have to google their political views before you buy their merch just in case, you know? Ugh, then having some punisher tell me I should separate the art and the artist like their opinion matters in the slightest while they’re probably quoting fucking Fight Club at me. But man, Planet Hunter isn’t that – There were several points during the album that I actually felt like it was trying to fix me. Bad news Planet Hunter, you fucking didn’t okay, and I resent you for trying. It’s got this really uplifting energy without ever being happy or annoying. Like crushing a zopiclone and going to Timezone instead of smoking weed and sitting in a tree like every stoner band wants you to do.
Man, Planet Hunter exist in such an interesting space, they don’t quite fit any specific genre tag without feeling like you’re doing them a disservice. The only way I can explain it is you know how all the metal and hardcore kids in their thirties had their music tastes all fucked up by the Tony Hawk 2 soundtrack? Planet Hunter are the kids who grew up on Syphon Filter. Syphon Filter ruled man, but don’t play it now because it sucks ass, I know you think it’s probably aged okay and after hearing me say this you’re gonna download it, but fight that man, it sucks now, you strafe with the left and right bumpers for fucks sake. God, it sucks so hard now. Not Planet Hunter though, they’re alright.
The album starts off so hardout strong with Humans of the Wild that wouldn’t feel out of place on any Melvins album when they had Big Business as a rhythm section, which is also their best era don’t even try tell me their new stuff is still good, they’re like a Melvins parody tribute band at this point.
Cormac’s performance on Moscovium is really fucking great man, every time I hear him sing I can’t help but think of an awkward interaction I had with him after the second or third time I saw Planet Hunter. I was drunk as and doing something else I won’t post just in case I ever want to apply for a job again, I went up to him after a set and gave him what I thought was a bangin’ compliment. I told him that I fucking loved his vocals so much because they’re clearly inspired by Maynard James Keenan but they’re not annoying as fuck and trying to sell me shit wine. I think that’s something Planet Hunter does really well, you can hear that they wear their influences on their sleeves, but it never just sounds like that band. Like you can hear Alice in Chains, but it’s not whiney and 47 years old. You can hear Tool but it’s not exhausting. There are hints of the more intense stoner rock bands like Red Fang and Sasquatch but the influences never overstay their welcome.
Also don’t fucking @ me for the Tool jab, I have no opinion on Tool and I can’t be fucked talking to you about them. You’re just mad your favourite band hasn’t had a good album since 2001.
The Ocean is a big standout on the album for me, starting with what people would assume is a synth but I fucking KNOW Will used a bit-crusher on his guitar to get that sound to save money. TELL ME I’M WRONG WILL. By the time the bridge hits this shit becomes oppressive, in the best way possible. The bridge is absolutely crushing and I could listen to that riff all day, in fact someone make me one of those 10 hour supercut Youtube videos of just this riff. Name it ‘Planet Hunter Fappening Leak’ so only the true fans will find it.
I’m a massive fan of Will’s guitar playing on Moscovium, his tone is as flawless as his life choices are flawed. He always seems to be playing exactly what the song needs in the moment instead of appealing to his ego and putting flashy shit all over it, but when he needs to be flashy he’s right there with a texture or a lead that becomes the centre of the track. Don’t even get me started on the chorus riff of Droning, it’s shit like this that helps differentiate Planet Hunter from any other band in the perceived genre.
Jed has been such a mainstay in the Wellington scene that you can guarantee if he’s playing on an album the performance will be tight as fuck, and his bass performance here is fucking awesome. His tone is never overwhelming but always present. The way him and David are in sync is perfect and best represented in a song like Valley and I fucking love that David doesn’t fall into the ‘what would a stoner band do’ groove, his performance is unpredictable and can go from classic stoner vibes like in Dying Since Birth to frantic psychedelic passages almost reminiscent of Earthless in songs like Droning.
I’m still getting used to reviewing albums I don’t fucking despise, so please bear with me while I find my voice with this style, and this isn’t some toxic shit about not being able to say nice things to people, I tell my friends I love them all the time, fuck I’ll kiss all of you on the lips right now DM me for my address don’t even fuckin’ try me. But I tell you what, being nice about an album is fucking hard work.
Is this album going to be for everyone who reads this? Fuck no, I know how broken most of you are. But man, I can’t stress this enough – Give this album a spin, even if you’re a beatdown lizard death metal gatekeeper hating on Stranger Things kids. There’s SO much here to love, so many genres being represented in a cohesive way and there’s layers to this album that every time I listen to it, I find more stuff that I love. Songs like The Ocean have the heaviness that make you want to close the curtains and reassess things, the songs like Humans of the Wild and Droning are pure party energy to impress your friends with, and we all know you’re struggling to impress your friends with your shit Soundcloud bedroom recordings.