Premiere: FVKVSHIMA – KUATO

FVKVSHIMA KUATO cover art
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FVKVSHIMA are a new metal band based in Wellington, New Zealand. I am very excited to premiere their debut single, “Kuato”, and have interviewed vocalist Mark Mundell so that you can learn a bit about the band.


Will Not Fade: How are you?
Mark Mundell: I’m staying frosty, mon frére. Simply splendid. Top of the world. 2024 is shaping up to be a far better year than the ones we’ve had recently.

How did FVKVSHIMA come to exist?
The band had been around as a three-piece for several years – it’s only in the last year or so that the band has numbered five. The guitarist, the bassist and the drummer all knew each other of old – Nathan and Greg were formerly members of Backyard Burial, while Peter was the drummer for Shakahn, as well as playing in a million jazz bands. Our keyboardist, Dayle (aka Jellybones) is also an extremely talented and prolific musician, having been involved with blues, honky-tonk, ska and Balkan brass.
And then you have the hanger-on that is me. I stand at the front and shout at people. I’m also in Planet of the Dead. Around eighteen months ago, Planet was on a hiatus – we were all pretty burnt out by the pandemic and sorely needed a breather – and I wanted to keep on with a musical project. Pete had put a note on Facebook that they were looking for a vocalist, and I thought I’d give it a shot. For some reason they kept me around. Dayle joined us around a year ago in April, and not long after that we performed our first shows in October.

How would you describe your sound?
A fine question, and one I struggle answering all the time. I’ve heard some people compare our sound to Meshuggah, because it’s heavy and progressive, which I am not mad at in the slightest. Personally I’d say there is a definite industrial influence, as we have sharp edges on the guitar sound and the synths. But I don’t know, I’d rather people heard our stuff and judged for themselves.

I’ve seen FVKVSHIMA play three times now, and I’ve got to say I’m a huge fan and have been telling all my friends they need to come to your shows. I’m very excited to help introduce your debut single to the world. Why did you pick “Kuato” as your lead single?
As we’ve played live shows and worked on new material, I think there has definitely been an evolution of our style – particularly when Dayle was on board. His synths have been a real game-changer for our sound, and we discussed that the first songs we would release would be taken from those we had developed together.
To be honest, it was a two-horse race between “Kuato” and “Dominator”, which isn’t far behind. I think both of these songs do a great job of personifying where we’re currently at and giving everyone an idea of the versatility of our sound. I’m super excited to find out what people think. The plan is to roll out all the songs we’re playing in our live shows, and we have lots of new songs waiting in the wings. We’ll be busy this year!

Your first single – “Kuato” – is a Total Recall reference. What is your official statement on the 2012 remake starring Colin Farrell?
If “Rekall” was actually a thing, and they could erase the part of my memory where I watched the 2012 version, that would be great. Some films just do not need a reboot.

And are you aware that a recent Rick and Morty episode revolves around Kuato as well?
Yeah, I saw that episode. I did enjoy the reverence to the movie, but I wouldn’t have needed the excuse to watch it – “Rick and Morty” has always been bloody hilarious. Now I just need a Recall-themed Futurama episode.

FVKVSHIMA KUATO cover art

Tell me about the artwork.
We opted to develop artwork that was specific to the tracks we’ll be releasing initially. Our drummer has a good friend who has come up with some awesome imagery for “Kuato”, featuring the titular mutant himself – we’ve also worked that into a lyric video that will drop with the single. We want the visuals to be as striking as the music.

Tell me about the songwriting process. Do you write music with a theme in mind, or come up with lyrics to fit the music?
Nathan and Peter are the creative engine when it comes to writing the music, and when I first started writing lyrics for FVKVSHIMA, it was a challenge to make them fit. The music is quite technical and it took me a while for it to click – I spent hours listening and re-listening to practice room cuts trying to feel out where lyrics would fit. My approach to writing lyrics has typically been to write them like poetry, and then I’ll work out how to make them fit the music later with Nathan. Nathan and Peter normally have a good feel for where they want stuff to go, and we’ve always been able to land on an arrangement we all agree with.
I find I’m generally always writing lyrics. I get a spark or two every so often – it could be a passage in a book, or a particular scene in a film (the first part of “Kuato” is actually the first scene of the original “Total Recall” movie, where Quaid and Melina are walking on the surface of Mars) – and I’ll just write. It can end up a bit more abstract in some cases, but people have always managed to pick up the themes. When I joined FVKVSHIMA, the guys already had heaps of music ready to go, so I went through a process of deciding which lyrics fit which tracks – I definitely wanted the feel of the track to fit the lyrical theme. So far I think it’s turned out pretty well, but we will let you be the judge.

I’ve seen you use a vocal effects pedal during your live performances to add different sounds to your vocal delivery. How do you settle on the sounds and effects that you choose to use?
I use the TC Helicon VoiceLive, which has served me pretty well so far. When it comes to vocal effects, I’m a firm believer that “less is more”. I initially just wanted a little gain and the occasional bit of reverb, but I found some sections of the music that I felt would benefit from a little something extra, to add to the atmosphere – especially in a live show. I tried a few things at a few live shows and people seemed to dig it. As we continue to write new material, I’ll often experiment with effects in the practice room and see if I can land on something that suits the theme. I’d like to say the effects I land on where targeted, but to be honest it’s often a bit of trial-and-error. With the layers that Dayle adds on keys, vocal effects don’t feel out of place to me.

Obviously you’re a huge sci-fi fan. Please list some of your top recommendations for our readers who’d like to explore the genre.
Oosh. There are so many! People who have heard my other stuff will know I’m a massive Frank Herbert fan, but we won’t go there. I’m a fan of a lot of old school sci-fi writers – Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Kurt Vonnegut – but for my money, you can’t beat Philip K Dick. It’s no surprise that several of his books were the inspiration of many great movies.
I think one of the more modern sci-fi book series I’ve read and liked is The Gap Cycle by Stephen Donaldson. It’s definitely not a space opera – it’s pretty near the knuckle at times – but I think his characters are really interesting and it’s a story that holds you until the end. The other series I’d recommend is William Gibson’s Neuromancer books, which are more cyberpunk in nature.
For graphic novels, my go-tos would be Otomo Katsuhiro’s Akira, Watchmen and V for Vendetta. I’m also a big fan of 2000AD, so I was reading stuff like Judge Dredd, Strontium Dog, Rogue Trooper and the ABC Warriors as a kid. All of the above have inspired or featured in my lyrical themes at some point or another.

What lessons did you learn from your previous bands that you brought with you to this band?
Tolerance is the main thing. Bands are really like a family and often you will disagree on things, so I’ve tried to be better at being flexible and knowing how to pick your battles. When I was younger in bands I’d argue about a lot of crap that I wouldn’t give a shit about these days. I guess another aspect is how you keep everything above the grind so the band doesn’t end up becoming a chore or like another day job. Some folks want to write, some folks like gigging, others the promotional and the socials – I guess as a band you collectively have to find what makes people tick and let them pursue their passion, and that helps keep it fresh for everyone. I think I’m lucky with Planet of the Dead and FVKVSHIMA – we’re all of a similar age, we all seem to manage to pull in the same direction, even with our various real-life commitments, and we all still find joy in what we do. I sincerely hope it stays that way for a long time.

Your other band, Planet of the Dead, had a lot of plans disrupted around the time of your last album release due to covid-related events like lockdowns and reduced capacity shows. Has this made you more cautious with making plans going forward, or do you think the major impacts of the pandemic are behind us now?
New Zealand has been slower than other countries (at least in my opinion) to come out of the covid cocoon – you only had to walk the streets of Wellington last year and the one before to see that for yourself. However, I honestly believe we’ve turned a corner and I think we’re starting to get there. There are great promoters doing righteous work and pushing hard to bring international acts to New Zealand more recently, and those shows I’ve attended have been jammed. It’s been a wicked year so far for live music. I always jinx these things though, so I’ll state my position as “cautiously optimistic” and we’ll leave it there.

I know that you’re a fan of physical media because I see how much your record collection has grown every time I come to your house. Have you got plans to release FVKVSHIMA music physically?
Digital will be the way initially, but I would love to see FVKVSHIMA’s work on a CD or a bit of wax. That’s a medium-term goal though, I think initially the priority has to be just getting our music out there in the first instance. Once we’ve got an album’s worth on Bandcamp, then we’ll maybe look at getting some vinyl pressed.

This is just the start for FVKVSHIMA. What have you got lined up for the future? Touring, releases, world domination?
More tracks, more shows. We’ve got a year of real mahi ahead, but none of us are work-shy in the slightest and we’re finally getting our sound out there for everyone to check out – we seriously hope people will dig it. We’ve had some great live shows in the last six months with some amazing NZ metal acts, and we’re generally always up for jumping on a bill with whoever. So I think our plan for the next year is to be seen and heard as much as possible. After that … world domination? Sure, why not. Can’t hurt.

Here’s your chance to say anything that we haven’t covered.
Thanks for the chance to have a chat. Music sites, blogs and fanzines are part of the lifeblood of our scene – it’s how we get heard. So we appreciate you writing about it, and we appreciate all the people who take the time to read it.
Stay frosty.


Kuato available across all platforms including:

Youtube:
https://youtube.com/@fvkvshima?si=mYNTq0k211Q14RSF

Bandcamp:
https://fvkvshima.bandcamp.com/track/kuato

Spotify:
https://open.spotify.com/artist/6QzpIJeK3qDYNCkKaGg0wL?si=Om8MLMQoQg2AqYQveMoSgA

Distrokid:
https://distrokid.com/hyperfollow/fvkvshima/kuato-2

FVKVSHIMA links:

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100064268550642

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/fvkvshima_band/

Photos by Joseph James/Will Not Fade and Jechtography

Ranges Eu Tour 24: Bristol, Manchester & Cambridge

Ranges European Tour 2024 Tour Banner
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Baggins is back with Ranges, baby!

It’s been aaaages. Last time I saw these guys was 2018. We’d planned on reuniting in 2020 but the pandemic cancelled those plans, and I was too cautious to try international travel when they next toured Europe in 2022. They’ve released three albums since I last saw them: Babel (2019), Cardinal Winds (2021) and 33 (2023), as well as re-releasing “Night & Day“, the release that first introduced me to Ranges. So I’m looking forward to seeing them play some fresh material.

A few updates since I last toured with Ranges: Jared the bass player moved to Ohio. And Joey on guitar moved to Idaho, where he is currently playing in a heavy band called Onsetter.

So Ranges are down to a core trio.

Wilson Raska contributes to the overall vision, concepts, and art. Seems a bit weird to include someone who doesn’t play the instruments, but anyone familiar with Ranges will know that their art and overall concepts are vital to who the band is. Wilson and CJ co-own A Thousand Arms – a record label, printing workshop and distro. Chances are high that if you’re a post-rock fan, you’ll have seen Wilson’s art on t-shirts or posters.

CJ Blessum is the band dad. The most driven person I know. He’s the guy up at all hours, coordinating with people, running merch stalls, driving all through the night to get to the next gig. On top of that, he writes some pretty damn good post-rock music. CJ used to contribute to Will Not Fade now and again, and invited me to tour with Ranges across America in 2017. That was one of the greatest things to ever happen to me.

And then we have Mark Levy. New York Hardcore drum legend. He’s a bit older than the others, and talks different, being from Brooklyn. And he is always the life of the party, and has a million amazing stories to share. He’s the guy I always turn to if I need drum advice.

Damn, I’ve really missed these guys. It’s amazing how spending time stuck in a van with a bunch of dudes for a few weeks can galvanise such friendships.

Last time I came to Europe I was in an absolute state for the entire tour. One of my flights – Auckland to Doha – was the longest commercial flight in the world at the time. Jetlag hit me hard and I felt too out of sorts to really enjoy myself. So this time I’ve opted to get to Europe a week earlier, hoping that the extra time would help me recover from jetlag before I join the band.

Also joining Ranges are Tim (guitar) and Tom (bass) from Astodan – an incredible Belgian post-rock band who Ranges first played with back in 2018. Tim is keeps up with Mark in terms of being larger than life and also being a drummer in a bunch of other bands in Belgium. He also finds it very hard to understand my New Zealand accent, which leads to lots of confusion and big laughs. Tom is a lot quieter, but he is by far the funniest person of the group when he cracks a joke.

We also have sound engineer Chuck Goodwin, who has also made the trip from Montana to keep the guys sounding great, and Sean Oliver is the Fanta-loving driver from Utah, charged with transporting us in the huge van.

Day 1

Monday 6 May 2024

Rough Trade Bristol, Bristol, England

w/ Fort, Din of Celestial Birds

I flew into London a week before meeting up with them, and arranged to meet them in Bristol on the day of the first show. They’d spent some time in Belgium rehearsing with Tim and Tom from Astodan.  We were due to meet at Rough Trade, the venue, at 4pm for load in. But they’d encounters issues when trying to come across the channel on the train. They’d been sent back to Belgian to obtain signatures that disclose something to do with taxes before they were allowed across into the UK. This put them way behind schedule and they were pushing it to make it to Bristol in time for their set.

In the meantime I introduced myself to the other two bands, and helped Nick the sound tech set up. The house drum kit was a Natal – a brand I’d not encountered before. It was a really cool orange vistalite.

I’d seen El Ten Eleven play at a Rough Trade in Brooklyn, New York in 2017, so I’m assuming it is a chain of record stores. It was a nice venue. There were loads of cool records and books and posters for sale, as you’d expect. The venue was a great size and I got along great with Nick the sound tech. They had these interesting extractor fans that Nick told me they had been required to install before reopening after the covid pandemic. They suck fresh air into the room and filter viruses out, or something along those lines.

The first band to play, FORT, are Welsh. I’d been in communication with them leading up to this and I found them very friendly. They are high energy and the best part was during the final song when Gavin jumped down into the audience with his guitar and they all went nuts during the big climactic part.

Din of Celestial Birds are also playing dunk!fest at the end of the week, and have recently signed to A Thousand Arms. They give a more professional vibe, using backing tracks and even bringing their own fog machine and a lighting rig similar to the one Ranges had when I toured with them in the USA. There’s a lot more to take in, with six of them onstage.

 

We’d been nervous about when Ranges would arrive, given their big delay, but they arrived just in time. It was a rushed set up and line check, and then they played at their scheduled time. It was such a buzz to see the guys again after six years. It was mostly newer material that they’d written since I’d seen them last, but I got a bit emotional when they played a few Ascensionist songs. Tim and Tom were feeling a bit nervous about playing the set, being fill ins, but they did a stellar job and honestly, I don’t think anybody would have known that the band had only just arrived, or that they hadn’t played together much.

After the gig we drove to Bath and stayed at a YMCA. I bunked with Tim, Tom and Chuck.


Day 2

Tuesday 7 May 2024

The Deaf Institute, Manchester, England

w/ Fort, Din of Celestial Birds

Bath was named after ancient Roman public baths that were situated there, taking advantage of the natural hot springs. Like many English cities, there were grand, stately buildings everywhere with ornate masonry. I gave Sean a hat I’d bought for him at Primark that had the Fanta logo all over it. He was chuffed. Sean is a Fanta connoisseur, and loves trying the Fanta in every country he goes to because they’re all slightly different. French and Belgian Fanta are among his favourites, and American Fanta is sadly not up to par. We spent the morning soaking in the hot pools and steaming in the saunas. It was a great relaxing way to start the day.

L-R: Wilson, Tom, Mark, CJ, Me. Photo taken by Sean

Sean had stayed somewhere else, and had managed to maim his left hand when returning the key to the lock box. He showed up at the van at the agreed time, with a bunch of bloody napkins held to his palm. We stopped in at an emergency room on the way to Manchester, but there was going to be at least a three hour wait, so we got some dressings at the pharmacy and continued on our journey.

Mark was quite excited to go to Manchester because he’s a fan of The Smiths. He insisted on having a photos taken outside the Salford Lad’s Club, which I thought was the name of a brothel. He wanted to replicate a photo from God Save The Queen, by The Smiths. I don’t really know much about it, but please enjoy this photo that I edited of Mark, Sean and I at the Lad’s Club.

Tonight’s venue was The Deaf Institute. The facade read “ADULT DEAF & DUMB INSTITUTE”. Tom cracked a joke about there being a translator up the front to sign the lyrics, which was hilarious because all the bands are instrumental. There was another gig happening in the same building on the floor above.

Sean managed to get his hand seen to while we were setting up, which was a relief.

I liked the venue but the stage was tiny. Two members of Din of Celestial Birds had to stand on the floor in front of the stage because there was no way all six of them would fit. The lighting was also terrible. But the show was good and the band sold lots of merch.

Lots of people had mentioned that Manchester is great to visit. I had a little wander round during soundcheck but didn’t really see enough to form an opinion. I did find a place with a huge MF Doom mask though, which I loved.

After the gig we found a pizza joint that was still open after midnight, before heading back to the hotel we stayed at.


Day 3

Wednesday 8 May 2024

The Portland Arms, Cambridge, England

I would say this was the best day of the UK leg of the tour.

Wilson and I had matching shirts.

We stopped in at Croxden Abbey. I’ve been seeing lots of old churches and castles during my time in the UK, but I still get super excited about it every time. Many have been bombed during the WWII, or fell casualty to prior wars. Henry VIII also disbanded many churches, convents etc when he formed the Church of England so that he could divorce his wife. I love walking amongst the old ruins, admiring the workmanship that is still so evident hundreds of years later, and getting the sense of history of those locations. We did some cool/cheesy photoshoots before grabbing lunch.

Lunch was at a quaint countryside tavern. We all ordered fish and chips. I didn’t think they were very good, but the others all loved the novelty of having such a distinctly English meal, complete with pints of ale, mushy peas, tartare sauce and lashings of malt vinegar.

I really liked The Portland Arms, our venue for the night. The stage lighting was on point, Chuck had the sound dialed in, and the green room was a welcome haven where we could relax, charge our devices, and use WiFi.

CJ took us on a walk around Cambridge. We climbed an old motte – the hill from a former castle where they would have built the defensive keep. We walked around some university grounds (around, not through. They were very clear that visitors are unwelcome), and saw a small apple tree that is theoretically linked to Isaac Newton somehow. The place reminded me of Oxford, although nowhere near as impressive. We finished up with some great doner kebabs from a street vendor before heading back to the gig.

I met a local photographer, Dobbin Thomas, who took some incredible shots of the night. He was happy for me to feature some here. Give him a follow: https://www.instagram.com/robin_dobbin_t

FORT by Dobbin Thomas

Fort Portland Arms by Dobbin Thomas (1)

Din of Celestial Birds by Dobbin Thomas

Din of Celestial Birds Portland Arms by Dobbin Thomas

Ranges by Dobbin Thomas

Ranges Portland Arms by Dobbin Thomas

And here are some of my photos below

It looked and sounded fantastic. Ranges really came together tonight and locked in well. Everyone was on a high.

 


Day 4

Thursday 9 May 2024

En route to dunk!festival

We got up bright and early for a 7am departure. Touring can sound fun and glamourous, but the reality is often it means late nights, inadequate sleep, eating crappy food obtainable at petrol stations, spending all day in a van. Sometimes it wears you down. We spent hours at customs. The government wanted to ensure that we aren’t selling items that they could be claiming tax on. It just meant sitting parked up in a bay with hundreds of trucks and a lot of waiting.

This pushed back our departure time for our train to Europe. Which meant more waiting around. There were more confusions about the carnet at border security and the feeling in the van was starting to get tense, but Tim was able to talk things through with the police and it was fine. Thankfully he speaks French and was able to explain things. We finally got on the train to France and left just before 2pm.

We’ve got a long day of travelling ahead, but we’re excited to get to Belgium for dunk!festival. Din of Celestial Birds are scheduled for 17:40, and Ranges are on at 22:00

UPDATE WRITTEN LATER ON

We missed Din of Celestial Birds, but lots of people insisted that they were one of the better acts at dunk!fest that weekend so well done to them.

We made our way to Ghent, unloaded our gear, and then the Americans and I took our personal belongings to our accommodation. The accommodation was across the road from Kinky Star, the venue Ranges first played in Europe, back in 2018.

We made our way back to the venue. Last time I’d come to dunk!festival it was held at a magical space in Zottegem. There was a forest stage and a mainstage tent. People camped onsite and it had a wonderful culture where everyone reveled in the music, fueled by fries and the finest Belgian beers. They’ve switched venues, and now it is in Ghent. Regulars mourn the loss of the camping experience associated with the festival, and the stages didn’t have the same magical atmosphere as the forest, but it wasn’t a bad set up.

It was a pretty immense building, with four different stages as well as a bar/restaurant and artist green rooms. I was constantly getting lost as I tried to navigate the numerous staircases, but always found my way eventually.

We met back up with Tim and Tom. Their better halves had come to meet them. Tim’s wife is from Spain so I tried conversing with her in Spanish. Ironically enough, everyone understood me a lot more clearly when I spoke broken Spanish than when I just spoke in English with my New Zealand accent…

We visited catering, had a fantastic meal, and then began to set up our gear.

Chuck was getting a bit nervous, but he had the sound dialed. And people were already flooding into the room to listen to the soundcheck.

The Balzaal was full long before the band came onstage. I found this interesting. They could have chosen to watch other bands play downstairs. But they were that eager to see Ranges that they came early.

And that eagerness was justified.

I’ve seen Ranges play 22 times now. And this was the best by far. Tim and Tom bring an extra energy to the band that has elevated Ranges to new heights. They do jumps and kicks and move about, feeding off each other. I could see that they were all loving it, turning and looking at each other and just savouring the experience throughout their set. Being a drummer, I notice Mark’s playing the most, and I could tell he was giving it more oomph than usual. The lights looked incredible. Chuck had them sounding great. And the packed out audience was so enraptured to take it all in. 

I took photos from backstage and ensured their drinks were topped up. I tried to get front of stage to take photos at one point but there were so many people that I didn’t want to push past. Tim was dripping with sweat and asked me to fetch him a towel. I looked all around backstage and eventually stole the handtowel from the toilet because I couldn’t find anything else.

Ranges set was a triumph. They were all just beaming. And rightly so.

At the end of the night we celebrated the end of the tour. Ranges had made a custom vodka to be released alongside their album Babel, and Wilson had specially bought a bottle and some cigars all the way from Montana. I don’t usually drink alcohol these days, but I joined in and got a bit silly. I’m sure Wilson has some embarrassing footage that will appear in a future Ranges release.


The rest of dunk!fest was cool. My highlights were Maserati and sleepmakeswaves. sleepmakeswaves was quite late on the final night and we were all tired and fading by that stage, but I’m glad I stuck it out because smw bring me so much joy. They faced a number of difficulties like pedals not working and straps breaking, but none of these hiccups dampened the mood.

It was nice to spend some quality downtime with the Ranges guys outside the festival as well, especially once the pressures of touring had finished. We enjoyed seeing some local sites (castles, canals and cathedrals!) and eating some great food like delectable French pastries, Belgian meatballs, and of course, frites. Last time I’d been in Ghent I was horrendously jetlagged and also got fairly drunk, so it was also nice to see more of the place in a less messy state.

CJ commented how dunk!festival always happens on Ascension weekend, Ascension Day being a public holiday. And that is the day that Ranges have played, on the three times they’ve played dunk!fest. And the first time, in 2018, they were touring their album The Ascensionist. There’s something especially fitting and special about that.

We had a teary goodbye at Brussels airport on the Sunday. These guys are like brothers to me. We’ve been through so much together. Over the years I’ve spent 4 weeks in the van with them, driving countless miles together. Drunken, late nights. Sampling local foods. Sharing beds in cramped sleeping quarters. Meeting crazy characters. So many laughs and stupid in jokes. Jokes that don’t make sense and we can’t even remember the origins of, but that we still find hilarious. Lots of bonding over incredible music.

I’m so thankful that CJ invited me to join them on tour back in 2017. And I’m thankful that he insisted that I join them on tour again this time.

Greets and great times to you all.

Joseph James AKA Baggins

FromThePit 2024 New Zealand Music Photography Exhibition Returns to Celebrate Local Talent

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FromThePit banner April 2024

FromThePit 2024 New Zealand Music Photography Exhibition Returns to Celebrate Local Talent

FromThePit, the highly anticipated annual showcase of New Zealand music photography, is set to return in 2024 for its sixth consecutive year. The exhibition, which highlights the vibrant essence of New Zealand’s music scene, will feature captivating images captured by top-notch music photographers from across Aotearoa.

FromThePit serves as a curated collection of live music photography, focusing exclusively on New Zealand musicians performing in local venues. This year, 66 photographers will contribute their recent work to the exhibition, providing a comprehensive view of the country’s diverse musical landscape.

The 2024 edition of FromThePit boasts an impressive audio-visual slideshow exhibition of over 110 carefully selected images, showcasing both established photographers and emerging talents. Supported by a soundtrack of New Zealand musicians, the goal is to celebrate the richness and diversity of talent both on and off the stage, offering a captivating glimpse into the heart of New Zealand’s music culture.

In addition to its showcase of captivating imagery, FromThePit also incorporates an educational component. Throughout the year, workshops are offered to aspiring live music photographers, providing valuable insights and guidance in this dynamic field.

As the music industry and its stakeholders continue to navigate challenges, FromThePit stands as a testament to the enduring power of live music events. The exhibition serves as a vital document of New Zealand’s vibrant music scene, offering a platform to both honor its past and celebrate its future.

FromThePit 2024 will be accessible online and at various locations across the country during Te Marama Puoro o Aotearoa | NZ Music Month (May 2024). For more information about this year’s exhibition and related events, as well as to explore archives from previous years, please visit FromThePit.co.nz

FromThePit is made possible through partnerships with Sony, Audioculture | Iwi Waiata, Auckland Council | Te Kaunihera o Tāmaki Makaurau, Auckland UNESCO City of Music | Tāmaki Makaurau UNESCO Pā Puoro, NZ Music Month | Te Marama Puoro o Aotearoa, Independent Music NZ (IMNZ), New Zealand Music Commission | Te Reo Reka o Aotearoa, and Agentx.

Designed and curated by New Zealand live music photographers Dave Simpson, Chontalle Musson, Stella Gardiner, and Maeve O’Connell, FromThePit 2024 promises to be an immersive and unforgettable celebration of New Zealand’s music photography.


For updates, follow FromThePit on social media:

Album Review: sleepmakeswaves – It’s Here, But I Have No Names For It

sleepmakeswaves It’s Here, But I Have No Names For It album cover
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sleepmakeswaves are the following:

  • Fun

  • Energetic

  • Excellent riffs

  • One of my favourite post-rock bands

  • Absolutely awesome

  • Hot, cool and sexy

sleepmakeswaves Monolith Melbourne by Will Not Fade

I’ve seen sleepmakeswaves play twice. The first time was at San Fran, a local venue here in Wellington. They were opening for This Will Destroy You, and were incredible and definitely made TWDY look lame by comparison. The next time was in Melbourne, at Monolith Festival. Monolith was an awesome day featuring a unbelievably stacked lineup of Australian post and prog bands, and sleepmakeswaves played a stand out set that made me feel so giddy and happy that I think they should look at somehow packaging their music in pill form to be used as antidepressants. 

I will be seeing them play in Belgium at dunk!festival this coming May as well and they are the band I am most excited to see.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

I reviewed their album Made of Breath Only back in 2017. I loved it, of course. Since then sleepmakeswaves have released an ambitious 3 EP trilogy, a live album, and a split 7″ with Cog [Another fantastic Australian band. They also played the aforementioned Monolith Festival, and I’ve written about one of their side projects – The Occupants]. And now they’re treating us to a new record: It’s Here, But I Have No Names For It.

What a beautifully meta title. It’s basically called Untitled, but in the spirit of ridiculous long run-on names that are somewhat common in the post-rock scene [other examples: maybeshewill, 65daysofstatic, worriedaboutsatan]. I see other glimpses into their sense of humour when watching their Metallica cover [shaving a chopper mo just for the video is definite commitment to the bit!] and their 8bit computer game promo video for this album, and I get the impression that these lads would be great to hang out with.

Let’s engage in an imagination exercise. Picture me pressing play on this record. I’m listening to an advanced digital download, but it’s cooler if you picture me placing the needle onto the groove of the record while it spins on the turntable. Probably a splattery green pressing, to match the album art. It doesn’t matter – this is an imagined scenario anyway.

Cue fuzzy droning, a cool metallic metronome, a wicked drum beat, and a big build up. My face lights up more and more with each addition. There’s a pause, and then a huge bombastic drum fill. Suddenly I’m jumping around the room, playing air-drums, with a big pulsing quarter notes on the crash cymbal, whilst simultaneously wielding a sick air guitar and shredding. I’m full stank face mode, and we’re only a minute into the album.

Let that visual inform you of the tone of this review. sleepmakeswaves make me so excited and I need everyone to know about it. 

Lead single “Super Realm Park” is big, energetic and driving.  It has loud parts and quiet dynamic sections. There’s some glitchy electronic elements at times, and lots of tremolo playing. It finishes with a lovely piano outro. It showcases exactly what sleepmakeswaves are capable of. 

Here’s an extract from the press release for the second single, “Ritual Control”:

The band comments: “Ritual Control was originally demoed as Dr. Riff Has Arrived. I still wonder whether we were mistaken to have not kept the old title.

Otto originally presented the skeleton of the song to us with the concern that maybe the riff were “too dumb”. In fact, Tim and I responded, they are the perfect quantity of dumb. Sure, these riffs aren’t going to earn a PhD but they will hold down a full-time job, get the kids to school on time and read the occasional piece of challenging non-fiction on weekends. These kinds of courageous and heartfelt conversations are the core of what effective post-rock songwriting is all about.

Big dumb riffs. That’s what we want. Why think when you can headbang? Local doomlords Beastwars have the slogan “Obey the Riff”, which is both marketing genius and an apt phrase, and summarises exactly the feeling I’m trying to convey. Most sleepmakeswaves songs are instrumental. We don’t need to get caught up pondering meaning and . Dumb riffs = good music. Also, Soundgarden have a song entitled “Big Dumb Sex”. Not sure how that’s relevant but I feel it supports my case somehow. 

I’m not sure which riff in “Ritual Control” riff is the “dumb riff” in question, but there’s a great part at 2:30 where everything drops out, and an extremely raunchy riff comes centrestage, and I must draw your attention to that part of the song. 

sleepmakeswaves Monolith Melbourne by Will Not Fade

The album starts of extremely strong, and you definitely know about this. Things shift gear down from such bombastic heights and begin to take a turn with the fourth track, “Black Paradise”, which features quiet guitar picking for the first half, followed by pretty synth drone and guitar swells in the following song, “Verdigris”.

Two songs features ethereal vocals, which is a point of difference for an instrumental band. We hear singing on “Terror Future” – with its especially outstanding basslines, and also on the titular track.

“It’s Here, But I Have No Names For It” is truly beautiful. The serene fingerpicking and searing yet calm guitar playing reminds me of Dan Caine’s work. It builds up with an anthemic rock feel, but there’s something special about this track that sets it apart from the others. It feels more considered and emotive, and somehow befitting of it’s name. To quote the band again: “The title is a line from zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance, about not needing to find words for everything all the time.” I can’t explain it, but I somehow understand how fitting that is when I hear the song.

sleepmakeswaves Monolith Melbourne by Will Not Fade

This is what I wanted. This is what I needed. sleepmakeswaves delivers, yet again. It’s Here, But I Have No Names For It sounds simply huge. The album feels short, but it packs such a punch that perhaps more music would cause fatigue. It is an album of two halves. The immense, high energy rock songs at the start of the album are incredible and fill me with such incredible joy and excitement. And then the later half of the album features a few quieter tracks to show that sleepmakeswaves aren’t just a one-trick-pony. But trust me, it’s all fantastic. Or maybe don’t trust me – I’ve painted a picture of a madman when describing my reactions to sleepmakeswaves’ music. – but at least check out this excellent album.

sleepmakeswaves have Australian, American and European tours lined up to promote this album. They are playing alongside their countryfolk Meniscus and Tangled Thoughts of Leaving, as well as Taiwanese math-rockers Elephant Gym. I encourage you to attend one of those shows if you get the opportunity. As I mentioned earlier, I will be seeing them at dunk!festival in Belgium, and I am fizzing with excitement for it. 

It’s Here, But I Have No Names For It will be released on 12 April 2024

 


sleepmakeswaves links:

Order: https://sleepmakeswaves.bandcamp.com
Instagram: https://instagram.com/sleepmakeswavesaus
Facebook: https://facebook.com/sleepmakeswaves
Label: https://birdsrobe.com


Review and photos by Joseph James

Live Review: WITCH at Meow, Wellington

WITCH NZ Tour poser
Standard

WITCH

w/ The Spectre Collective

Meow, Wellington

Thursday March 14 2024

 

We Intend To Cause Havoc.

What a statement.

The acronym wasn’t part the band name originally, but I appreciate it all the same.

WITCH were a Zambian band in the 1970s. Their music – classed at “Zamrock” – was often psychedelic, groovy, and infectiously fun.

I can’t help but draw parallels between WITCH and Rodriguez. Rodriguez was an American musician who went through life of hardship, little realising that he was somehow a huge star overseas – notably in South Africa. The 2012 documentary Searching for Sugar Man drew attention to his music and revived his music career, resulting in a resurgence of interest and international tours.

Likewise, the 2019 documentary W.I.T.C.H about the band of the same name has revitalized the band, leading them to release their first album in 40 years, and travel the world.

While both WITCH and Rodriguez were sensations in Africa, WITCH were absolutely aware of their stardom. One of my favourite moments in the doco was when they read old newspaper articles about the band, detailing one occasion where fans were so desperate to attend a concert that they ripped the roof off the venue in order to enter. But a variety of factors led to the death of the band. The AIDs epidemic, a shift in interest from rock to disco, and economic and sociopolitical unrest in Zambia all contributed to its demise.

But they’re back now. Fronted by Jagari, with keyboardist Patrick Mwondela from WITCH’s disco era and some new younger band mates from both Zambia and around the world, WITCH have reformed, put out new record Zango, and are bringing Zamrock to the world again.

It’s a great tale. And who doesn’t love an underdog story? In the doco, Jagari compares himself to wine, saying that aging has only improved him. It was time to see if they band lived up to their legend.


Meow was packed. It was hot, and people were excited to be here.

The current iteration of WITCH includes nine members. As mentioned, Jagari and Mwondela are the two established players. They have two on their kinswomen – Hanna Tembo and Theresa Ng’ambi – on backing vocals and the rest of their bandmates come from as far afield as The Netherlands, Germany and America. I especially enjoyed the additional percussion that fleshed out the rhythm section with infectious beats.

Many of them wore wonderful bright clothing. I would have liked to see the entire band dressed to theme in a united front, if not just for the wonderful visual appeal. Tembo and Ng’ambi wore vibrant outfits with bold patterns and danced in unison with their big grins. Jagari, Mwondela and bass player Jacco Gardner all had colourful hats on, the first two with custom hats showing their band name emblazoned on the front, and Gardner’s must be a Zambian style – I’d seen it in the doco as well.

Jagari looked so pleased and at home onstage, clearly reveling in the chance to relive his glory days. the documentary had detailed some of his hardships – seeing many bandmates die young, being falsely accused of a crime that had him stripped of his teaching profession. He was doing hard labour – mining in search of precious gems for a living – when the documentary crew first found him. But now he had his second chance to share his talents and joy with fans from a stage, and this time he gets to travel the world doing it. His nickname is in comparison to The Rolling Stone’s Mick Jagger, and Jagari was known for his wild showmanship and marathon efforts during WITCH’s legendary sets back in their heyday. He may have toned down somewhat throughout the years, but his charm tonight was undeniable.

The thought did cross my mind that WITCH may feel ‘diluted’ from recruiting musicians from around the globe. Is it still authentic Zamrock if only half the band is from Zambia? But honestly, they sounded great, and they introduced many of the songs and shared that the inspirations came from Zambian daily life – phrases and experiences and people that they encounter in their culture. The funniest one was about how Jagari was almost rejected as a son-in-law by his wife’s family because musicians are not seen to have a respected profession in Zambia. How could he be trusted to provide for his family if he is a mere singer?

Another – “Malango” – was a song inspired by matriarchs who share wisdoms like how we can learn from bees. Tembo and Ng’ambi took over from Jagari and led the song, and you could see how their conversing at the beginning of the song was just like how things would be at home.

They drew from through their catalogue, but I’d say the handful of new songs from Zango offered a fresh extra oomph. Perhaps it is because these musicians were the ones that wrote and recorded the album, so they knew that material better? But the set was great throughout. As I mentioned, the venue was very full, and it was clear that some people were longtime fans, with many shouting out requests for their favourite songs between sings.

My favourite moments were when Jagari handed a cowbell out to members of the audience throughout one song, inviting them to contribute by playing how they see fit. Some tried to come up with interesting ostinatos during their turn, and one champion just laid into it like Will Ferrell in the infamous SNL “More Cowbell” skit. I found the crowd interaction so endearing, showing that the music is for everyone to enjoy and participate in. Jagari frequently gave high-fives to the front row attendees throughout the night, and made it very clear how grateful he was to his bandmates during the song “Introduction”. That mood permeated the night. Everyone was happy and thankful for the wonderful music that brings us together.

 

Joseph James