Will Not Fade’s 2022 in Review

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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.

distance at Valhalla

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 Monolith Melbourne by Will Not Fade

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

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

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.

 

words and photos by Joseph James

Album Review: Planet Hunter – Moscovium

Planet Hunter - Moscovium album art
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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?
Let’s find out together

Planet Hunter – Moscovium

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.

Planet Hunter CubaDupa Midgard

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.

Rating – 420 but also had 9 beers out of 5

Favourite track – The Ocean

Planet Hunter links:

Website: https://planethunter.band/

Bandcamp: https://planethunterband.bandcamp.com/album/moscovium-2

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/planethunterband/

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

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCksbRLjYdRcJoZfvVe_ZmWQ

Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/artist/6sHcF97f2g7t2epZ12Cojx

Apple music: https://music.apple.com/us/artist/planet-hunter/1426742266


Will Not Fade’s 2020 In Review

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I think I can safely speak for all of us when I say it has been a rough year. Personally, I had a lot of amazing plans that got cancelled. I was planning on traveling throughout Europe, seeing the world, touring with my dear friends Ranges and attending festivals such as dunk!festival and ArcTanGent. Then a pesky virus spread around the globe and put an end to all of that. Admittedly we’ve got it pretty good here in New Zealand. We had five weeks of national lockdown around Easter time, and certainly a lot of gigs were cancelled or at reduced capacity, but we’ve still had live music for a lot of this year, which is an absolute blessing.

Even so, I’ve found it hard for a multitude of reasons. I decided to retire from running the blog earlier in the year. But I have some spare time now that I’m on holiday and I enjoy writing these end-of-year summaries, so I’m back in action for this one last article for the year.

My top albums of 2020

The Beths Jump Rope GazersThe Beths – Jump Rope Gazers

As I mentioned, New Zealand has still been able to have concerts and gatherings for a lot of the year, so this has allowed a lot of NZ artists to stand out a bit more on the world stage. Benee is an example of one artist who has garnered international attention and success. The Beths are another group who have gone from strength to strength. Many of us fell in love with their self-deprecating powerpop with debut album Future Me Hates Me, and follow up record Jump Rope Gazers is just as brilliant. It’s more of a slow burner than FMHM, but still proves just as irresistible and catchy after a few listens, and an easy pick for my top album of 2020. The Beths are also great live and I was delighted to catch them live again this year after a number of postponements. They’re in such demand that they played 5 packed out shows over three days in Wellington, and I imagine they could have even pulled enough of a crowd to play a few more shows too.

Caspian On CirclesCaspian – On Circles

Caspian’s last album Dust and Disquiet is phenomenal. They blew my mind playing that material at dunk!fest in 2018 and I was so upset that I couldn’t see them play again this year after my travels were cancelled. On Circles may not quiet measure up to Dust and Disquiet, but it’s still a solid album, just in it’s own way. It’s a more reserved offering, but this seems somehow appropriate for the times. There’s two songs with singing –  Kyle Dufrey of Pianos Become The Teeth lends his voice to one track, and Phil Jamieson’s singing on the titular track is sublime and soul restoring. Something else I love about this album is the interesting tones and timbres they’ve gone for. Maybe they’re in alternate tunings, maybe it’s effect pedals, I really have no idea. But these tones, coupled with some cello and violin on a few tracks, make for unusual yet enticing listening.

Into It Over It FigureInto It. Over It. – Figure

Regular readers won’t be at all surprised by this inclusion. It’s no secret that I’m a big IIOI fan. They were the first act that I flew overseas to see live. And the last album, Standards, was a great. Figure is a logical continuation of Standards. Brilliant songwriting, great playing. The drumming is complementary and they’ve continued their exploration into interesting tones.

Biffy Clyro - A Celebration of EndingsBiffy Clyro – A Celebration of Endings

Again, this should come as no surprise; Biffy Clyro have been my favourite band since I was a teenager. I almost slept on this one though – I pre-ordered the vinyl record and due to covid related complications it still hasn’t shown up. Warner said they’d send a digital download but never did (same case with their last record Ellipsis too, up your game Warner!) After a few months of waiting I figured that maybe I should do some hunting. I eventually got a copy of the album downloaded and I’m glad I did because it’s been on steady repeat ever since. Biffy have always trodden a fine line, making a point of being weird and alternative (at times inaccessible even, especially during the earlier albums), yet at the same time playing stadium rock and writing songs that earn mainstream radio play (more so overseas). And somehow they’ve managed to continue down this path with success. There’s less of the bland radio fodder that featured heavily on Ellipsis, and they’ve managed to evolve and push their style whilst style true to their distinctive Biffy sound.

Other music worth mentioning

distance

Sam Butler released two great solo EPs this year. I reviewed the first EP, over time.

Saint Speak

A side-project from Spencer of Tides of Man, lullabies for his newborn.

Spencer Gill with Tides of MAn at dunk!festival 2018

Spencer Gill with Tides of Man at dunk!festival 2018. Image: Will Not Fade

Jakob – “HAARP”

A great lost b-side from the post-rock titans.

Lakes

Lakes released my favourite album of 2019, and dropped a few remixes, covers and other tracks this year. This 7″ is my pick of their 2020 offerings.

And two albums not released in 2020 that I listened to a lot

Dave Hause KickDave Hause – Kick

You may know Hause as the singer of punk band The Loved Ones. It’s almost a cliche how punk singers start solo projects along these lines (Think The Revival Tour). Kick is a great album, hopeful and defiant in the face of oppression. It’s in the vein of singer-songwriter, even country styles, something a bit more chilled out, but still with rock roots.

MetavariMetavari – Be One Of Us And Hear No Noise

I have no idea how I came across this album but it just hit the spot. A perfect blend of ambient and electronica. I’ve needed more calming music like this a lot this year.


The state of things in 2020

I’m terrified of the ongoing implications of what will happen to the music scene as a result of this pandemic. Musicians who rely on touring and selling merch for a living suddenly don’t have an income. Venues can’t get by because people aren’t allowed to attend gatherings. No venues means no places for bands to play. And it doesn’t just affect musicians, there’s the roadies and drivers and lighting techs and sound engineers and a whole industry suddenly without work.

Many musicians are resorting to livestreaming performances. [Here’s one that my friends in Ranges did for WherePostRockDwells]. Some people have been able to monetise livestreaming these performances. We will see if this becomes comomonplace in the future.

We all know that streaming is not really the answer forward. Sure, it is a revenue stream, but they pay such a pittance per stream that it’s a joke. Bandcamp have stepped up with Bandcamp Fridays, monthly events that they choose not to take their cut on any music and merch sold in order to help the musicians and labels who need the income so badly now. And it appears to have worked, with millions of dollars worth of transactions happening every Bandcamp Friday.

Thankfully we still have live music here in NZ for the time being. I’ve been paying to a Patreon for our local venue Valhalla because I know that without venues, we won’t have a live music scene.

Live music in 2020

I didn’t see many international acts this year, for obvious reasons. I did see Queen at the stadium (it was a bit of a spectacle but I’m glad I didn’t pay much), I saw Yawning Man at Valhalla, and a few metal bands at Obey The Riff festival at Panhead Brewery in Upper Hutt. My own band also opened for Sebadoh at a sold out show at San Fran in Feb, which was pretty awesome.

Yawning Man at Valhalla

Yawning Man at Valhalla. Image: Will Not Fade

My best gig of the year was The Wellington Sea Shanty Society at Breaker Bay Hall. It’s exactly what it sounds like. I drank a lot of rum and sang pirate songs. My friends and I all agree that it was our collective best night out since The Beards.

Newtown Festival was one highlight. I spent most of the day there taking photos at the Ferguson St Stage for The Mousai.

Happy Valley at Newtown Festival

Happy Valley at Newtown Festival. Image: Will Not Fade

Some of my favourite Wellington bands at the moment are Happy Valley, Planet Hunter and Adoneye, and I managed to see them all play a few times.

It’s a real shame that Spook The Horses had their European tour cancelled, but I was stoked that they asked my band to open at their album release and they killed it. They livestreamed the night if you want to go back and watch it.

Spook The Horses album release at Meow

Spook The Horses album release at Meow. Image: Will Not Fade

A real indication of how much things have changed is when I went to see local speed metallers Stälker recently. It was packed. Certainly a big change from reduced capacity shows that I’d been going to a few months earlier. The mosh pit was pumping and you couldn’t move because everyone was squeezed together so tightly. I used to live for nights like that, but it felt so uncomfortable after avoiding being too close to others for most of the year.

Stälker at Newtown Sports Bar

Stälker at Newtown Sports Bar. Image: Will Not Fade

2021

It’s hard to say what next year holds for us. Guns n Roses have announced a stadium tour in NZ. Is that too ambitious? Only time will tell. Hopefully the covid vaccine is effective.

Beastwars have held an Obey The Riff festival at Panhead Brewery in Upper Hutt over the past few years and it’s been successful. I’ve heard rumours about the potential lineup for 2021 and I’m excited about that. I’m not holding my breath about seeing any acts from overseas anytime soon though.

In terms of releases, I’m looking forward to a new Amy Shark album, and hopefully Adoneye release their debut (bass player Jesse is recovering from wrist surgery). There may also be a live DVD from Opium Eater (Jesse’s other band) and Glassblower are dropping their debut grindcore album. My own band Secrets of the Sun will have an album out at some stage early next year too. Sora Shima are coming back so I’m hoping to see them again, and fingers crossed for some new music.

 

What are your favourite albums of 2020? What are your predictions for 2021? Feel free to comment and share your thoughts!