Holy smokes, I Live in New Zealand.


Flight of the Conchords, Vol. 2.
June 14, 2008, 3:05 pm
Filed under: Ask a Canuck, Music | Tags: ,

(Volume 1 can be found here.)

Andrew asks, “How big are Flight of the Conchords down in their homeland?

Part 1: The Part Where Joe States the Obvious

No bigger than anywhere else right now.  Any time something involves them, the story makes it onto the front page of the two news websites that I usually visit (Scoop and the New Zealand Herald).  They have a sort of “Canadian media star” thing going on here, in that the whole country swoons when they do really really well.  Such events include winning a Grammy award last year for best comedy album, and their show being picked up in Australia.

What can I tell you?  Basically, they met up at university in Wellington and became flatmates, where I’m sure they spent a lot of time being creative.  As part of their other ventures, Brett was performing with various Wellington bands (including The Black Seeds) and Jemaine was writing with Taika Waititi, who is now a leading screenwriter in this country.  Jemaine and Brett started playing shows around Wellington and made it onto local television there, which led to their breakthroughs.

Part 2: Pilots Don’t Take Flight

Flight of the Conchords performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (the fringe of fringe festivals) in 2002, 2003 and 2004.  Their first album (“Folk the World”) was released as well.  It was enough to get them a chance at a pilot with TVNZ.  However, TVNZ never produced the show.  There are a series of interviews (post-Grammy award) that repeat the story of how TVNZ had never really done sketch-driven comedy before.  As such, they dithered on what to do with the pilot, and ultimately both parties went their separate ways.

Amazingly, NBC (yes, that NBC) also sought out a pilot from the Conchords, and also decided not to take it to air.

Part 3: A Door Closes, A Window Opens 

The Fringe success led to an advertising feature (for phones in Britain) and then THE big breakthrough, the one I’m pretty sure nobody in my audience knows about – their award winning, 2005 radio series (also titled, Flight of the Conchords).  You can buy it this November; I certainly do not know of any recordings of it that exist.  The core of the TV cast was there (Brett, Jemaine and band manager Murray/Rhys Darby), as well as legendary New Zealand musician Neil Finn, who I mentioned a few times in my New Zealand Music Month posts

The Conchords took their act to the US comedy festival circuit and scored an appearance on Letterman.  Sub Pop Records signed them to start making albums, which led to a 2007 release – it made it to #14 in New Zealand.  That led to HBO giving them a look, and HBO has always been quite adventurous in choosing shows to air and, as such, the rest is history.

Part 4: The Part Where Joe Actually Answers the Question

They are popular.  Not HUGE or BIG, but popular. 

Everyone knows them, for obvious reasons (big success story, small country).  I think they are more popular outside of New Zealand than in New Zealand, only because there are more fans in their demographic outside of New Zealand than in New Zealand (the “critical mass” theory).  Plus, you can’t argue against that amazing American hype machine. 

They have the same type of fans here (that “cult crowd” of other artsie types, the indie crowd, and so on and so forth).

  • When I was in Melbourne, the house I was staying in brought over the Flight of the Conchords DVD, mostly for their own interest but they did say that I probably knew more about them than they did.
  • You can watch episodes of the show on the really long distance flights (the ones with the gigantic 787 planes) on Air New Zealand.
  • Their latest album debuted at #2 in New Zealand (the same week it went to #3 Stateside) but made it up to #1 pretty fast. 
  • Remember the episode where the lads entertain a threesome, only to discover it’ll be a “Devil’s Threeway”?  Two dudes?  Guess what?  Such an offer actually happened a few months later.
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Bands I Already Promoted.
June 1, 2008, 8:20 am
Filed under: Music | Tags:

Other acts I wanted to mention this May but didn’t because I had mentioned them some time ago in my blogging New Zealand:

And thus concludes New Zealand Music Month.



Shihad.
May 31, 2008, 8:01 am
Filed under: Music | Tags: ,

Shihad.

The Tragically Hip of New Zealand (in terms of longevity and local popularity).

The Metallica of New Zealand (in that they are best slotted into that metal/new metal category).

The Flight of the Conchords of New Zealand (in that theirs was the only album in New Zealand to sell better that FOTC’s album when they released it at the beginning of May). I’ll have more on the Conchords upon my return from the South Island.

The discussion of hard rock in New Zealand begins and ends with Shihad, which is why I’ve put them last. Knowing my audience’s sensitivities makes it difficult to pick two videos of theirs to show off, however. There are a lot of bad CGI and heavy riffs in Youtube’s video vault.

So I’m posting the very-much-not-like-Shihad first single off their new album which dropped in April, “One Will Hear the Other.”

Alternate link.

And I will also post “Everything,” which was released during their Pacifier* days.

Alternate link.

But rest assured that the majority of their other tracks are total headbangers.

* – after September 11th, Shihad changed their name to “Pacifier” because Shihad kinda sorta sounds like “jihad” which was non grata at the time. They regret having ever made that change. Wikipedia does a neat job summarizing the events behind the switch.

And so ends New Zealand Music Month. Thanks for putting up with my self-indulgence this month.



The Clean.
May 30, 2008, 11:56 am
Filed under: Music | Tags: ,

Okay, one more Dunedin Soundish, “history of music” band for you all. The Clean. Dunediners, new wave roots but influential in their own right, saviours of Flying Nun Records. When there are so many classic artists kicking around, somebody has to rise to the top. I choose…The Clean.

The big big big hit (although the charts said otherwise) was “Tally Ho” from 1981.

Alternate link.

And I quite fancy “Anything Could Happen” from 1982.

Alternate link.



OMC.
May 29, 2008, 10:53 pm
Filed under: Music | Tags: ,

Bonus post for New Zealand Music Month.

One of the greatest one hit wonders of the 1990s (top five, for sure), OMC, are Aucklanders!!!

Alternate link.

OMC = Otara Millionaire’s Club.  Otara is one of Auckland’s poorest suburbs.

I cannot believe, for the life of me, that this was a New Zealand act and I had no idea.  I only just learned this five minutes ago.



Liam Finn.
May 29, 2008, 9:38 am
Filed under: Music | Tags: ,

I’m going to go out on a limb here and post Liam Finn. See, Liam is actually Australian, like how Crowded House may or may not be Australian. Liam was born in Melbourne, but for all sense and purposes he’s a New Zealander. Sort of like how Brett Hull might actually be Canadian…and how Jesse Crain really isn’t. He came to mind recently as he is the son of a legendary rocker and he has an album due out soon, plus the Globe and Mail recently did a piece on how the children of legendary rockers are all trying to carve their own niche in the singer-songwriter world.

I think Liam is doing okay, and as far as I can tell he qualifies for NZ on Air funding. The song I like the most is “Second Chance.”

Alternate link.

“Gather to the Chapel” is quite popular as well.

Alternate link.



Motocade.
May 28, 2008, 7:38 am
Filed under: Music | Tags: ,

In my never ending pursuit of finding the most obscure, most awesome band ever, I think I have fallen for Auckland’s Motocade. I don’t know anything about them. There have been a couple of EPs and the album is supposedly out later this year. I should go looking for those at the shop.

It was the video for “Soap Opera” that did it for me.

Alternate link.

And in the name of posting two videos, here is “My Friends.”

Alternate link.