The Jean-Paul Sartre Experience (also known as JPS Experience and JPSE), produced a stream of quirky guitar driven dream-pop for over a decade after forming in 1985. The Flying Nun regulars had both local and international success during that time with US indie label Communion releasing a version of their 1987 Love Songs album to critical acclaim. After the band broke up in 1995, David Mulcahy went on to form Superette, and later Eskimo (or Kimo), while David Yetton recorded two albums with Stereo Bus and one solo album.
Credited to a band with the shortened name The JPS Experience (possibly at the request of Jean Paul Sartre’s estate), the ‘Breathe’ EP prefigured the Christchurch band’s third album — their swansong — and yielded their highest chart placing. Produced by Strawpeople’s Mark Tierney, and hailed by US alternative music bible Trouser Press as “glamorous ennui”, it defines the majestic, woozy pop that was increasingly becoming their forte. Director Matt Palmer’s video never strays from the band — with fluid camerawork framing them in fire, ice and shimmering reflections.
The opening track from the second Jean-Paul Sartre Experience album indicates a significant change in tone for the band — more layered and expansive, and less angular than some of their earlier recordings. The video was directed and edited by John Chrisstoffels, who shot the stained glass windows and tile mosaics in Christchurch's Anglican Cathedral. JPSE vocalist and bass player Dave Yetton created the pulsing and spiraling video feedback effects. The band appears only fleetingly — in individual close-ups, filmed off a television screen by Chrisstoffels.
Swirling smoke, effervescence, distorted angles and overlaid band members emphasise the psychedelic aspects of this track (from JPSE's final album) in this Jonathan Ogilvie-directed clip. Layered guitars and structured drumming push this polished pop song forward. Bassist Dave Yetton pulls out the stops to provide a yearning, confessional lyric.
The set has a back-drop curtain made out of milk bottle top foil; the band are wearing plastic rubbish sacks fashioned into tunics, and have painted faces. The props include a disco mirror ball, a toilet seat sculpture, a giant bug, and umbrellas. It's all slightly off-beam, but the band's performance is deadpan sweet. There’s the requisite Flying Nun film scratching, and some literal-but-amusing image and lyric matching. It all combines to make a DIY delight, an effortless two decades before Flight of the Conchords or Mighty Boosh.
Flying Nun supremo Roger Shepherd says this 1991 single release saw the Jean-Paul Sartre Experience further develop its sound and push it to a poppier place. And the sweeping melody of the chorus supports that. Largely shot in a derelict pub in central Auckland (that was subsequently demolished to make way for a high rise building), the video uses a constantly moving camera and primary colours to back up the lush sound. By now the band had shortened its name to JPS Experience and added keyboard player Russell Baillie.
This short film follows Vincent (Leighton Phair), a young Chinese-Kiwi rescued from a group of racist punks in a spacies parlour by a mysterious Asian (Gary Young), then drawn into a seedy Triad underworld. Vincent is struggling with his identity in a mixed race family. Directors Stuart McKenzie and Neil Pardington wrote the story with playwright Lynda Chanwai-Earle, drawing it from interviews with members of the Chinese community in Wellington and Christchurch. Early 90s Flying Nun bands feature on the score; DJ Mu (future Fat Freddys Drop frontman) cameos as a punk.
This film records the devising of a “work in progress” by theatre director Ashley Thorndyke (Jason Hoyte). The concept — by Duncan Sarkies (Two Little Boys, Scarfies) — mocks the gamut of thesp and drama school cliches: from ‘wanky’ director to wacky warm-up exercises (animal impersonations, primal screams, Love Boat theme song). Peter Burger, fresh out of Broadcasting School, co-directs, and the willing cast is drawn from the 90s Wellington theatre scene orbiting around Bats and Victoria University. Future Conchord Jemaine Clement memorably learns to get loose.
The Stereo Bus began and ended with ex Jean-Paul Sartre Experience songwriter David Yetton — although he rarely performed alone. Yetton coined the term "sissy pop" to encompass the band's mixture of sensitivity and massed guitars. The first, garishly-tinted Stereo Bus album emerged in 1997; the louder, Alan Gregg-produced Brand New followed in 1999. It hit number 10 in the local charts, but increasing demand for live gigs perversely left Yetton less interested; he called it a day soon after. Solo album Blow Out the Candles (2005) includes many tracks originally earmarked for a third Stereo Bus album.
Award-winning cinematographer John Chrisstoffels has been training his camera on Christchurch and its inhabitants for more than two decades: in music videos for record label Flying Nun, short films, movies, and occasional documentaries. The sometime director has taught film at Canterbury University's School of Fine Arts since 2002.