Low-tech legend Chris Knox is an accomplished musician, cartoonist, critic, filmmaker, and jandal wearer. As this collection demonstrates, his genius takes flight in the DIY aesthetic of his music videos. As Flying Nun founder Roger Shepherd says in his backgrounder, “this is a unique and important collection of work perfectly illustrating what is possible with the barest of resources and a free-wheeling imagination”. Russell Brown adds his view here. Alongside music videos, the collection also includes interviews with Knox and profiles of bands Toy Love and Tall Dwarfs.
This raw and rowdy video gives a fleeting insight into the all-too-short life of Darcy Clay. Recorded on a primitive four-track tape machine, 'Jesus I Was Evil' was a demented fusion of country and garage rock that, combined with Clay's fetching Evel Knievel-style onesies, heralded the arrival of an eccentric new voice. Darcy's school friend David Gunson agreed to shoot the video for a few hundred dollars and a bottle of whisky — editor Ian Bennett ended up getting the whisky. The wry humour and energy captured in the video stands as a fitting testament to his subject.
Made to tie in with director Joe Hitchcock’s feature debut Penny Black, Lapwing is a quirky homage to the camp superheroes of yesteryear, with costumes and a villain that would make Adam West's Batman feel right at home. When Lapwing (Sash Nixon) takes on the evil Dr Curem and finds himself outmatched, he needs the help of the aerially talented Mousegirl to conquer. Full of more mixed metaphors than you can shake to the brim, plus plenty of intentionally lo-fi special effects, the comic short features two heroes saving the day by biting the hand they're dealt.
Nathan Rarere landed a presenting role on What Now? in the 90s, but turned it down because he didn't want to be on TV. Eventually he changed his mind.
"Shall we have our photo taken?" This lo-fi classic offers up a time capsule to a long ago day down south, with The Verlaines performing in a Dunedin flat in the company of various Flying Nun friends, and a wandering pet bunny. Director/cameraman Peter Janes recalls that the clip was shot "in a beautiful old house on Stuart Street", before everyone "took off to Cargill's Castle and made it up as we went along." Vocalist Graeme Downes' 18 mentions in the chorus of a word starting with 'V' are a namecheck not only for his band, but for infamous French poet Paul Verlaine.
Ruban Nielson’s Portland-based Unknown Mortal Orchestra explores lo-fi, funk psychedelia on this bittersweet number from their second album. The video, shot by an American cast and crew at counter-culture hangout Venice Beach in Los Angeles, follows Chris Mintz-Plasse (Superbad, Kick-Ass) as he attempts to extricate a loved one from the clutches of a panhandling, Manson Family style cult. Former Mint Chick Nielson (in black jersey and beanie) and his fellow UMO members have cameos but can’t compete with the family members dancing in the California sun.
Shot on Wellington's South Coast, the video stars Academy Award-nominee Taika Waititi (who also directs) as a turquoise headband wearing jogger attempting an eclectic confidence course. Shot in one ducks-in-a-row long take, our hero slays knights, frees prisoners and crosses the finish line into the arms of his lover. And a horse. A splendid example of she'll-be-rightism, the clip is refreshingly lo-fi, makeshift and delightful — and undoubtedly took a lot more than four minutes and 15 seconds to make.
Taika Waititi's 80s extravaganza wouldn't have been complete without the man himself arriving on set in a DeLorean — the time-travelling car from Back to the Future. The clip for The Phoenix Foundation is another homage-packed example of lo-fi genius from the Oscar nominated director. Note how Eastern European-derived keyboardist Luke Buda is playing a 'Poland' synthesizer. Said Waititi: "I spotted the DeLorean parked near our flat in Mt Cook, and left a note under the wiper saying 'what year are you from?' Turns it was one of two owned by a local doctor."
After playing together in The Enemy and Toy Love, Chris Knox and Alex Bathgate decided to leave mainstream music behind. The underground lo-fi pioneers made do without a drummer, instead using household objects and handclaps as percussion. 1981 EP Three Songs marked the first of over a dozen releases by the duo, including one (1994's 3 EPs) where they invited fans to send them backing tracks. In 2009 Knox had a stroke. Benefit album Stroke demonstrated the global influence of both Knox and Tall Dwarfs; it included tracks from Yo La Tengo and Will Oldham. Tall Dwarfs also contributed a track.
Zowie is a musical persona created by Zoey Fleury (daughter of Auckland musician Johnny Fleury). A drummer from childhood, she formed lo-fi punk duo The Bengal Lights while at music school in 2006. Two years later, a growing interest in singing and drum machines saw her reinvent herself as the electro-pop inspired Bionic Pixie. Growing in confidence while writing music overseas, she relaunched herself in 2010 as Zowie. Signed with Sony, she won media attention after playing at US festival South by Southwest. Album Love Demoiition followed in 2012. Fleury's next release will likely involve further reinvention.