This Spotlight collection celebrates the work of iconic Kiwi band The Chills. In October 2015 the Flying Nun legends released their first full-length album in 19 years. Reaction to Silver Bullets proved upbeat ("brilliant" said The Guardian; Drowned in Sound's Lee Adcock called it the band's "most compelling album yet"; website Pitchfork also sounded keen). Enjoy these classic Chills moments, from a band whose moody melodies and revolving door membership are part of Kiwi music history.
The video for this classic Chills song works not for its earth-shattering concept, nor its production values or performances (which are largely nonchalant). It looks miserable, nihilistic even. But — through luck or good management — the video for this Chills classic works, clinging to the melancholy essence of the song like a shrunken homespun. Observant viewers will notice a single bird — not unlike the lonesome outcast portrayed by Martin Phillipps — flying back against the flow.
The Chills visited England in 1986. This video mixes a moody rehearsal room performance with reminders of London, including Big Ben, the underground and apartment buildings (British sci fi comic 2000AD can also be spied). Vocalist Martin Phillipps wears the leather jacket of the song’s title. The jacket was bequeathed to him by Chills bandmate Martyn Bull, who died of leukaemia at the age of only 22. Paired with single 'The Great Escape', the song reached number four on the New Zealand charts, early in 1987.
The South Tonight was a Dunedin-filmed regional news show. In these excerpts, Martin Phillipps and The Chills return home from London, and find album Submarine Bells is number one; legendary local band Sneaky Feelings play a last gig; Velvet Underground muse Nico plays Orientation Week; a ball is filmed at Larnach Castle for TV series Hanlon; rhododendron nuts ramble at the Dunedin Botanic Gardens, and Jim Mora visits the Danseys Pass Hotel. Finally there’s a survey of dingy student digs circa 1985 (when rents went as low as $14 a week).
This was the iconic Dunedin group's first music video. Directed by Peter Janes, the promo for the song roams around an aptly chilly looking attic while the band performs. As soap bubbles float towards the rafters, there’s fog on the breath of singer Martin Phillipps, who lulls the listener to swim into space with him … “come along baby we'll live in our kaleidoscope world”. The early Chills song was from Flying Nun’s seminal Dunedin Double EP. It was later featured as the opening (and title) track on The Chills’ debut LP, a 1986 compilation of early career songs.
This big, shiny, internationally-produced Chills video is still in keeping with the band’s low-key indie style. In majestic cliff-top scenery (Ireland stands in for New Zealand) Martin Phillipps looks like he is at the top of the world, and large rocks bounce across the screen like karaoke cues — perfect imagery to match the soaring sound of this classic pop song. Apparently Phillipps was nearly swept away by a rogue wave, whilst singing furiously along to a non-existent backing tape. The rocks were made of polystyrene.
This documentary tells the story of the legendary Flying Nun music label up to its 21st birthday. The label became associated with the 'Dunedin Sound': a catch-all term for a sprawl of DIY, post-punk, warped, jangly guitar-pop. The Guardian: "[it's] as if being on the other side of the world meant the music was played upside down". Features interviews with founder Roger Shepherd and many key players, the spats and the glory. The label's influence on the US indie scene is noted, and Pavement's Stephen Malkmus covers The Verlaines' 'Death and the Maiden'.
3:45 LIVE! was an afternoon links programme for kids that screened on TV2. Before he became world-famous as host of Amazing Race, Phil Keoghan was a presenter on the show in tandem with Hine Elder. In excerpts here, the pair interview Martin Phillipps of The Chills; expat singer Mark Williams; and the cast of Badjelly and the Witch. International stars on the couch include Dave Stewart (of the Eurythmics), and rap singer Redhead Kingpin, who is off-the-wall. Phil and Hine also take off Judy Bailey and Richard Long before interviewing the newsreaders themselves.
The Chills are arguably the band most indelibly associated with 'The Dunedin Sound' — and one of label Flying Nun's enduring figureheads. With mainstay Martin Phillipps at the helm, the band has seen more than 20 line-up changes while exploring their pared-back guitar-pop sound. Their "series of brilliant singles" (The Guardian) includes the moody 'Pink Frost', 'I Love My Leather Jacket' and 'Heavenly Pop Hit'. In 1987 The Chills played to 60,000 at the Glastonbury Festival; in the early 90s they released two albums through Warner Brothers imprint Slash Records. Silver Bullets, their fifth studio album, dropped in 2015.