The Chills are arguably the band most indelibly associated with 'The Dunedin Sound' — and one of label Flying Nun's enduring figureheads. With Martin Phillipps at the helm, the band has seen more than 25 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. Snow Bound, their seventh studio album, dropped in 2018.
It's not too big a stretch to say songwriter Martin Phillipps 'is' The Chills, one of the most distinctive pop bands to have come out of New Zealand. This documentary examines the complicated talent behind some iconic pop songs and finds him at a crossroads in his life, facing very real consequences after years of alcohol and drug dependency. Phillipps opens up about his desire to leave a proper legacy, while a selection of ex-band mates lay bare their experience of being a Chill. The film debuted at US festival South by Southwest, where it won the first of many enthusiastic reviews.
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.
Richard Driver files this 1988 Radio with Pictures report from a Waitemata Stadium concert cobbled together after the failure of music festival Neon Picnic. He interviews The Chills, Graham Brazier and Live Aid legend Bob Geldof. Geldof, along with Tim Shadbolt and Phil Warren, had come to the aid of music fans by organising the consolation gig at the last minute. Geldof rates Neon Picnic’s demise as an international embarrassment. But he praises the local music community for rallying behind the replacement gig, and admits he enjoyed the rush of helping organise it.
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).
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.
This was the first music video for iconic Dunedin group The Chills. 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 songs for the band.