The Verlaines were formed by singer/guitarist Graeme Downes in 1980. Downes studied classical music at Otago University; his songwriting features shifting tempos, eclectic instruments, and mentions of poets and philosophers. Between occasional line up changes, Downes became a senior lecturer at Otago University, developing courses on composition and rock music. A key exponent of the Dunedin Sound, The Verlaines have recorded for both Flying Nun and American label Slash Records. In 2020 they released their twelfth LP, double album Dunedin Spleen. The following year Downes was made a Member of the NZ Order of Merit.