Flying Nun band The Verlaines were formed by singer/guitarist Graeme Downes in 1981. In the band’s early years Downes was studying classical music at Otago University, and his songwriting features shifting tempos, eclectic instruments, and mentions of Nietzsche and French poet Paul Verlaine. These days Downes has a PhD and lectures at Otago. As with many Flying Nun bands of the era, The Verlaines won international recognition for their work, including Pavement’s Stephen Malkmus covering their classic 1983 single ‘Death and the Maiden’. In 2012 the band released their tenth album Untimely Meditations.
‘Doomsday’ was initially released as a 12” 45. The video is shot in a room similar to the one featured in their classic Death and the Maiden (but the bay window isn’t quite as grand and there are no rabbits). A blue wash runs through the first three quarters of the clip as Graeme Downes sings off to one side — his lyrics a bleak portrayal of a doomed relationship that could end at any time. (But when?) The instrumental final minute is in full colour with Downes back in the midst of the band. The homespuns have come off and there are smiles all round.
The Verlaines sing and play while sitting on a picnic rug under a tree, with assorted friends and family (and a dog) as fellow picnickers. Meanwhile mystic mask-wearing woodland creatures lurk behind the idyll. Cheap but certainly not without charms (there's even a feathery one hanging off the guitar). Check out a young Shayne Carter lounging under the tree fuschia.
This song from Flying Nun stalwarts The Verlaines comes from their 10 O'Clock in the Afternoon EP — the follow-up to their signature single 'Death and the Maiden'. The video was made at TVNZ's Avalon Studios where more than a few clips were marred by inappropriate treatments in the early-80s — but The Verlaines were spared unnecessary trickery, props or actors. With a simple set and an all but imperceptible transition from black and white to colour as the only effect, the focus is on the burning, claustrophobic intensity of song and performance.
"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.