With his band Tall Dwarfs and his later solo output, Knox brought art-damaged eccentricity to the stable of rough and ready pop acts. It wasn’t just that Chris Knox helped make the records, and even put the records around the shops for us in Auckland. Shepherd had just returned from the influential New Music Seminar in New York, a vital forum for exposing music in the USA, and interest in New Zealand bands has never been higher. Ben: I remember Martin Phillipps from The Chills saying that when they recorded and released those songs, it was the first time he’d ever heard himself played back. You’ll find the historical facts – the dates, records, personnel and places – and some analysis of the label, it’s ongoing history and that of its groups and key players elsewhere on this site. There was the overtly 1960s strum of Sneaky Feelings while The Stones seemed to prefer the drone of The Velvet Underground and twisted minimalism of Wire. And they did it anyway. Roger: He’s had a long association with Vogels. Ben: But he still has so much energy. Martin Phillipps had some of his best years in the mid-1980s. In early May 1984, Bill Direen’s Builders arrived in Hamilton for a Left Bank Theatre show. It’s not a period that Roger and Ben seem particularly keen to talk about. The by-then well established tropes the Flying Nun community believed in and promoted are all onboard as well. 1989’s home-recorded Seizure featured uncharacteristically tender love ballad ‘Not Given Lightly’, which became a smash hit in NZ and is still one of Flying Nun’s best known songs. It was also a musical finishing school.
It was in Auckland that they agreed to record ‘Tally-Ho’ on their way back down to Dunedin.
In fact Roy distributed Flying Nun releases in Dunedin in the early years and today Records Records would be referred to as a hub. Behind her, through the open door of his office, I can see Roger Shepherd, Flying Nun Records boss and possibly the most non-showbiz record company executive in the industry. And it’s currently in an ad for Vogels bread. A lot of the portraits he has done of family and friends are really remarkable and insightful.
The first four issues had already been picked up from Auckland record shops or direct by mail. Brooding Auckland Birthday Party boys Children’s Hour (the future Headless Chickens) and Christchurch art rockers The Expendables as They Were Expendable had one EP apiece – Flesh and Big Strain. After starting Flying Nun Records in 1981 I started working with a number of Dunedin based bands so I was spending many weekends in that town catching live shows by the likes of The Clean, The Chills, The Verlaines, The Stones, Sneaky Feelings and many many more but the highlight was always a visit to Roy’s (“Roi” to his friends) Records Records at the bottom of Upper Stuart Street. It’s so remote from the rest of the country.
There was only the promising Lost EP in 1985 and ultimately that was the problem. Roger Shepherd: I’d seen them in Dunedin in the late ‘70s, perhaps their first or second gig, and they were really rough. Te pātaka korihi o ngā puoro o Aotearoa. It gave space to creative voices that up until then had been little heard. Recorded on a simple 4-track, the record rose to No.19 in the charts and stayed in the Top 40 for nine weeks. It was an inward looking perspective that while useful in cementing local identity also temporarily blinded them to their wider potential. Cause of You 3.
The current stable of new artists touches on Flying Nun’s history but moves the label forward in powerful ways. As soon as I had the chance, I started writing about Flying Nun Records and the bands it released. It focused primarily on Dunedin and the Flying Nun Records roster, but coupled that with a rough construction of musical antecedents from indigenous punk and an acceptable lineage of musical outsiders, including The Go Betweens, The Cramps and Jesus and Mary Chain and casualties such as Roky Erickson and Alex Chilton. The Chills with Terry Moore back on bass had only released one single since their last visit.
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