Miss June, The Miltones, Whaea & the Rumble; if you’ve been keeping rough tabs on Auckland’s music scene over the last few years then chances are you will see some familiar faces in Bad Timing. Forming partially because, as singer/guitarist/songwriter Chris Marshall notes, “We all wanted to start a band where we weren’t playing our primary instruments,” the recent jazz school graduates have, in the space of a year, turned their new project into one of the most arresting current acts to emerge from the city. Ben Lynch posed the questions.
Auckland’s Bad Timing are taking on complicitness, climate change and capitalist power-structures, one gig at a time.
Fronted by vocalist/guitarist Chris Marshall plus co-vocalist/bassist Siobhan Leilani, alongside keyboardist Sean Martin-Buss and Chris Townsend on drums, Bad Timing’s sound is a conglomeration of influences ranging from post-punk to surf-rock, fueled by the collective activism of the four-piece. Preceded by tales of their furious live shows and singles such as the riling 100% Pure, the arrival of the band’s debut EP, ‘Might As Well Be Cabbage’, in early April was met with some fanfare, in no small part because of the conversations that are at the core of the release.
Tackling topics such as the effects of climate change, our complicitness in the face of challenging situations, and what the band see as the overarching issue of capitalism, Bad Timing are as uncompromising as they are hilarious on the EP. 100% Pure is a damningly direct attack on the long-marketed concept of Aotearoa being, well, ‘100% pure’. While retaining their anti-capitalist stance, songs such as Tui and Avoca-Don’t, betray both the band’s humour and clear love for the world around them. Given recent events, both local and worldwide, these are issues that require an increasing amount of consideration, and whether or not you agree with them, Bad Timing present their case with gusto.
“All of the issues we focus on in each of the songs are stuff that most people in their mid-twenties, and other disenfranchised people, go through on a day to day basis,” argues Marshall.
“The main themes are environmental, and Avoca-Don’t and [first single] Day Job are anti-capitalist, because capitalism has had a really negative effect on our society and our earth. It’s been one of the main drivers behind the negative environmental change that’s been happening – like deforestation, overfishing, factory farming, all of that shit is a result of trying to make capital. And then we also focused a bit on being complicit, trying to call out ourselves on being complicit in situations that would make you feel uncomfortable.”
Marshall and co. demonstrate a sincere commitment to their admirable cause. Topics weren’t picked as aimless venting or rallying calls, but result from living in an environment where such issues and financial constraints are a reality. Bad Timing’s music is intended to try and make a genuine difference, whether that be via the intensity of a live show or the messages presented on the EP.
“I think the roots of what we’re trying to get across is a more compassionate world, and to get to that we have to take off all these layers of all this crap that’s going on, so I do think it’s important. People who don’t agree with you won’t listen if you don’t try and bridge the gap.
“We’re trying to bring people in, and the best way to do that is to make them feel comfortable.”
Reaction to the band’s approach has, on the most part, been positive. Although fairly low key, Bad Timing are slowly garnering increased attention and appreciation among Kiwi music fans. Gigs in Auckland and Wellington following the release of ‘Might As Well Be Cabbage’went well, the Auckland crowd in particular good.
“A lot of people seem to enjoy the lyrics which is good,” Marshall smiles on the response they’ve had to the EP. “We’re definitely trying to keep quite a political focus in our songs, but the response has been pretty good”.
Looking ahead the hope is that the momentum Bad Timing have been building, and the conversations they’ve been having, won’t simply dissipate into thin air. There are plans for more recording, perhaps leading to an album in 2020.
As well as the music, it’s the attitude of the band members that lends weight to the view that the messages they’re trying to spread will continue to resonate with audiences. Behind the expletive-riddled rants and tunes lamenting the woeful price of avocados (having grown up in Chile, Marshall has a particular passion for the fruit), Bad Timing are a group of people trying to do a good thing. While the music gives them the front and draws attention from music fans, personal integrity counts for just as much in their cause for wider activism.
This is something Marshall seems all too aware of, and as anyone serious about fighting for change should understand, he knows there needs to be an element of diplomacy to the band’s work in order for any real progress to be made.
“We all want to live in a better world, and we all know that the best way to start it is to start talking about it,” as he sagely puts it.