Dunedin’s underground pop scene is flourishing, in large part thanks to part-time label Fishrider Records. Founded in 2006 primarily to release material by Dunedin legends The Puddle, Fishrider became the city’s known home of melodic, off-centre pop in 2011 with the release of Opposite Sex’s eponymous debut album. Ian Henderson’s diligence in communicating directly with overseas tastemakers, bloggers and radio types, has led the label to an international profile that far exceeds its local recognition. Bands have noticed too. Now Henderson has rounded up the label’s artists, showcasing their talents with a new compilation, ‘Temporary’ – an exhilarating look at the label’s music and creative minds, as Amanda Mills reports.
’ owner Ian Henderson
explains that the title of his label-plus compilation ‘Temporary’ is a deliberate play on words.
“Dunedin is a transient place for music… a place that people pass through… or if born and brought up here, they probably can’t wait to get out!” Henderson laughs. “Things don’t tend to last forever, or very long. [Also] doing it on vinyl, weirdly, is a way of making something that’s temporary a bit more permanent.”
‘Temporary’s’ accompanying ’zine is introduced by Henderson, who explains ‘the idea… was to have an analogue, physical accompaniment for the LP… to document the scene and the people.’ The album was curated to authenticate and archive the distinctive new music emerging from the city. The sub-title reads ‘Selections from Dunedin’s pop underground 2011 – 2014’.
“An element, or reason for doing ‘Temporary’ is to give that scene a document of what it was… People can look back and go, ‘Yep, that was what was happening’.”
Thoughts of a compilation album had been lurking in the back of Henderson’s mind for a while. All the acts are chosen by him, so ‘Temporary’ represents the music he loves. Getting tracks from the label’s bands – Males, Opposite Sex, Trick Mammoth, The Prophet Hens and The Shifting Sands – was straightforward. However, he realised there would not be enough material, and so broadened his search.
“When I [listed] all the artists I wanted… it dawned on me that everybody was related. Many bands overlap in terms of people and the shows that they play.”
Henderson approached non-Fishrider acts Bad Sav, Mr Biscuits, Mavis Gary, Astro Children, Strange Harvest, Kane Strang, Scattered Brains of the Lovely Union, and Death & The Maiden, all of whom said yes. The process of collating the album started mid-2013, but was put on the backburner due to other releases on the label.
At the start of 2014 assembling ‘Temporary’ started in earnest, and Henderson admits it has pretty much consumed his year. His first thought was to use previously unreleased material that few people would have heard. Opposite Sex’s garage-y live demo Supermarket was recorded by Henderson and the band, while The Scattered Brains of the Lovely Union’s loose, psychedelic Party To Your Om was “a song I’d recorded… I’m just waiting for them to do something with it!”
The songs on ‘Temporary’ don’t fit any mould – Males’ falsetto-led, guitar-pop Dead Aware sits alongside to the hypno-trance of Death and the Maiden’s Flowers For The Blind, while Mr Biscuits’ thrashy, punky My Plums Are Ripe shares space with the most ‘Dunedin-esque’ song on the compilation – All Over The World by The Prophet Hens. It’s this cohesion-through-dissimilarity that makes ‘Temporary’ compulsory listening.
‘Temporary’ is a co-release with US label Ba Da Bing Records, who came on board later, after founder Ben Goldberg heard the Trick Mammoth LP and contacted Henderson directly. The co-release is unique, Goldberg was keen to see how it would go, as he is releasing Hamish Kilgour’s solo album.
“He thought it was a really good pairing… a heritage artist from Dunedin and the continuation of the story,” Henderson laughs.
Speaking of the story, it’s almost impossible to ignore the elephant in the room – the ongoing comparison with the debated ‘Dunedin Sound’. ‘Temporary’ has been compared to Flying Nun’s ‘Tuatara’, and 1982’s ‘Dunedin Double’.
“I’d never want to compare it,” is Henderson’s emphatic response. “One of the comments I make… is the frustration people must feel… of bands in Dunedin always being compared, or judged, against something that happened quarter of a century ago.”
A thought occurs about a potential Fishrider Sound, though Henderson laughs and looks bemused.
“I don’t think there is… [there are] different elements… a bit of electronica from Strange Harvest, and Death & The Maiden, so it’s not all kind of jangling! That term ‘underground pop’, that’s… slightly tongue in cheek… it’s underground, because 99% of people wouldn’t know this music exists.”
‘Temporary’ is released on CD and vinyl, a major focus for the label.
“Doing something on vinyl, getting 1000 pressed… it’s like archiving by replication… it also [indicates] that what you’re doing is serious.”
Henderson has high hopes for his label’s first compilation release. “It will be interesting to see how it goes. If nothing else, I’m sure it will be an item of curiosity!”
Fishrider has albums by Kane Strang, Death & The Maiden and Strange Harvest lined up, and possibly a second Opposite Sex LP too. As small and niche as it is, the label is (in theory) self-sustaining.
“In reality, the slow cash-flow between paying for vinyl upfront and waiting for income from sales is a killer, Henderson admits, hopeful that ‘Temporary’ recoups its costs soon.