Since appearing on the scene in 2017, high-energy retro blues-rock five-piece Mini Simmons have been bringing a colourful ’70s West Coast vibe to our ears and stages. Celebrating the release of their recent single Push And Pull with a nationwide tour, we asked the band to capture the spirit of their own favourite tunes and influences in a Spotify playlist, and provide a few words about some of their picks. Brad Craig (vocals, guitar) and Emily Mackie (vocals/keys) compiled a list of explosive, groovy and quite personal tunes.
Tickets for the tour are available here.
I stumbled across Adam Hattaway one night while walking past The Thirsty Dog. He and his band The Haunters were playing a show with Reb Fountain so I popped in and was instantly blown away. I’m a sucker for anything with a bit of country influence and Adam has that going, plus more! I’ve chosen Sympathy off his latest album ‘Woolston, Texas’. It’s a straight-up classic rocker with tinges of The Stones, complete with searing guitars and wailing falsetto vocals.
Whisper Dish is the solo project of Tim McNaughton. I think I first met Tim while I was in Dunedin playing with my old band Two Cartoons, since then we occasionally crossed paths whenever Mini Simmons was on the same bill as Marlin’s Dreaming, who he used to play guitar for. His new stuff as Whisper Dish is excellent, a tasty blend of lo-fi, psych and garage rock. Super groovy sounds, especially considering it was all written and recorded by Tim in his home studio. They Don’t Know was the first single released and as soon as I heard it I loved it. Reminded me a lot of Wooden Shjips with its driving drums and hypnotic guitar riff.
We were lucky enough to be selected to cover Benee’s Soaked at the APRA Silver Scrolls in 2019. I don’t think I’d heard the song when we were asked but quickly fell in love with the beautifully simple structure of the song. It’s essentially the same chords throughout, but the way the chords are voiced, and the melody written it feels fresh when each section rolls around. Really clever and catchy writing. It’s got a skippy, half-time, hip hop feel to it, so when it came around to us covering it we injected a bit of Mini Simmons’ energy by giving it a double-time feel, and blues-ing it up by adding harmonica and guitar solos.
Our favourite Spanish band we came across at the second Nest Fest festival. We played the first year as Mini Simmons, and I played the second time around with Flamingo Pier. These guys are pure garage rock’n’roll, with notes of The Clash and more bendy surf rock moments thrown in at times. They also make incredible videos which are all worth checking out, kind’a Wes Anderson-meets-Tarantino. Los Telepaticos are based in Madrid and I hope someday we can make it over there to tour with them, as I think it would be a match made in heaven. Dificil De Explicar has a bit of a Brian Jonestown Massacre vibe going on with the riff, with some country flavours thrown in a la Dead Flowers by the Stones. I don’t speak Spanish, but the melodies and textures they create are so catchy and on point that it transcends language. Gotta love that about music!
Rachel Kibblewhite and I both studied music in Dunedin and played in the band Cinco together for a couple of years. She is a talented songwriter and performer, and I’ve been lucky enough to be called in to record keys on some of her Rubita tracks, as well as the odd gig. Told Ya So reflects the enthusiasm and energy she puts into her music and gives you a taste of her funky Spanish influences.
Molly Rowlandson is another epic wahine friend of mine making some seriously groovy tunes. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing her jazzy band perform on many occasions as well as linking up for a few tours together with Debbie Fear. My highlight was getting to join the band on tambourine and cover UMO’s banger Can’t Keep Checking My Phone. Molly is a force to be reckoned with… hold tight.
Marlon is my favourite NZ musician. I first witnessed the band live at the Black Barn amphitheatre a few summers ago and was absolutely amazed. His mana and stage presence accompanied his flawless vocal delivery and skilful multi-instrumentation. I fell in love with his encore rendition of Tahu Potiki and proceeded to notate the harmonies and chords with the intention of teaching it to the school kapa haka where I was teaching at the time. Marlon was an asset to my lockdown life of 2020, sharing precious videos with his fans, including the entire ‘Live At Auckland Town Hall’ concert which was a treat during concert-less times. Party Boy is an uplifting, toe-tappin’ song that contrasts some of his more mellow ballads.
I officially joined Mini Simmons last year. Having met at Nest Fest 2019 we played a friend’s wedding together and a handful of album release shows. During my teaching school holidays I was able to tag along to their summer tour with Racing. The whole experience was insane and I had serious post-tour blues returning home to Hawkes Bay after nearly a month on the road! After playing our opening sets we would bounce in the front row together, or stage dive. Run Wild was the theme song of the tour, but Devil’s Work went off just as hard on the D-floor.
Ed, the Blisser, invited the boys to bartend his wedding in exchange for recording a few tracks, and Travelling Show was released last year as a result. We played an intimate acoustic set at his Guitarnival festival at Lewis Eady last year, getting to play a range of beautiful instruments. Ed recorded his album ‘Mirth’ during lockdown and put a band together to perform a special one-off album release show at Whammy at the beginning of the month. Brad and I were a part of recreating his clever studio-crafted tracks alongside a bunch of legends and we miss our weekly Monday rehearsals. When Your Tears Have Dried was one of our favourites to play.