Dunedin sound

Last updated

The Dunedin sound was a style of indie pop [ citation needed ] music created in the southern New Zealand university city of Dunedin in the early 1980s.



According to Matthew Bannister, Dunedin sound "was typically marked by the use of droning or jangling guitars, indistinct vocals and often copious quantities of reverberation." Many Dunedin sound bands drew inspiration from punk rock, as well as pop, rock, and psychedelic music of the 1960s. [1]


The Dunedin sound can be traced back to the emergence of punk rock as a musical influence in New Zealand in the late 1970s. Isolated from the country's main punk scene in Auckland (which had been influenced by bands such as England's Buzzcocks), Dunedin's punk groups, such as The Enemy (which became Toy Love) and The Same (which later developed into The Chills), developed a sound more heavily influenced by artists like The Velvet Underground and The Stooges. This was complemented by jangly, psychedelic-influenced guitar work reminiscent of 1960s bands such as The Beatles and The Byrds, and the combination of the two developed into the style which became known as the Dunedin sound. [2]

New Zealand-based Flying Nun Records championed the Dunedin sound, starting with its earliest releases (including The Clean's single "Tally Ho!" and the four-band compilation Dunedin Double EP, from which the term "Dunedin sound" was first coined [3] ). Many artists gained a dedicated "college music" following, both at home and overseas. In July 2009, Uncut magazine suggested that "before the mp3 replaced the flexidisc, the three axes of the international indie-pop underground were Olympia [in Washington State] ... Glasgow, and Dunedin..." [4] The growth of the Dunedin sound coincided with the founding of the student radio station Radio One at the University of Otago, helping to increase the popularity and availability of the music around the city. Christchurch student radio station RDU, popular in student flats at the time, was already playing plenty of Dunedin music as early as 1981, while commercial radio stations in New Zealand barely featured any "homegrown" music until a voluntary code was introduced in 2002. [5]

The development of parallel musical trends such as the Paisley Underground in California and the resurgence of jangle pop contributed to growth in the popularity of the Dunedin sound on college radio in the USA and Europe. The heyday of the movement was in the mid-to-late 1980s, although music in the style is still being recorded and released.

Pavement, R.E.M., and Mudhoney cite the Dunedin sound as an influence, [6] and other overseas artists, such as Superchunk, [7] Barbara Manning, [8] and Cat Power, [9] have covered Dunedin sound songs on several occasions.

Post 2000 a new batch of Australian bands, often referred to as “Dolewave” were heavily influenced by the Dunedin Sound. Its influence continues to permeate independent music to this day (see Wikipedia on Dolewave)

A 2009 tribute album to Chris Knox (who suffered a major stroke that year) included contributions from Will Oldham, The Mountain Goats, Yo La Tengo, Lou Barlow, A. C. Newman, Stephin Merritt, Jay Reatard, and Lambchop. [10]

In 2000, a "Dunedin sound" showcase was presented as part of the Otago Festival of the Arts, held in Dunedin. This showcase featured performances by The Clean, The Chills, the Dead C, Alastair Galbraith, the Renderers, Snapper, and the Verlaines. KFJC 89.7 FM, an American college radio station based in Los Altos Hills, CA, broadcast all six nights of the Dunedin sound showcase live to the San Francisco Bay Area via its FM signal and worldwide over the internet. The following year, a double CD documenting these broadcasts was produced for the station's annual fund-raiser.

Related Research Articles

Indie rock is a subgenre of rock music that originated in the United States, United Kingdom and New Zealand from the 1970s to the 1980s. Originally used to describe independent record labels, the term became associated with the music they produced and was initially used interchangeably with alternative rock or "guitar pop rock".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jangle</span> Guitar sound and technique

Jangle or jingle-jangle is a sound typically characterized by undistorted, treble-heavy electric guitars played in a droning chordal style. The sound is mainly associated with pop music as well as 1960s guitar bands, folk rock, and 1980s indie music. It is sometimes classed as its own subgenre, jangle pop. Music critics use the term to suggest guitar pop that evokes a bright mood.

Flying Nun Records is a New Zealand independent record label formed in Christchurch in 1981 by music store manager Roger Shepherd. Described by The Guardian as "one of the world's great independent labels", Flying Nun is notable for bringing global attention to the Dunedin sound, a cultural and musical movement in early 1980s Dunedin, which gave rise to modern indie rock.

Chris Knox is a New Zealand rock and roll musician, cartoonist and movie reviewer who emerged during the punk rock era with his bands The Enemy and Toy Love. After Toy Love disbanded in the early 1980s, he formed the group Tall Dwarfs with guitarist Alec Bathgate. The Tall Dwarfs were noted for their unpolished sound and intense live shows. His 4-track machine was used to record most of the early Flying Nun singles.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dunedin</span> City in Otago, New Zealand

Dunedin is the second-largest city in the South Island of New Zealand, and the principal city of the Otago region. Its name comes from Dùn Èideann, the Scottish Gaelic name for Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland. The city has a rich Scottish, Chinese and Māori heritage.

The Verlaines are a New Zealand rock band from Dunedin. Formed in 1981 by Graeme Downes, Craig Easton, Anita Pillai, Phillip Higham and Greg Kerr, the band went through multiple line-ups.

Sneaky Feelings are a New Zealand pop rock band which releases on the Flying Nun Records music label. The band formed in 1980 with the line-up of Matthew Bannister, David Pine, Kat Tyrie and Martin Durrant. Tyrie was replaced by John Kelcher in 1984. Durrant was temporarily replaced by Ross Burge in 1988 for the band's second tour of Europe.

Rock music in New Zealand, also known as Kiwi rock music and New Zealand rock music, rose to prominence first in 1955 with Johnny Cooper's cover version of Bill Haley's hit song "Rock Around the Clock". This was followed by Johnny Devlin, sometimes nicknamed New Zealand's Elvis Presley, and his cover of "Lawdy Miss Clawdy". The 1960s saw Max Merritt and the Meteors and Ray Columbus & the Invaders achieve success. In the 1970s and early 1980s the innovative Split Enz had success internationally as well as nationally, with member Neil Finn later continuing with Crowded House. Other influential bands in the 1970s were Th' Dudes, Dragon and Hello Sailor. The early 1980s saw the development of the indie rock "Dunedin sound", typified by Dunedin bands such as The Clean, Straitjacket Fits and The Chills, recorded by the Flying Nun record label of Christchurch. New Zealand's foremost hard rock band Shihad started their long career in 1988.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Matthew Bannister (musician)</span> Musical artist

Matthew Bannister is a Scottish-born New Zealand musician, journalist and academic. Originally from Dunblane in Scotland, he moved to New Zealand with his family when he was 17.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Clean</span> New Zealand indie rock band

The Clean was a New Zealand indie rock band that formed in Dunedin in 1978. They have been described as the most influential band to come from the Flying Nun label, which recorded many artists associated with the "Dunedin sound".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">The Chills</span> New Zealand rock band

The Chills are a New Zealand rock band that formed in Dunedin in 1980. The band is essentially the continuing project of singer/songwriter Martin Phillipps, who is the group's sole constant member. For a time in the 1990s, the act was billed as Martin Phillipps & The Chills. In the 1980s and 1990s, The Chills had some significant chart success in their homeland and were a cult band in other parts of the world as one of the earliest proponents of the Dunedin sound.

Able Tasmans were an indie pop band from Auckland, New Zealand, initially formed as a duo in 1983. They released four albums and two EPs on Flying Nun Records before splitting up in 1996.

An independent music scene is a localized independent music-oriented community of bands and their audiences. Local scenes can play a key role in musical history and lead to the development of influential genres; for example, no wave from New York City, Madchester from Manchester, and grunge from Seattle.

<i>Dunedin Double</i> (EP) 1982 EP (Double) by Flying Nun Records

The Dunedin Double EP was a seminal record in New Zealand music. An unusual format, it contain two 45rpm 12" discs, and at nearly 50 minutes length, it is longer than many albums.

The Enemy were a punk rock band from Dunedin, New Zealand, that are often seen as the starting point of the Dunedin sound rock movement.

Garage was a music fanzine based in Dunedin, New Zealand, which was created and edited by journalist Richard Langston. Six issues were published during the 1980s. The first issue was only 18 photocopied pages and produced in a very small edition, but the final issue was printed in a run of more than a thousand.

Jane Dodd is a New Zealand musician and contemporary jeweller. From 1982 to 1984 she studied for a Bachelor of Arts at the University of Otago, majoring in Phenomenology of Religion with additional papers in Anthropology, History, Art History, Maori Language and Philosophy. She is well known for her role as a bass player in early Dunedin-based Flying Nun Records groups The Chills and The Verlaines, was a long-standing member of Auckland group Able Tasmans, and occasionally played with side-project The Lure of Shoes.

Herriot Row is the musical moniker of New Zealand songwriter Simon Comber who has also recorded and performed under his own name. The moniker references the street Heriot Row in Dunedin, which in turn references Heriot Row in Dunedin's counterpart, Edinburgh in Scotland.

Kaleidoscope World is an early song by New Zealand band The Chills. It appeared as the first track on the Dunedin Double, a seminal EP shared between four bands, which launched those bands' careers nationally and internationally.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jangle pop</span> Music genre

Jangle pop is a subgenre of pop rock or college rock that emphasizes jangly guitars and 1960s-style pop melodies. The term originated from Bob Dylan's song "Mr. Tambourine Man", whose 1965 rendition by the Byrds became considered one of the genre's representative works. Since the 1960s, jangle pop has crossed numerous genres, including power pop, psychedelia, new wave, post-punk, and lo-fi.


  1. Bannister, Matthew. "Anything Could Happen - Flying Nun History 1980-1995". Under the Radar. Archived from the original on 28 October 2017. Retrieved 13 February 2021.
  2. Roy Shuker Understanding popular music Routledge, 2001
  3. Staff, Bryan & Ashley, Sheran (2002) For the record: A history of the recording industry in New Zealand. Auckland: David Bateman. ISBN   1-86953-508-1. p. 144.
  4. Uncut issue 146, July 2009, p81
  5. "New Zealand music quota for radio". New Zealand Herald. 26 March 2002. ISSN   1170-0777 . Retrieved 18 April 2016.
  6. Williamson, laura, "Three decades under the influence," 23 July 2010. Retrieved 17 April 2014. Archived 23 July 2013 at the Wayback Machine
  7. Superchunk have covered songs Archived 19 April 2014 at the Wayback Machine by The Chills, The Verlaines, and The Clean.
  8. Manning's album In New Zealand included covers of tracks by The Clean, The Bats, and Chris Knox, among others.
  9. Cat Power has covered Peter Jefferies' The Fate of the Human Carbine .
  10. Breihan, T. "Chris Knox tribute album details revealed", Pitchfork. 11 November 2009. Retrieved 17 April 2014.

Sources and further reading