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|Cultural origins||Early 1980s, New Zealand|
The Dunedin sound was a style of indie pop music created in the southern New Zealand university city of Dunedin in the early 1980s.
Similar in many ways to the traditional indie pop sound, the Dunedin sound uses "jingly jangly" guitar-playing, minimal bass lines and loose drumming. Keyboards are also prevalent. Primitive recording techniques and occasionally hard-to-understand vocal accompaniment give this genre a lo-fi sound that has endeared it to university students worldwide.
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.
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). 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..." The growth of the Dunedin sound coincided with the founding of the student radio station Radio One at Otago University, 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.
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,and other overseas artists, such as Superchunk, Barbara Manning, and Cat Power, have covered Dunedin sound songs on several occasions. A 2009 tribute album to Chris Knox (who suffered a major stroke that year) included contributions from fan-luminaries such as Will Oldham, The Mountain Goats, Yo La Tengo, Lou Barlow, A. C. Newman, Stephin Merritt, Jay Reatard, and Lambchop.
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.
Dunedin sound artists include the following bands and soloists. Not all of these musicians are from Dunedin, but all show the influence of the music that emanated from the city in the 1980s.
Flying Nun Records is an independent record label formed in Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1981 by music store manager Roger Shepherd.
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.
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 Verlaines are a rock band from Dunedin, New Zealand. Formed in 1981 by Graeme Downes, Craig Easton, Anita Pillai, Phillip Higham and Greg Kerr, the band went through multiple line-ups.
Sneaky Feelings is a New Zealand pop/rock band, led by Matthew Bannister, which releases on NZ's Flying Nun Records music label. Formed in 1981 with the line-up of Bannister, David Pine, Kat Tyrie and Martin Durrant, Tyrie was replaced by Kelcher in 1983. Durrant was temporarily replaced by Ross Burge from 1988-1992 but later returned, maintaining the line up of Bannister, Pine, Kelcher and Durrant which continues.
Rock music in New Zealand, also known as Kiwi rock music and New Zealand rock music, began in 1955 with Johnny Cooper's cover version of Bill Haley's hit song "Rock Around the Clock". This was followed by Johnny Devlin, 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.
The Clean are an indie rock band that formed in Dunedin, New Zealand in 1978, and have been described as the most influential band to come from the Flying Nun label, whose repertoire included many major components of the "Dunedin sound". Led through a number of early rotating line-ups by brothers Hamish and David Kilgour, the band settled on their well-known and current line-up with bassist Robert Scott. The band name comes from a character from the movie Free Ride called Mr. Clean.
Shayne P Carter is a musician best known for leading Straitjacket Fits from 1986–1994, and as the only permanent member of Dimmer (1995–2012).
David Auld Kilgour is a New Zealand songwriter, musician and recording artist from Dunedin. He first started playing guitar as a teenager in the late 1970s. With brother Hamish he formed The Clean, a group that went on to become one of the most popular and most respected bands in New Zealand.
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.
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.
MediaWorks Radio is the radio division of MediaWorks New Zealand. MediaWorks operates 9 radio brands nationwide across New Zealand with the majority of the programming on these stations based from Auckland, in addition to the nationwide brands MediaWorks also operate several local radio stations in certain markets.
Peter Gutteridge was a musician from Dunedin, New Zealand, credited with pioneering the "Dunedin sound" with The Clean and The Chills.
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 planning inspiration, Edinburgh.
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.
"Pink Frost" is a song by New Zealand band The Chills. The song was originally recorded in 1982. It was released as a single in 1984. Its B-side was the instrumental track "Purple Girl". It reached number 17 on the New Zealand singles chart.