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Interviews: Rhys Stannard – The ‘NZ Birds’ compilation

An interview with local musician Rhys Stannard about a collection of songs from the ‘cooperative community of understated Wellington artists’ that he recently curated.

New Zealand Birds – A Wellington Music Compilation
Cover imageFirstly can you tell us a little bit about yourself & the music you create under the name ‘Voe’?
My name is Rhys Stannard, I am 23 years old and have lived for the majority of my life in Wellington. I first started playing the guitar in year 9 with my friend Thomas Kelly who I met in my form class. We played a lot of music together and with friends throughout our college years. From the beginning we were inspired immensely by Tom’s older brother Sean Kelly who played in a band called Seth & Merle, later to become “Seth Frightening”. We played our first show together under the name ‘Oligocene Drowning’ on Friday the 16th of July 2010, supporting Alexander Metcalfe Wilson, ‘Seth Frightening’, and ‘Mammal Airlines’ (now called Carb on Carb). The poster is still on my wall at home, and they spelt our name wrong. Long story short we continued as a band playing our last show in 2014, during which we hit our peak playing at the Chronophonium festival. Unfortunately our drummer James Gibb pulled out at the last minute due to illness and we ended up playing a pretty messy set. Tom and I shared writing duties of the songs in the band (in a similar way to ‘Heatmiser’) and since I have been experimenting with recording as long as I’ve been playing the guitar I eventually had enough material to put together a collection of recordings I had done on my own.
The name ‘Voe’ doesn’t mean particularly anything to me. Before its use I changed my artist name frequently and sometimes I feel like changing it due to the fact that it isn’t very catchy or marketable like ‘Mermaidens’ or ‘Beastwars’. But then again neither is ‘Lontalius’. The music I created under’ Voe’ started out as songs that didn’t make it to band practice but now they are the product of my writing process. My ethos is that the more material I create the better it will become therefore using the recording process as a way of production both develops by song-writing and maintains my output so I don’t over-think what I’m doing. I always start my writing/recording process with a concept in mind, e.g. when recording my last album my house was too small to set up my drum kit so I had to use my dad’s drum machine. The current EP I’m working on I wanted to only record a maximum of four layers; vocals, guitar, bass, drums so it could be reproduced live by a three-piece. I don’t usually stick very closely to my concepts all the time but they give me a guideline to work towards.

Cover image Can you talk about how the compilation came to be and the bands involved? Did the bands donate songs from previous recordings or is there some new stuff here?
I can’t remember exactly why I thought it would be a good idea but somehow it gathered enough momentum to actually come together. Although you only gather momentum when you’re heading downhill…
About half the bands sent me a “hit song” of theirs and the other half sent me some new stuff. The cool thing was that some bands like ‘Kobra Club’ hadn’t released anything ever before so it was their first introduction.

Were they all groups or artists that you have worked with or played with in some context?
Yeah we’ve all know each other for years through various ways. A lot of the people involved have jammed with each other or played live with one another in some kind of way. ‘Pales’ and ‘Fyuko’s Fables’ are probably the most distant from me personally but I’ve been a fan of their work for years so it was cool to meet those dudes. I really had no requirement for any of the tracks to be recorded or written or played in any certain way. I told everyone who would listen to send me a track, some did, some didn’t. I was keen for anyone to jump on board who wanted to get as much music out there as I could.

Cover imageThere seem to be a bunch of mini-scenes within the Wellington, of like-minded bands with a similar approach or aesthetic based around the kind of music they make. Do you want to talk a bit about the co-operative nature of the Wellington music scene?
There is a lot of diverse styles of music being played in Wellington. Due to its small size the ‘scenes’ are quite small and like-minded artists tend to gather together. I feel like the artists that are involved in the compilation have a somewhat shared approach to music that binds us together. I don’t want to speak for the other people on this matter but I feel like our collective approach to music is not driven towards financial or social gain. Obviously we have a certain type of ego to want to create music and publish it and get up on stage but I feel like our goal isn’t to go platinum or sign to a record label, we measure success in a less tangible way. The compilation somewhat legitimises what we are all doing but doesn’t have an agenda other than introducing the music to people. The ripples that one band/artist make will reach a certain number of people, collectively, bands together can broaden the awareness of music – all it needs is a context in which it can situate itself in. I think a lot of artists I know have this problem where they don’t like putting their eggs in one basket. They feel like if they are associated to closely within a certain context then they will lose their artistic credibility.
Cover imageI remember watching a documentary about music in Dunedin in the 80’s and a lot of the artists interviewed felt uncomfortable about the use of the term “Dunedin Sound”. It’s a bit of a conundrum really because the nature of the music industry demands creating a marketable product. Probably why some of the artists I know have such low profiles. I think that Ian Jorgensen (Blink) the creator of A Low Hum etc did a lot of productive things by promoting alternative music in both Wellington and across the country. I think we need more people like him who are committed to making things happen. Although if you didn’t make music with a laptop you weren’t cool for most of the time that he was around. Also I think he definitely has some kind of agenda where he wants to be immortalised for the work that he’s done. Just saying. It would be cool if there was a label that supported underground bands in wellington. For a while I thought Sonorous Circle was doing sick things, but now it seems to be a link to the Al Jazeera home page.

Cover imageLastly the compilation’s release was celebrated with a live show at Moon, with proceeds going towards the Journey Of Hope charity? Do you want to talk a bit about that organization & what it does?
I was talking to my partner Kate about how we were going to split any money made from the show between all the bands and she suggested that I donate it to a charity which was a great idea. At the time I was studying my History degree up at Victoria University and one of my classmates who was the brother of a workmate (Wellington is a village) told me about his charity so I decided that would be the one to donate to. It’s set up to raise money for individuals with terminal illnesses that can’t afford their medical bills to prolong their life, the only charity that does this apparently. Alfie the creator of Journey of Hope would probably be the best one to talk to about it in depth though. I think we ended up making around $1,500? Definitely something I would do again. I’ve heard from people that it was more common for artists to put on shows for charities a few years ago but its trailed off a bit at the moment.

All covers sourced from Bandcamp. Used with permission.

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