Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Old Stuff: The Chills

The Chills, along with The Bats and the Clean, were part of the music scene that put New Zealand on the indie rock map. The Chills were formed in Dunedin by Martin Phillipps in 1980. The first three singles were "Rolling Moon", "Pink Frost, and "Doledrums" which, in addition to being stunningly good songs for a new band, defined the broad spectrum of The Chills' artistic range: Psychedelia; Folk; Pop; and Rock. The band's sound was characterized by chiming guitar hooks and vocal harmonies, but with a rock/indie edge.

"Rolling Moon" is one of my favorite songs from the band:

There were many line up changes in their journey; I recall reading that there were ten different versions of The Chills, with Phillipps being the only constant member. The original drummer, Martyn Bull, died of leukemia a few months after "Pink Frost" was recorded. The band had a successful European tour in the mid-80s, but two members resigned at the end of the tour. Phillipps added bandmates and recorded and lived in New Zealand and London. In 1992, Phillips ended The Chills. There were brief subsequent editions in '97 and 2004, but the albums produced didn't make an impact with the public. As noted at the bottom of this post, there is a current version of the band.

In addition to Phillipps and Bull, players over the 1980-1992 period included Peter Gutteridge, Alan Haig, Jane Dodd, Rachael Phillipps, Fraser Batts, Terry Moore, Peter Allison, David Kilgour (briefly), Martin Kean, Caroline Easther, Andrew Todd, Justin Harwood, James Stephenson, Gillian Dempster, Steven Schayer, Earl Robertson, Lisa Mednick, and Craig Mason.

"Heavenly Pop Hit", shows The Chills in their most pop mode:

Perhaps The Chills' best know song is "Pink Frost". The song was the subject of much discussion regarding whether the death discussed in the song was an actual death. Apparently it was a song about a dream of a partner's death, but the speculation that it concerned a real incident probably helped the song's popularity. This video is from a 1988 live performance:

I don't know how many of The Chills' recordings from 1980 to 1992 remain available, but New Zealand's iconic Flying Nun label released a compilation entitled Heavenly Pop Hits in 1994. It includes all of the band's singles from that period plus a few uptempo favorites of The Chills' fans.

My research shows that Martin Phillipps has formed The Chills yet again. The current members, in addition to Phillipps, are Todd Knudson, James Dickson, and Erica Stichbury. The website and Facebook links are below.

Website for current version of The Chills

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