Dana Scully's well into it...
“Apparently they can live up to 90 days.” It’s around 8pm in Auckland, New Zealand and in Peter Ruddell, keyboardist and vocalist of post-punk trio Wax Chattels, has crickets behind his fridge. Their chirping permeates our entire conversation but the sound, if quite loud, isn’t exactly unpleasant. It’s a common occurrence these days thanks to New Zealand’s hottest summer on record, but that doesn’t make it any less of a nuisance. “If they’re still in there, it’s 3 months of this shit, man,” huffs Ruddell.
If not quite the nation’s ecology, New Zealand’s cultural exports continue to resonate with the UK and US, not least because of the nation’s place in the global imagination. “You know New Zealand is sometimes called Godzone – like God’s Own Country – and made out to be this place that everyone should emigrate to, a place where there’s nothing but beaches and sunshine,” Ruddell says. Much of the scenery familiar to Brits looks holiday-brochure pleasant: palm trees and glorious weather at one end, deep green bush and sheep farming on the other (with the occasional Hobbit and rap-funk-comedy folk duo). “It’s all lies,” Ruddell half-jokes.
Apart from Flight of the Conchords, two things come to mind when you think of New Zealand music; buoyant jangle pop, and the legendary Auckland label with which the genre is now synonymous, Flying Nun Records, home of acts like The Bats, The Clean, and a host of other influential ‘the’ bands. Recent signees Wax Chattels’ fitful, downcast post-punk fits the label’s other, stranger canon, starting with the misanthropic noise of The Dead C and continuing today with the vocally-nimble freak folk of Aldous Harding. Admittedly, this divergent timeline is less well-known abroad, but frequent Flying Nun co-sign, Brooklyn’s Captured Tracks, is set to raise awareness, according to drummer Tom Leggett: “I guess they want to remind people that it’s dark and sad here in New Zealand too.”