Supergroove “If I Had My Way”

Supergroove had creative differences. The lively pop-rock-funk group of teens had turned into a rock band of serious young men, average age 22. The band was downsized (sending Che Fu out into the world on his own, where he did just fine) and adopted a new sound, less funk and more rock.

At the time, I came across a Supergroove fan site, kept by an enthusiastic Australian fan who was really excited about their new album. But her excitement turned to disappointment when the album was released. Who were these miserable bastards and what had they done with Supergroove?

“If I Had My Way” was the first single of “Backspacer”, a showcase of the band’s new sound. The song has some really fine moments (the opening hook is sweet), but its weaknesses are apparent. Karl’s singing voice isn’t strong enough to carry the song, the group’s vocal harmonies sound like a new trick they want to show off, and the song is about a minute too long. But what about the video?

Directed by bass player Joe Lonie, the video is based around a faux TV show. Clad in their trademark black, the ‘Groove assemble infomercial exercise machines and then ride them in crazy sped-up footage, while the lyrics repeatedly ask “Who would you kill?”

The band also leave the confines of the studio and play in a pigsty (with real pigs and real mud), an ice skating rink (while ice hockey players hoon around them) and the dramatic finale – playing on a desolate beach with a flaming piano as the tide comes in.

There doesn’t seem to be any logic behind these locations, other than they look interesting. It almost feels like the band didn’t have enough confidence in their new sound and so were trying to distract viewers with a crazy music video.

This video won Best Video at the 1997 New Zealand Music Awards, beating the videos for Shihad’s “La La Land” and Dam Native’s “Behold My Kool Style”. It was the third win in a row for Joe Lonie, and the second for Siggi Spath, but I’d say those other two videos are more beloved and have held up better over time.

I feel a bit sorry for “Backspacer” era Supergroove now. From all accounts, they weren’t in a good place at this stage and they broke up soon after. But despite all the misery, “If I Had My Way” still has a hint of the playfulness and energy that infused their first album. Karl wearing lipstick and singing with pigs? Go on, lads!

Best bit: the pigs, happily nomzing on scraps, oblivious to the band playing in their shed.

Directors: Joe Lonie, Sigi Spath
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

3 thoughts on “Supergroove “If I Had My Way””

  1. ’97 I would always have my alarm clock tuned in to the station playing supergroove tracks, hoping to hear anything new or current from them.
    Their creative genius mixed with singing talent made every one of their tracks a pleasure to listen to.
    And then they pulled plug.
    These guys would be rolling in it by now if they’d worked it out together (and wrote back to their fans!!! grrrr!)

    Supergroove will always be a part of me. And if they have reformed they certainly are being very quiet about it! Where are you guys? And when is the next tour? Hello?

    1. They’ve played a few gigs, but they also have other things going on in their lives so they’re not gigging like they were 17 years ago. Karl is in a surf-rock band called the Drab Doo Riffs, who are quite good.

  2. They would be rolling in it by now if they’d stayed together? Ah, no. Their world tour on the back of their first album cost a ton in advances ($ from their record label), and they didnt pay those off in full until the early 2000s. Which is why they waited til 2003 to release a Best Of compilation, as they had recouped their expenses, and finally stood to make some money off their music. And of course there’s the numerous reunion shows more recently… cos folks will pay for nostalgia. But staying together would not have made them money.

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