Zed “Driver’s Side”

2001-zed-drivers-sideThis was the final single off Zed’s debut album and the last lot of NZ On Air video funding for Zed. Their second album “This Little Empire” had the might and power of Interscope behind it, happily funding fancy American videos for the group.

So perhaps it’s appropriate that Zed’s final video under Universal Music NZ has such a such a recognisibly Auckland location. The lads are playing up in the Kiwi Tavern building in Britomart, right next to the old Britomart parking building, just across the road from the old Britomart carpark building. The carpark – New Zealand’s first municipal carpark building – was demolished in July 2001 shortly after this video was shot, with the long-term redevelopment of Britomart launching soon after.

Anyway, back to the video. After a lost pizza guy gets directions, we find Zed playing in a first floor room of the old pub. It’s all going on like an ordinary music video, but suddenly the music drops away and we cut to a young couple pashing in a car atop the neighbouring parking building. The guy is distracted by the pop-rock he hears floating in the Auckland afternoon and stops the snogging. That’s right – Zed is a boner killer.

The sounds of Zed attracts a decent gathering of attractive young people who just happened to be hanging out at Britomart. It’s kind of a forward projection of the time when Britomart would be appealing enough to lure attractive young people instead of junkies.

The pizza delivery guy shows up and there’s a bit of subtitled humour as the band members mouth instructions to him. There’s more rock, the song ends and the crowd on the street below cheers then walks away.

I feel a bit sad that Zed ran away to America so I won’t have the opportunity to look at their later videos. But never mind – they still had a good run of six videos before moving on to bigger things. And I think that’s a pretty good situation for a NZ On Air-funded artist.

Best bit: the annoyed girlfriend demanded of her distracted boyfriend, “Are you gonna get back in?”

Next… when art and commerce collide.

Trinity Roots “Little Things”

2001-trinity-roots-little-thingsThis video can be simply summed up as an old man reflecting on his life. But it’s oh so much more than that.

People love this video. They love it hard. Looking at online comments, this is a video that homesick expats use to remind them of Aotearoa. It’s a video that reminds people of their absent friends and family. It makes people feel proud to be from New Zealand. One YouTube commenter was so moved that he pasted the haka as tribute.

At the heart of the video is acclaimed actor Wi Kuki Kaa. With most of the video being a close-up on his face, he effortlessly moves through a range of emotions. And here’s the really clever thing – he is subtly moving in time with the music. A twitch of an eyebrow, a quiver of the lip moving with the cut-up beats.

The video begins with the busy preparation of a hangi in the front yard of a villa, set some time in the early 20th century. The camera slowly moves in and we see the old man sitting on the porch. Zooming right into the man’s eye, reflected on his pupil we see memories of his past – courting his sweetie and walking with his grandfather.

Back on the porch, family members come to hongi and chat with him. There are moments of happiness on his face, but there’s still a deep look of a connection with the past. One young women seems to say something harsh that upsets him, bringing tears to his eyes. And seeing an old man cry is such a horrible thing.

But comfort comes with his mokopuna. A grandson leaps up and hugs his koro, bringing a smile to the old man’s face. The camera slowly pans out on the same house but it’s in contemporary times (complete with a loft conversion) and it’s bustling with friend and family, again preparing a hangi.

Chris Graham had directed a few funded videos before, but “Little Things” was the first that went from being just a promo video to a moving creation that still has a deep effect on audiences.

Best bit: the big smoking hangi pit.

Director: Chris Graham
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… waiting for the pizza man.

Tadpole “Number 1”

2001-tadpole-number-1Tadpole’s sixth NZ On Air funded video is a short rant against the scourge of “manufactured” bands. It seems a bit like barking up the wrong tree. New Zealand never had all that many manufactured groups, and the ones that were around didn’t exactly enjoy long, successful careers. TrueBliss – who also had a single called “Number One” – were over and done within a year of forming. It seems a little like punching down – here’s this successful rock band dissing struggling manufactured pop groups.

And indeed the “Number 1” video captures Tadpole at the top of their game. They’re performing on the main stage at the Big Day Out. Like Shihad’s “Bitter” video, the video uses editing tricks to disguise the fact that it was shot at a music festival and not their headline stadium gig. The stage is never shown in a wide shot and shots and the footage has been given a washed-out filter, all helping to masking the Big Day Out branding and town down the festival colour.

Lead singer Renee is wearing the most remarkable outfit. It’s a halterneck top with tight trousers that erupt in massive flares. It’s the sort of thing that would have last been seen on “Ready To Roll” in the 1970s, but the 2000s were the decade of bling and Renee wears those crazy bellbottoms with attitude.

It makes me realise that the early 2000s have refreshingly seen videos get a bit more showbiz. The keeping-it-real days of grunge are fading fast and bands aren’t afraid to give ’em the old razzle-dazzle. Of course, being New Zealand it’s toned down, still trying to keep it real.

Best bit: Renee’s Danzig-style röck göd pose.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… having a bit of a think.

Rubicon “Funny Boy”

2001-rubicon-funny-boyRubicon return with more punk-pop high jinks and this time they’re engaged in a fierce tennis tournament at the tennis centre in Parnell.

Playing triples (a form of doubles tennis, the interwebs tell me), their first opponent is the Nerds. Remember how nerds used to be scrawny guys with straight-parted hair, neat shirts and glasses? And then remember how guys who dressed like that became hipsters, while nerds were chubby guys with bad skin, World of Warcraft accounts and Game of Thrones t-shirts? Yeah.

Rubicon then face their next opponents, the Babes, a trio of attractive young women. It’s classic male gaze, with plenty of slow pans up the team’s legs. Bassist Gene is so flustered by all this carry-one (women! with legs!) that he dumps a bucket of water over his head.

In between matches, we also see Rubicon rocking out in the stands, both during the day and at night, making good use of the different areas in the stands.

The final opponents are Rubicon’s foes The Bad Guys, last seen in the video for “The Captain”. This time they’re wearing red-haired monster wigs. The Rubicon lads set the tennis ball machine on the Bad Guys and they’re soon out of the competition. Somehow Rubicon have also beaten the Nerds and the Babes, meaning they’ve won a giant comedy cheque for $20,000, which they accept making Doctor Evil finger poses.

Best bit: rather than wrangling friends as extras to fill out the stands, Rubicon use cardboard cut-outs.

Director: Scott Cleator
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… the old razzle dazzle.

Kingsland Housing Project feat. Stephanie Tauevihi “Nobody But You”

2001-kingsland-housing-project-nobody-but-youRoger Perry’s Kingsland Housing Project had Stephanie Tauevihi on guest vocals, giving her a sassier role her more restrained Strawpeople collaborations. The video is just a sassy, based around a cute animated world where a live-action Stephanie goes chasing after the man of her dreams.

Sitting at her kitchen window, farmgirl Stephanie longs for a handsome man in uniform. She dreams of going to a dance with him, dispensing of a flock of adoring ladies by using her mind powers to make a cluster of mirror balls fall on them, then shooting away in a rocket with captain handsome.

Back on the farm, there’s some drama with burly milkmaids, cows with fembot-type laser teets, a swirling vortex and a mysterious light inside the fridge. Will Steph get her man? Um, I’m not actually sure.

The video makes good use of Stephanie’s talents as an actress (at the time she was also playing Donna on “Shortland Street”) and it makes for a really entertaining adventure. The animation is basic but clever, done in a kitschy style that works with the character of the song. I like it!

Best bit: Stephanie’s fierce bitchface when her dream guy is surrounded by adoring ladies.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… anyone for tennis?

Mary “Helpless”

2001-mary-helplessSo what happens? I lament the lack of dancing in videos and suddenly it’s everywhere. In the final of Mary’s NZ On Air funded videos they’re going out with some line dancing.

Mary are performing in a line-dancing venue, and are decked on in their finest cowgirl threads, all check shirts, boots and hats. With echoes of “The Blues Brothers” (and predating 3 The Hard Way’s “It’s On” video), there’s a short chicken wire fence in front of the stage, no doubt to protect Mary from any bottles thrown at their legs and feet by angry line dancers. It happens.

For a song about relationship misery, it’s a sweet, lighthearted video. The group even join in the fun, getting down for some boot scootin’ on the dancefloor – though one of the Marys seems to be going for a woman-in-black look, lurking in the shadows behind dark glasses.

Mary had nine music videos funded, which puts them on par with artists such as Supergroove, Annie Crummer and Goldenhorse, but they didn’t come anywhere close to enjoying the same sort of success as those artists. But that’s ok.

I once read an arguement from a guy who reckoned that NZ On Air should only fund songs that would go on to be timeless classics. (And just imagine if there was a person who could magicaly pick which songs would still be around decades later. I suspect they’d be off making millions doing A&R for a major label, rather than slogging away at a government agency.) But I think there’s still a place for songs and artists that belong to a specific time and a specific place. A one-hit wonder isn’t a sign of failure, and neither is a band who has a burst of life then fades away.

I’m sure that NZ On Air were taking a punt on Mary, thinking that this all-girl group with silky pop harmonies might go on to have some hits, but it just didn’t happen that way. Instead we have traces of a fiercely independent band who released some EPs, some singles, made some videos, played a lot of gigs then broke up.

Best bit: the “no bottles” sign – it’s badass.

Note: The video was on Amplifier, but it’s since been removed.

Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… a farmgirl dreams.

Gramsci “Complicated”

2001-gramsci-complicatedHere’s an impressive piece of videomanship. “Complicated” was nominated for Best Video at the 2002 New Zealand Music Awards and it’s still a remarkable work. A collaboration between the man behind Gramsci Paul McLaney and director Ed Davis, the video has a deceptively simple premise: Paul stands and walks as the camera rotates around him.

The trick is what’s happening in the background. It’s an ever-changing tour of New Zealand. One moment he’s in the middle of the Queen Street-Victoria Street intersection, the next he’s on a deserted beach. A steamy Rotorua thermal wonderland leads to a spacies parlour.

What’s most impressive is the editing. A decade after Michael Jackson amazed audiences with the fancy new morphing technique at the end of his “Black or White” video, it was something that could be accomplished in a much lower budget video for a New Zealand indie artist. While the transitions between locations aren’t seamless, there were still plenty of moments that left me trying to figure out how it was done.

The video acts as a more honest New Zealand travelogue than you’d normally get. By selecting locations that have music video appeal, as well as sweeping coastal and vistas we also see less picturesque spots like an electricity substation and an industrial yard. It would be far more interesting to go a “Complicated” location tour of New Zealand than anything inspired by “Lord of the Rings”. Hey, that’s an idea…

Unexpected side effect: after watching this video a few times, I now feel quite seasick.

Directors: Ed Davis, Paul McLaney
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… boot scootin’ indie.

Goodshirt “Place to Be”

“Place to Be” is the third of Joe Lonie’s one-take wonder videos for Goodshirt. The concept has Goodshirt filmed walking around an old building while various amusing things happen to and around them. The video was filmed with the song sped up, so the slowed-down version gives the video a laidback feeling – much like the song. I believe the video was filmed at old St Helens Hospital on Pitt Street in Auckland, which was demolished later in the year.

So let’s take a look at the events of “Place to Be”. Murray enters, holding a bag of fresh fruit and a skateboard. Bro Rodney grabs a banana and eats it as he sings the song, which is really gross seeing his mouth full of half-chewed banana.

Rodney then wanders around the building where various interesting things happen around him. Champagne! Sledgehammers! Gumboots! Toilets! Aerobics! The aerobics ladies are a highlight of the video. Dressed in vintage ’80s Lycra, they conduct an energetic aerobics routine also of the era. Hey, this might also count as formation dancing. It’s important to note that back in 2001, ’80s retro had only just become a thing, so this scene was both hilarious and cool.

Watching the video now, I’m most intrigued by the building, especially the old fireplace in the lounge room. While the building has a cold, rickety feel to it, the presence of Goodshirt’s crazy world helps bring back some life to the old girl.

Best bit: the tray of half-time oranges, offered well before the halfway point of the video.

Director: Joe Lonie
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… it’s complicated.

Fur Patrol “Andrew”

2001-fur-patrol-andrewLyrically, “Andrew” is like the flipside of “Lydia”. Where the earlier song was a tortured cry to an ex-lover, “Andrew” is a cynical brush-off. And like the “Lydia” video, “Andrew” is also set in a nightclub (filmed at Calibre Bar in Karangahape Road), only this time the band has hit the dance floor.

The song starts off in a quiet mode, with the band slowly moving around a nightclub. All the other patrons are frozen in mid-groove, but everyone comes to life once the song gets bold and loud with the first chorus.

Julia saunters around the dancefloor, and it looks like there’s going to be a hoedown showdown between Fur Patrol and Andrew and the rest of the club. So far it’s all very cool, but things go up several levels when Fur Patrol break into some formation dancing, that pop staple.

I think the only other NZOA music video (so far) that’s dared to do formation dancing was Deep Obsession’s “You Got the Feeling”. Points to them for having a good, sincere go at it, but it felt more like a workout than dancing. But somehow Fur Patrol’s sarcastic, gothy dancing comes across much more slicker and accomplished. It might help that we don’t see much of them from the waist down.

The dancing woos the cool nightclub crowd, eventually turning the dancefloor from sneers into smiles. Such is the power of good choreography. More New Zealand music video should have dancing.

Best bit: Julia’s fake ponytail – long, sleek and plenty of power-swish.

Director: Jonathan King
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

DLT feat Ryad “Liquid Skies”

2001-dlt-feat-ryad-liquid-skiesThe city is no place for a horse. I’d complained about the lack of DLT in his previous videos, so it’s just as well that he makes an appearance in “Liquid Skies”. Guest vocalist Ryad isn’t in the video, but DLT’s daughter is, as is a white horse.

DLT is hanging out with the horse in a city parking building. Back in the olden days Auckland used to have places where a horse could be parked. Stable Lane in Newton, for example, used to house actual stables. But now what’s a person to do if they find themselves with an urban pony that needs a whare? You put it in a car park?

Fortunately this isn’t the horse’s permanent home. We also see it on the beach, having a really good, luxurious roll around in the sand. This is the horse of freedom.

There’s also footage of DLT in downtown Auckland, as well as random urban scenes from Tokyo. We see his young daughter wearing a Tino Rangatiratanga t-shirt, squinting in the golden sunlight.

It’s a supremely chilled out video for an equally chilled out song. Contrasting the horse in an urban and a coastal setting is so much more powerful than just having the horse romping around alone. And it’s great to see DLT appear again in one of his videos. It’s just a little sad that this was his last NZ On Air funded video.

Best bit: the horse having a good shake to get all the sand off.

Director: BG Riphead
Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision

Next… dance your cares away.