If there was a movie about the two-thousands this would be a scene.

20 Mar

Everything looks better retrospectively. Everything looks safer. And cooler. Everything looks more culturally significant. Everything seems to click into place better with everything else, which helps us to understand it. We can now be proud of our nation’s suffragettes. We tip our hats to those who fought to stop the tour. Heck, travel overseas and you may even find yourself beaming proudly in defense of legal brothels. But it’s important to recall how we as a nation felt about these things at the time. Isn’t it hard to believe now that in 1981, there were people who would rather watch a game of rugby than put a stop to apartheid in South Africa? (Prime Minster, John Key, for example.)

But this isn’t a political blog.

I want to draw your attention to something that is happening right now, in your city. It’ll be easy to miss, because for one reason or another, when it comes to bandwagons, we New Zealanders prefer to jump aboard at the very last minute. But I don’t want you to miss it. It’s too important to miss.

It’s the music of your place and time.

This post is the first of several featuring artists you may not be aware of. These posts aren’t just some indulgent PR exercise on behalf of bands I like. Think of them as evidence in an attempt to prove the significance of New Zealand’s contemporary cultural product.

Anyone who spends every night of the week at The Wine Cellar will tell you the same thing: Anthonie Tonnon is New Zealand music’s most incisive social demographer. He’s also one of its few decent storytellers. His band isn’t half bad either.

With a new album ready to launch, Tono and the Finance Company will be looking to capitalise on the very solid foundations Tono has worked to establish since leaving Dunedin a few years back, sans-band, for the promised land of Auckland. Sometimes it feels like a whole generation of Dunedin musicians followed him here. Either that, or they are breeding brooding songwriters somewhere in Grey Lynn.

For Tono, the move has paid off. His tight new live band secured a career-defining spot on Beirut’s recent New Zealand tour. This is the kind of opportunity for exposure that every local band needs in order to step above the figurative plateau that is Auckland’s Karangahape Road. But for all sorts of reasons (many self-inflicted), few bands are so lucky.

I believe that (respectable) advertising is one force with the power and resources to raise the profile of local artists. I’m not talking about those musicians bent on imitating international trends, I’m talking about the ones responsible for some of the best, most relevant, and most exciting local social commentary available to Aucklanders today.

It makes sense that the words that resonate closest with us, in terms of our personal experiences, should originate from just down the street. From the perspective of an advertising creative, I feel like brands are blatantly missing opportunities to align themselves with local songwriters. And from a musician’s perspective, it hurts to watch far-better local bands passed over by the advertising and entertainment industries in favour of some six-month old flavour imported from a trendy Brooklyn loft, or worse, a beach-side Santa Monica mansion.

The cringe days of the New Zealand cultural product have supposedly passed on, and while the stigma may have dissipated, what stands firm is the notion that foreign culture reigns supreme. This flies violently in the face of the everyday reality. Certainly Flight of the Conchords may have transformed the international perception of New Zealand telly, but how did it make you swell up with pride to watch Insider’s Guide To Happiness for the first time? How much more gripping was growing up with the sci-fi of Maurice Gee, knowing that every new installment had arisen from our own spooky landscape? How infintely more important is Forgotten Silver to the way we view ourselves as a cultural entity than Lord of the Rings could ever be?

There are chunks of our cultural history that we have grown satisfied to celebrate. The Flying Nun era of music, for example, is something brands are perfectly willing to pair themselves off with. As an inherently risk-adverse industry, advertising seems delighted that a dozen or so of these classic songs test well in research. I’m not suggesting we argue with the research, they’re great songs.

But would they have appeared in a Hallensteins TVC circa 1986?
And are they relevant songs, now?

To me, the music created for us here, and now, will always be more important than that which is written for other places, and other times. It’s a damning insight into the workings of New Zealand’s advertising industry (and even our national psyche) that the only way we can ever enjoy our country’s musical talent is in retrospect.

It must be even more frightening for artists like Tono, who deserve the recognition (and could probably put a decent publishing cheque to good use) right now.

Tono and the Finance Company’s new album is set for release via listening party tomorrow evening (Wednesday 21 March) at D.O.C. Bar. Get down there and shell out for the record – it’ll be amazing. Oh, and pop back here soon for the next rant.


4 Responses to “If there was a movie about the two-thousands this would be a scene.”

  1. Ivy March 20, 2012 at 4:38 pm #

    Important for said local artists to know, however, that they should get advice from someone in-the-know before signing any agreements with ad agencies for the use of their songs – cause a lot of less scrupulous ad-men-and-women view local artists as ‘cheap’ and easily duped, and will treat them as such.

    • jonoaidney March 20, 2012 at 4:48 pm #

      General rule of thumb: Start at $1,000,000 and work your way down based on ad-man-or-woman’s facial expression. If botox, abort immediately.


  1. Here I was thinking I was cliché. « The Shortest Word. - April 11, 2012

    […] was post 3/3 on the subject of New Zealand’s local musical product. Read post 1/3: If There Was A Movie About The Two-Thousands This Would Be A Scene Read post 2/3: Fire On The Radio In Your Hotel Sharing is […]

  2. Fire on the radio in your hotel. « The Shortest Word. - April 11, 2012

    […] Uncategorized ← If there was a movie about the two-thousands this would be a scene. Here I was thinking I was cliché. […]

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