Thursday, December 7, 2023

Flying Nun looks to shake ‘Dunedin sound’ tag

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Flying Nun records has been a mainstay of the New Zealand music scene for 40 years, but it is also an influential player in the contemporary indie market.

The label became synonymous with the ‘Dunedin sound’, jangling guitars from the likes of The Clean, The Verlaines, Look Blue, Go Purple and The Chills – and this association has been hard to shake, founder and co-owner Roger Shepherd said.

“People run into me on the street here in Wellington and they go ‘oh Roger, are you just up for a day or two from Dunedin’? and I go ‘well I’ve never lived in Dunedin’.

“It’s funny how that myth, it’s almost become a myth that the label itself was based in Dunedin.”

Shepherd said what helped the label endure was the fact that it was never focused on one location.

“That’s been one of the strengths, it never just was a Dunedin or a South Island record label. We had Chris Knox in Auckland, he was picking up on bands and things. It was always a bigger community of people.”

These days, Flying Nun is more prominent than ever.

With a shop on Cuba Street in Wellington and one on Karangahape Road in Auckland, as well as an Australian distribution wing and a shop in Melbourne, the label seems to be going from strength to strength.

Vera Ellen, who has released two albums through Flying Nun, said being involved with Flying Nun is special because of the legacy of the label.

“Being a part of something that’s bigger than just your own record or your own band – especially as a solo artist is really special.

“There’s definitely this new revival-era happening, and it’s exciting when you can actually feel like you’re in the time period that will probably once be reflected on and talked about as this particularly exciting era. There’s so many cool new artists on the label.

“There’s a quote unquote Flying Nun Sound and I think that’s very much expanding in this new era.”

Aimee Renata, who releases music as Erny Belle, echoed Vera Ellen’s sentiments.

“It’s something that I’m really proud to be a part of, I mean I love Flying Nun, I love the music, I love the artists.

“It’s a dream come true, something I wouldn’t imagine would happen, and then once you’re in it you’ve got work to do.”

A lot has changed since 1981, but the main thing the label is still focused on is releasing good, local music.

Director and co-owner Ben Howe acknowledged that it’s important to preserve the past, but focusing on what’s happening now is also essential.

“They’re both equally important to us, but at the same time it’s important to help people discover great new music as well and define our music going forward.

“In a way, even though people associate the label with the past, in some ways we’re probably having equal, if not more success today, at least in the past five or six years.

“Part of what’s brought it back is that we make sure that we stay with the original what Flying Nun ethos always was. It isn’t a mainstream thing, it is about New Zealand creativity.”

As for the future of the label? Shepherd agrees that it’s the music that matters.

“It might sound like a cliche, but I do think it’s about the music. Obviously that’s what made the label special in the first place – the bands we were working with and the music they were making.

“I think that’s the case now, and I think that’s what the opening of the shops was all about and based on really. We couldn’t do that without the music that we release on the label being strong.”

Alongside the current crop of bands, and the revival of vinyl records, Flying Nun is sure to be a prominent player in the New Zealand music scene for years to come.

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