Lil’ Chief Records is the label I’ve volunteered at and helped run for
over a decade now – it’s based in Auckland New Zealand and was founded
by two musicians Scott Mannion and Jonathan Bree. The label turns 20
this year so I figured why not pick my top 5 favourite songs we’ve
released. For people who are fans of Princess Chelsea – there is a
wealth of great undiscovered music for you to explore!
We started off all as volunteers, and for the last 20 years have built
up a great catalogue of New Zealand indie pop with a home production /
bedroom recording focus. With the international success of some of our
early artists The Brunettes and The Ruby Suns partnering with Sub Pop
and the unexpected virality of ‘The Cigarette Duet’ the label now has a
bit more of an international profile. We recently started working with
Secretly Distribution globally so Lil’ Chief Records releases will be
available most everywhere!
1. Shaft – Alive Alive
Shaft are probably my favourite New Zealand band and revolves around the
songwriting talents of Bob Cardy from Dunedin. Bob Cardy was also a
member of Flying Nun band The Axemen. Bob’s songwriting to me is like
hearing a classic song from the 70s, and Shaft’s live performances are
old school wild, loud and raucous rock n roll. Shaft are not well known
outside of New Zealand and even in New Zealand these days, but Bob is
still making music having released a new single ‘Meteor in Your Mind’
from an album in the works.
Album to check out: Down At Your Life
2. Nudie Suits – Little Too Loose
The Nudie Suits are a really interesting country pop band – I reckon a
little bit influenced by Jonathan Richman and classic pop like the
Beatles, but a lot more influenced by country-music before it went
electric. The Nudie Suits feature sisters Dionne Taylor on Hawaiian
Steel guitar and Tamasin Taylor on violin and Jonathan Bree’s cousin
Mark Lyons on guitar and lead vocals. Local legend John Segovia has
been a long time member. This song is about Bob Cardy from Shaft.
Album to check out : Sweetacres
3. The Gladeyes – Honey Pie
This is from The Gladeyes second album ‘Shadows Explode’ . The
Gladeyes are the project of musicians Gwen Norcliffe and Jade Farley.
Their second album is a dreamy guitar pop album that reminds me a little
bit of Galaxie 500 and maybe it’s kind of like Alvvays on valium – very
pretty slow pop songs with great guitar playing and melodies.
Album to check out: Shadows Explode
4. The Brunettes – Tell Her
The Brunettes first album was the first release on the label 20 years
ago and is the project of a young Jonathan Bree and Heather Mansfield.
Heather Mansfield is an outstanding live musician performing multiple
parts on keyboards, clarinet, harmonica and glockenspiel while
delivering wonderful vocal performances on stage and in the studio like
a total Queen.
I think ‘Tell Her’ is a great example of her vocal prowess and also
showcases the string arrangements Jonathan Bree would later become more
known for when his song ‘ You’re So Cool’ became an unexpected hit a few
Album to check out: Holding Hands, Feeding Ducks
5. The Reduction Agents – The Pool
The Reduction Agents were my favourite band as a cool teen on the
Auckland scene – I think I once hitchhiked to one of their early gigs
underage with my cousin. They have sweet 1960s style pop songs courtesy
of James MIlne (Lawrence Arabia) but then stamp on the distortion pedals
and get heavy and wild with the swagger only young hip 20 somethings who
believe they are the greatest band in the world can have. I think at
the time they probably were the greatest band in the world. We recently
reissued their only album ‘The Dance Reduction Agents‘ on white vinyl.
Album to check out : The Dance Reduction Agents
For those of you who are interested in a more detailed background – the
great New Zealand long form music journalism website ‘Audioculture‘ did
a piece on our label a few years back.