Various Artists #3: Awesome Feeling

As we talked about in Various Artists #2 with Go With The Movers, the mid 00s was a boom time for local music. It felt like there was a new band popping up every week. The ground was fertile - there were places for them to play, sometimes quite a lot of people to come see them, Blink was hitting his straps with his A Low Hum tours (which probably served to unify bands and audiences from across the country with tours that might not have happened otherwise) and the popularity of MySpace and more widespread internet access meant that new bands from all points of the country could get heard sooner. Amongst all that, in 2007 Real Groove (RIP, and not to be confused with the zombified corpse of Groove Guide these days) had a bold editor - Duncan Greive - who'd give a fair shake to the new Paris Hilton album just as soon as a four track recording of something noisy and exciting from Christchurch. And I seem to remember Stevie Kaye foregoing sleep and food and oxygen in an effort to get tracks from unheard artists up and down the country and write about them.

I don't like NME - I think it overhypes a lot of terrible UK bands because they need a new flavour of the month. But at the same time, you have to admire their willingness to champion great local music (even if the greatness of the music sometimes feels self-generated by the magazine itself). If there's a band that's killing it and doing fresh new things, you'll hear about it - and the whole new genre said band is supposedly spearheading. Maybe things are changing here, or maybe it's a population thing, but it feels like we don't have that same confidence in our own culture until it's been validated by various outside sources.

So Awesome Feeling was really awesome. Months earlier it'd been Liam Finn on the cover, which wasn't so out of the blue given his pedigree, but still seemed kinda bold ahead of his album release and its singles. Then for the issue carrying the Awesome Feeling compilation it was So So Modern front and centre, which must have been a shock to large portions of the public, but was so warranted considering the live phenomenon they'd become. Though they pulled pretty great numbers for a local band, it wasn't about the numbers at the shows. In terms of transforming an audience and actually getting Aucklanders to dance, they seemed unstoppable. They weren't alone in starting to peak. Cut Off Your Hands and Collapsing Cities became NME darlings, Bachelorette signed to Drag City, Diasteradio would tour the world. On the second edition it was the same thing, Street Chant had a four track demo as Mean Street (shot to the compilers for hearing a great song under the tape hiss and thin sound), it featured Princess Chelsea before she became a YouTube sensation, there was High Stakes - who had a #1 dancehall single in Jamaca, and AFII was the first place a lot of people heard The Naked and Famous before they had a record breaking #1 NZ single and turned heads the world over. Here's former Real Groove editor Duncan Grieve talking about the comp after the jump.

Listening back to this compilation, what do you like about it?
I guess I like that it's a pretty broad church. Stylistically, and geographically we made an effort to capture what the new sound was each year. I think, looking back, we caught a bunch of interesting artists at the moment they first started to move, which was cool.  There was pressure from sponsors and labels to pare it down, and make it a little more conventional at times – we lost one big sponsor as a result. But I'm glad we stuck to our remit – I hope that in years to come they'll prove more useful as a result.

Compilations document a certain musical moment. Can you paint a picture for me - what was happening in music at that time? And what did you want to preserve from that time?
I think the mid-late '00s saw a thousand flowers bloom in terms of local music, to a certain extent. I remember when I first starting reviewing live music for Real Groove in 2001 it was pretty moribund time – not many bands, not many venues, a lot of fairly ordinary dance music. I don't know why it changed – whether it was new venues, or a natural pendulum swing – but by the time Awesome Feeling one came around it was a far easier compile than it might've been a few years earlier. Musically, I think you were starting to see the impact of the internet on local music for the first time. In that people could really drill into their obsessions, rather than just taking whatever was locally released. So there was a lot more niche-y stuff, and a lot more diversity of sound overall. There's good and bad in that – I still lust for a band that unites rather than just shaves off an audience in the shadows – but it was a pretty new sensation at the time, and hence worth documenting.

Can you tell us about the moment when you decided this was something worth doing, and what was your initial concept for the compilation?
I can't remember who came up with the idea for the comp. I had been editor for about nine months at the time it was released, and was definitely concerned with trying to engage with the local scene in a more meaningful way, and stamp my presence on the magazine. Gosh that sounds conceited. But I guess I'd been obsessing about editing Real Groove one day for about ten years by this point, so now that had happened I was obsessed with not letting the chance go to waste. Looking back, I'm filled with what-ifs, things I would've done differently. But Awesome Feeling is certainly not one of them. From memory the concept was to tie together the most interesting new(ish) artists of the moment on one disc, for posterity, to see how they sounded together – and because we thought a lot of them were really good, and deserved the attention.

What did these artists have in common that made them belong on a compilation together?
Just geography (broadly) and timing. That was basically it. And being interesting. Surely that's enough?

Did it seem to springboard anything for any of the artists involved?
I couldn't possibly say. A bunch of those bands went on to have some degree of success – most notably the Naked and Famous, obviously, and High Stakes, who've had a number one dancehall single in Jamaica [they produced Only Man She Want for the artist Popcaan]. Truly, both those guys were going to get theirs regardless. But hopefully some of the other artists got exposure and a slightly bigger audience as a result. They would be able to say better than me, probably. But shit, even if it made their mums proud, I'd call that a win.

Tell us about your favourite track on the compilation.
Oh man. There are so many. 8 Hr Crush is a beast, It's Akaroa's Fault and the NSPC mix of Elixir Always. Damien and Monika Party at Yours still slays me. Clandestine, Shottaz Pon Di Way. Beez. Awesome Feeling itself. Honestly, there were very few songs I didn't like, and at least 20 or 30 I adored. So – pass.

Frase + Bri performing their impossibly catchy, yet sans chorus song 8 Hr Crush

Not counting this one - what's your favourite compilation?
Hmm. Lots of Jamaican music only really comes on compilations – Chantells and Friends and Keith Hudson's 'Studio Kinda Cloudy' stick out. Plus that killer Serious Times comp of a few years back. But the one which had the biggest impact on me was undoubtedly Rhino's cumbersomely (and somewhat misleadingly) titled DIY: Blank Generation – The New York Scene. It had some fairly straightforward punk/new wave stuff (Ramones/Blondie/Patti Smith), but some weird shit from around the edges – Wayne County, Mink DeVille – and was just immaculately assembled.

I was a teenage NME-toting Britpop fan, and this was the first 'scene' compilation I'd ever encountered. It was a passport to another time, and a new way of viewing what was possible with pop music. And it definitely was in my head when we made AF – to try and capture a bit of that breadth and energy (even if that level of quality was always going to be a stretch).

Is there anything else interesting that you can tell me about the compilation and its creation?
Hmm. I always think Nick Roughan's mastering was an underappreciated element of the package. We would get everything from low birate mp3s, to demos, to nice high quality .wavs. Somehow Nick always made it work – and for a tiny fee. Plus I got to sit in his studio and watch him work a bit, which was pretty damn cool.

Who did the artwork and where can we find their stuff?
Artwork was always by people on the comps – and came out great. Michael Logie of the Mint Chicks, F in Math and now Die! Die! Die! did the first, Matt Scheurich (Matt also appeared on AFII as the Star Wars-themed rapper MC Stormtoopa. Ed: and check out his newer music as Bow Arrow here) did the second and Liz Maw did the third. Liz is a super-successful artist in her own right – I guess music is her side gig – and I was shocked and humbled that she let us use her painting for AFIII.

Matt Scheurich's artwork for Awesome Feeling II

Tell me about the FIRST compilation you ever owned? Mine was Rhythm Volume 12/16/18 (not sure which one of those but it had a blonde girl with a red waterpistol on the cover) and I wish I still had it. 
Oh man. Probably John Taite's This is Not America, a spin off from his bFM radio show. It had like Sleeper, and Super Furry Animals and the Lightning Seeds – I don't know how some of that stuff holds up objectively (though hearing the Lightning Seeds on the Clueless soundtrack the other week made me happy as hell), but I loved it at the time. 

As always, you can try digging out these compilations from the Real Groovy bargain bin or borrow a copy from Auckland Libraries - request Awesome Feeling here and Awesome Feeling II here.

Unfortunately we don't have a copies of Awesome Feeling III or IV (which was the first mp3 edition but there may be some physical copies out there?) but if you have one of these a donation would be gratefully accepted, hit us up here. And it must be mentioned that the tradition of complete awesomeness continues with The Corner's stewardship of the compilation, go there to download the fifth, six and seventh editions of it.

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