Various Artists: Pressure To Be - 18 and under New Zealand

It can't be easy being an under-aged band. You can't play at bars (mostly), and if you play in a non-conventional venue it's really easy for someone to call noise control and have you shut down. Where do you play? How do you keep momentum after that riotous Rockquest performance that changed some of your schoolmates lives but didn't tick the boxes on the judges checksheet? And then with all that there's often a lack of financial means for instruments etc, curfews, lack of transport, still developing musical skills...

Hamilton used to have a thriving music scene in the mid 2000s. They might still do (do they?), but you wouldn't really know it because there's a dearth of places to play. I'm no authority, but from the outside it looked like one of the reasons why Hamilton had so many good bands midway through the last decade is there was a place for their youngest incarnations to play. Youth Zone was a venue in the city centre which was relatively affordable and accessible to young bands. From what I remember it was council run or subsidised. Bands young and old could play there and it was a skip and a jump, literally and figuratively, away from R18 venues like Ward Lane. It gave kids somewhere they could safely listen to or play music on Friday and Saturday nights. Youth Zone is gone now and it seems like it took Hamilton's thriving music scene with it. Our other main centres have had similar problems, when there's a viable all ages venue it's surprising how many incredible bands come out of the woodwork, but the venues come and go, and so do a lot of the bands. As an aside, you can see why Parachute became such a popular destination for underage punk/hardcore bands and fans (Christian and otherwise). If there's no venues in your town and your drummer went to church, you could play for kids from up and down the country  Parachute still seems to hold a place like that for punk and hardcore bands, but now with things like Camp A Low Hum and Chronophonium that kind of festival opportunity is becoming more available for good young bands.

Pressure To Be - 18 and Under New Zealand is a compilation of bands where the members were all 18 or under at the time. While playing live is filled with obstacles for young bands, these guys managed to find places to do it. Not to say that this is the only document of an all ages scene in New Zealand, but with all the barriers stopping young bands from being able to play and release music, a document of posterity like this feels really valuable. Even if our cities remain unhelpful towards underage bands being able to play live, at least the home recording revolution means that we'll increasingly have documentation of their music.

Something I really enjoy in these kinds of documents is that there's often some sort of statement in the liner notes. The compiler inevitably cringes at them, but they're pretty great in their context. I wish I'd been including these from the start. Here's a snippet from Pressure To Be's liner notes.

"We feel that there are too many good young New Zealand bands around for this [compilation] not to happen; there are many more exceptional young bands around, but these are our favourites. Even if some of these bands disintegrate over the next years, this won't be the last you see of these individuals."

I haven't seen too many of these bands, even though Pressure To Be isn't far removed from the time of Awesome Feeling and the heyday of A Low Hum. It's interesting to hear the compilers talk about the influence of Awesome Feeling on their compilation (it's worth noting one of the compilers of Pressure To Be was Nicole Gaffney, a member of Auckland act Moron Says What?! - a teenaged band of wunderkinds that  first came to many people's attention on Awesome Feeling II). And with Pressure To Be's proximity to that time, they feel like the second shockwave after that earlier boom of bands and their recordings.

It's not just age that ties the compilation together. With the cyclic nature of musical movements, there's a definite 1990s flavour that runs through the songs, a tendency towards distortion, with vocals low in the mix, a youthful disinterest in making anything with overt commercial ambition, but a lot of great songs. There's These Dancing Wolves recalling Dischord Records, the slacker vibes of Nevernudes on White Teethed Teens (cease and desist Lorde), wunderkind Shipwreck's (now renamed Lontalius) bedroom pop and the almighty racket of TFF.

 These Dancing Wolves with album opener Chief, King Sir

While there might not be any huge names on the compilation (at least looking at it now...) it seems like a pretty worthy moment, and a lot of them are probably doing/going to do amazing stuff down the track and we'll look back on their stuff on this compilation as this thing of precocious beauty. Let's hear from Pressure to Be compilers Nicole Gaffney and James Stuteley after the jump

Listening back to this compilation, what do you like about it?
J: We still enjoy all of the songs and like the way it flows, it comes across as a snapshot in time (which is cool because we intended that). I also like thinking about where the people from each band are now while I listen to it.

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?
J: Mostly it seemed like there were a bunch of kids doing great stuff and supporting each other in Auckland (I was in Wellington and hadn't met most of them) which to me seemed really valuable - being recently 18 myself I understood what it was like to not have that. We just really wanted to pull it all together and have something to point to and say "See how great this all is?". There was also definitely an aspect of proving something from my side, I felt like a lot of the better bands playing around then were young and not getting fair attention. To be honest that was actually in some part a hangover from high school where my music was ignored because it wasn't jazz or classical.

Can you tell us about the moment when you decided this was something worth doing, and what was your initial concept for the compilation?
J: As soon as we had the idea I knew it was worth doing! And when I realised probably no one else was going to do it that was it. Also Nicole being enthusiastic made the decision much easier. From the start we were using Under 21! Los Angeles: A Compilation of Rad Youth as a blueprint and we never really left that track.

N: We just kinda talked about all the awesome young bands in New Zealand at that time and decided that it needed to be documented. We also wanted to give encouragement to these bands to keep going after high school ended, as a lot of young bands end when uni starts because people go to different parts of the country. 

What did these artists have in common that made them belong on a compilation together?
J: Personal relationships, mutual appreciation, age and location, enthusiasm, willingness to reply to my emails.

Did it seem to springboard anything for any of the artists involved?
J: Most of the bands have expired! The compilation wasn't 'big' enough to do any springboarding - but it/the process has definitely been beneficial in terms of building relationships (for me in particular) and bringing people to other people's attention. That said I consider it a success. Maybe someone label person in the states will buy one of the K Records copies and sign one of the bands to Sub Pop and catapult them to success!

N: James did Eddie's (Shipwreck, who is now called Lontalius) first recordings in this style and that led on to many more EPs, a live band and heaps of awesome shows so I guess it helped get Eddie's music out, but he is also a master of the Internet so he probably didn't need the help. It lead to a good relationship between me and James and has encouraged us to keep making music together and work on other projects because it went so well. Although pretty much none of these bands exist anymore, a lot have them have gone on to create new bands, sometimes with members of bands that are also on the compilation, like Trust Punks - which is Cool Cult + Grass Cannons + Nice Birds and Taylor from Kitsunegari is in Lontalius (Shipwreck) etc. 

Tell us about your favourite track on the compilation.
J: Uh oh. I really like Shipwreck - Lontalius (artist name now Lontalius too) for its history. This quiet as 13 year old kid turned up at my house to record a track for Pressure to Be and just laid it down, recorded vocals confidently while I'm sitting there watching (Nicole can't do that even to this day ;) ), a really good song with interesting chords and lyrics that are better than most. In retrospect it blew me away.

N: I can't pick just one! I like every one of the songs for different reasons. Even though I didn't record or write the songs I still feel pretty attached to each one of them because we played them over and over and approached making this compilation like we would making our own ep.

Not counting this one - what's your favourite compilation?
J: Gotta be Awesome Feeling 1. Again for its history - it was me and my friends go-to hang out music in high school. I don't listen to many. Quite often compilations have really bad ordering or some tracks that kill it as a listen-the-whole-way-through. Haha I think our one is good but I guess everyone thinks theirs is. But there is a lot to be said for putting songs in a flattering order.

N: My favourite compilation changes all the time, as a kid I loved Motown and Soul compilations, as a teen I loved the Warped Tour and Punkorama compilations and i'll always listen to the Awesome Feeling compilations and the Under 21 Los Angeles compilation that the venue The Smell did that we based our compilation on. 

Is there anything else interesting that you can tell me about the compilation and its creation?
J: The reasonably famous US indie label K Records sells the CD on their website. For a while it was going to come with a zine, which never came to fruition - but we're seriously considering putting together a 'where are they now' sort of zine by the end of the year to coincide with 3 years since it was released.

N: We decided to do the compilation when we hardly knew each other but were keen to work on a project together which was quite weird for me.

Who did the artwork and where can we find their stuff?
N: I did the artwork, I found this cool 70s swimming instructions book that had the images of the boy rolling around in what I thought looked like a womb, like a weird ultrasound image. I drew in the blood cells and added text. It's really different to my other work which is on

Tell me about the FIRST compilation you ever owned? Mine was Rhythm Volume 16 and I wish I still had it.
J: I think it was Unleashed - maybe affiliated with The Rock FM? Pretty sure I would cringe the whole way through now. Wanna know a little known bit of my past? - My favourite song when I was 13 was The Red by Chevelle off that compilation. Teen angst ++

N: My parents had this compilation called Soul Satisfaction that I was so obsessed with that they just gave it to me. It was the best comp of awesome songs like Me and Mrs Jones by Billy Paul, If You Don't Know Me By Now by Harold Melvin and The Blue Notes and Theme from Shaft by Issac Hayes. 

I listened to it until it was way too scratched and I knew all the words to all the songs. Only listening back know I realise how inappropriate some of the songs on it were for a 7ish year old (e.g. Let's Make a Baby and Let's Get It On...)

If you'd like to borrow the CD from Auckland Libraries collection, it can be found in the catalogue here. If you'd like to listen online, or support the compilers/artists involved, it's available as a name-your-price download on Bandcamp.

Please send any suggestions for a future piece via the comments.

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