Listen: Silver Scroll Awards Finalists

New Zealand's well-respected songwriting awards, The Silver Scrolls, announced their five finalists last week. Here's a bit of background on each of the nominees...

Street Chant - 'Pedestrian Support League'

The main songwriter behind Street Chant is Emily Littler, who also plays solo as Emily Edrosa. She first began playing with bass player, Billie Rogers, around a decade ago when the pair formed a band called Mean Street. The band morphed into Street Chant a few years later, though kept a reference to their old band in the name of their first album, Means (2010). Their early successes included touring Australia in support of Jack White's band, Dead Weather, and playing the SXSW festival.

The recording of their new album, Hauora (2016), was a more difficult process and it ended up being a full six years since the predecessor. The nominated track, 'Pedestrian Support League', captures some of the ennui of the band at the time, as Emily recounted in a piece for Pantograph Punch:
"When I wrote it, I had just come back from a long stint of touring overseas with only occasional trips home, and I’d moved into a crummy flat in Grey Lynn. I felt an extreme sense of ennui amongst my peers, and especially in myself, around that time. A few years ago, I had felt excited for the future. So had most of my friends: now they were "seeking existence, or just commitment, or even just a job". Now, I was paranoid that my flatmates were stealing all my margarine."

The Phoenix Foundation - 'Give Up Your Dreams'

The Phoenix Foundation formed over two decades ago and have been among the top five finalists for the Silver Scroll Award on four previous occasions, so they probably have a great chance of winning this year. Band member, Luke Buda, has actually previously been a co-winner of the award for his minor contribution to the Lawrence Arabia song, 'Apple Pie Bed.'

'Give Up Your Dreams' is the title track of their album, GUYD (2015), and is a reaction to the current world's obsession with presenting a perfect version of oneself on Facebook, Instagram, etc. In a more personal way, it is also about the band trying to survive in a world of streaming and illegal downloading, in which it is increasingly difficult to make enough money to keep creating their work.

Luke Buda explained the genesis of the song to Radio New Zealand, during a recent live session:

"I was having the most intense - I hate the word but - 'career angst'. Just basically worried about being able to continue to make music. It wasn't like - it's a bummer I won't get to play Wembley like I wanted to. It's more like - next year there might not be enough money for me to record an album. That caused me  considerable angst. Because I room with Sam on tour, he got a bit pummeled by it. And it would surely be that he was feeling it too. So it was kind like a survival tactic - stop whining and get on with stuff, as the song says."

Tami Neilson - 'The First Man'

Tami Neilson began her career in her home country of Canada, where she joined her four siblings in family band, The Neilsons. She moved to New Zealand in 2007 and immediately broke into the local country scene through regular touring and making connections with other like-minded artists such as Delaney Davison and Marlon Williams (both of whom have contributed to her recordings).

She already won this award back in 2014 with her song 'Walk (Back To Your Arms)' (off Dynamite, 2014), which was written with her brother, Joshua. Her currently nomination song, 'The First Man,' was written with her other brother, Jay, about the death of their father, Ron. In fact, Ron's influence can be seen across Neilson's latest album, Don't Be Afraid (2015), since the first track is a re-working of one of his early demos, 'Lonely.'

Lydia Cole - 'Dream'

'Dream' is the first single off a forthcoming Lydia Cole album that was funded through a Kickstarter campaign which hit its goal of raising $10,000 in just five days (eventually reaching $15,000).

Her first release, the Love Will Find A Way EP (2009), received the support of Neil Finn who not only organised for her to record at his Roundhead studios, but also played Wurlitzer for the session. She went on to record a second album, Me and the Moon (2011), which the Herald called "Winningly vulnerable."  She has played some large festivals such as Parachute and Rhythm and Vines, but has only managed a small (though loyal) audience to this point in her career, so hopefully this nomination will provide a perfectly timed boost to her career before the release of her new album.

Thomas Oliver - 'If I Move To Mars'

The Thomas Oliver Band were a reasonably popular roots group hailing from Wellington, who released the album, Baby I'll Play (2009). However Oliver himself gained worldwide attention when he took up the Weissenborn slide guitar and started posting videos of himself on Youtube - most notably, his cover of the Jurassic Park theme song that now has over a million views!

He is now a solo act and his nominated track, 'If I Move To Mars', captures his rootsy guitar playing and soulful voice in full effect...

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