Rock music has been part of lives for many years, and it seems it’s getting more embedded in our societies. That is why many rock bands have established a solid and dedicated following around the world.
One of those bands is “The Verlaines.” The band remains one of the most influential bands from Dunedin’s first wave of new groups that became prominent along with their then Christchurch-based record label, Flying Nun.
The Verlaines’ tracks are studies in dynamic, dramatic rock — whether they’re guitar-based or punctuated with all types of classical instruments, the informed structure of the tracks always impress, and excellent lyrics thread poetic narratives, often laced with drunkenness and black humor.
The group was named after a renowned French poet Paul Verlaine—not, as is sometimes suggested, Tom Verlaine, who also got his stage name from the poet. The band was recognized for their downbeat and wordy lyrics, angular, “difficult” structures of the song, and unusual subject matter all covered in often wild up-tempo performance.
Quick Start Guide The Verlaines:
The Verlaines is an indie rock band from Dunedin, New Zealand. It was formed in 1981 by Graeme Downes, Anita Pillai, Craig Easton, Greg Kerr and Phillip Higham. The band has gone through several line-ups. The band first came into limelight in the early 80s as part of the list of artists signed up to the famous Flying Nun Records Company.
Graeme Downes formed the band he was pursuing classical music course at Otago University. Influences came from the bands such as the Bob Dylan and Ramones. Even in the group’s early days, Downes’ songwriting has incorporated rock influences with his background in the classical music (currently, he is a Ph.D. holder and lectures at Otago).
The original members of this dramatic and literate New Zealand guitar pop band included the guitarist, singer and the leader Graeme Downes, keyboardist Anita Pillai, guitarist Craig Easton, drummer Greg Kerr, and bassist Philip Higham.
Both Pillai and Easton quickly left, and the band remained a three-piece for the rest of the decade. The initial team remained in a continuous state of flux, though, and of the original group, only Kerr and Downes remained by the moment of their debut on the 1982 Dunedin Double Collection EP, recorded with the bassist Jane Dodd.
Kerr was then replaced by the drummer Alan Haig for the 1983 track “Death and the Maiden,” for several fans the typical Verlaines single; the lineup was eventually strengthened with the replacement of Haig for the drummer Robbie Yeats, who first performed on the 1984 EP 10 O’Clock in the Afternoon.
The band’s full-length debut studio album, 1985’s Hallelujah All the Way Home, was first delivered as part of a masterpiece project for Graeme’s honors-level music class; he got an “A” grade for the record that bore the tremendous influence of his classical experience in its demanding compositions, as well as its brass and orchestral flourishes.
After the 1986 “Doomsday” track, the band reemerged a year later with the superb Bird Dog LP. An extensive layoff followed as Graeme pursued his Ph.D., and the band — with the new bassist Mike Stoodley – didn’t appear again until the 1990 album Some Disenchanted Evening.
Yeats left soon after, and the drummer Gregg Cairns finally replaced him. After recording 1991’s Ready to Fly, the band expanded to a four-piece following the addition of the second guitarist Paul Winders; after Cairns had left, new drummer Darren Stedman was recruited in time for 1993’s Way Out Where.
After that record, Graeme soon decided to take a teaching job at the Auckland Institute of Technology. The group went on hiatus after releasing Over the Moon in 1996. Graeme issued his own album, Hammers, and Anvils, in 2001 for Matador but otherwise concentrated on his academic career for the following few years.
In the later part of the decade, Graeme reunited with Winders and Stedman, brought in bassist Russell Fleming, and issued a new record every few years under the Verlaines. Pot Boiler was released in 2007 via Flying Nun, Corporate Moronic followed in 2009 for the new label Dunedin Music, and 2012’s Untimely Meditations discovered them back with the Flying Nun again.
The recorded debut of the band was on the influential Dunedin Double EP that was released via Flying Nun Records and was the debut of many bands that would proceed to be vital to the Dunedin Sound’s mythology.
After an EP and a series of tracks, The Verlaines released their first full-length studio album Hallelujah – All the Way Home in 1985. Just like their previous releases, at the heart of these tracks were tales of romantics and drunkards all embellished by instrumental flourishes and guitar blasts.
It was an excellent debut for a group that would continue for more than 30-years to a career, boasting constant building intensity, all the way while declining to stick to one tone or pitch. Even the more upfront tracks cannot help but take unanticipated turns, and it’s no wonder that songs such as “Phil Too?” and “The Ballad of Harry Noryb” quickly became the highlights of every show of the band.
They released a career retrospective, You’re Just Too Obscure for Me, in 2003. The Verlaines also worked on the soundtrack for the 2012 film Eden, collaborating with screenwriter Rebecca Tansley, and actor Adetokunbo Adu. A track from Eden, What Sound is This? was featured on their album Untimely Meditations in 2012.
Did not see any gigs planned for the Verlaines when we checked mid 2017, the last album release was Untimely Meditations in 2012 but stay tuned!