Some of my favorite indie rock in recent years has come from Australia and New Zealand, though I haven’t been able to tell whether this constitutes any kind of defined scene.
The most prominent example is Tame Impala who, when not selling out stadiums or headlining festivals, is one Australian guy named Kevin tinkering in a Perth studio. Then you’ve got King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, who share Tame Impala’s psychedelic leanings but with exponentially more genre-hopping, band members, and albums released per year (five in 2017 alone), 2,000 miles across the continent in Melbourne. Further up the coast in Sydney is Courtney Barnett, our generation’s preeminent deadpan raconteur. Look across the Tasman Sea and there’s Aldous Harding, who made brilliant indie folk on New Zealand’s South Island before relocating to Wales earlier this year (she’ll get her own entry here later). And up in the North Island, you have Auckland’s indie pop prodigies The Beths.
These five artists all come from a distant part of the planet that I lump together in my head, but in terms of pure distance it’s roughly the same as if they were from Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, Havana and San Juan, respectively. That’s not a scene, that’s a hemisphere.
So I have no idea if The Beths have anything to do with all the other Australasian rock I’ve been into lately. They’re plenty good enough to stand on their own though. Trained as jazz musicians at the University of Auckland, the group plays guitar-driven power pop with big harmonies, a sound that falls somewhere between their Kiwi forefathers Split Enz and early Weezer. Lead singer/songwriter/front-Beth Elizabeth Stokes writes lyrics equal parts clever and earnest, and the band plays at energetic New Wave tempos that show off their collective musicianship in tight 3-4 minute bursts. The song that first hooked me is “Whatever,” the catchy-as-hell lead track from their debut EP Warm Blood.
As I write this, The Beths’ next show in Brooklyn is five months away and sold out. So whatever’s going on in their general part of the planet, I’m not alone in wanting more of it.