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Bird Nest Roys

Bird Nest Roys

Interviewed by
Natalie Finnigan
Monday 22nd July, 2013 1:54PM

Bird Nest Roys emerged out of West Auckland in the eighties but could have easily come from Dunedin, so was there connection to the sound so often ascribed to that city. After years in out-of-print/non-digitised obscurity, Bird Nest Roys music is finally available again via Flying Nun who have  collected all their releases,  including their debut album, an EP and 7" single, into a collected works reissue titled Me Want Me Get Me Need Me Have Me Love. Here is 'Big' Ross chatting with Natalie Finnigan about the band's history and the new release...

Hi Ross, where do you live now and what are you up to?

I’m back in Auckland and I have two boys. The oldest one Harry (7) has just discovered music. He likes the Beatles, Ramones, Buzzcocks and Michael Jackson - just like his dad. He loves Chinese Rock by the Ramones and sits in the car singing "I'm living on chinese rock, all my best things are in hock,” which is a worry.

Have you continued to make music?

I think when you create music as a kind of muse, as something you have to do, rather than as something you do when you are young, you will always write songs. I have a home studio where I still work on songs and play with our drummer Pete and Dom.

Why the re-release now?

Flying Nun was just taken over by Ben Howe, who is organised and motivated like they have never been. We are hopefully just one of many re-releases. I have hassled Ben at social events about getting old FN material out. My idea was to put it all online for free and see what happens, which no-one liked. It was frustrating to me that the only way I could possibly hear the Dunedin EP or the Double Happies single was to go round to my mate’s place. It has always been ridiculous, but I wasn’t really pestering Ben to release our stuff. My suggestion was to start from FN001 the first release and work forward… Hopefully it will all happen.

Had you listened to your music much in recent times, before being asked to re-release the material? If no, what was it like going back to it?

We reformed and played at my wedding about 8 years ago which was really great. We had a sound that I had forgotten about, which is about loud guitars and harmonics. Dominic (Stones) and I have always been mad about amps and guitar sound. Anyway the second we played again it was back. We always felt the records didn’t 'get' that sonic thing. Some songs are terrible! "Who Is The Silliest Rossi?" used to be really powerful live and it sounds really wimpy on the recording.

It is a mystery to me how to get that elusive harmonic stuff you hear sometimes on a recording. When it works really well you can hear phantom singing – organs, trumpets, all sorts of shit. The failure to capture that magic element in the ether of guitar sound has long been a frustration to me. If anyone knows how to do it, let me know!

Was there any work done on the original recordings, i.e. re-mastering etc?

I think so - I don’t know how much. Flying Nun had no copies of anything and I think have had to borrow copies off Mark Busser who has everything.

Do you still keep in contact with many of the artists you met in the 80’s who were with Flying Nun?

Many of them are still friends. The hook up between the Auckland Flying Nun guys like us and Goblin Mix resulted in many hook ups. Half the Look Blue Go Purple Girls ended up with the Auckland guys. Some of them are still together (ALF and Norma). Some Flying Nun gigs are like big reunions with friends for us. We all made many, many mates through Flying Nun and have ended up living together etc.

Reflecting back, what factors do you think shaped the Dunedin Sound?

I always thought the reverb reflected the cold down there. For me nothing will say ‘Dunedin’ more than the LBGP first album. It reminds me so much of that time. It gives goose-bumps. Also, that great old New Zealand guitar amp sound… and The Clean influenced everyone. For me many early Flying Nun bands released their best stuff first and it all gradually went downhill from there.

Exhibit A:  The Chills - Rolling Moon, Dunedin Double EP, Pink Frost
Exhibit B: Straight Jacket Fits - Life in One Chord
Exhibit C: The Verlaines - 10 O'Clock In the Afternoon

Why do you think you, as West Aucklanders, had common ground with all the bands coming out of Dunners?

We were just exactly the same sort of people - mad about music, liked drinking and doing stupid shit - but also our cynical, perverse sense of humour. When we first arrived in Dunedin on the Chills tour, we were in a van, it was a Sunday Night, we drove down George St and met another van with most of LBGP in it, and went straight to a party and got drunk with them. Everyone who we would subsequently hang out with was there, apart from LBGP ... Shayne Carter, David Pine, Allan Haig, Tex...

We basically got on with them immediately, before they even heard a note of our music. Shayne had a place in the middle of George St that was like party central. We spent a lot of time there forming human pyramids, jumping backwards off the mantle piece, playing chess and drinking crappy wine.

What do you love about the music you made?

I think the way it just emerged out of what we liked musically, but was ours at the same time. Little Ross and I didn’t have a clue about writing songs to begin with, but we didn’t want to play covers, so we just had to do it.

It seems a lot more influenced by post-punk than I remember. Some bands like WIRE were really influential here, and I can hear stuff like that in it now, like 'Batcave'. We were into Neil Young, and Little Ross has a folk thing in him that made its way into the band. And, I think there is perhaps a folk influence in Flying Nun too, which may seem like a long bow to draw, but I always thought Chris Knox sounded like the incredible string band guy.

Are you touring or playing shows?

I don’t know really. I can’t imagine touring.

Have you considered making some new music, or is this very much a one-off event?

Pete, Dom and I are still making music. Quite what we are going to do with it, I don’t know. Little Ross and I only need to be in the same room with a guitar and a bottle of fine wine, and we would write a pop song. No worries.

What is your new music like?

Some of the music we’re making now is very similar to what we used to make. I still like pop songs, hooks and the odd catchy chorus. That will never change. That Jake Bugg song "Two Fingers" sounds like something Little Ross and I would write.


Head over to for full details of the Bird Nest Roys Reissue available digitally and on double vinyl.