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Interview: Guardian Singles - Summer Tour Of Aotearoa

Interview: Guardian Singles - Summer Tour Of Aotearoa

Chris Cudby / Tuesday 26th January, 2021 11:06AM

Tāmaki's Guardian Singles are perhaps an ideal embodiment of the tireless creative community orbiting St Kevin's Arcade's Whammy Bar and The Wine Cellar. Boasting an ever-changing all-star lineup that's stabilised around Thom Burton (SoccerPractise, Moppy), Fiona Campbell (Vivian Girls, Coolies), Yolanda Fagan (Na Noise, Echo Ohs) and Durham Fenwick (Green Grove), Guardian Singles launched their long-awaited self-titled debut album early last year, just as Covid-19 was starting to rampage across the planet. With their record continuing to attract rapt reviews both at home and overseas, the group kick 2020's hellscape to the curb with a keenly anticipated summer tour of Aotearoa, hitting venues near you in February and March 2021. Chris Cudby tracked down co-founders Burton and Campbell for a chinwag via the magic of the interwebs — uncovering both the hazy origins of Guardian Singles and where they're heading in the foreseeable future...

Undertheradar proudly presents...

Guardian Singles

Friday 5th February - Russell Boating Club, Russell*
Friday 12th February - The Hop House, Tauranga*
Saturday 13th February - Leigh Sawmill, Auckland (all ages)*
Thursday 18th February - darkroom, Christchurch*
Friday 19th February - Dive, Dunedin*
Saturday 20th February - Settler Theatre, Oamaru (cancelled)
Friday 26th February - Whammy Bar, Auckland*
Saturday 6th March - Victoria on the River, Hamilton (all ages - postponed, new date tba) 
Sunday 7th March - Newtown Festival, Wellington (all ages - postponed, new date tba)

Tickets available HERE via UTR*

Chris Cudby: Hi Fiona and Thom! Could you both please give us a run-down on how Guardian Singles came to be / took shape, plus who's been in the band over the years? Was there an original creative 'vision' for Guardian Singles, or did GS kind of evolve organically?

Fiona Campbell: It was more organic than a Matakana farmers market. Also, just as expensive.

Thom Burton: The idea was Perry's originally. This was about 2015 — Perry [Mahoney of Civil Union] and I would often be dancing drunkenly to Bailterspace and Wire after closing time at Whammy, where he worked at the time. Needless to say, we were usually the only ones on the dance floor. I was playing in SoccerPractise at that time too, but didn't really have an outlet for playing the guitar music I was still writing. We'd talk about forming a sort of shoegaze / post-punk inspired band, or just kinda talk about music we liked in general and weirdly enough it seemed to us like there was a lack of that sort of sound around Auckland.

Around that same time Fiona was coming back from the USA to visit family and friends during the NZ summer break, and Fi was really the catalyst, they kicked our arses into actually booking some time and starting to write and rehearse. I took the first few songs to jam with Fiona and Perry and Emily Edrosa (we had previously played together in Wilberforces) and the songs came together really quickly.

That same summer I guess luck was on our side, we got to play the last Chronophonium festival in Kaitaia, and we also got to support Metz, which was a sold out show so heaps of people got to see us. Long story short, Emily moved to LA, so we had Durham Fenwick [Green Grove / Bozo / Suba Diva] and Maddy [Madison Eve a.k.a Peach Milk] join on guitar and synth respectively, and really blew things up sonically. We continued to play a handful of shows during the summer when Fi was back. It was always something to look forward to during the year, especially since I found out Santa wasn't real in 2017.

Perry and Maddy moved on to focus on their other projects [which are cranking], but we have kidnapped Yolanda Fagan [Echo-Ohs / Na Noise] to play bass. Hopefully she will develop some kind of Stockholm Syndrome.

Fiona — you're back in Aotearoa now. When / why did you decide to return to NZ? How has that affected the dynamic for Guardian Singles?

Fiona: I was just visiting when Covid hit so I just stayed! Totally wasn't a decision, I count myself excessively lucky. Being on the ground here and be "a normal band", means we can write and hang out and chew over ideas, and not have to execute ideas under the gun so much so that's nice.

When did you decide it was time to record the Guardian Singles debut album? How's the record been received?

Thom: We recorded it ages ago — I think 2018. It wasn't really meant to be an album at first! We just wanted good versions of the songs in our live set we were playing at the time. Fast forward to 2019 and I became obsessed with having it finished before 2020 [thank fuck], and Moral Support [who organise the Deep Dive festival in Auckland] offered to release it on vinyl. We managed to do that before the world caught fire and even managed to get to play in Australia at the start of last year. Since then, for me anyway, the response and feedback about the record has been overwhelming.

Fiona: I think the record's doing well, we didn't press that many and they are nearly sold out in under a year of its release. It's been picked up and being reissued in a couple months by Chicago based label Trouble In Mind, so it will be interesting to see how it will be received with a broader international backing.

What's the songwriting process in Guardian Singles? Does Thom bring songs in fully formed, or do you workshop them together as a band?

Thom: I'll write the song as far as rhythm and vocals go, I 'll usually have a song structure in mind, but that will be the thing that will change with the whole band so we all kinda workshop that. I mean, I'm not a dictator — I don't tell people what they can and can't play — but I do tell them what they can't play and also, I tell them what they can play.

How's it been playing around Aotearoa with the constant threat of Covid scares? Tender Moonlight told me he had a great time playing with you last year in Whanganui — is Guardian Singles still like a party on wheels?

Thom: The truth is we're all pretty vanilla to be honest — but one time in Melbourne we drank a whole bottle of wine between three of us, then later, after Durham had exhausted himself Irish dancing on the bed, I read aloud excerpts from an Anaïs Nin book and cried. Yes, this actually happened.

Fiona: We were so lucky it didn't affect us at all last tour! This next tour I'm going into it fingers crossed but also knowing we may have to lockdown at any minute, it is what it is, cant really even worry too much, everyone understands. Tender Moonlight was incredible! We had him play after us so we could all let loose, he bought the party hard.

How did last year's Guardian Singles Gonerfest livestream come about?

Fiona: I've worked or played at Gonerfest in Memphis since 2010, my bestie Madison was one of the bookers, we played in a band together called Coasting in NYC, then she moved home to Memphis and got a job with Goner Records. It's my most favourite festival in the whole world, it combines so many different kinds of music, and is equally about immersing yourself in the Memphis scene, eating all the food, and visiting all the places. Goner has always been big lovers and supporters of Kiwi, Australian and Japanese bands, and since this year had to go online, when they asked if GS could play, I asked if I could set up a whole New Zealand stage. It was great timing as we had been together practicing longer than we ever have before (more than a couple weeks), so I think it was one of our best shows. It was this performance that got us signed to Trouble In Mind too.

Do you reckon the lineup for Guardian Singles has stabilised for the time being?

Thom: I don't want to jinx it

Fiona: I frequently tell Durham and Vicki they can never leave us haha. But yes, the only reason people changed was if they moved overseas, and none of that is happening for a while.

Assuming the world opens up again at some point, do Guardian Singles have any overseas touring plans?

Fiona: Oh, I have already planned the entire routing including off day trips across the US for when the borders open up, what the hell else was I gonna do all lock down?!?! As an American citizen, and someone who toured the states 9 months out of the year the last 10 years, I really really hope to get to do this with Guardian Singles for sure.

What can punters look forward to with your summer tour? Anywhere you're looking forward to playing?

Fiona: Most of these places we've never played before, so I was about to say they can look forward to new material from the new album we are about to record, but I guess it will all be fresh! I'm looking forward to all of them, the first one on Waitangi weekend in Russell will be super special though. I've never played Tauranga, and on the day after the Leigh show we're all gonna go snorkeling!! I haven't played Dunedin since I was in the Coolies, excited and nervous to play for The Chills who I tour manage but they have never seen me play music!

Guardian Singles' self-titled debut album is out now on limited edition vinyl LP via Moral Support here.


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Guardian Singles
Sat 6th Mar 8:00pm
Victoria On The River, Hamilton
Guardian Singles
Sun 7th Mar 10:00am
Newtown Festival, Wellington