Sugarcoated Bullets and the new wave of Dunedin bands

04 October 2017 by Fraser Thompson

interview sugarcoated_bullets carmina bark_like_a_dog imperium do_speak_louder trent_hawthorne

Dunedin’s high schools are pumping out more fizzy bands than ever before, although you might not know it because most venues are bars, and bars don’t allow highschoolers…

Luckily we’ve got DIY spaces like The Attic who, next weekend, will be hosting a huge lineup of highschool bands. Not only will it be a hell of a lot of fun, but it’ll be a chance for people like me to catch up on what’s been happening in the elusive highschool band scene.

The idea for the gig started with punk band Sugarcoated Bullets. They play music inspired by the likes of The Dead Kennedy’s with a hint of pop-punk, but also “very quite hardcore” according to vocalist Jack Munroe.

“Especially vocals because I don’t really know how to sing to be honest…”

They formed mere weeks before making it to the regional finals of Smokefreerockquest, and since then have undergone the Amped Project treatment through school which taught them the basics of stuff like “setting up and doing gigs and recording as well”, and gave them opportunities to play.

“We came up with this idea for a halloween gig, and we talked to Dallas [Amped Project organizer] about it and then got in contact with Carmina…”

Carmina are another highschool band making waves in Dunedin right now. Their poppy mix of “grungey Nirvana rocky stuff where I scream a bit” and “jazzy stuff with jazz piano and a bit more crooning” led them to win the Smokefreerockquest regional final this year.

Frontman Barney Conolly recalls the moment he got on board with the gig.

“I was just talking to Jack because we played a gig together at The Attic with some other bands that was organized by Amped Project, and then he mentioned the idea to me and I was like yeah, I’m keen for that.”

“So he organized the other bands, and then one of the other bands organized the gear, and then I was the one who went and saw the venue owner and sort of booked it out or whatever”

In total they managed to wrangle together eight bands, all of them containing members currently in highschool. Apparently that’s easier than it sounds, probably thanks to skills and confidence taught through Amped Project, but also thanks to social media. It started with a Facebook group chat and snowballed as people added friends who wanted to play.

The number of bands in the lineup I’ve never heard before is exciting, but also a little daunting, so I asked Jack for an overview of what to expect.

“We’ve got a massive variation of sounds”

“You’ve got Bark like a Dog who’re like Indie Rock. And then you’ve got us who are very punky, and The Rothmans. Trent’s also very poppy with like Ukelele and stuff…”

“It’ll go from like really heavy stuff to like really light stuff”

Barney filled in some of the blanks.

“There’s the Sun Animals who are kind of like Queens of the Stone Age, like rock n roll riffs, really tight,”

“And Do Speak Louder, they’re probably my favorite because their frontman is like really good at writing songs, like I know all the songs and the tunes. Big fan of them.”

Imperium are also present, serving up a tasty dose of much appreciated riffy thrash metal.

According to Jack things are good for high school bands in Dunedin right now, despite the lack of all ages venues (hopefully to be rectified soon if Sammy’s is turned into a youth music space, a plan which Jack and Barney are very much on board with) and it’s primarily thanks to the same relationships between bands which enabled a gig like this to happen. People are keen to play music for the love of it here.

“I would say it’s very good socially. Like getting to know the bands and having a communication relationship with them is very good down here”

“This gig is kind of just every band helping each other out, especially having The Rothmans play with us is amazing, I just sent them a message and they were keen”