Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Chills are a guitar and keyboard-based rock band from Dunedin, New Zealand.
In terms of public acclaim, The Chills were possibly the most successful Dunedin Sound rock band of the 1980s and 1990s, but this acclaim is not matched by sales or financial success.
Based around the one continual member of the band, singer-songwriter Martin Phillipps, the Chills have gone through an astonishing number of line-ups since founding in mid 1980 in Dunedin. At last count, there had been some 20 different line-ups, but by this stage even Phillipps himself has trouble remembering the exact number. Members of the band over the years have included Peter Gutteridge, Alan Haig, Jane Dodd, Rachel Phillipps, Fraser Batts, Terry Moore, Martyn Bull, Peter Allison, David Kilgour, Steven Schayer, Martin Kean, Justin Harwood, Caroline Easther, Jillian Dempster, and many others. Several of these musicians went on to further success in bands ranging from The Verlaines to Luna. Phillipps' earlier band, The Same, performed alongside Dunedin punk bands Toy Love and The Enemy. The Same included Martin Phillipps, Craig Easton, Paul Baird, Jeffrey Batts, Gaynor Propsting and others.
This seemingly constant turnover of personnel is one of several reasons for the bands lack of consistent "saleability", and is referred to by the local music scene as "the curse of the Chills". It reached its most extreme case with the recording of the album Sunburnt in England. The inability of two band members to get visas to travel to the UK resulted in session musicians having to be recruited at the last moment (Dave Mattacks and XTC's Dave Gregory providing drum and bass work for the album).
Another reason for the Chills' inconsistent output is Martin Phillipps' health - for much of the 1990s he was laid low with hepatitis, a side effect of his then drug addiction problems. In the past couple of years his health has greatly improved and his addictions are behind him, and the Chills are now back recording for the first time in many years.
Initially signed by Flying Nun Records and one of the four bands recorded for the seminal Dunedin Double e.p. in 1982, the Chills' output has been understandably sporadic. Early tracks and singles to catch the public attention included "Kaleidoscope World" and "Rolling Moon", but it was 1984's "Pink Frost" that first made a chart impression in their native land. This was followed by "Doledrums", and then the minor international hit "I Love My Leather Jacket", which was dedicated to late drummer Martyn Bull, who had bequeathed the said item of clothing to Phillipps in his will:
It's the only concrete link with an absent friend
It's a symbol I can wear until we meet again..."
Despite these successes, it was not until 1987 that the band's first album Brave Words was released. Several more albums (including a compilation of the early singles) were released during the late 80s and early 90s, before the band called it quits in 1993. During this period the band produced three albums, which included memorable songs such as Submarine Bells and Rain, as well as their biggest hit, the accurately titled Heavenly Pop Hit.
Three years later, a reformed band (under the name Martin Phillipps and The Chills) released one further album, but after that the band again split, with Phillipps recording solo work, and also appearing as one of David Kilgour's band The Heavy Eights.
The Chills reformed for a second time in 2003, and have since been working on new material, some of which appeared on a mini-album, Stand By e.p., in 2004.
One intriguing feature of much of the Chills' output is a repeated use of the initials "SB" for their albums. This extends to Phillipps' one solo album, Sketch Book: Volume One.

Martin Phillipps Albums

† a collection of early singles, B-sides, and eps.
¹as "Martin Phillipps and The Chills"
²with The Stones, The Verlaines, and Sneaky Feelings
‡ released as bonus disc with some pressings of Heavenly Pop Hits.

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