“To The Mountains”

I’ve been busy working on several film projects over the last month which I’ll talk more about soon, but first there’s something even more exciting that I must blog about…

Those of you who were regular readers of the blog I wrote for Stuff.co.nz will have heard me talk about a Wellington band called Supermodel before. Even if you don’t know who they are, by now it’s quite likely you’ve heard one of their songs on the radio, seen one of their videos on TV or online, or been at one of their gigs. In May last year I went away for a few days with them on their North Island tour and I had a great time, it was an exciting experience to be an honorary roadie for a few days and it was during this time that I became truly familiar with their original material after they first caught my attention when I saw them at TK Vineyard when I attended Toast Martinborough in November 2009. After several days watching them perform live, I got to know many of the songs and every now and then I find myself humming one of their songs to myself and trying to figure out what it was only to realise it’s a Supermodel track.

Supermodels second single “Send Me Dreaming” is the theme tune that runs over the end credits of what is now an award-winning web series I made last year called “101 Dates”. Not only were the band kind enough to allow us to use the song, but they also played at our launch event which I was and still am eternally grateful for. It was at that event back in July 2010, almost a year ago to the day, that I got to hear a few snippets off the album they had just recorded in the UK and my excitement was palpable, I actually remember physically shaking afterwards. So, you will have to forgive me for being pretty amped that “To The Mountains” is finally here. The best thing about that is that I can finally talk about it, so here goes:

1. “Blondie” was the third single taken from the album and one of the more commercially appealing tracks. When I was on tour with them, the band would often play a couple of covers to keep the crowd buzzing in between originals and when I first heard this track live in Palmerston North I asked their road manager who the song was by, assuming it was a Kings of Leon cover. When I learned the song was one of theirs, I just about fell off my chair and remember being stunned. With the electronic sound underpinning it, the heavy rock track is the story of the guy who is always there as the shoulder to cry on when he wishes he was something more. It’s a powerful and catchy tune and the perfect opening track as a taste of what’s to come.

2. “Red Carpet Girl” is rumoured to be the next single from the album and has a wonderful throwback 60s feel to it. With the swooning backing vocals of “ooh-ooh, la la la”, it’s a funky little number about a lover tainted by obsession. The song was also the inspiration for the flowing red carpet that wraps around the mountain on the album cover above; a cover that features a host of people who helped make this debut album a reality.

3. “Want To Move” has a sort of twisted rock sound to it, the kind of song that you can imagine all your mates jumping around to at 1am in your living room on a Saturday night bender singing it out loud with beers raised high. The infectious guitar riff is hard to forget, as are the haunting vocals about a mysterious dancing woman.

4. “Walk of Shame” was the first single the band released and remains one of their most popular, most likely because of the relatable subject matter of waking up after a night of drinking and wondering where you are. Most people have had a night like that at some point in their adult lives, maybe even before they were an adult! This is the best anthem for a hangover if ever there was one.

5. “Game of Kings” is probably one of my favourites on this album, every time I’ve seen it played live it has made me want to get up and dance. In a similar way that “Are you gonna be my girl” by JET makes me feel the need to get down on the dance floor, this song does that too. I always feel like this song is about living in the moment, being happy and not worrying too much about what tomorrow is going to bring.

6. “We All Live As One” was a song inspired by Mark and Rose Hanify’s grandfather who sadly passed away last year. I’ve seen this song played live a number of times and I don’t know if it’s because I know the personal connection behind the song or not, but there is a particularly spiritual vibe to it. Performed live, it’s a very emotional and powerful song and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it being used as music to play over the new season promo clips that TV2 put together before their new shows air, or during the Rugby World Cup later this year.

7. “To The Mountains” is the title track of the album and just as the album cover is epic in appearance, it is also a song of epic proportions. With the heavy piano and strong electric guitar sound, it ends up with the kind of sound you would imagine getting if Muse and Queen were to have a love child together, yet somehow it still has its own unique sound and style like many Supermodel tracks end up with. That’s the thing with influences when you’re an artist. Regardless of whether you are a painter, musician, writer, filmmaker or whatever, if you can work with the influences you have and what inspires you and yet somehow harness that to make whatever work you do yourself feel like its got its own identity and uniqueness then I think you’ve truly earned the right to call yourself an artist. It’s something I’m still working out myself, but I know it when I see it or hear it.

8. “Fading Out” is a song that has to be heard live to be fully appreciated, it is one of the best tracks on the album and I’ve had several euphoric out-of-body experiences during the guitar solo which usually ends with me standing with my mouth agape in awe of what I’m witnessing Mark doing to his guitar. I’m not blowing smoke up anyone’s ass by saying that, I really mean it, it’s just one of those songs that makes you glad you have working ears.

9. “Lonely Place” has a rhythm and musical sound with quite an unusual bounce to it, still a catchy number that I heard played on tour a few times but this tended to be the song where the crowd didn’t really know how to dance to it at first so they’d go and get a drink at the bar. They would then find themselves getting slayed by the chorus and by the end of the song they were all shouting the words back at the band throwing their hands forward. I even found myself doing that a couple of times too!

10. “Afterlife” is a song I haven’t heard much of, but it’s nice to hear lead singer Mark Hanify singing in his upper register so prominently on this track. It’s also a nice way to slow things down as we approach the end of the album.

11. “Send Me Dreaming” is a rock waltz that has quite a unique sound and fantastical feel about it. It’s one of my favourite songs and has that distinctively melodic sound to it that Supermodel are known for. It’s a nice way to finish the album with something slower but more optimistic than the tone of the previous couple of tracks.

With the aid of Producer Greg Haver in the UK, who is known for working with artists such as Opshop, Manic Street Preachers and Mel C, I take my hat off to him for managing to maintain and enhance these songs and make them sound their best when put together in a studio environment.

With influences that include Queen, Muse, The Strokes and The Beatles I see a big future and a lot more to come from Supermodel. The music audience in New Zealand often don’t really seem to “get” this brand of pop-rock, but somewhere like the UK or USA it’s a popular genre and the audience for it is pretty huge. It won’t surprise me if they end up becoming bigger overseas like so many bands do before Kiwis fully embrace them, but I would be thrilled if New Zealand proves me wrong. Given that they’re among some of the nicest musicians I’ve had the pleasure of meeting, it would not be for lack of trying and would be totally deserved.

My dad grew up being a fan of bands like The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin and Uriah Heep and it wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I really embraced that kind of music and got more into rock music. Supermodel are The Beatles of my adult world and I can safely say that I’m one Supermodel fan who has literally been waiting a year for this album to come out and yes…for once, it has been totally worth the wait.

If I had to offer some criticism, it would be that eleven songs just isn’t enough to satisfy my greedy musical ears. Since four of the tracks have already been released as singles, it still leaves me wanting more, but that’s probably a good thing. If it comes to choosing between having 11 great songs versus 20 songs containing 10 filler tracks, I’d choose the 11 track album any day. It’s what made Fawlty Towers a comedy classic, they only ever made 12 episodes and it’s regarded as one of the best comedies of all time.

However, I can’t help but say it anyway, “please sir, can I have some more?” 🙂

“To The Mountains” by Supermodel is out everywhere from Monday 1st August. Listen to a preview of the album tracks and pre-order it on iTunes here: http://itunes.apple.com/nz/preorder/to-the-mountain/id452615240

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About Chaz Harris

Chaz Harris is a writer and award-winning filmmaker based in Wellington, New Zealand.
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3 Responses to “To The Mountains”

  1. Stacey says:

    They really have such a groovy sound and it’s thanks to you that I know about them:) Hope you’re well x

  2. Cesca says:

    ‘Want to Move’ – wow! My husband, who’s in the next room, actually thought I was listening to Freddie Mercury.

    Cool band – thanks for the recommendation. I too sense they might find success abroad first.

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