It's a chore enough these days for any kind of overseas band to land a U.S. tour on any scale, so its was nothing less than a pleasant surprise when we learned that New Zealand's Axemen had a pretty extensive one lined up with Columbus, Ohio's Times New Viking this fall. The Axemen started in Christchurch in 1981, a time when New Zealand and Flying Nun records in particular were stirring up a major musical waves (ones that were felt in countless 1990's US indie bands and are still being felt today especially disciples like TNV), yet the sweeping, strummy pop element that was evident in many of the Nun's stable was only a part of the fuzzy picture that was the Axemen. The band's central core of (Little) Stevie McCabe, Bob Brannigan, and Stu Kawowski recorded in both cheapo home mode and in traditional studios, but setting had little to do with the wide-swing of directions that are evident wherever you drop a needle (or cue up a tape). There's tons of basement weirdness nodding to the more antisocial Velvets and Swell Maps moments, scatterings of drunken White Album recreation attempts, even moments where they sound like Royal Trux way before their time. When they played at Union Pool in Brooklyn last week I could swear they were going for a Stackwaddy/Doors thing, but then they became Half Japanese with Stevie playing sax solos on guitar. In Axemen recordings, they have one song about Elmer Fudd that sounds like Psychic TV, and another that is totally inspired by Grandmaster Flash. They even did a full album of Elton John songs. I have a feeling that if Flying Nun gave them the giant studio budget like they did Straitjacket Fits they would have come up with an album just as great as their Big Cheap Motel and Scary! Part III cassettes that Siltbreeze thankfully reissued in 2009. Check out the clip below (and more after the jump) of the band on a 90's NZ kids' TV show (promoting their Peter Wang Pud album!), and dig in to their November 20th visit to my radio show, engineered by Jason Sigal and Alex Yockey.Thanks for Terre T for leaving us all the food the Reigning Sound didn't eat earlier that day, there were some fancy pastries!
The Axemen Live at WFMU, Brian Turner's show
Lineup: (Little) Stevie McCabe, Stu Kawowski, Bob Brannigan, Dragan Stojanovic
Promo video for Three Virgins LP (being reissued by Siltbreeze in 2010):
You cand find more on the Axemen's My Space page and Y2K blog,the latter of which has updates on sometimes-member Mick Elborado's recent exploits at his workplace; he recently drove his car through the lobby of his employers' building, New Zealand's equivalent of the IRS. No one was hurt, but New Zealand's government might be learning a thing or two about satisfying employees' gripes in the future.