Hailing from Auckland, New Zealand, Guardian Singles are a band that comprise of artists with a wealth of experience, consisting of singer/ guitarist, Thom Burton (SoccerPractise, Moppy), Vivian Girls and Coolies drummer, Fiona Campbell, bassist Yolanda Fangan (Na Noise, Echo Ohs) and lead guitarist, Durham Fenwick (Green Grove).
Releasing their self-titled debut LP just before the COVID-19 pandemic (which sold like the proverbial hot cake), Guardian Singles caught the ear of Chicago label and Sun 13 faves, Trouble In Mind. As they say, the rest is history, with the label agreeing to repress the album, and take Guardian Singles under their wing in a stable already boasting some of the world’s finest artistic talent.
“I’m so tired of never being alone,” sings Thom Burton on the jangle-rock stomp of Being Alone. A guardian single indeed, however he’s just messing with us, drawing back to those default positions (“I want to kiss in the rain/I want to be insane/I want to be in flames.”)
The three-pronged attack of Roll Undeed, Never Going to See the Rain Again and Can’t Stop Moving are like a glorious collisions of militant post-punk and Flying Nun reverence.
And while there are certainly echoes of Flying Nun touchstones, The Clean, The Bats and even the underrated Bailter Space, Guardian Singles produce a sound that’s slightly more aggressive.
While a cover of The Sound’s Heartland is yet another to add to the highlights reel, it’s closing number, Midnight Swim, that ends the album emphatically, with a military rumble reminiscent of the venerable Mission Of Burma.
In conjunction with the re-release of Guardian Singles, we asked Burton to participate in our 13 Questions feature and he was only too happy to oblige, and – as you’re about to find out – produced us a slew of New Zealand music to sink our fangs into. After flicking through his recommendations, we may just be re-locating to NZ…
1. In comparison with the U.K, at least, New Zealand seems to have coped with the pandemic on a totally different scale. How have you coped over the past year and a half?
Thom Burton: “Personally, it hasn’t felt like I have had to cope with much at all to be honest. Compared to many countries around the world, we were very lucky to have a government response that got on top of things pretty quickly. But yeah, knowing that everything has been and still is so fucked most places – it’s surreal – life here has been pretty much back to normal since about July last year.”
2. You’ve all been in some prominent bands in the past. Can you tell us about how Guardian Singles got together?
TB: “In 2015 Fiona Campbell (our drummer) was living in the US at the time, and was coming back to visit friends and family. Perry Mahoney (our original bass player) and I had been talking about jamming together for ages – the summer holidays rolled around, Auckland was empty – I was stuck in the city because I worked in a newsroom, and Perry worked at a bar/venue that was very central.
“Fiona was tossing up whether to bring over a bag of cymbals over or some records to DJ with – cymbals were opted for and the stars aligned after that. Over the next few years we’d play every summer, just one or two shows a year, which was cool because it made us really realise how much we all believed in it and would look forward to it. There’s been a couple of line-up changes since then, so now it’s Fiona, myself, Durham Fenwick on guitar [who also recorded the album] and Yolanda Fagan on bass.”
3. Your self-titled debut album has been out since last year, and has recently been reissued. How has the reception been?
TB: “Really good. We have a pretty small but dedicated fan base in NZ, but what was really cool for me initially is having people in some pretty faraway places from us reviewing the album on their blogs – people from Colombia, Italy, a couple from France, I think there was one from Russia. The reception since Gonerfest has been massive as well, but perhaps I can elaborate on that in the next question…”
4. How did the Trouble In Mind partnership come about?
TB: “We performed at the Gonerfest NZ stage last year – Gonerfest is a festival based in Memphis, Tennessee – we were live streaming to the US at like 10 in the morning so I wasn’t as drunk as I was hoping to be. Anyway, we played quite well, next minute our Bandcamp crashed from too many people trying to buy the record. Sounds like the worst ‘humble brag’ but it happened. Bill and Lisa from Trouble In Mind saw our performance and really enjoyed it.
“We promptly sent them a copy of the album [which sold out quite quickly after the Gonerfest show] and they offered to reissue it. Fiona and I are both big fans of the label so we were stoked!”
5. The cover of The Sound’s Heartland is probably one of the best renditions I’ve heard for a while. Did you have any reservations on including a cover on your debut album?
TB: “No. Although, It’s funny when people tell us that it’s their favourite song of ours. ‘Cheers,’ I say. ‘Mine too.’”
6. We ask a lot of artists this, what’s your take on social media?
TB: “I really like it. I use it every day. It helps me keep in touch and stay connected with people that I care about.”
7. Some fun questions now – have you got any hobbies outside of music?
TB: “I love cooking for friends. I write and draw cartoons under the name @lolliesjuicecartoons (on Instagram). I love to take my dog to the dog park.”
8. When did you last make yourself do something you didn’t want to?
TB: “Last night. But It’s more a case of making myself NOT do something that I did want to do.”
9. The Wire or The Sopranos?
TB: “I have never properly watched Sopranos! I’ve been meaning to. I’ve just watched the Youtube compilations of people getting whacked. I have seen all of The Wire, so I would have to say The Wire. It’s bleak as fuck, though, I don’t know if I would re-watch it.”
10. Auckland has a rich music history, not least Flying Nun and the bands associated with the label. What’s the music scene like in Auckland these days?
TB: “I find it to be really healthy across most genres. I don’t actually live there anymore, I live in Hamilton – an inland city 120 km south of Auckland – there’s a small but very creative scene there, centered around a gallery/venue called Never Project Space. But I will travel up to Auckland fairly regularly for shows and always have a good time, there’s always loads of new music to check out.”
11. Name some current New Zealand bands that we should be listening to?
TB: “I would recommend bands currently in Aotearoa NZ; First Move (like a trip hop Shellac) Unsanitary Napkin (the grooviest most visceral way to experience social punk that’s like huffing nitrous at a pot luck while stoned as fuck), LEAO (Cleaners From Venus meets Girl Talk doing Joy Division at a tribute night for forgetting that you can sample anything and kill it), Echo Ohs, Na Noise, Green Grove, Moppy, Ron Gallipoli, Bozo, Tooms, Dick Move, Shoddy, Kraus, Grecco Romank, Ex-Partner, Swallow the Rat, Memory Foam, Pillcutter, Dale Kerrigan, Hank Lawless, Kōtiro, Tender Moonlight, Night Lunch, Dartz, Half/Time, Drop Zone, Deejay Handbrake, Amamelia, Wax Chattels, Sulfate, Emily Edrosa, Womb, Human Susan, Dance Asthmatics, WhyFi, DATA Animal, Lilstiffy, Subliminals. Just a few off the top of my head. And LIPS. Just listen to Lips!”
12. With live gigs slowly returning, what’s the plan for the band for the rest of the year?
TB: “Shows have been back for a while here – like I said, we’ve been fucking lucky. We were able to do a little tour around the North Island of New Zealand in July last year, and we toured the whole country in February/March of this year. I’m not sure if there were any bands touring anywhere else in the world around that time, so we got back to it as soon as we could! But as far as overseas goes- I’d love to play everywhere as soon as we can.”
13. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions. Any last words?
TB: “Thanks for thinking of us! Quinoa is a word.”
Guardian Singles is out now via Trouble In Mind. Purchase from Bandcamp.