LIVE: Kiwi rockers survive hype

A DECADE ago, The Datsuns’ explosive brand of rock’n’roll led British music press to declare the band as ‘‘the future of rock’’ – a pretty big statement for four high school friends who formed in the small New Zealand town of Cambridge.

British music magazine NME contributed to the buzz after they named them best live band, placing The Datsuns alongside other much-hyped garage rock acts of the time such as The Vines and The Strokes.

Looking back 10 years later, the band’s laidback frontman, Dolf de Borst,  is glad they didn’t get too caught up in the hype.

‘‘We had been playing together for a long time but we were still really young – I think I was 21 or 22 when our first record came out,’’ de Borst recalls.

‘‘I think we had a pretty classic experience with the way the media works over there and the way people jump wholeheartedly into something and make all sorts of bizarre statements about you.

‘‘We were pretty naive about a lot of it and I think some of that probably insulated us from a lot of the bullshit  that was going on because we just didn’t really buy much of it.

‘‘We just wanted to make music and keep ourselves separate from a lot of the shit.  that goes along with it.’’

These days, The Datsuns,  comprising de Borst (bass, vocals), Phil Somervell (guitar), Ben Cole (drums) and Christian Livingstone (guitar),  are scattered all over the world with members living in London, Auckland, Wellington and Stockholm.

Ten years to the day since releasing their 2002 self-titled debut, they returned after a four-year gap with the band’s fifth album, Death Rattle Boogie.

With each living in different parts of the world (de Borst moved to Stockholm four years ago to be with his wife), writing a new record was a logistical nightmare but when they did come together, they realised time was precious.

‘‘I think the distance has actually been sort of therapeutic in its own way.

‘‘When we are together, we don’t take each other for granted so much. It’s like, ‘These are my best friends, let’s make music.’

‘‘We don’t really have to deal with as much trivial bullshit. We don’t have so much time together so you just spend time on the good stuff.’’

The 14-track album began taking shape in Stockholm where de Borst has a studio with ex-Hellacopters frontman Nicke Andersson (who also plays with de Borst in a power pop-rock group Imperial State Electric) and was finished in New Zealand at Neil Finn’s Roundhead Studios.

‘‘I think we reflect our influences a little more and become  more diverse each time we make a record.

‘‘Some of these songs are a bit more slower paced or a bit more 3am kind of music as opposed to being totally  in your face. But then again, there’s 14 songs so we’ve still got some of that on there [laughs].’’

De Borst said his influences have not changed too much over the years (John Spencer Blues Explosion, Led Zeppelin, T-Rex, Devo and The Beatles) and hesitates to give himself the rock-star tag despite living the life for more than a decade.

‘‘When I was a kid I think I was quite into the idea of performing. 

‘‘It seemed like an easy way to not have to do real work,’’ he said.  ‘‘I say that knowing full well how much work it is to be a musician. I still don’t really like referring to myself as that [rock star], but that’s what I have been doing for the last 10-plus years.’’

 The Datsuns perform at Festival of the Sun at Port Macquarie on December 15. Other acts include Kimbra, Hermitude, Husky, DZ Deathrays and more. Tickets online at fotsun.com.

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