Formed in Christchurch, Bang! Bang! Eche! played energetic, fierce, dance-punk. From 2007 to 2013 they released three EPs and recorded and mixed one unreleased full length album. They toured New Zealand, Australia, America and Europe extensively and became renowned for their high-octane, physical performances, following in the footsteps of likeminded punksters The Mint Chicks, So So Modern and Die! Die! Die! At the earliest their ages ranged from 16 to 20, and in the space of six years guitarist Charlie Ryder, drummer James Sullivan, bassist T’Nealle Worsley and vocalist Zach Doney would achieve cult status as a “ruckus party band”.
They started like many young New Zealand bands do, with Rockquest. Charlie had been trying to make the finals since the age of 13. “So I was like, ‘yeah, I’m gonna start this electronic band and win Rockquest with this drum machine’,” explains the guitarist. He talked to as many people as possible and entered a band in Rockquest, making it to the final and placing third.
In the beginning the vocalist and synth positions were filled by a revolving cast of fellow teenage musicians. Vocalists Ema Kim and Ross Heath were replaced by Zach in 2007 and Gino Spiteri, Perry Mahoney and touring member Josh Burgess each had a turn at playing synth. By 2009 synth duties were split between Zach and Charlie and the band would operate as a four-piece.
With Rockquest ticked off, Bang! Bang! Eche! pushed for more exposure. Myspace was the most crucial tool an up-and-coming band could have at the time, and using an early demo of ‘Nikee’, the band pitched to the student radio network. “We thought it would be a good idea to pester RDU until they started playing our music,” sniggers T’Nealle. “One week we made it into the Top 10 and we thought it was awesome. We pestered 95bFM too and got to play at the Summer Series concert.”
The gigs started coming, with Wellington’s Mighty Mighty and Auckland’s So Homo club nights standing out as favourites. Charlie remembers the local music community at the time as ecstatic. “Everyone was completely crazy. It was the high point, I feel, of that music scene with Cut Off Your Hands, So So Modern, Tiger Tones, Pig Out and Ruby Suns.”
Their sound was warmly received and singles ‘4 To The Floor’ and ‘Time Mismanagement’ were played frequently on 95bFM, RDU, and Australia’s Triple J.
Riding the momentum, the quartet recorded their debut self-titled EP with Steve Fowler at Christchurch’s Clevetown Studios in 2008. Energetic and angst-filled, it ebbed with punchy bass and synth lines and flowed with sleek guitars and drums, all the while narrated with shouty, youthful vigour. At once catchy and chaotic, their sound was warmly received and singles ‘4 To The Floor’ and ‘Time Mismanagement’ were played frequently on 95bFM, RDU, and Australia’s Triple J, while also making waves on US radio KEXP. Capturing their live sound and energy was difficult however, and the band members were a little underwhelmed with the EP’s aesthetic.
“Trying to make everything on the recording sound like it really did was impossible, by our knowledge and way of playing,” explains T’Nealle. “It didn’t really have any vibe. It felt like things took ages to record and they sounded a bit lacklustre.”
In May 2008 the band played support for Californian dance-punkers !!! (Chk Chk Chk) at Auckland’s Kings Arms.
During this time the New Zealand Music Commission hosted a conference featuring international industry speakers, and the band attended to hand out their music. “There was a guy called Moose who ended up being our manager,” remembers James. “I went up after he talked and probably just frazzled him erratically and gave him our EP demo.” Moose enjoyed the sound and with management sorted, the band was set for their first appearance at New York’s CMJ festival in October 2008.
CMJ is considered a stepping stone to international exposure, but the initial excitement shortly wore off due to the R21 venues and industry politics. “I [wasn’t] really a fan of it,” admits James. “You don’t get paid, people don’t really watch you and it’s just like a big schmooze fest. We were under 21 and we weren’t allowed within a metre of the bar, so that was kind of detrimental.”
“It felt like a school field trip,” adds Zack. “The shows, some of them were fun and good, others were austere industry things.” Restrictions aside, more recognition came through a performance on Seattle radio station KEXP, live from CMJ.
After about a month in the USA, Bang! Bang! Eche! embarked on their first tour of Germany, arranged by their DIY approach through Myspace. The venues included abandoned railway stations and small bars in little known towns, and James recalls fondly the free booze, food and easy accommodation.
“You’d turn up to a show and there would be a cheese platter and vodka, a case of beer, and generally you’d stay above the venue. The touring model in continental Europe is way more advanced, the smaller towns especially. They were blown away that kids from New Zealand would come over and tour.”
Touring on a budget in the middle of winter did present a few curve balls, as T’Nealle discovered the hard way when she got shingles. She shrugs it off. “I probably just drank too much beer and ate too much bread and cheese.”
The band returned home over the summer of 2008 and 2009 for the festival circuit, nailing every major bill: Rhythm and Vines, Camp A Low Hum, Big Day Out and Vodafone Homegrown. That March the band performed at South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, Texas, and compared with CMJ, it was a more enjoyable experience. “South By Southwest felt way more like a community, a good times festival,” enthuses T’Nealle. “Every bar, cafe, restaurant and pizza place had bands playing in the front or back yard, on the roof, in an alleyway, all the time.”
Their second EP was recorded over the following months again at Christchurch’s Clevetown Studios, this time with Joseph Veale. The music press on both sides of the Atlantic took notice, and NME published the hyperactive lead single, ‘Fist Full Of Dollars’ as Download of the Day in early September. In October they supported UK’s Metronomy at Wellington’s San Francisco Bath House before heading to CMJ for the second time. The recklessly titled Sonic Death Cunttt EP was released in November 2009 and included tracks from the self-titled sessions reworked and renewed. It was a tighter, more aggressive statement.
The EP highlight, ‘You’re A Jerk’, showed the band experimenting with sampled sounds created with a modded-out Gameboy. “We’d only ever write songs at band practice,” explains Charlie, “someone would have an idea and we’d jam on it for hours until we finished the song.” Zach had been tinkering with a Gameboy, making sounds influenced by chip tune electronic music. The introduction was formed from these sampled sounds, but the rest of the song was a little trickier. “With a lot of Bang! Bang! Eche! songs, that main riff would happen but the chorus would always be a different chord progression. We couldn’t figure out where to go for the choruses in ‘You’re A Jerk’, and in the end the key was to be as simple as possible. It’s literally just one note, over and over.”
Experimentation was crucial to the band’s live show.
Experimentation was crucial to the band’s live show. While they would practise a lot, they generally wouldn’t rehearse before a show aside from occasionally preparing transitions between songs, says Zach. “A lot of those things came from accidents from playing live and once you make a good accident, you can use it.” This organic approach was noted by PopMatters, in a review of their second visit to CMJ: “New Zealand’s young dance punkers may at first seem like they lack structure – the absence of a set list perpetuates this perception but give them a closer listen and you’ll find some method to the madness.”
Following CMJ they toured North America and Europe with tongue-in-cheek R&B musician Har Mar Superstar. International and national touring continued over the years, including a spot on the bill of The Great Escape festival in the UK, and the band started writing their debut full length album.
Recorded and mixed by Joseph Veale at Christchurch’s Quicksand Studios, the album features 10 tracks and is yet to see the light of day. “We pushed for it to come out in a certain way but it didn’t happen,” says Zach. “Time went on and we were getting a little older, the excitement was lessening and we didn’t feel that we were making waves anymore.” The shows weren’t as frequent, the momentum died away naturally and Charlie, James, T’Nealle and Zach began moving on.
On 13 February 2013 Bang! Bang! Eche! released their third EP, UR THE BEST, and announced their final show that night at Christchurch’s Dark Room. The EP features three songs recorded during the album sessions, and are rough around the edges, abrasive and anarchic: “More a reflection of us as a band,” says James. “A ruckus, party band.”
“We’re all such diversely spastic people too,” continues James, pointing to personality traits that kept the band ticking all those years. “Charlie’s like a spaceman but really onto it and Zach is so opinionated, T’Nealle’s real cosmic and I’m just erratic. You put all that together and it was just strange. Being a teenager is kind of weird". Charlie now plays guitar in intercontinental dream-pop outfit Yumi Zouma, James plays drums in New Zealand garage rock band Salad Boys and Zach makes electronic music in Melbourne. T’Nealle managed The Dark Room for a while and is now making 1960s influenced rock in Christchurch.
Zach Doney - vocals
Charlie Ryder - guitar
T’Nealle Worsley - bass
James Sullivan - drums
The Underground Management