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February 20, 2006 | by  | in Features |
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The Bleeders

For a band that’s been around a little over two years now, The Bleeders are getting some pretty serious attention. And in New Zealand, the land of the tall poppy syndrome, coverage on the likes of C4, Kiwi FM and 91ZM is a surefire way to incite the wrath of those who think the correct ladder to success is the one featuring at least five years of gigging RSA’s and empty corner hotels before daring to seek a wider audience. Emerging in 2003 from various Auckland hardcore bands, Angelo (vocals), Gareth (bass), Ian, Hadleigh (guitars) and King George (drums) are no strangers to the effects of our country’s notorious dislike for anyone who gets a bit too big a bit too quickly.

“I think New Zealand has a real problem with tall poppy syndrome,” says Angelo. “If a band gets a break and gives it a real go, they are just frowned upon by jealous haters.” He draws a comparison between The Bleeders and US punk legends Rancid: “Rancid take good music and get it to the masses, much the same as we are trying to do.” That may be a somewhat ambitious claim, but the ethos is a well-established one. The natural conclusion lies at the Blink 182 and Sum 41 end of the scale, but somewhere further down the line lie respected punk acts like Green Day, Millencolin and AFI who have managed, by dint of some canny marketing and an ear for a catchy hook, to make the crossover into MTV and radio airplay territory whilst (to use a hackneyed phrase) keeping true to their origins. It is this popular and media savvy position The Bleeders want to occupy, a position that is difficult to reach when dodging cries of ‘sellout!’

Angelo is, however, quick to dismiss any claims that the Bleeders have sold out. ‘If we had claimed to stand for one thing or another it may have been true, but we never have,’ he says, going on to note that ‘we never played with one style of band, or claimed hardcore or anything like that.’ When faced with a particularly nasty recent quote to the effect that the Bleeders are an emo band attempting hardcore, Angelo is quick to defend his band: ‘We don’t play emo at all! And attempting hardcore… if we wanted to be a hardcore band we would have been one. We still love hardcore music, we just choose not to be a ‘scene’ band.’ Ignoring the potential for endless circular arguments about what exactly they do play, he has a very good point. Given that the genre is almost endlessly fractured into smaller and smaller distinctions- hardcore, screamo, emo, screamcore, even fashioncore (hardcore played in snappy retro suits and franz-like fringes, one assumes), it’s a moot point just how much these kind of definitions matter to those outside the various tight-knit punk communities. It’s also easy to see why a band might wisely choose to sidestep the quagmire of defining themselves as part of any particular ‘scene.’ ‘Besides,’ Angelo continues, drifting unconsciously into the realms of post modern speculation, ‘what is emo? Why do we have to put a label on everything? Why indeed. My hands now thoroughly slapped, and feeling exposed for the indie anorak that I am, I plough on- so that dislike of pigeonholing was a major motivation for forming the Bleeders? His answer is to the point: ‘we decided from day one that we were gonna be purely about the music. No politics, no labels, and we definitely shared that dream of taking it as far as we could.’

While it is true that three fifths of the band played in hardcore bands prior to forming the Bleeders, the idea, says Angelo, was to do something completely different from anything they’d attempted before. And judging by the available evidence, it’s a formula that works. Asked about playing this years Big Day Out, the reply is enthusiastic: ‘the sound was kinda fucked on one side…but the kids went hard anyway and we had a blast!’ Handling mishaps with aplomb and going on the tear in true rock ‘n’ roll style (‘give ‘em a few cans of coke and it’s a five way party!’ enthuses Angelo, who is straightedge): this is the Bleeders. They’re a bit punk, a bit rock, a bit pop, sometimes a bit hardcore. Popular as hell and currently tearing up the charts. You can join the dots and fight over the influences if you want to, but why bother? The Bleeders just want to make music, and get as many people listening to them as possible. And in a period of revivalist rock and roll bands who wear their influences prominently on their scruffy satchels, that’s refreshing.

The Bleeders have recently returned from America, where they recorded their debut album, due out on March 16th. Catch them on the 3rd at the Union Hall, with Sidecar Fury, Not Quite Right and Kitsch, and later in April when they’ll be doing an album tour.

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About the Author ()

BORN WITH a cigarette in one hand and The Trial in other, Bea meant to go on as she started. Music wasn’t her first love, but her first love ended in a fight over rightful ownership of a Velvet Underground LP and the kitchen knife, so she chose the kinder option and stuck with it. In her spare time she enjoys casting aspersions, skulking, and making sweeping statements. She never checks her facts: figures it’s a way to live a little, to have arguments with people, then meet them. She’s currently writing a collection of short stories inspired by Schopenhauer’s manifesto of suffering and the Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster. When it gets published, she’s pretty sure that boy will want to hold her hand.

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