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Man on The Verge of A Nervous Breakdown - by Roger Shepherd

The Story Of Sneaky Feelings' 'Husband House', 1985

Man On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown is a blog written by Roger Shepherd, founder of Flying Nun Records. Recounting tales from the early days. Updated weekly.  
The Story Of Sneaky Feelings' 'Husband House', 1985

by Roger Shepherd

Founder of Flying Nun Records in 1981, Roger has been involved in the label for much of the past 40 years. In 2016 he published the book “In Love With These Times: My Life With Flying Nun Records" (Harper Collins).

Sneaky Feelings were buoyed by the artistic and sales success of the David Pine tour de force that was the Send You album of 1984. A record that saw the band recognised as formidable songwriters and players to match their Dunedin Double peers: The Chills, The Verlaines and The Stones.

Kat Tyrie had moved on after finding her hand injury too much of an impediment to playing and was replaced by affable Christchurch bass player John Kelcher who joined drummer Martin Durrant to reshape the rhythm section. Singer, songwriter and guitarist Matthew Bannister may have made way for the flood of excellent Pine songs urgently in need of expression on Send You but he had his own gems waiting for the right time to record and release.

In early 1985 the band headed north to record at Mascot Studios with Phil Yule. They had the songs chosen, well-practiced and road tested live. “Husband House” was the song destined to be the single. Songwriter Matthew Bannister had worked on the arrangements for cello and horn with Graeme Downes of The Verlaines well in advance. Recording went very well.

“Husband House” is a reflective mid-tempo ballad about an actual Dunedin house of husband seeking Christian women. The dynamic of the song is sweeping and hopeful, the guitars chime in and around the drums and a pleasingly repeated bass pattern. Much of the charm is Matthew Bannister’s vocal which is yearning, fragile and sometimes just on the edge of tonal discomfort. It works to the advantage of the song as do the arrangements of the additional instruments which help to lift the song to another level. And of course, there is kind and gentle humour.

It was around this time that Jeremy Freeman came on board as band manager. Managers were a rare breed in the early 1980’s New Zealand music scene, let alone in Dunedin where the very idea was treated with suspicion. Jeremy was a good organiser and a polite hustler who made friends and influenced people by putting together a number of New Zealand tours with the Sneaky Feelings partnered with other Dunedin bands such as The Verlaines and Look Blue Go Purple.

Jeremy put the “Husband House” cover together featuring a grid montage of tinted photographs of what we would now call “student tenement flats”, the sort that are still found in the Dunedin student slum precinct. Jeremy was a keen photographer and liked things visual so he next threw himself into organising a music video for the song.

Steve Young (Mother Goose) was called in to put it together - he was the man who made The Chills' “Pink Frost” video. Dunedin bands do seem especially proud of their city and its’s natural environs and “Husband House” shows us all of the sights. It’s a well shot, well-made video and only slightly marred by the band members hammy dramatics. Remember, musicians are very rarely Shakespearian actors, although Matthew Bannister is convincing as the busker. But for me John Kelcher steals the show as the generous gum chewing hipster.

“Husband House” was a career highpoint for Sneaky Feelings. Sales were good, people liked the video, punters were coming to see their shows and it peaked at number 16 on the New Zealand national singles chart and stayed in the Top 40 for a full 7 weeks. Where to next?




Man On The Verge Of A Nervous Breakdown is a blog written by Roger Shepherd, founder of Flying Nun Records. Recounting tales from the early days. Updated weekly.  


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