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Look Blue Go Purple

Look Blue Go Purple were part of Flying Nun’s ‘second wave’ (along with Doublehappys, Straitjacket Fits and the Abel Tasmans). Formed in 1983, they honed their sound in a Dunedin practice room under a record shop, where they developed a distinctive style with layered vocal harmonies, keyboards (and even flute) over trademark Dunedin guitar strum and solid tribal beats. They released three EPs before calling it a day. Though they'd made a conscious call to play with other women, LBGP never labeled themselves as a “feminist” or “girl” band, and grew tired of being endlessly asked about gender in interviews. “Gender has nothing to do with it, they said. 

Look Blue Go Purple comprised Canadian-born bass player, Kathy Bull (now Francisca Griffin) and keyboard player and vocalist, Norma O’Malley, who were both in the band Permanent Tourists with Martyn Bull (The Elevators, The Chills). Inspired by British bands such as The Slits and The Raincoats and wanting to play with other women, they drafted guitarists Denise Roughan and Kath Webster, and drummer Lesley Paris. Whilst the quintet certainly had the distinctive jangly, gently psychedelic, lo-fi Flying Nun sound, the combined vocals of Roughan, Webster and O'Malley found their own striking synthesis that made them stand out from other groups of the time.  

They released their debut EP Bewitched in 1985, which was recorded and produced by Terry Moore. It reached No.21 on New Zealand’s pop charts and remained in the Top 50 for eight weeks. Their second EP LBGPEP2 climbed to No.26 in January 1987, propelled by the infectious folk pop of “Cactus Cat” and stayed in the pop charts for five weeks. Their third EP, This is This, was released late 1987 around the time the band broke up. They played live frequently and toured New Zealand extensively, often with their label mates including The Chills, The Bats and Straitjacket Fits. 

Nearly thirty years later, surprised and delighted by the ongoing and renewed interest in the band, they began the process of compiling the reissues. Pulling everything together was challenging, taking four years from the original seed of the idea to actual fruition. This was partly due to the nature of the band’s highly democratic relationship, but also because so much time had passed and all five women were busy with their own lives, far, far removed from the 1980s Dunedin scene. 

Whilst selecting the tracks and going through the archives, the band had some quite intense history to wade through. Despite being a big challenge, it was also a chance to reflect and reconnect with each other. It was ultimately a very positive experience as they shared in the nostalgia of listening closely to their songs again. With the wisdom of distance they, as a group, were able to appreciate the part their music had played in that particular time and place – especially considering the unusual arrangement of being an all-women band, which was such a rarity in New Zealand’s legendary Dunedin scene. 

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