The Chills

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The Chills
Martin Phillips, 2003
Background information
Origin Dunedin, New Zealand
Genres Alternative rock
Dunedin Sound
Years active 1980–present
Labels Flying Nun, Creation, Slash
Associated acts The Clean, Toy Love, Sneaky Feelings, The Heavy Eights, Luna, The Verlaines
Website The Chills website
The Chills official Facebook page
Members Martin Phillipps
Past members Peter Gutteridge
Alan Haig
Jane Dodd
Rachel Phillipps
Fraser Batts
Terry Moore
Peter Allison
David Kilgour
Steven Schayer
Martin Kean
Justin Harwood
Caroline Easther
Jimmy James Stephenson

The Chills are a guitar and keyboard-based rock band from Dunedin, New Zealand. The band is essentially the continuing project of singer/songwriter Martin Phillipps, who is the group's sole constant member—for a time in the 1990s, the act was billed as Martin Phillipps & The Chills. In the 1980s and 1990s, The Chills had some significant chart success in their homeland, and were a cult band in other parts of the world as one of the earliest proponents of the Dunedin Sound.

History[edit]

Early years and first break-up (1980-1983)[edit]

Singer-songwriter Martin Phillipps formed The Chills in 1980 with his sister Rachel Phillipps on keyboards and Jane Dodd on bass after the demise of his punk band, The Same.[1] Also included in the initial line-up were guitarist Peter Gutteridge and drummer Alan Haig. Phillipps' earlier band, the Same, had formed in 1978 and performed alongside punk bands Toy Love and The Enemy.[1]

The Chills were initially signed by Flying Nun Records and were one of the four bands recorded for the Dunedin Double EP in 1982. By this time, the band consisted of Martin Phillipps, Alan Haig, keyboard player Frazer Batts and bassist Terry Moore.

Rachel Phillipps returned (replacing Batts) and Martyn Bull took over from Haig on drums in time for the band's first single "Rolling Moon", which was a chart hit in 1983. However, Bull's sudden illness caused the band to then take a year off.

Reformation and international success (1984-1992)[edit]

After Bull's death in July 1983 (from leukemia), the Chills changed their name to A Wrinkle in Time, as Phillipps was initially unwilling to continue performing under a name associated with his late friend. The name change was brief, though they did perform live under the alternative name. No recordings were released as A Wrinkle in Time.

Once the Chills name had been re-established, from this point forward The Chills were essentially a solo project spearheaded by Martin Phillipps, the band's lead singer and only songwriter. Band personnel turnover was near-constant, with The Chills going through over 20 different line-up changes with Phillipps as the only constant member. Members of the band from 1984 on have included Terry Moore, Alan Haig, Peter Allison, David Kilgour, Steven Schayer, Martin Kean, Justin Harwood, Caroline Easther, Jimmy James Stephenson, Jillian Dempster among others. Several of these musicians went on to further success in bands ranging from The Verlaines to Luna.

The band's first post-Wrinkle In Time release was the 1984 single "Pink Frost", which became the band's biggest hit to that time. It was initially recorded in 1982 by the three-piece band of Martin Phillipps, Terry Moore and Martyn Bull, before receiving new overdubs in 1984. This single was followed by the single (and #12 hit) "Doledrums", then a 6-song EP called The Lost EP. This EP did not feature any of the band's previous or future singles, and itself peaked at #4 on the New Zealand singles charts in 1985. The Chills undertook their first European tour that same year.

In 1986, the band issued the minor international hit "I Love My Leather Jacket", recorded at The Point Studio, by Danny Hyde.[2][3] "I Love My Leather Jacket" was dedicated to late drummer, Bull, who had bequeathed the said item of clothing to Phillipps in his will. The Chills finally released their first album, Kaleidoscope World, in 1986; the album was a compilation of various previously released singles, EP tracks and songs from the Dunedin Double EP.

The band released their first proper album, Brave Words in 1987. The band spent most of 1987 (February through mid-December) promoting the album by touring Europe, interspersed with 4 July dates in New York and Boston. A full-fledged North American tour occurred in the fall of 1988; tour dates would be a regular part of the band's life for the next several years.

In 1990, the band were signed to a worldwide record deal with the their music appearing on the Warner Brothers imprint Slash Records in North America. Their 1990 album Submarine Bells included their biggest international hit, the whimsically titled "Heavenly Pop Hit". The tune was also a hit in the US, as it charted at #17 on the Billboard Mainstream Rock Chart; it remains their only American chart appearance. The group's follow-up album, 1992's Soft Bomb, featured a totally different Chills line-up (save for Phillipps), and spun off the hit "The Male Monster From The Id".

Second reformation (1995-present)[edit]

The Chills performing at a free concert in Dunedin Botanic Gardens, January 2013

Phillipps announced the dissolution of the Chills after the Soft Bomb tour, and joined David Kilgour in a loosely organized covers band known as The Pop Art Toasters, which released a self-titled EP in 1994. Shortly thereafter, though, the 'Toasters dissolved, and Phillipps put together another Chills line-up and resumed gigging.

This seemingly constant turnover of personnel is often cited as one of several reasons for the band's lack of consistent "saleability", and is referred to by the local music scene as "the curse of the Chills". The "curse" struck again with the recording of the album Sunburnt in England, in the summer of 1995. Two band members were refused entry into the UK, so session musicians had to be recruited at the last moment. Dave Mattacks of Fairport Convention and XTC's Dave Gregory provided drum and bass work for the album, with Phillipps the only other credited musician (aside from guest keyboards played by producer Craig Leon). This album was issued in early 1996 under the group name Martin Phillipps and The Chills.

After that the band again split, with Phillipps appearing in another one of David Kilgour's bands, the Heavy Eights. Nevertheless, Phillipps continued to recruit new Chills members for live shows, and played at least a few shows as The Chills every year from 1997 on. For much of the late 1990s, though, Phillipps was laid low with hepatitis, a side effect of drug addiction problems. He released an album of solo home demos (Sketch Book: Volume One) in 1999; the demos themselves dated from between 1988 and 1995. In 2000, a 3-CD box set of Chills live tracks, demos, radio sessions and rarities appeared, entitled Secret Box.

In 2004, an 8-song Chills mini-album called Stand By was issued, the first all-new Chills material in 9 years. Phillipps' album liner notes promised:

"I am preparing to take the band in quite a new direction on the next album. And on that we will begin work shortly."

Despite Phillipps' claim, however, no new Chills album has yet appeared.

In May 2010 the band played two shows in Australia, their first shows outside New Zealand since 1996. Three years later, after another 9-year hiatus from the recording studio, a single newly recorded Chills track called "Molten Gold" was issued. The track was made available as a digital release only, and was released on Martin Phillipps 50th birthday (July 2, 2013).[4]

Discography[edit]

Albums[edit]

Year Title Details Peak chart
positions
NZ[5]
1987 Brave Words
  • Label: Flying Nun
  • Catalogue: FN090
24
1990 Submarine Bells 1
1992 Soft Bomb
  • Label: Slash/Liberation
  • Catalogue: L30782
3
1996 Sunburnt
  • Label: Flying Nun
  • Catalogue: FN303
25

Compilations[edit]

Year Title Details Peak chart
positions
NZ[5]
1986 Kaleidoscope World 19
1994 Heavenly Pop Hits - The Best of The Chills
  • Label: Flying Nun
  • Catalogue: FN306
24
1999 Sketch Book: Volume One (released as Martin Phillipps)
  • Label: Flying Nun
  • Catalogue: FN415
2000 Secret Box - The Chills' Rarities, 1980-2000
  • Label: Definitive Music
  • Catalogue: DM001
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

EPs[edit]

Year Title Details Peak chart
positions
NZ[5]
1982 Dunedin Double EP (various artists)
  • Label: Flying Nun
  • Catalogue: FNDUN01
1985 The Lost EP
  • Label: Flying Nun
  • Catalogue: FNCOLD004
4
2004 Stand By
  • Label: Flying Nun
  • Catalogue: MPM001
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Singles[edit]

Year Title Peak chart positions Album
NZ[5] UK USA
1982 "Rolling Moon" 26 Kaleidoscope World
1984 "Pink Frost" 17
"Doledrums" 12
1986 "I'll Only See You Alone Again" Non-album single
"I Love My Leather Jacket" 4 Kaleidoscope World (CD issue only)
1987 "House with a Hundred Rooms" Brave Words
1988 "Wet Blanket"
1990 "Heavenly Pop Hit" 2 97 17 Submarine Bells
"Part Past Part Fiction"
"Drug Magicians" Non-album single
1992 "Male Monster from the Id" 8 Soft Bomb
"Double Summer"
1995 "Come Home" 33 Sunburnt
1995 "Surrounded"
2013 "Molten Gold" Non-album single
"—" denotes a recording that did not chart or was not released in that territory.

Band member timeline[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b The Chills' bio on Billboard.com
  2. ^ Danny Hyde brainwashed.com - Retrieved: 14 December 2006
  3. ^ "Rupert Merton". Rupert Merton. Retrieved 2008-04-06. 
  4. ^ "Amazon (US) product listing for Molten Gold". 2013. Retrieved 2013-07-19. 
  5. ^ a b c d "The Chills discography". Charts.org.nz. 

External links[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Davey, T. & Puschmann, H. (1996) Kiwi rock. Dunedin: Kiwi Rock Publications. ISBN 0-473-03718-1
  • Dix, J. (1988) Stranded in paradise: New Zealand rock'n'roll 1955-1988. Wellington: Paradise Publications. ISBN 0-473-00638-3
  • Eggleton, D. (2003) Ready to fly: The story of New Zealand rock music. Nelson, NZ: Craig Potton Publishing. ISBN 1-877333-06-9