Able Tasmans

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Able Tasmans
OriginAuckland, New Zealand
GenresIndie pop, folk rock
Years active1983–1996
LabelsFlying Nun
Associated actsHumphreys & Keen
Past members
  • Graeme Humphreys
  • Craig Baxter
  • Peter Keen
  • David Beniston
  • Leslie Jonkers
  • Craig Mason
  • Jane Dodd
  • Ronald Young
  • Stuart Greenway

Able Tasmans were an indie pop band from Auckland, New Zealand, initially formed as a duo in 1983. They released four albums and two EPs on Flying Nun Records before splitting up in 1996.


The band formed in 1983, named after the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman.[1][2] The initial lineup was Graeme Humphreys (vocals/keyboards) and Craig Baxter (drums).[1] Humphreys and Baxter had previous played together in the Whangarei band Sister Ray.[3] David Beniston (bass guitar) and Peter Keen (vocals/guitar, formerly of Raucous Laughter) soon joined, with Keen taking a lead on vocals.[1][3] Anthony Nevison (later of Headless Chickens) played on a few songs on the band's first release, The Tired Sun EP, released in 1985 by Flying Nun Records.[1]

Organist Leslie Jonkers joined before the band recorded their debut album (A Cuppa Tea and a Lie Down (1987)), with Stuart Greenway replacing Baxter on drums.[1] The album was described by Trouser Press as "one of the finest records ever to emerge from New Zealand",[2] and by Allmusic as "a great album filled with sweet and crafty pop songs".[4] Humphreys, Keen, and Jonkers became the core of the band, and for the second album (Hey Spinner! (1990)) were joined by former Verlaines and Chills bassist Jane Dodd, synth player Ronald Young, and drummer Craig Mason (another former Chills member).[1][3] This lineup continued for Somebody Ate My Planet (1992) and The Shape of Dolls (1993).[1] After a spell with no new releases, the band returned in 1996 with Store in a Cool Place (1996),[5] now without Young, splitting up prior to its release.[1][6]

A 'best of' compilation, Songs from the Departure Lounge, was released in 2000.[1][7]

Post-split activities[edit]

Ten years after the band split up, Humphreys and Keen regrouped to record an album, The Overflow, under the name of Humphreys & Keen, although the album also featured Dodd, Young, Jonkers and Mason.[3][8][9]

Graeme Humphreys is now better known in New Zealand for his role as a radio talkback host (under the name Graeme Hill).[3]

David Beniston died in Melbourne on 7 May 2011, due to an aneurism.[3]

Musical style[edit]

The band's style of music could be considered as somewhat similar to the prevalent Dunedin sound, as recorded by Flying Nun during the 1980s and most effective[citation needed] when keyboards (not normally prominent in the Dunedin sound) were to the fore, as on their early student radio hit "Snow White Chook". Their music has been described as folk rock, indie pop, chamber pop, and baroque pop.[1][3][10]

Allmusic writer Jason Ankeny described the band as having "a tongue-in-cheek, '60s-influenced aesthetic" in their early years.[11]


Date of Release Title Label Charted Certification Catalogue Number
1987 A Cuppa Tea and a Lie Down[12] Flying Nun Records/Flying Nun Europe - - FN075, FNE18
1990 Hey Spinner! Flying Nun Records - - FN162
1992 Somebody Ate My Planet Flying Nun Records; Festival Records - - FNCD233; D30807
1995 Store in a Cool Place Flying Nun Records; Festival Records - - album: FN312; L31461

CD: FNCD312; D 31461

1998 Songs from the Departure Lounge Flying Nun Records - - FNCD404
1985 The Tired Sun Flying Nun Records 42 - FN043
1993 The Shape of Dolls Flying Nun Records; Festival Records 39 - FNCD280; D17044
1986 A: Able Tasmans, "Buffalos"

B: Raucous Laughter, "Relapse"

Flying Nun Records; Festival Records - - FN067

Featured appearances[edit]

The group have appeared on a few CD and DVD compilations since 1991 in New Zealand. The following is a list of these albums that have featured tracks by the Able Tasmans.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Strong, Martin C. (2003) The Great Indie Discography, Canongate, ISBN 1-84195-335-0, p. 191
  2. ^ a b Lukas, Paul "Able Tasmans", Trouser Press (archived). Retrieved 1 December 2018 via Wayback Machine
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Browm, Russell "Able Tasmans", Retrieved 1 December 2018
  4. ^ McFarlane, Dean "A Cuppa Tea and a Lie Down Review", Allmusic. Retrieved 1 December 2018
  5. ^ Moed, Andrea (1996) "Able Tasmans / Store in a Cool Place / Flying Nun", CMJ New Music Monthly, January 1997, p. 32. Retrieved 1 December 2018 via Google Books
  6. ^ Flying Nun band history Archived 15 July 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  7. ^ "Able Tasmans", New Zealand Music Commission. Retrieved 1 December 2018
  8. ^ "New Zealand Listener: "Baroque Dreams" by Nick Bollinger, 25–31 March 2006". Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 27 October 2017.
  9. ^ Radio New Zealand: National Radio, Sept 15, 2006. Archived 20 October 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  10. ^ McFarlane, Dean "Somebody Ate My Planet Review", Allmusic. Retrieved 1 December 2018
  11. ^ Ankeny, Jason "Able Tasmans Biography", Allmusic. Retrieved 1 December 2018
  12. ^ CD includes Buffaloes and most of Tired Sun