The Axemen is a New Zealand band formed around 1981 in protest against the South African Springbok rugby team tour of New Zealand, a tour which created great controversy, especially as was in contradiction to New Zealand’s obligations under the Gleneagles Agreement.
The Axemen played in Chch Cathedral 1981 in response to the Springbok tour.
They also played at the protests for homosexual law reform in 1983, with member Little Stevie McCabe being severely beaten up in the Cathedral Square, Christchurch, toilets.
The Axemen’s founding members, Bob Brannigan, Little Stevie McCabe and Stu Kawowski had played in various bands, apart and together, in the South Island cities of Christchurch and Dunedin, but cohesed in reaction to Sprinkbok rugby tour.
Before Bob Brannigan and Steve McCabe met, Steve was playing in a two-piece band at Cashmere High School called The Gorillas with Peter Rees, evolving comix maestro and classical guitarist.
Brannigan and McCabe met through a mutual friend and played gigs in Christchurch and Dunedin under many names including The Whining Plums, Hey, We’re Wolves and The Twins in the early ’80s. It was at a Twins gig at the notorious Empire Tavern in Dunedin in 1983 where Stu Kawowski was first unable to control himself and leapt on stage to commandeer the bongoes, instantly adding another dimension to the unit.
Art School Photography graduate, photography guru, filmmaker, artist  , promotional maverick and explosives expert Kawowski was playing drums with Above Ground, Bill Direen’s band at the time he met the other members of the Axemen and soon ‘joined’ the Axemen as a permanent fixture.
Brannigan, McCabe and Kawowski remain to this day the ‘core’ of the Axemen, however many New Zealand musicians played with them over the years as guest / transient / semi-permanent members, making their influence and the influences they assimilated (like the borg) an important breeding ground and virtual swap-meet of ideas and influence in Kiwi music circles.
In February 2009, US record label Siltbreeze re-released the Axemen’s 1984 protest album :Big Cheap Motel”  on 12″ vinyl. Originally the album was released as a cassette packaged in a small bubble-sleeve with a straw, mimicking the milk drink “Big M” that the album was aimed at. The Axemen were invited to play at Christchurch’s “Summertimes” Festival in January 1984, a public music stage set up in Hagley Park. The band was shocked by the large-scale sexist “Big M” advertising surrounding the main stage, and decided to write a suite of protest songs about how the Christchurch City Council had “sold out” to the “Big M” sexist marketing. The Axemen recorded the concert, as well as studio versions of their songs and released a 45 min cassette entitled, “Big Cheap Motel”
“The Happy Hollows have a lot of weapons in their arsenal, but chief among them is vocalist/guitarist Sarah Negahdari. ‘Faces,’ from the forthcoming Spells, gives Negahdari the perfect chance to show off her Polly Harvey-meets-Kim Deal croon.” — Magnet Magazine
“A killer hybrid of Kim Deal, PJ Harvey and Emily Haines. Negahdari has the guitar chops, explosive energy and winning sense of humor that should make The Happy Hollows one of the more interesting bands of our new millennium’s next decade.” — Wired Magazine
“A pugilistic mix of stinging guitars, turbulent rhythms, and shouted vocals. Alternates between childlike experimentation and ferocious firestorm.” — Los Angeles Times
The much-anticipated and highly acclaimed debut album by Los Angeles trio The Happy Hollows officially hits streets today, October 6th, 2009. The album, Spells (listen/order here) is a culmination of their work with producer and former Mighty Lemon Drops guitarist David Newton (The Little Ones, The Blood Arm), who also produced the group’s 2008 EP Imaginary. In support of the album, The Happy Hollows will be performing a string of East Coast dates surrounding their CMJ New Music Marathon showcases. The band will then headline a residency at Spaceland in Los Angeles throughout November. Please see complete dates below.
The young group’s infectious and irreverent noise-pop has earned considerable following up and down the west coast, with their energetic and charismatic performances. Vocalist/guitarist Sarah Negahdari wields ominous riffs and finger-tapped arpeggios while singing with a cherubic-yet-mischievous grin. Meanwhile, the agile rhythm section of Charles Mahoney (bass/vocals) and Chris Hernandez (drums/vocals) vault and lunge with precision.
Wired Magazine recently described Negahdari as “a killer hybrid of Kim Deal, PJ Harvey and Emily Haines” and added that “Negahdari has the guitar chops, explosive energy and winning sense of humor that should make The Happy Hollows one of the more interesting bands of our new millennium’s next decade.” The BBC picked them as a band to watch for 2009, the Los Angeles Times has described the group’s sound as a “pugilistic mix of stinging guitars, turbulent rhythms, and shouted vocals” that “alternates between childlike experimentation and ferocious firestorm.” AllMusic wrote that the band’s “appeal is immediate” and LAist has labeled them “a must see!”
The Happy Hollows’ catchy yet dissonant sound is influenced by genres as disparate as 90’s college rock, garage punk, art rock, and 80’s pop. The band combines innovative song structures, surreal lyrics, and fiercely adept instrumentation to recreate reality into a jagged panorama of vibrant, kaleidoscopic collage. Listening to their music, one cannot help but see visions of a place oddly askew from the world we experience everyday, a parallel universe that is at once whimsical, demented, and ferocious.
Having born and bred their band in various corners of the L.A. music scene since forming 2006, The Happy Hollows played their first shows in Japanese restaurants, laundromats, and small local clubs. In their first year as a band, they snuck into a studio at night and, in two sessions, recorded Bunnies and Bombs, an EP that attracted the attention of the L.A.’s underground music scene. After seeing them play a show, established L.A. heroes Silversun Pickups asked The Happy Hollows to open for them at The Wiltern and The Fillmore. In 2008, fellow art-rock outfit Deerhoof invited the Hollows to open for them on their album release shows at The Avalon and The Great American Music Hall.
Wind broke here about Phil Judd’s perversions today – did you get the scoop in the USA?
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thank you, sassy d!