Sometimes location is everything. The Salad Boys came together at the end of 2012 in Christchurch, New Zealand; a country whose infamous musical legacy is so woven into the fabric of modern independent music, many hardly realize it's there. The band formed as many do, with members Joe Sampson (12-string guitar/vocals), Ben Odering (bass) and Jim Nothing (drums) mucking around in their spare time from other groups (T54, Bang! Bang! Eche!, The Dance Asthmatics), fleshing out spare song ideas that Sampson had in his back pocket. The band's name comes from a misheard line in the second verse of The Feelies song "Fa Cé La" - a joke name that they had assumed they'd change eventually, but never did. It was all too casual, but with an end-goal to create something all too serious.
Live, The Salad Boys perform a wondrous assault: a charged up blitz of clanging guitars, intoxicating drones, head-down acid repetition and an abundance of dazzling pop hooks - birthed in the band's living room rehearsal space, and perfected in a live setting. Their reputation has scored the group a wealth of engagements up and down New Zealand including slots at the Camp a Low Hum and Chronophonium festivals, gigs with Sebadoh, The Bats, and Parquet Courts as well as a highly honorable spot performing as backing band for David Kilgour of legendary New Zealand group The Clean. The band prefers things on a smaller scale, however - finding joy and inspiration playing DIY spaces and house parties. That spirit combined with the band's dizzying live intensity bring an underlying urgency to both the rocking and mellow tunes on Metalmania.
Despite its tongue-in-cheek title, the Salad Boys' debut album Metalmania is an instantly catchy and diverse set of (non-metal) pop tunes. The warm jangle of album opener "Here's No Use" greets the listener with open arms; a familiar acoustic strum that leads into an inviting melody and poetic, yearning lyrics. Conversely, the guitars of "Dream Date" supercharge the eardrums with a jolt of adrenaline, motoring thru a triumphant toe-tapper. Side B opener "No-Taste Bomber" is an instant jam, rocketing forward with a concise 12-string jangle that explodes into an epic, paisley-tinted guitar maelstrom of a rocker, driving and droning the jam skyward. Metalmania is a careful but curious balance of well-informed pop melodies, hypnotizing rhythms and heady instrumentation with surprising and inventive melodic twists peppering the album's ten songs.
Their sense of “casual intent” has permeated many a New Zealand band. The underground music scene in both Christchurch and Dunedin - borne from the simplistic, experimental pop of The Velvet Underground and the independent, savage spirit of punk - created a vibrant scene in the eighties and nineties whose reverberating jangle soaked into the sound and purpose of the Salad Boys. Guitarist Joe Sampson also co-runs an independent label called Melted Ice Cream, which started by releasing albums and singles from Sampson's peers and co-conspirators in the music scene and has recently morphed into a collective that helps organize releases, shows and tours for other international acts (Parquet Courts, Traps Ps).
The Salad Boys' self-titled mini-album was released on cassette by Melted Ice Cream in 2013, and caused something of a mini-sensation, selling out quickly of its first and second pressing. Like the originators of Christchurch's Eighties DIY scene, the Salad Boys use their town's isolated Southern location to their advantage, fostering their hometown scene and perfecting their tunes free from the sounds and expectations of a larger city. That freedom undoubtedly contributes to the rural vibe of Metalmania, whose sound makes sense in a dark rock club and DIY space, as well as floating down the Avon River, placing them firmly into the physical and musical landscape of New Zealand. After all, location is everything.