Anyone who knows your crusty chronicler is no doubt surprised that it has taken me this long to cover this particular act. Nevertheless, this is the only article on The Phoenix Foundation that bares my byline. The Phoenix Foundation is an indie rock band from New Zealand.
The group was formed in 1997 by high school buds Conrad Wedde (guitar and keyboards), Samuel Flynn Scott (guitar and vocals) and Lukasz Buda (guitars, vocals and keyboards). They named their band after the fictional organization on the TV show MacGyver. After a couple years of performing together the group released a 2000 EP titled China Cove.
Before the close of 2001 they recruited bassist Tim Hansen, drummer Richie Singleton and percussionist Will Ricketts four years later (in 2001). The band would score their first award even before they had completed their premiere platter. Their song “The Drinker” won Best Unreleased Song at the 2002 bNetAwards.
In 2003 the band would complete and release their first full length platter, Horsepower, on Capital Recordings. Although it was only a moderate commercial success it met with significant critical acclaim. There were two notable singles that year as well: “This Charming Van” and “Let Me Die A Woman”. Both tunes got a lot of airplay on alternativeradio stations.
In fact, the 11-cut Horsepowerwas actually one of the most acclaimed New Zealand albums of the 2003. It was the only disc to be nominated for ‘Best Album’ at both the bNet Awards and the Vodafone NZ Music Awards(aka the Tuis). Nzmusic.com voted the CD the ‘Best NZ Album’ of 2003 and it was also the only New Zealand platter chosen for inclusion in The Listener’s ‘Top Ten Albums of 2003’ by Nick Bollinger.
The “Let Me Die A Woman” music video, made by Richard Bell, won the ‘Knack Award’ (best video made for under $5000) at the 2003 NZ Kodak Music Clip Awards. This was also the year that a band member put out a solo release. Luke Buda produced his EP The C-Sideswhich featured a live favorite from The Phoenix Foundation’s early days called “Television Songs”.
Their follow-up video, “Going Fishing”, also directed by Bell, also won the ‘Knack Award’ at the 2004 NZ Kodak Music Clip Awards. It also won an award for “Best Cinematography” at the 2004 Handle The Jandal Awards. The band would then change a bit before they would put out their second CD as Warner Emery would replace Hansen on bass.
The Phoenix Foundation gathered together again in the studios to complete their new project. It contained 11 cuts and was christened Pegasusand hit the stores early in 2005. This, too, was not only a critical success but also a commercial one in that the disc eventually went Gold.
The Phoenix Foundation toured with the Finn Brothers to promote the platter and they also put on their own “theatre tour”. The band’s producer, Jet Jaguar, remixed recordings from the Horsepower sessions and released them through his website. The following year, 2006, the NZ Music Award nominated album would be released in Australia by Remote Control Recordsin Australia. The song “Damn the River” won Best Pop Track at the bNet Awards that year.
The group also recorded the original score to the Taika Waititifilm Eagle vs Sharkin early 2006. Buda and Scott would also both release solo projects. Buda’s Special Surprisewas released on Arch Hill Recordings and Scott’s record The Hunt Brings Us Lifewas put out on the Loop label. The music on both albums are a bit freer than the material on The Phoenix Foundation discs and unlike Scott’s songs onPegasus, Scott’s solo selections get much more into Americana.
2007 would witness the worldwide release of Eagle vs Shark on Miramaxat the Sundance Film Festival. More importantly though, The Phoenix Foundation signed a contract with the American label Young American Recordingsto release their records. The first official American release was Horsepower which was released (in the US) later that same year.
Before the close of 2007 the band would put out their next new New Zealand album, Happy Ending. They also released the noteworthy single “Bright Grey”. Buda, Scott and Wedde began work on solo projects when not with the group touring with the Split Enz. The following year, 2008, the 12-song Happy Endingearned more nominations and awards. They received five nominations for the 2008 VNZMA( Single of the Year – for the song “Bright Grey”, Best Group, Best Rock Album, Best Engineer and Best Producer) out of which they scored two Technical Awards.
The music The Phoenix Foundation amassed between the Happy Ending CD and what they planned for their next disc was large enough to flesh out an EP they would name Merry Kriskmass. It was released in late 2009. They felt that the tracks here were not saved for their upcoming album because they wouldn’t fit into the atmosphere of their new project.
Before the new project was complete, Emery would quit and be replaced by Tom Callwood. Callwood had laid down some bass tracks for the Merry Kriskmass song, “Forget It” as well as playing the cello on the Happy Ending LP. The Phoenix Foundation’s fourth recording, Buffalo, was finally finished and released in 2010. This was their first album to ever be released both on vinyl and as a digital download along with their new EP The Do Son.
The platter was nominated for 8 ‘Tuis’ and they took all three Technical Awards: Best Producer (the band for producing the album), Best Engineer (Lee Prebble) and Best Album Cover (Paul Johnson). The group additionally won the NZ Music Awardfor Best Group and were nominated for the following awards: Album of the Year, Single of the Year for the song “Buffalo”, Best Rock Album and Best Music Video for the music video “Buffalo”. The album’s first single, “Pot”, was put out in Europe late that same year and is currently available for free download on NME.
All the positive reaction to their latest project also inspired them to do the score for Waititi’s 2010 film, Boy. The soundtrack for Boyearned Best Original Music in a Feature Film at the Qantas Film and Television Awards 2010. The band signed with the Memphis Industries label which would release their newest and critically successful album Buffalo released worldwide this year (2011). They are presently on tour in Europe promoting their most recent record and The Phoenix Foundation may soon be flying high.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.