Sam Bambery reflects on his home city for NZ Music Month

In honour of NZ music month, Sam Bambery swings by to dissect his track ‘Doctor’ and share a playlist of homegrown favourites. 

Up-and-coming Aotearoa/New Zealand songwriter Sam Bambery has hometown pride. To celebrate NZ Music Month, we asked him to dissect ‘Doctor’ from his new album ‘Rubricator’ (out now via Under Underground Records) and share his favourite tracks from the flat city.

‘Doctor’ struck us for its folk-meets-neo-psychedelia sound and we were eager to know more. Scroll down for Sam Bambery’s full track breakdown and playlist of homegrown favourites. 

Sam Bambery album

‘Doctor’ is a song that was quite unfinished when it came time to start recording ‘Rubricator’. It was one chord and a simple melody.

My good friend and co-producer De Stevens felt as though it was a perfect blank canvas to expand it sonically. After a while, it began to make sense and have this expansive feel.

My favourite parts of recording this song were the vibraphone parts. The vibraphone was faulty and the valves could only be operated by a shoestring and held in place by one other person.

It became a three-person job to get a take and physically make the sound work. Lots of coffee plungers were involved in the room that day!

My friend Mackenzie’s vocals really make this song great, puts it on a whole other level. I’m really grateful to have such talented friends to work with me to get a certain vision across, it seems to really take a village to get any huge project across the line. 

Speaking of villages, I love Christchurch. It’s not a village by the way, hah! They say ‘Don’t get stuck in Christchurch’. I don’t even know who ‘they’ are, such silly people. I am such a stalwart defender of this city.

I cut my teeth, learned the art of songwriting and simultaneously the art of drinking too much there. The quality of music and art is high and the city is low-down flat, like some infrastructure pancake.

Cute as. It holds gothy and surf-tastic vibes in one hand. Old and new. Here’s some songs that made me cry, dance and then cry again.

‘Giving Up The Dog’ – Hannah Everingham

It’s not hard to be charmed by Hannah’s live performances if you go see her. It’s full of playfulness and intention with thoughtful hooks that will itch at your brain for weeks after you hear them.

I like the combination of cynicism and eagerness for experience this song communicates lyrically. Her new album Siene Tiempre Flores is on high-rotation for me and a lot of other people for that reason I’d say. I’m really excited to see what she does next.

‘Wearing Divine’ — Ben Woods, Marlon Williams, Lucy Hunter

With lines like “…I want to give you all my love, I’ll start by giving you my life”, this song made me cry when I first heard it. It twists like a post-modern country ballad, running in the vein of all those old country duos with their responsive lyrics.

Johnny and June, Jones and Wynette, Woods and Hunter. Really ethereal but intense, best thing for a late afternoon walk. I once ran into Ben at a record fair and watched him finish up a record haul with an array of George Jones records.

It was the most earnest thing I have seen. Country music fans everywhere I swear! On that note…

‘Yesterday I Loved You, But Today I Just Don’t Care’ — The Unfaithful Ways

Lyttelton country through and through. Classic, heartbreaking, dry, honest. The country music I’ve seen come out of Christchurch has a pleasing relationship with darkness.

It’s the Venn diagram that connects soft goths and people who wear embroidered shirts. Still waiting on the unlikely reunion of this band, but dreams are free right? 

‘Now Crystalline’ — Senica

This band and I have a special connection in that we both recorded our debut efforts in the same lounge room in the Christchurch neighbourhood of Saint Martins.

Senica is full-throated, oh-god-my-amplifier-is-cranked guitar pop that feels cross-generational in its scope. This song in particular is a pure dopamine hit for me, an ecstatic car-jam to shake your youthful ennui. 

‘Bake a Snake’ — Daniel Madill

My good friend Shaun showed me this track. 4 track acoustic songs from Daniel Madill, a secret gem of Christchurch musicians in my opinion.

Great for anyone interested in pleasurable tape hiss and psych-folk inclinations. There’s nothing I can do to shake the deep sense of nostalgia I feel from Daniel’s songs, a great autumnal feeling that sweeps me away. Great to practise harmonies with. 

‘Family Portrait Revisited’ — Kool Aid

If anyone asks me what Kiwi rock sounds like, I feel as this would be a good pick to represent it. Understated-pop that sounds really great.

Kool Aid is something of a Christchurch indie supergroup, with members pulled from all sorts of noisenik parts of the flat city. I especially love local label Melted Ice Cream, they gave me a sort of Christchurch rock-music education which I cherish deeply.