Dunedin Sound

Dunedin Sound

The Dunedin sound was a style of indie pop music created in the southern New Zealand university city of Dunedin in the early 1980s.



Similar in many ways to the traditional indie pop sound, the Dunedin Sound uses "jingly jangly" guitar playing, minimal bass lines and loose drumming. Keyboards are also often prevalent. Amateur recording techniques also gave this genre a lo-fi sound that endeared its earnest music, but occasionally hard to understand vocal accompaniment, to university students worldwide.


The Dunedin Sound can be traced back to the emergence of punk rock as a musical influence in New Zealand in the late 1970s. Isolated from the country's main punk scene in Auckland (which had been influenced by bands such as England's Buzzcocks), Dunedin's punk groups such as The Enemy (which became Toy Love) and The Same (which later developed into The Chills) developed a sound more heavily influenced by artists like The Velvet Underground and The Stooges. This was complemented by jangly, psychedelic-influenced guitar work reminiscent of 1960s bands such as The Beatles and The Byrds, and the combination of the two developed into the style which became known as the Dunedin Sound.[1]

New Zealand based Flying Nun Records championed the Dunedin Sound, starting with their earliest releases (including The Clean's single "Tally Ho!" and the four-band compilation Dunedin Double EP, from which the term Dunedin Sound was first coined[2]), and many artists gained a dedicated "college music" following, both at home and overseas. In July 2009, Uncut magazine put it that "before the mp3 replaced the flexidisc, the three axes of the international indie-pop underground were Olympia WA, Glasgow, and Dunedin, New Zealand."[3] The growth of the Dunedin Sound coincided with the founding of the student radio station at Otago University Radio One), helping to increase the popularity and availability of the music around the city.

The development of parallel musical trends such as the Paisley Underground in California and the resurgence of Jangle pop aided a growth in the popularity of the Dunedin Sound on college radio in the USA and Europe. The heyday of the movement was in the mid-to-late 1980s, although music in the style is still being recorded and released.

California's Pavement is but one overseas band that claims the Dunedin Sound as a major influence, and overseas artists such as Superchunk, Barbara Manning, Elf Power and Cat Power have each covered Dunedin Sound songs on several occasions.

Though the bands themselves tend to eschew the genre title, "Dunedin Sound" artists include the following bands and soloists. Not all of these musicians are from Dunedin, but all show the influence of the music which emanated from that city in the 1980s:

References and further reading

  • Bannister, M. (1999) Positively George Street. Auckland: Reed Books. ISBN 0-7900-0704-5
  • Davey, T. & Puschmann, H. (1996) Kiwi rock. Dunedin: Kiwi Rock Publications. ISBN 0-473-03718-1
  • Dix, J. (1988) Stranded in paradise: New Zealand rock'n'roll 1955-1988. Wellington: Paradise Publications. ISBN 0-473-00638-3
  • Eggleton, D. (2003) Ready to fly: The story of New Zealand rock music. Nelson, NZ: Craig Potton Publishing. ISBN 1-877333-06-9
  • Higgins, M. (1982) The Clean and the Dunedin Sound. In Rip It Up magazine, April 1982.
  • Flying Nun 25th anniversary edition of Real Groove magazine, 2006.
  • Flying Nun: Anything can happen (Television New Zealand documentary, 1990)
  • Heavenly pop hits: The Flying Nun story (Television New Zealand documentary, 2002)

External links


  1. ^ Roy Shuker Understanding popular music Routledge, 2001
  2. ^ Staff, Bryan & Ashley, Sheran (2002) For the record: A history of the recording industry in New Zealand. Auckland: David Bateman. ISBN 1-869-53508-1. p. 144.
  3. ^ Uncut issue 146, July 2009, p81

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