The joy of making some noise

The Shambles play a farewell gig in Dunedin on Wednesday. Photo: Supplied
The Shambles play a farewell gig in Dunedin on Wednesday. Photo: Supplied
The Shambles is parting ways, but it is not going without one last chance to experience the electric energy which had them blazing a trail up and down the festival circuit the past few summers.

It all started in Dunedin just four years ago when lead singer Max Gunn was studying for his law degree and met Conor Feehly.

"I just had an old synthesizer that my granddad had given me and he had a drum kit, and we just set up in a garage in my flat and made some noise.

"And then our first gig was to open for Brookes Brothers, which is an international drum and bass act from England, so we played kind of drum and bass.

"We weren't necessarily drum and bass musicians but we began at Re:Fuel with a large drum and bass set with just me on the synth and him on the drums, which was very good fun, and very funny in hindsight."

After their accidental debut as a drum and bass duo they gradually morphed into something completely different.

"It was this beautiful kind of organic process of just friends and musicians getting together in Dunedin in a student flat and making music because we love making music.

"You just slowly absorb all of the musicians that are in your circle and we ended up definitely deviating away from the drum and bass and getting more towards the kind of funky groovy melodic stuff that we've evolved into now."

Now the duo is a four-piece, Conor Feehly is now the drummer for Soaked Oats, and whatever they're doing now is definitely not drum and bass. Instead, it's something akin to disco with soul and jazz thrown in the mix for good measure. The groove is infectious, in a good way, and it sparks joy in a particularly Dunedin way.

"Definitely the message we want to leave when we get off stage is one of positivity and having people feel happy and having danced.

"You've got thousands and thousands of young amped-up people who are so enthusiastic about listening to new music and partying and coming to gigs.

"Dunedin's got a bit of a reputation for being a really artistic city, so there's a culture in Dunedin that's very inviting and very accommodating for anyone who's making music or doing their art, so it's actually a perfect place to begin.

"It's just that lovely atmosphere where you're playing with your garage door open and students walk past and grab a seat and park up and watch you."

After The Shambles' first album had hundreds of thousands of plays on Spotify, Max gave up his law career to pursue his dream of playing music. The group played a festival in Thailand, toured Australia, and celebrated New Year's Eve at Rhythm and Vines, twice.

"It was quite serendipitous. I finished my degree and a week later we were touring the country and it all went from there."

So why stop now? A couple of reasons according to Max, but none of them bad.

"I've got a lot of music that I've been writing for my solo career and that's ready to launch and there's an incredible opportunity with that, so there's a lot of exciting stuff happening for me that I'm really pumped to get into.

"It's just so bittersweet, very very bittersweet. The band has given me so much and I've given so much to the band and you've got a lot of people who have a similarly special connection with the band, so, like any goodbye to someone or something that you love, it's extremely difficult ... but it's for purely positive reasons."

And so the dawn of the last day of local groove merchants The Shambles dawns, but shed no tears, they'll never be truly gone.

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