Long, winding road

The Chills
The Chills
El Schlong return home this weekend. Photo supplied.
El Schlong return home this weekend. Photo supplied.

For avant-metal troubadours El Schlong, music means a life on the road, and tonight the heavy touring band return home to Dunedin for the first time since 2010 to play Sammy's.

Formed by guitarist Leah Hinton in 2003 with fellow music student Nick Baldwin on bass, the band grew up in the DIY student punk/metal scene, before moving to Wellington in 2005. Since then, the band has moved city every two years, stopping in both London and Berlin. With all that travelling, how does the band feel to finally make it back to where it all began? ''Dunedin is home,'' says Hinton.

''Both myself and Nick were born and bred here and the band did all our trial-and-error stuff here. We were pretty terrible when we started, but luckily Dunedin crowds were always very forgiving and supportive.

''I really miss the bands we used to play with when we were still based in Dunners back in 2003/2004. They were a great bunch and the whole thing was always a good laugh - Nagas, Vaderwhale, Scarface Claw, Two Fat Ladies, Christpuncher et cetera.

''We still see those fellas all the time and I have had quite a few of them stay with me in Berlin and borrow my van to tour over there with their new bands. As our landlord says, `You New Zealanders come in packs, but you're all right'.''

Of course, constant independent touring on the ''Slowest World Tour Ever'' and releasing independent albums, isn't exactly a cheap process.

''Yeah, there are no funds,'' says Hinton, laughing.

''I live in Berlin so this New Zealand tour has been a wallet-emptier. We have always paid for the band ourselves, it's why we work, and what else are we going to spend our money on? TVs? Hovercrafts? I have no qualms about funding my own art, it's what I live for. ''The band actually broke even for our last two European tours, which is pretty insane for us. That's because we were all based in Europe for the first one and because Creative NZ paid for Nick's flights over to Europe for the second one though. Otherwise it would have been the usual loss.

''Our reception worldwide has been really good, humbling actually,'' Hinton says.

''People really seem to appreciate that we are doing something different and that we've travelled so far to do it.''

Help make the band's home trip worthwhile, tonight at Sammy's. DUNEDIN Sound legends The Chills perform a free afternoon concert to open the Dunedin Botanic Garden's 150th celebrations tomorrow afternoon. The gig will mark the beginning of a year of botanic celebrations, which includes hosting the 2013 Global Botanic Gardens Congress in October.

Front man and only constant member across The Chills' long career Martin Phillipps will be joined by James Dickson (bass) and Todd Knudson (drums), who have been playing alongside him for more than 12 years now, as well as Erica Stichbury (keyboards/guitar/violin) and Oli Wilson (keyboards), who have been working with him for seven and four years respectively.

Mayor Dave Cull will launch the 150th anniversary celebrations in the lower garden at 1pm and The Chills will appear on stage shortly after.

Catch them

El Schlong with Iron Tusk, Twist of Fate, Christpuncher, and Osmium tonight at Sammy's, Dunedin. Doors open 9pm, first band on at 9.30pm.

The Chills, Sunday, 1pm at Dunedin Botanic Garden sound shell.

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