Tagged and bagged

Still image from a video shows a person vandalising "The Chills" powerbox. Photo: Supplied
Still image from a video shows a person vandalising "The Chills" powerbox. Photo: Supplied
On Tuesday, February 27, 2018, two costumed terrorists committed a heinous act of vandalism, Fraser Thompson writes.

In an expletive-laden video, they recorded themselves graffiting a Chorus box displaying The Chills-inspired street art and, in doing so, desecrated a sacred altar to the Dunedin Sound.

Acolytes retaliated swiftly and violently in comments sections across social media. "Morons!", "Losers!" they chanted, "Without The Chills Dunedin music wouldn't even exist!" They bayed for the heretics' blood.

"There's a couple of people saying that we're a waste of sperm, we have small dicks and we should be killed. I thought that was slightly harsh," says Jeremy Potts. He plays guitar in local alternative punk band Coyote.

He is chilling, with Louis Amos, at his flat on a Sunday evening. It should come as no surprise to anyone that these were the people responsible for scribbling "Coyote" on the Chills Chorus box.

"A lot of people have come up to me being like yeah, `f*** The Chills' or `f*** that art' and I kind of feel like, nah, that wasn't the point we were trying to make, we were trying to be funny.

"It definitely had no thought put into it," adds Louis. He's the vocalist and writes most of the songs.

"We didn't really think who was behind it [the art], we thought `Hey, some dickhead from the Government probably painted it up there'. We were thinking it'd be a funny skit, we're going to stick it to the Government, paint over their power box, call ourselves Banksy ..."

It was an act of rock'n'roll arrogance with punk "stick it to the man" sensibilities all wrapped up in self-aware irony. As it turned out, the art was not a product of any governing body, but of local art student Emma Craig, who was commissioned by the communications provider to brighten up a drab gray box.

She wanted to express her love for her favourite band and help more people her age discover them. She fears the history will be lost. As she puts it: "No young students seem to really know anything about the Dunedin Sound history."

Emma spent the weekend repainting the work and has yet to receive a formal apology or even an admission of guilt from Coyote.

Putting down a young local artist was not Coyote's intent, and despite not fronting up they seemed genuinely sorry about that. They weren't trying to make any sort of statement about the Dunedin Sound zeitgeist either, but by desecrating a symbol of 1980s Dunedin music with the symbol of an up-and-coming Dunedin band they inadvertently started a dialogue about life in the shadow of the Dunedin Sound.

If anything, the vitriolic response only confirms the issue exists.

"It does make you feel like, `Oh, so is that it?" remarks Jeremy. "We're never going to have another amazing music scene ever again, it has already happened. There's all these basically old men still patting themselves on the back for something that happened before I was even born. But I'm here right now and I'm ready to take over.

"We're not saying we're so much better than The Chills, everyone can f*** off, we're better," adds Louis. "We were actually going to do a cover of a Chills song for a tribute album because we do like Heavenly Pop Hit"

"It's a f***ing good song," Jeremy agrees.

While they have some regrets, they're happy to have opened a dialogue. There was some fervent chatter about how they've ended their careers and will never play another gig in Dunedin. But that completely misunderstands today's scene, and how good Coyote is.

Either way, Coyote don't mind the infamy.

"I'd rather a small handful of people love us and a whole horde of people want us dead than just no response whatsoever. I like eliciting strong responses. I think that's a good thing," Jeremy says.

"I hope 30 years down the track someone scribbles their name on our powerbox."

For more from Fraser Thompson go to dunedinsound.com.

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