Chills' return to US well received, Phillipps says

The Chills frontman Martin Phillipps at his home in Dunedin. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
The Chills frontman Martin Phillipps at his home in Dunedin. PHOTO: GERARD O'BRIEN
An "amazing'' reception during their first US tour for more than 20 years was music to the ears of veteran rock group The Chills.

Considered among the pioneers of the "Dunedin Sound'', the group performed at the South by Southwest (SXSW), a conglomerate of music, interactive media and film festivals in Austin, Texas, for the first time.

That came after a "very intensive'' 14-date tour - their first one in the US since 1996, Dunedin-based lead singer Martin Phillipps said.

"[I think we played] better than we've ever played.

"It's the best in our history.''

Altogether the band was overseas for more than a month. Their first performance was on February 19 and the festival ended on March 17.

The tour mixed old and new songs, and the whole experience was "powerful'' but bittersweet for Phillipps, who said he regretted not being in New Zealand in the aftermath of the mosque shootings in Christchurch.

"[The shootings] sort of affected us all. [I would have liked to] be back in the country at such an important time.''

Some of the Americans Phillipps spoke to about the shootings had never heard of Jacinda Ardern but were highly impressed by her.

At SXSW, which ran from March 11 to 17, the band took away the "prestigious'' Grulke Prize. A documentary based on Phillipps' life, The Chills: The Triumph and Tragedy of Martin Phillipps also had its world premiere at the event, receiving rave reviews.

The movie follows the ups and many downs of the band, including Phillipps' struggles with hepatitis C.

In 2016, the musician was told he had barely a year to live.

Now free of the virus, Phillipps said he was learning about the long-term damage done to his health. However, he was feeling "much, much more positive and clear-headed than I have for decades''.

While he had seen the film when it was nearly finished, he had not seen the end product before, and it was "emotional'' to watch it for the first time with other people.

Cities the band visited and played in included Los Angeles - where the band redeemed itself after a bad concert in the 1990s - San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle.

"It was a very well-constructed tour; not one of our pinball ones. The response throughout was kind of overwhelming.

"There were so many old fans and new fans who had been wanting to see us for a long time.''

elena.mcphee@odt.co.nz

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