Written by: Alex Green
(Photo by Ben Grant)
Combining the charm of Brave Words-era Chills and the pop perfection of early Teenage Fanclub, New Zealand’s The Roulettes are one of the year’s best finds.
Whether it’s the spry “The First Song Of The Summer” or the buoyant Beatle-esque “Headroom” the Dunedin trio’s self-titled debut album is an eleven-song collection of scruffy pop genius, grinding psychedelia and low-fi rock and roll.
“Here She Comes” sounds like a lost late ’60s classic; the garage stomp of “Ray” is hard to resist and the laconic pop drag of the album-closing “Baby It’s Fine” are three of the finest minutes of music you’ll hear all year.
The band’s frontman Justin McLean agreed to be our Scouting Report subject. See if you can guess which Hüsker Dü album he calls “cathartic in the extreme.”
FULL NAME: Justin M. McLean
RECORD LABEL: We’re self-released.
DESCRIBE YOUR SOUND IN ONE SENTENCE: It’s rock and roll.
PROUDEST PROFESSIONAL MOMENT: Completing our album, The Roulettes.
THE SONG YOU WISH YOU’D WRITTEN: “Strawberry Fields Forever”–The Beatles
FIVE MUSICIANS YOU ADMIRE: Neil Young, Lorde, Alistair Parker (The Gordons/Bailterspace), Kim Deal, John Lennon.
ALBUM YOU CAN’T STOP LISTENING TO: Love – Forever Changes
DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A KID: Lost in my thoughts/daydreams, carrying a sketch pad. Happiest when listening to Dad’s/sibling’s records or plucking on the strings of Mum’s piano while holding down the sustain pedal.
THREE THINGS THAT KEEP YOU UP AT NIGHT:Listening to music, whisky, post-gig adrenaline. Sometimes all three at once.
LAST BOOK YOU READ: The Goldfinch – Donna Tartt
FAVORITE MUPPET: Animal, but I love them all.
CATS OR DOGS? I’ve had some really bad luck with cats in the last couple of years, so maybe it’s time to opt for dogs…
THINGS WE’D FIND IN THE TRUNK OF YOUR CAR: Black sand from West Coast beach, acoustic guitar.
HARDEST PART ABOUT YOUR JOB: Not thinking about it
FIRST THING YOU DO WHEN YOU GET TO A NEW CITY: Get lost
WHAT WORD DO YOU OVERUSE IN CONVERSATION? Inordinately (I wish… it’s probably ‘yeah!’ or ‘um’.)
WHAT WILL THE TITLE OF YOUR AUTOBIOGRAPHY BE?: I’ll Never Get Out Of This World Alive
FAVORITE LATE NIGHT TV SHOW: Late night TV here provides a really good incentive to play guitar, read a book, go out and see a band or go to bed. It’s like a public service the networks are running, making sure people live a varied life.
DRINK OF CHOICE: Who’s buying? Beer at a gig. Pale ale, pilsner. Scotch would be nice.
BEST ALBUM TO PLAY AFTER A BREAK-UP AND YOU’RE HOLDING A BOTTLE OF VODKA AND SOMETHING SHARP: Zen Arcade, by Hüsker Dü. Cathartic in the extreme.
INDULGENCE YOU REFUSE TO GIVE UP: I still like to roll the odd smoke.
SOMEONE SAYS, “Don’t tell anyone I told you this.” Do you?: This is one of those continuum dilemmas… Yes, no and maybe.
WORDS TO LIVE BY: : “Everything is temporary” Jack Nitzsche