Nuking Gisborne

The off-the-wall, out-of-left-field, what-are-you-on-and-can-I-have-some styles threads through the band’s songs

The off-the-wall, out-of-left-field, what-are-you-on-and-can-I-have-some styles threads through the band’s songs

The Nukes — Snapper Thiele (left), Ben Collier and Dave Parker

Born in the back seat of a half-submerged Vauxhall Viva and raised by possums (reportedly) in the Port Hills of Christchurch, musician David “Snapper” Thiele is one of three musicians in genre-defying band The Nukes.

The trio last visited Gisborne by invitation from Ukes Underground and performed at Bushmere Estate. To Thiele’s astonishment, the marquee gig was a sell-out.

“All these cars started to arrive,” he says. “I thought there must be something big on here tonight.”

About to return to Gisborne for a show at the Dome, the trio’s hardest sell is to say, “Come along, we’re three guys and we play the ukelele,” says Thiele. “That’s the sword we live and die by.”

But the Nukes’ ukes are no ordinary ukeleles. Band members Snapper Thiele, Dave Parker and Ben Collier wring an extraordinary range of tones, sounds and rhythms from their instruments that include a Tanglewood banjolele, an electrified f-holed Kala ukelele played through a basic Vox amp (“it gives it the sound a uke needs”), and a uke fitted with a high entry G guitar string tuned down two octaves for bass notes and played through a pog footswitch.

"We wanted to set a boundary and get off the guitar because that was getting repetitive,” says Thiele. “We found we’d have a big jam and end up playing white-man blues so we thought we’ll staunchly go with ukeleles to break out of our songwriting memory. Then I said, let’s stop jamming and let’s start writing.”

I didn't know I liked folk music

The Nukes' sound developed and mutated into songs that have been described as a bluegrass, reggae, Appalachian-style blues and post-punk hybrid. With their complex range of notation, vocal harmonies, finger-picking, slide and percussive arrangements, three can become five, says Thiele.

“I didn’t know I liked folk music. For an old death metal punker, I’m now hanging out with fiddler players at gigs like WOMAD with a potato on my head.”

Pardon?

Free-form comedy part of gig

At this point we need to point out Thiele is sometimes left on stage by his mates while he free-forms a stand-up comedic portion of the gig.

“It’s neat because my inner comedian cuts loose. I’ll often come up with a theme and do a comedic thing on maybe death but I don’t get too dark. If I get into deep water I can just get into a song.”

While he has no previous improv, theatre sports or stand up comedy experience, Thiele has performed in free-form spoken word, beat poetry gigs.

“I like it to be abstruse and weirdly obscure. Free-form is the hardest thing which is why I love it.”

The off-the-wall, out-of-left-field, what-are-you-on-and-can-I-have-some styles threads through the band’s songs. Because the band has such a unique sound, Thiele says he wishes he could be part of Nukes audience so he could watch the trio from the outside.

“I often think I’d like to not know us and come and see us to see if I dig it.”

With a composition about decomposition such as Worms (“worms in the ground/ make a shuffling sound”) a ballad based on that sense of disembodiment would sit comfortably in The Nukes oeuvre.

Born in the back seat of a half-submerged Vauxhall Viva and raised by possums (reportedly) in the Port Hills of Christchurch, musician David “Snapper” Thiele is one of three musicians in genre-defying band The Nukes.

The trio last visited Gisborne by invitation from Ukes Underground and performed at Bushmere Estate. To Thiele’s astonishment, the marquee gig was a sell-out.

“All these cars started to arrive,” he says. “I thought there must be something big on here tonight.”

About to return to Gisborne for a show at the Dome, the trio’s hardest sell is to say, “Come along, we’re three guys and we play the ukelele,” says Thiele. “That’s the sword we live and die by.”

But the Nukes’ ukes are no ordinary ukeleles. Band members Snapper Thiele, Dave Parker and Ben Collier wring an extraordinary range of tones, sounds and rhythms from their instruments that include a Tanglewood banjolele, an electrified f-holed Kala ukelele played through a basic Vox amp (“it gives it the sound a uke needs”), and a uke fitted with a high entry G guitar string tuned down two octaves for bass notes and played through a pog footswitch.

"We wanted to set a boundary and get off the guitar because that was getting repetitive,” says Thiele. “We found we’d have a big jam and end up playing white-man blues so we thought we’ll staunchly go with ukeleles to break out of our songwriting memory. Then I said, let’s stop jamming and let’s start writing.”

I didn't know I liked folk music

The Nukes' sound developed and mutated into songs that have been described as a bluegrass, reggae, Appalachian-style blues and post-punk hybrid. With their complex range of notation, vocal harmonies, finger-picking, slide and percussive arrangements, three can become five, says Thiele.

“I didn’t know I liked folk music. For an old death metal punker, I’m now hanging out with fiddler players at gigs like WOMAD with a potato on my head.”

Pardon?

Free-form comedy part of gig

At this point we need to point out Thiele is sometimes left on stage by his mates while he free-forms a stand-up comedic portion of the gig.

“It’s neat because my inner comedian cuts loose. I’ll often come up with a theme and do a comedic thing on maybe death but I don’t get too dark. If I get into deep water I can just get into a song.”

While he has no previous improv, theatre sports or stand up comedy experience, Thiele has performed in free-form spoken word, beat poetry gigs.

“I like it to be abstruse and weirdly obscure. Free-form is the hardest thing which is why I love it.”

The off-the-wall, out-of-left-field, what-are-you-on-and-can-I-have-some styles threads through the band’s songs. Because the band has such a unique sound, Thiele says he wishes he could be part of Nukes audience so he could watch the trio from the outside.

“I often think I’d like to not know us and come and see us to see if I dig it.”

With a composition about decomposition such as Worms (“worms in the ground/ make a shuffling sound”) a ballad based on that sense of disembodiment would sit comfortably in The Nukes oeuvre.

The Nukes perform at the Dome on Tuesday, 8pm. Tickets $25 from Aviary.

The Nukes nationwide tour was made possible by Creative NZ’s Arts on Tour programme.

The Guide has two tickets to the Nukes gig on Tuesday night at the Dome. Just answer this simple question: What was the name of The Nukes’ first album? Email your answer to guide@gisborneherald.co.nz

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