Flying Nun, based in Christchurch on the south island, turned out to be New Zealand’s Rough Trade, Mute, Factory, 4AD, Creation and Postcard labels all rolled into one, without any label competition. Its range embraced exquisite psych-pop, cantankerous quasi-goth, warped folk, experimental synth warfare – and such consistent quality, and this from a population of less than four million.
In its own quite, stealthy fashion, Flying Nun’s influence – especially in the US – has spread outward, and not just on bands like Pavement, but on indie labels such as Sub-Pop. And like the south island’s famous Jurassic reptile, the Tuatara, Flying Nun lives on today, having survived the growing pains that afflict every independent label trying to retain its autonomy in a changing marketplace, and even losing its founder, Roger Shepherd, not once but twice.
There was a point in my life (early ’90s) when this label’s output had me dreaming of running off to New Zealand. I did end up visiting a couple times and the place didn’t disappoint. By coincidence, I ran into an ex-manager at Flying Nun my first time there in the very early ’00s … he was astonished at this American fan’s knowledge of the label and its bands, and I was a little freaked out by how surprised he was.
It’s a bit of an obvious choice to those who also know of Flying Nun, but my favorite song from their catalog is — hands down — “Pink Frost”: