Goodnight Nurse - Just What the Doctor Ordered
Author: David Skipwith
The past couple of years have been a baptism of fire for pop-punk trio Goodnight Nurse. They have hurled themselves into the deep end of the NZ music scene, now with a major label on board their brand spanking new full length release 'Always and Never' debuted on the Official NZ Music Chart at an impressive number five.
From the obscurity of bedroom songwriting sessions Goodnight Nurse - Joel Little (guitar and vocals), Paul Taite (bass) and Jaden Parkes (drums) - quickly gained momentum. An extensive touring schedule, with a record-breaking 120 shows in five months, led to increasingly positive reactions to each of their first three singles; Loner, Taking Over and Going Away. The wildcard outfit also swiped the 2004 Juice TV Award for Best Breakthrough Video for Loner, while their latest single Our Song is currently a fixture on radio and television nationwide.
I met with Joel and Jaden to discuss their debut album and to reflect on their journey thus far. It did indeed stem from humble beginnings the two assure me.
"When we first started none of us could really play. We didn't really know what we were doing and didn't play a show for about a year, just tried to learn our instruments then write songs. We've always just followed our noses really," deadpans Joel.
"It's not like we were these young kids in high school that were these amazing musicians. We weren't The Checks or anything! We had to really work at it," adds Jaden.
After receiving a NZ On Air new recording grant to record Loner **when** the boys took the single to radio stations themselves.
"(We were) thinking that without a label this is the only way we can do it," recalls Joel.
"Channel Z started playing it and then The Edge added it to their rotation and it did really well again," explains Jaden.
A place on the Boost Mobile Schools Tour quickly followed, giving the trio the chance to win a dedicated youth fan base. Although grateful for the opportunity and exposure they are quick to resist definition within the supposed teenage domain of pop-punk.
"I don't just want to play to kids the whole time. We want to play to audiences across the board," says Jaden.
Joel is more dismissive of the notion that their brand of punk is more of a kids' flavour.
"We are in our early 20s and we like pop-punk," he points out with amusement before conceding; "We see ourselves as being more pop-rock, but influenced by a lot of punk music. We just try and write songs we like and write the best songs we can whether it sounds like pop-punk, or a rock or pop song."
And good songwriting is what has brought Goodnight Nurse to our attention - energetic numbers blending equal parts melody and distortion. Not a new trick, rather an old one executed well - with the help of producer and 48May cohort, Jody Stowers (aka Captain Hook). Joel paints a likeable picture of 'Hook' as "one of those arseholes who is really good at everything. He's a really good guitar player, really good at recording and has a really good ear for melodies and harmonies. He was the best man for the job."
Describing the writing process for the album Joel states that these days "everybody has input" after the band's initial development through songs that he or Jaden came up with.
"I think the songs we all do together are a lot stronger and I like it more when everyone can be part of it," he continues.
"It seems that the songs people like the most are the ones we wrote together," reinforces Jaden.
Although 'Always and Never' is their debut album Joel points out that it charts their progression from teenage newcomers to, well, seasoned newcomers.
"When you're 17-18 you don't have to worry about much, you're like 'Ha ha! I can buy alcohol!' The older songs definitely show us when we were younger."
Jaden confirms the source of all that unbridled enthusiasm.
"We just used to get off our nut - get heaps of beers and sit in Joel's room and write songs all night and all weekend. Listen back the next day to all the crap we came up with, then put some of it into songs and just have a laugh with it."
Joel seeks to assure me of their progression.
"That was the spirit of our earlier songs and it still is a part of the newer songs, but we have gone through other (writing) processes. As you get older things happen in your lives that aren't so cool and you get inspired from all sorts of different stuff. That's what I like about the album - it's written over such a long time there's little parts of our lives in it."
After such a big build up, are they worried about how 'Always and Never' will be received? Not so according to Jaden.
"We're just stoked to have the album out."
Joel says he likes "... hearing responses and reading reviews from people who aren't from our fan base. We are not expecting to get 5-star reviews or anything but I enjoy it when people from a different scene recognise it. Some of the songs on the album we have never played live before so it's been good to hear that people like those as well. It's just cool that we have something out to be reviewed!"
That last statement holds more weight when remembering the band had some worrying times after signing with FMR and then having the release date of their album delayed before the label was taken over by Warner Music Australasia following the recent buy out.
"We were scared at first especially because Warner is bigger and we had no idea what was going to happen, but it turns out everyone here is cool as well."
The touring onslaught is set to continue for Goodnight Nurse with dates set up and down the country before Edgefest in March. There will be ample opportunity to grow more familiar with them, as Joel finishes by telling me they have no immediate desire to take their music off shore.
"We are just concentrating on New Zealand for now and then later we can look at how we can take it overseas."