Digging Up Music from The Front Lawn Day to Day's occasional series, "Dust Bin Bands," highlights interesting musical acts that seem to have disappeared from the commercial airwaves. Here's a profile of the New Zealand duo The Front Lawn.

Digging Up Music from The Front Lawn

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Now the music. You know this bands that make up brief splash but then, quickly disappear? We call them Dust Bin Bands. And in this latest chapter of our occasional series, producer Trey Kay remembers traveling to New Zealand and discovering an exceptional group called The Front Lawn.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: How are you doing? I haven't seen you for…

TREY KAY: The Front Lawn, where Harry Sinclair and Don McGlashan who sang corky but incredibly rich songs about living in New Zealand.

Mr. DON MCGLASHAN (The Front Lawn): We both came from the suburbs of the north shore of Auckland, and I think the whole feeling of the north shore of Auckland is like very neatly mowed lawns. For us, The Front Lawn represent the sort of emotional clipping that we felt that New Zealand was all about like the sort of a trimming down of everything at tidying away of stuff. To be as a lawn mentality seem to represent to us sort of an emotional way that museum dealt with itself.

KAY: They weren't so much of a band, but rather performance artists. In this song, they deconstruct the superficial way that Kiwi men great one night.

(Soundbite of song)

Mr. HARRY SINCLAIR (The Front Lawn): So, where are you living anyway?

Mr. MCGLASHAN: Well, you could hardly call it living - I've lost my job and didn't quite , and I've got a few emotional problems.

Mr. SINCLAIR: Hamilton, Wellington, (Unintelligible) North?

Mr. MCGLASHAN: (Unintelligible).

Mr. SINCLAIR: Nice out there, eh?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. MCGLASHAN and Mr. SINCLAIR: (Singing) How you doing? I haven't seen you for… How you doing? I haven't seen you for…

KAY: Their shows were usually very simple presentations in tiny venues, where they'd explore little, mundane facets of New Zealand life. For example, one show explored the importance of breakfast. But sometimes, shows were much more complex, like the one that explored perversion, obsession, and materialism and was structured around the cycles of a washing machine.

Mr. MCGLASHAN: So we had a working washing machine on stage that was actually emptying and filling and going through its proper cycle.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MCGLASHAN: (Singing) Do you, (unintelligible), take this washing machine to have and to hold…

Mr. SINCLAIR: Don played my father. Don's kind of freaking out because I, his son, has fallen in love with a washing machine.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. MCGLASHAN and Mr. SINCLAIR: (Singing) Do you, washing machine, take this man to cherish and adore you, to put his dirty things inside you…

Mr. MCGLASHAN: At different points in the show, the washing machine actually turns on on stage, and when it turns on, he sort of has a psychotic episode, and he ends up kind of crawling inside the washing machine and dousing himself with water from the outflow.

KAY: The Front Lawn's irreverence gained them a loyal following throughout New Zealand. However, there were some people who felt uncomfortable with how they put Kiwi culture under the microscope, and they hated that Sinclair and McGlashan spoke with thick New Zealand accents.

Mr. SINCLAIR: We were told to speak, like, with an English accent. I mean, it was like - these were the days - I mean, it wasn't a very nationalistic time. Even then, I was disgusted by that. You know, we're New Zealanders. Why don't we talk like New Zealanders?

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. SINCLAIR: (Singing) Let's take a walk along the beach before the tide comes in. You sure missed one hell of a party last night. I was just disappointed that the rest of the family won't even mention your name.

KAY: The Front Lawn weren't always irreverent. They touched Kiwi hearts with this powerful song about a man walking along a New Zealand beach and talking with his long-deceased brother.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. SINCLAIR: (Singing) Andy, don't keep your distance from me.

KAY: After about five years, in 1990, Harry and Don decided to take a break, and they never returned from that break. Don McGlashan still performs music with his own band and composes music for film directors like Jane Campion. Harry Sinclair went on to act and direct for film and television. They are pleased that people are still discovering The Front Lawn CDs.

Mr. SINCLAIR: They keep selling. So - I mean, they weren't huge, but people like to buy them and send them to friends overseas. People, it reminds them of New Zealand to hear The Front Lawn.

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. SINCLAIR and Mr. McGLASHAN: (Singing) How you doing? I haven't seen you (unintelligible). How you doing? I haven't seen you (unintelligible). How you doing? I haven't seen you (unintelligible). Good on you.

KAY: For NPR News, I'm Trey Kay.

(Soundbite of music)


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