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Rhiain and the Utter Strangers

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Alternative, Indie

Country of Origin:

New Zealand


Bandcamp, Facebook

A musical project about love and heartache and never growing up.

Rhiain McGrath's debut EP release Heartplusmelody (2012) is a lyric-heavy ode to childhood. The sophisticated five-song study is steeped in whimsy and sweeping symphonic arrangements. Recorded in Dunedin with long-time musical collaborator Oli Wilson (The Chills, Knives at Noon), mixed and mastered by Dale Cotton (Engineer to Die Die Die, The Bats, The Clean, HDU), with a team of ‘Utter Strangers’ forming the recording band.

McGrath had a musical upbringing, performing musical theatre, singing in church, and in her final year of high school took out the lyrics section at the nationals of Rockquest alongside Wilson. However music was put on the backburner when she began working as a legal secretary and it wasn’t until a cathartic trip to Texas that she realised she needed to follow her dreams and record and release her previously bedroom-bound songs. While in Texas she had ‘Heartplusmelody’ tattooed to her foot and that mantra is now the title of the debut release.

Rhiain’s voice alternates from beautifully sweet to expressive and strong- the reason being, perhaps, is that she draws influence from contemporary folk luminaries Joanna Newsom, Fiona Apple, and Laura Marling. There are touches of cabaret in songs like My Seafaring Man, and similarities to the frenetic recordings of Wellington musician Grayson Gilmour in closing song Delicate Souls. The centerpiece of the album is the piano driven All a Flutter featuring Wilson on keys together with Alex Vaatstra (violin/viola), Rob Burns (bass), Paul Gauvin (guitar), and Chris Butchard (drums). Rhiain says “the music is not about doing something pretty, I use my voice to portray emotions in a way that is honest and has integrity”.

Rhiain McGrath - vocals/flute
Oli Wilson - piano
Chris Butchard - drums
Alex Vaatstra - violin/viola
Paul Gauvin - guitar
Rob Burns - bass

Image: Facebook

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