As we approach the end of 2022, this Tone Deaf series celebrates some of the artists from Australia, New Zealand and beyond that have impressed us this year. The music industry may be slowly returning to normal, but the past few years have been tough on musicians. The artists in this series are proof that creativity always endures, even in uncertain times.
What follows is a statement that sounds damning when taken at face value, but is actually a sincere compliment: Hans Pucket are like your high school’s best band.
At Auckland’s Tuning Fork last month, the indie-pop outfit – in particular lead sibling pair Callum and Oli Devlin – put on a masterful exhibit of crowd work, constantly chiding each other, acting endearingly self-deprecating, and generally making the entire room of people feel like they were in on one big inside joke.
Roguish charm will only get you so far though, and certainly only comes to the fore in a live setting, so it’s lucky that Hans Pucket have the musicianship to back the charisma up.
Their latest album, No Drama, is packed with shiny indie-pop songs that are instantaneously infectious, often extremely danceable and endlessly catchy.
The Devlin brothers and drummer Jonathan Nott added multi-instrumentalist Callum Passells for the recording of No Drama, and his powerful horn playing provides a buoyant layer to the band’s sound; add in ponderous strings elsewhere and you have a collection of songs with a much more fulsome sound than the indie-pop tag initially suggests. There’s a reason the four-piece clearly enjoy playing these songs live so much.
Underneath it all, the lyrics offer a genuinely thoughtful dissection of anxiety from the drolly-titled opening song ‘My Brain Is a Vacant Space’ to the highly relatable ‘Bankrupt’. No Drama connected with listeners precisely because the band are unafraid to be vulnerable when reckoning with the ups and downs of being 20-something and trying to make something of yourself.
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Following the release of their album this year, we caught up with Hans Pucket to find out more about their music and lives. You can read their interview below, which includes them gushing at length over a niche flavour of Doritos.
Hans Pucket’s No Drama is out now.
How did your artist name come about?
Oli: One of those silly but also kinda genius ideas you come up with at high school, during a slightly lazy Thursday afternoon art history class. Other names from that session included “Pelican Sex Fire” and “Duck Duck Who’s There?” so I think we’re lucky to be stuck with Hans Pucket.
How would you describe your music to your grandma?
Oli: “Kinda like the Beatles… but with Kiwi accents.”
Tell us about a few of your tracks; their titles and what they’re about?
Oli: The latest song we have coming out is called ‘Bankrupt’. It probably came from my anxieties about working in music and the arts and the financial pressure of all of that. Also this feeling like I’ve got no control in my life, like I’ve just fallen into everything, and maybe it would be easiest to just scrap everything and start over.
Callum: One of our favourite old songs off Eczema is called ‘Fuck My Life’, and it’s about what you’d think from that title, but it also evolves into a very satisfying disco riff that goes very hard live. I like to think it lets you have a big shout about all the crap stuff in your life and then have a dance.
What do you love about your hometown?
Oli: Callum and I are from Christchurch, and were really lucky to grow up with an inspiring all-ages music scene. It’s nice and flat, there’s huge mountains right there. Also love it when the sweet smelling, dry north-west wind comes through and everyone says “Oh yup, pretty big nor wester today.”
Career highlight so far?
Releasing this record!
Fave non-music hobby?
Jono: Recently I’ve been doing a lot of furniture-making.
Callum P: Currently my hobby is furniture-sitting.
What’s on your dream rider?
Oli: Property in Auckland.
Callum: Airwaves gum, now sadly unavailable in NZ. Also Doritos Spidey Spice. Also Oreos. Damn, I think I’m hungry.
Dream music collaboration?
Oli: We love having our friends play on our recordings and I think this is a tradition that should expand and continue. The logical conclusion to this is a Christmas charity-style song where the entire NZ indie music scene is singing along in one big choir.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
Oli: Will it be too early for a Hans Pucket biopic?
Callum P: We’re waiting until a suitable set of twins break into Hollywood stardom.
What’s your go-to karaoke song?
Callum: ‘More Than This’ by Roxy is my smash hit, but if I’m ready for my gang to go home I love clearing a room with ‘Sailing’ by Christopher Cross. I have the voice of an angel.
Oli: My songs are ‘Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard’ by Paul Simon, or ‘It’s Not Unusual’ by Tom Jones, but that one gets me a bit too excited.
Callum P: ‘Ride Like the Wind’ by Christopher Cross – with optional duet for anyone who wants to sing Michael McDonald’s backing vocals.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Oli: The best advice we’ve all gotten we made into our band rules: 1. Stay in Tune, 2. Stay Hydrated, 3. Be Yourself, 4. Look After Each Other, 5. Have Fun.
Callum: I think rule 3. “Be Yourself” is secretly the best rule. I got told it a lot by my parents growing up, going into situations that might be scary or stressful. When in doubt, just be yourself. It’s great advice.
What’s one obsession you have that no one would guess after listening to your music?
Oli: I think there’s a big film influence in our music that’s maybe hard to spot. I quote lines from movies quite a bit in my lyrics and don’t think many people have noticed…
Callum: I’m a sucker for any kind of novelty chip flavour, particularly anything spicy. The Doritos “Spidey Spice” Spiderman chip was the gold standard, spicy sweet and salty… also an unnatural bright red.