Julian McCarthy


Painting saying 'Guitars from the Leafy Suburbs, Bands of Devonport'

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Julian McCarthy


“In some towns kids play soccer, in this town kids play rock ‘n roll.” Ed Knowles, singer with the Checks, 2006

Filmmaker Julian McCarthy’s documentary, capturing the growth of the iconic North Shore indie music scene is a NZ Aotearoa classic, began in the seaside suburb of Devonport, where producer and musician Rikki Morris was running a small recording studio at the community arts centre The Depot. It was there that a young Finn Andrews – lead singer of The Veils – recorded his first demo with Morris and planted the seeds of a thriving indie music scene.

It was there that filmmaker Julian McCarthy happened upon his new film subject, as he was introduced to the “hothouse” of young talent at The Depot and decided to chart their progress.

“I thought it was interesting to see the story of bands like that, at that stage,” recalls McCarthy. “Normally we see stories about famous bands around the world. These guys are showing some talent and on their way somewhere, but I wanted to see what the process was and watch them grow and develop.”

That was in early 2006. After two years filming countless gigs and jam sessions, McCarthy compiled his findings into the feature documentary Guitars from the Leafy Suburbs, featuring The Checks, The Electric Confectionaires, White Birds and Lemons and The Earlybirds.
Centred around The Depot studio and Rikki Morris, McCarthy filmed nine bands during the process before deciding to feature just four in the final cut, to keep the story stronger. But trying to separate the bands’ stories completely was impossible as they are all such good friends.
“Not all bands are rivals but these guys are the absolute opposite,” he says. “There was never just one band there. They have big jam sessions sometimes where there’s up to 12 or 13 of them. There’s constant crossover.”

Julian’s biggest achievement was capturing a period in time and archive a chapter in New Zealand music history.

“Time moves on and things change. These are records, you know?”

Julian approaches his work with sensitivity and empathy, a deep wish to understand the people and the environment in which they lived, worked and perceived their own lives. A previous and current work feature:

Dark Eden – the Art of Alan Taylor (2003) In the dim stir-fry haze above the Happy Together restaurant in Mt. Eden, Alan Taylor is working on his one-man statement about the war in Afghanistan, producing art that evokes and records the effects of the war on the civilians there. With the Afghan war of 2001-2002 as background, this film looks at Taylor’s early sketches in the 1950’s through to anti-Vietnam War cartoons, to indigenous paintings, through to his unique landscapes, and returns to developments in his Afghan series. Alan’s 40 year involvement in peace issues provides some interesting perspectives on the recent rise of the anti-war movement.

In progress is Anzac Horse’ a feature length documentary honouring  the New Zealand Mounted Rifles who went to World War One, taking their own horses. The Canterbury Mounted Rifles who were the ones to ride first into a battle zone, close to ( and sometimes across) enemy lines. Men and horses did this together, through machinegun and shell fire.  Dismounting, they would begin battle, to hold position,  fighting valiantly till relief from the slower moving foot soldiers could reach them – the allied Sinai and Palestine Campaign owes much of its success to these men and their horses. Their story of survival, bravery and triumph in the harshest of conditions of the desert, is sorely absent from our history books, and film.

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