Signs of Life | Taranaki January 2012

Jo and I recently spent a week in New Plymouth, her home town. Off the main-trunk highway – you don’t pass through it when traveling one end of the island to the other, and being too distant to take in as a detour – it’s a special trip.

An island unto itself, the city of New Plymouth and the provincial towns of Taranaki are staunchly local, with a uniquely noticeable style of their own, a self-reliant and inventive bunch; visibly displayed at Puke Ariki museum, the Govett Brewster art gallery, local libraries, gardens, by artists (Len Lye, Michael Smither, Fiona Clark), bands (Nocturnal Projections, Sticky Filth) and writers (Elizabeth Smither, John Brodie, Ronald Hugh Morrieson), to mention just a handful of the more well-known.

The Taranaki bight has some of the best surf in the country. Jo’s grandfather, Leo Penwarden, farmed at Omata – in earlier days the farm rolled down the coast to Back Beach – beneath the sentinel Paritutu Rock (Tapuae Marine Reserve) and the offshore Sugar Loaf Islands (Nga Motu Marine Reserve).

Back Beach 1 Pic: inkeatsman

Back Beach 2 Pic: inkeatsman

Back Beach 3 Pic: inkeatsman

Back Beach Pic: inkeatsman

Back Beach Pic: inkeatsman

Back Beach Pic: inkeatsman

Back Beach Pic: inkeatsman

Back Beach Pic: inkeatsman

Back Beach Pic: inkeatsman

The Penwarden family from Cornwall – Thomas, his wife and eight children – arrived in New Plymouth April 15th, 1857, on the CASHMERE,  sailing from Plymouth on December 19th the previous year; after 116 days at sea the family were landed at New Plymouth with 15 fellow immigrants. As pioneer farmers the Penwarden’s were one the many early exporters of butter from Taranaki, the Penwarden butter was branded ‘Sugar Loaf.’

Sugar Loaf Brand Butter Pic: inkeatsman

Paritutu Rock & Sugar Loaf Islands Pic: inkeatsman

Taranaki Producers Freezing Works Coy. Ltd. – Produce Store Pic: inkeatsman

Taranaki Producers Freezing Works Coy. Ltd. – Butter Store Pic: inkeatsman

Former Rahotu Diary Factory, Rahotu Pic: inkeatsman

Former Eaves General Store, Otakeho Pic: inkeatsman

Dairy farmland & Mount Taranaki Pic: inkeatsman

Former Royal Hotel, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Church of St Mary, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

RSA, Hawera Pic: inkeatsman

St Andrew’s Hall, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Opunake Pic: inkeatsman

Opunake Pic: inkeatsman

Opunake Pic: inkeatsman

Ohawe Pic: inkeatsman

Mokau Butchery Pic: inkeatsman

Mokau River Pic: inkeatsman

Shop window, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Shop window, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Powderham Street, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Clock Tower & White Hart Hotel, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Len Lye’s Wind Wand, 45 metres of flexible fibreglass, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Shop window, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Pulekura Park, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Pukekura Park, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Sugar Loaf Islands, coastal walkway, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Shop window, New Plymouth Pic: inkeatsman

Pic: inkeatsman

The Coasts – they’re an all-guy band

The Coasts have tweeted they’ve been in the studio early January, and again February 11, recording a follow-up to last years debut. I’m really looking forward to it.

Centered around the talents of Little Rock, Arkansas/ Lebanon, Ohio pair, Ike Peters and Eric Mount, The Coasts are equally happy to thrash it out (Poltergeist), as they are to transcend lo-fi expectations by utilizing brass, harmonies, and a sweet falsetto (I Only Want You, Handshakers).

It’s all couched in a blue Americana swag that draws a road trip of bars, diners, love lost, love found, with driving hours long enough to explore your own subtleties/ absurdities of character, gently, sometimes intensely. If distance does happen to keep you apart, or its a one-way trip, then there is always the melancholy stamina of Lullabye to fall back on.

The Coasts have 294 followers on Twitter and 333 folk like them on Facebook, kinda makes them sound unknown. They’ve been posted in a number of ‘best of 2011’ lists however, including 24th in Rollo & Grady’s top 35 of 2011, so its only a matter of time I’d say. All the more reason to put some loose change down now; you can still buy their debut on Bandcamp for a fiver.