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The Verlaines

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  • Formed: Dunedin, New Zealand
  • Years Active: 1980s, 1990s, 2000s
  • Group Members: Graeme Downes


Biography All Music Guide

Group Members: Graeme Downes

All Music Guide:

The literate and dramatic New Zealand guitar pop band the Verlaines formed in 1981; led by singer/guitarist Graeme Downes, the group's original roster also included guitarist Craig Easton, keyboardist Anita Pillai, bassist Philip Higham, and drummer Greg Kerr. Both Easton and Pillai quickly exited, and the Verlaines remained a three-piece for the remainder of the decade. The early lineup remained in a constant state of flux, however, and of the original group, only Downes and Kerr remained by the time of their debut on the 1982 Dunedin Double compilation EP, recorded with bassist Jane Dodd. Drummer Alan Haig then replaced Kerr for the 1983 single "Death and the Maiden," for many fans the archetypal Verlaines song; the lineup was finally cemented with the substitution of Haig for drummer Robbie Yeats, who first appeared on the 1984 EP 10 O'Clock in the Afternoon.

The Verlaines' full-length debut, 1985's Hallelujah All the Way Home, was originally submitted as part of a composition project for Downes' honors-level music class; he received an "A" grade for the record, which bore the heavy influence of his classical background in its exacting compositions, as well as its orchestral and brass flourishes. After the 1986 "Doomsday" single, the Verlaines resurfaced a year later with the excellent Bird Dog LP. A long layoff followed as Downes pursued his PhD, and the group -- with new bassist Mike Stoodley -- did not appear again until the 1990 album Some Disenchanted Evening. Yeats departed soon after, and was ultimately replaced by drummer Gregg Cairns. After recording 1991's Ready to Fly, the Verlaines swelled to a four-piece with the addition of second guitarist Paul Winders; after Cairns quit, new drummer Darren Stedman was enlisted in time for 1993's Way Out Where. After this record Downes soon accepted a teaching position at the Auckland Institute of Technology, and after releasing Over the Moon in 1996 the band went into hiatus. Downes released a solo album, Hammers and Anvils, in 2001 for Matador but otherwise focused on his academic career for the next few years. In the later part of the decade, Downes reunited with Stedman and Winders, added bassist Russell Fleming, and released a new record every few years under the Verlaines name. Pot Boiler saw the light in 2007 on Flying Nun, Corporate Moronic followed in 2009 for new label Dunedin Music, 2012's Untimely Meditations found them back with Flying Nun again.

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