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Are The Garbage & The Flowers music's most mysterious rock band?

Haiing from New Zealand, these guys are the definition of underground.

A name derived from lyrics of ‘Suzanne’ by Leonard Cohen, The Garbage & The Flowers are an obscure and influential band that have been releasing music since the ‘90s. But they are not an easy band to keep track of as their releases have been sparse and limited along with their live shows. Formed when teens at the time, Yuri Frusin and Helen Johnstone decided they both wanted to be in a band. This execution of a rough idea is something that hasn’t left their sound since their start in the late ‘80s. Well known in the Australian and New Zealand underground scenes, the band has had a differing lineup of players over the years though Frusin and Johnstone have remained constant. Meanwhile, a small amount of releases and features in various compilations over the years proves finding their music can pose difficult.

1997 saw the release of Eyes Rind As If Beggars, the same year the band relocated from Wellington to Sydney. Eyes Rind As If Beggars, a double LP and reissued in 2013, is a mix of home recordings and live performances. Opening track ‘Love Comes Slowly Now’ is a soft and beautiful love song, and the rest of the album’s songs progress in and out of rough noise and soft melodies, making for an interesting but not completely easy full listen. Notable tracks include ‘Marshall Sign’ and ‘Rosicrucinn Lovers’, with loud and muddy instrumentals and the vocalist straying away from the otherwise delicate voice.

More recently the band released a self-titled two song cassette featuring ‘Kansas’ on side A and ‘Henry, Where is Lyon?’ on side B. With a total running time of just over 13 minutes, it was recorded in Sydney in 2008 and released on Paradise Records in 2016 with a limited run of 200 copies. ‘Henry, Where is Lyon?’ has a very DIY and far away feel, with slacker-esque vocals sung by both Frusin and Johnstone. The track also features on their 2011 album Stoned Rehearsal –a more difficult album to find and one that sounds as though it was made in exactly the fashion as the name suggests. In the track ‘River of Sem’, you listen to the band discuss how the song should be played and a dog barking through the last minute of them playing.

Over the years the band has been in a perpetual state of hiatus and resurgence, playing live shows only sporadically. But luckily for Melbourne, The Garbage & The Flowers will be in town to play three shows at the beginning of March. 

By Morgan Mangan

The Garbage & The Flowers play Labour in Vain on Friday March 1, Northcote Social Club on Monday March 4 and Bar Open on Tuesday March 5.