31 Aug 2017

The Singles Life: Openside have finally hit their stride

10:32 am on 31 August 2017

Welcome to weekly series The Singles Life, where known experts Katie Parker and Hussein Moses peruse, ponder and pontificate on the latest and (maybe) greatest in New Zealand music.

Openside’s ‘I Feel Nothing’ is one of the catchiest Kiwi pop anthems this year. Katie and Hussein discuss what makes it so damn good.


Hussein: Auckland-based group Openside have been on the fringes of the New Zealand pop scene for a couple of years now, but their new single 'I Feel Nothing' looks to change that in a big way.

With an assist in production courtesy of Leisure members Djeisan Suskov and Josh Fountain, the band - who are named not after a rugby reference, but a Harry Potter one - have taken a left turn and landed on a sound that feels like a much better fit than anything they've done in the past.

I, for one, am totally here for it (even though I will never trust any adult who claims to like Harry Potter).

The song, as Openside say themselves, is the first one where everyone feels like they’re on the same page. And in a week where the industry has been amusingly fussing over this year’s quite predictable Silver Scroll finalists, it’s refreshing to have a band - especially one that in all likelihood wouldn’t be taken seriously at an awards show like the Scrolls - emerge with a bona-fide pop hit in-the-making to rival all of those who think they’re at the top of their game.

Katie: When I first heard this song, for some reason I asked if it was Demi Lovato. That’s not as big an insult as it sounds: ‘I Feel Nothing’ sounds so slick and self-assured and completely radio play ready, that I just assumed it had to be an already successful (international) artist that I maybe just don’t listen to very often.

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Photo: Screenshot: Youtube/Openside

Of course, now I’ve heard it a few times I realise it doesn’t actually sound anything like Demi Lovato but I do still think it's a bloody banger, the likes of which I guess I just hadn’t expected from a young Kiwi band.

Prior to this, I hadn’t heard of Openside, but after going through their back catalogue it's pretty clear that they’re finding their feet (and some pretty sweet major label backing) incredibly quickly. Their 2015 track ‘Worth It’ has total Paramore vibes, which by 2017 haven’t gone away - but they have been honed really, really nicely.

Is this a good time to bring up how big a current-era Paramore fan you are?

Hussein: It’s always a good time to bring up Paramore's new album because it totally rules. Go listen to 'Fake Happy' right now and tell me I'm wrong (and then read this). Those distorted pop-punk anthems they're known for might be gone, but like Openside there's still plenty of angst to go around.

I would say it's easy to see the parallels between Paramore and Openside, but that would be an understatement. There's been enough comparisons already. It's easy to fall into the trap of modelling yourself after a successful artist - just ask Ed Sheeran wannabe Mitch James or EDM bro Ryan Enzed for proof - but where you go from there is the hard part. It sounds to me like Openside are definitely over that hurdle.

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Photo: Screenshot: Youtube/Openside

Katie: It’s an eternal creative problem but lately - what with all the breathy Lorde-voice ingénues, Rihanna-alikes, and Taylor Swift’s Peaches impression - it's like we’ve reached peak derivative. And I don’t think that’s what’s happening here.

Openside feel super energetic, genuine and, even when the lyrics are a bit emo, totally joyful. And really that’s all you could ask for in your pop-punk.

They also just seem like a cool bunch. Possum Plows, the lead singer, has spoken really openly about being non-binary and the YouTube comments for the ‘I Feel Nothing’ video are full of people who are just super psyched that they’re carrying a flag representing the trans community. It's just really cool to see a major label get behind that sentiment and have so much faith in it.

Speaking of the video - that production value!

Hussein: It's about as slick as you can get - all thanks to Shae Sterling, a local director who was also behind 'You Never Know' and 'New Takeover', two excellent Stan Walker videos from the past year.

It also tells me that Openside are serious about aiming for the kind of success that our tiny little industry will never be able to give them. If this song is any indication of what the band have in store, then they belong up there with the Twenty One Pilots and Halseys of the world.

Katie: Totally. Forget the Silver Scrolls; give these guys a spot on the Suicide Squad 2 soundtrack.

Follow Katie and Hussein on Twitter.