Schlong way back home for Kiwi trio

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 15:14 24/01/2013
El Schlong

El Schlong bandmember Leah Hinton leads the pack with co-vocalists and musicians Nick Baldwin and Jordan Tredray.

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Leah Hinton was a classical pianist, on the way to becoming a doctor, when she first heard Nirvana's 1991 release Nevermind.

That album changed everything, the singer/songwriter of the Kiwi punk-turned-avant-metal band El Schlong remembers.

Now based in the east part of Berlin, Germany, where she and El Schlong co-singer and bassist Nick Baldwin are music teachers, Hinton says she is still happy with her decision to drop her childhood plans to pursue medicine and instead follow the road of hard rock to Wellington, then to London and eventually to Berlin, where she has been based for the past 2 years.

Listen close, and classical music undertones can still be heard in the driving, fierce sound, Hinton says.

Since 2008 El Schlong has been playing in the "underground DIY" scene in Britain and Europe, and was partly funded by Creative NZ for a second European tour earlier this year.

The Baddies are Coming was recorded in 2008 - the animated video won second place in the Handle the Jandal music video awards in 2010 - and Time/Place, was recorded in August 2010.

The band initially formed at the University of Otago in Dunedin in 2003, but music has taken Hinton, Baldwin - and since their stint in Wellington, drummer Jordan Tredray - on what they jokingly refer to as "the slowest world tour ever".

Ten years and two albums later, El Schlong is back in the southern hemisphere - and they're not changing their name, Hinton says.

"Yes, it's stupid" - but there's a loyalty to the adolescent name formed at Dunedin and the three aren't abandoning it.

Returning home this month has made Hinton nostalgic for wild weather, birdsong and the ocean, rainforest and alps all in road-trip distance.

"I've forgotten that this place is actually paradise.

"In Berlin, we've been knee-deep in snow in the concrete jungles."

She describes the east part of Berlin as its own nirvana for artists.

"The [Berlin] Wall only came down 20 years ago and I don't know if that has something to do with how positive and creative everyone is. It's like it just happened. There is so much art, so much, so much music and DJs. Every summer I have about seven people staying in my lounge, and borrowing my van to go on tour."

While they are sticking stubbornly to the name, the El Schlong sound has evolved to reflect where they are living, the books they read, and music on the street outside.

"I think as you get older, you become less narrow-minded. I've gotten into Balkan music recently; you get a lot of eastern music [in Berlin]."

After touring in New Zealand, the group plans to "hunker down" in a shed in Masterton to record a third album.

Asked if the band would look at settling down either in New Zealand or Europe, Hinton is unsure.

"The cool thing about touring is you meet so many people.

"When you're travelling just as a traveller, it's hard to connect sometimes . . . I love playing with lots of underground bands around the world. I remember discovering heavy metal for the first time - we've been discovering everything else ever since."

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El Schlong plays at Tillermans on January 25.

- The Southland Times

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