US legend Greg Franco and his band Rough Church

US legend Greg Franco is a devoted New Zealand music fan, and is making his eighth trip to Aotearoa later this month with a tour in November, and a double CD celebrating 20 years of his band Rough Church.

Click for Facebook Event at Cutlers Bar, 10 November

Franco lives in LA, but he could quite credibly be called an honorary New Zealander, considering the amount of time he has spent in Aotearoa, and performing/recording with his friends from New Zealand bands around the world.

Buy Tickets from Under the Radar

Franco's connection to Aotearoa goes back a long way. "In Sept 2001, I was in a band called Ferdinand. We received a call from Liz Garo, who was booking The Knitting Factory in Hollywood, to open for this band I had never heard of from New Zealand called The Clean. We were the first band of the night to play, and fortunately Hamish Kilgour, David Kilgour and Robert Scott saw it, and liked our set."

A long-standing collaborative friendship was born; you can read more about it in Franco's interview with music writer Harvey Kubernik here.

Franco says of Rough Church, "We sing about rare steamy rain, rolling tumbleweeds and lost poems raging against dying lights of empathy. We put out indie pop jams that get us compared to everything from Minutemen to Pixies."

This tour and album are not only the story of Franco, but of the Rough Church band itself, which started in 2005 with Jon Franco and Jef Hogan. The band's current lineup, alongside Greg Franco, is Dante Pascuzzo on bass, guitars and songwriting, Alfredo Ortiz on drums, vocals and songwriting, Carey Fosse on lead guitar, and Kaitlin Wolfberg on violin, keyboard, songwriting and vocals.

Franco's first show in New Zealand this time around is a solo show on Wednesday 25 October at Auckland's Clare Inn, where he'll be joined by his tour buddies The Fuzzies.

Tickets to all shows from Under The Radar

On Wednesday 1st November Greg Franco's Rough Church Trio commence their anniversary tour of Aotearoa in earnest, starting in Lyttelton. They then venture to Barrytown, Christchurch, Waitati, Dunedin, Auckland, Hamilton, Lower Hutt, concluding in Featherston on Sunday 12th November. They'll be joined on all dates by The Fuzzies, with special guests joining them along the way.

More about Greg Franco

More about The Fuzzies

More about Spillkit

Have a listen to Rough Church's truly gorgeous song 'Bully My Heart':

'Bully My Heart' is a pop song, but also a song that portrays a troubled psyche. The chemistry for passion is there, but he dare not pursue it. Inside a practical man also resides the mind and soul of someone more desperate than he can admit."

NZ Tour Dates

Tickets to all shows from Under The Radar

Greg Franco's Rough Church Trio with The Fuzzies

Visit Powertool Records on Facebook for more info

More about Greg Franco

Greg Franco was born in Hollywood, California, and spent afternoons with his dad and sister listening to radio station KHJ AM, being introduced to the like of The Doors, The Beach Boys, Otis Redding and The Association. Dad Gilbert Franco also played the kids jazz, James Brown, Motown, and Latin sounds. That's where Greg's love of music originated and why he's a musician. He says, "I just took it a step farther."

In college Greg was a DJ at UCLA college radio station KLA, as bands like R.E.M and Husker Du, Violent Femmes were coming up. As a budding lyricist and singer, Greg and his stepbrother Daniel decided to start their own band.

By 1985, his first band Blasphemous Yellow was a busy local act on the East Hollywood, West LA and Downtown LA scenes. "We got noticed and earned good local press. LA Weekly called us "folk/noise" - simple and punkish with a good solid unique independent rock sound, and a loyal following."

After Daniel left LA in 1989, Blasphemous Yellow broke up. Greg taught himself left-handed guitar and fronted a new trio, Ferdinand (1993-2003), a Pixies and Pavement-inspired group, who played the LA Silverlake music scene.

They were invited to SXSW in Austin TX in 2000, and as fate would have it, Ferdinand opened for The Clean at the Knitting Factory in Hollywood in September 2001.

"Seeing The Clean live at that moment, one week after the tragic 9/11 events, was a deeply moving experience. I met David Kilgour, Robert Scott and Hamish Kilgour, and even though my music came from a different angle, they were a great and life-changing influence."

In 2004 Greg set out to Dunedin to record with members of The Clean, featuring David Kilgour, Robert Scott and Tane Takona. Through Robert Scott, Greg met Andrew Maitai of Powertool Records.

"Andrew decided to take a chance on me and released the album SouthpawWest on his Powertool label. In the nearly 20 years since then, Andrew and I have done heaps of projects, records, and tours in New Zealand, Australia and America. Who would have thought we'd still be at it, making this 20-year double CD retrospective of the Rough Church years to date."

Rough Church started in 2005 with Greg, Jon Franco and Jef Hogan. Several of the band's albums have New Zealand connections. Southpawwest (2006) and The Dove Of The Desert (2008) were recorded in Dunedin with David Kilgour and Robert Scott. 2016's Shhhh was recorded by Tom Bell at Chick's Hotel with the Rough Church touring band, and again including contributions from both David Kilgour and Robert Scott.

Other albums from Rough Church's impressive discography include Aloha Mijos, 46 Missed Calls, Fiction/Reflection, Queen's Sacrifice and Emergency Breakthrough.

Many excellent musicians have spent time playing in Rough Church, with the band's current lineup being Dante Pascuzzo on bass, guitars and songwriting, Alfredo Ortiz on drums, vocals and songwriting, Carey Fosse on lead guitar, and Kaitlin Wolfberg on violin, keyboard, songwriting and vocals.

As Greg reflects, "I have been touring NZ for a long time now: 2004, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2014, 2016, 2019, and Australia in 2012 and 2016. I always feel reborn when I'm in New Zealand."

Greg Franco is also in the very active Chicago-based group Man's Body, who have released three albums to date, and are regulars on the city's live circuit.

Rough Church on Bandcamp

Follow Greg Franco on Facebook

The Fuzzies - Who are The Fuzzies?

The Fuzzies are an alternative pop trio with more hooks than a chilli barb. Named after their big fuzzy tones, they are no slouches in the songwriting department either, as you can hear on their debut album Cupid.

Led alternately by the vocals and songwriting of Niki Maera (Mary) and Kelly Michael (Tabula Rasa, Enshrine), with Andrew Maitai (Powertool Records, Joed Out) on drums, they mix warm fuzzies with darker undertones to create their own brand of classic indie-pop.

Cupid's cover is very special, as it captures a design created by the late Hamish Kilgour, who spent the first Covid lockdown with The Fuzzies at their venue/headquarters UFO, in the West Auckland suburb of New Lynn. Each day Hamish would create a new display somewhere in the building, which Niki would photograph. The band wanted to pay tribute to Hamish with their album, so they selected this image for the cover (and this is well before the Barbie movie came out!)

The Cupid album was recorded to analogue tape by Darren McShane at Earwig Studios, and the vinyl version — which plays at 45RPM — was one of the first to come from the brand new Stebbing record press.

Listen to the Fuzzies' new single 'Side Of My Own':

Listen to The Fuzzies' album Cupid


Spillkit is a three piece alt/indie band with a firmly Kiwi feel and sound. Much of the material draws directly from the experience of growing up in Aotearoa's fertile 80s post punk scene.

Singer/songwriter Simon Claridge says the songs walk through his early Christchurch and Dunedin days, when iconic bands played school halls and Flying Nun first took root. "It's always interesting when people reference an old band that a track reminds them of - I like that a lot because it triggers memories for me too. I do remember there was a lot of fifties and sixties tracks still on the radio. So for me that's what I hear in these tracks." Their powerpop tracks sometimes venture into the shoegaze side of noise rock, often contrasting seamlessly from stark grit to guitar lush.

The band features ex members of Headless Chickens, Rake, Sci Fi Starland and a host of other bands that have been part of Aotearoa's alternative music landscape. The set list for the show will be a preview of their upcoming album, which is due out this summer.

Spillkit on Facebook