The story of The Garbage and The Flowers, by some measure Wellington’s most brilliant pop band, is equal parts classic underground rock’n’roll and a hazy ramshackle history pockmarked with bursts of genius and stoned rehearsals. Rare is it for any band to garner so much underground acclaim whilst leading such a nebulous existence. A small handful of releases, compilation appearances and few live shows make for a curious stop/start history.
Tension can produce the goods and tension was what watered The Garbage and the Flowers. Yuri Frusin (guitar, songwriting) and Helen Johnstone (viola, vocals, now bass) met in their teens sometime in the 1980s. As Frusin recalls “Helen and I met when we were 16 or 17 and practically one of our first conversations went something like: I want to be in a band, and I want to be in a band too!!”.
Of course, at the time being in a band seemed like an almost unattainable prize. Naming themselves after a line in Leonard Cohens ‘Suzanne’ and taking cues from the Velvet Underground, the band has existed in some shape or form since, with help from Paul Yates, Heath Cozen, Torben Tilly, Rebecca Davies, Kristen Wineera, and Stuart Porter. When asked recently about the group, occasional drummer Tilly offers a particularly apt description of their sound: “What I loved about the music we created is that it sounded like it had come from somewhere faraway, that it had traveled a lot of distance and gathered some dust and debris along the way. That said, despite its unhinged qualities we were never really a noise-band even though some strange and beautiful electromagnetic noise would make it to tape”.
Most of the time it was all deeply rooted in a song. This, of course, is one of the greatest parts of The Garbage & The Flowers charm. They really did seem out there, on their own, absorbed in their own world, dropping gem after gem of fractal noise-pop onto slowly corroding four-track cassettes, willing these songs into existence just long enough to let them catch breath and glide away from the speakers for a few moments, before Frusin and Johnstone would knuckle down and write yet more beautiful melodies for beautiful losers.