Genres, Mixing, and Left or Right’s New Album

By Caellin Rodgers

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Musical genres are kind of a funny, abstract thing. They come together when a large enough body of works share similar features: chords, rhythmic structures and instrumentation.

New genres don’t arise from 100% musical innovation (things that are too far from what we’re used to listening to very rarely* become popular enough to become their own genre) – instead the boundaries of pre-existing genres are expanded enough, until a new genre of music is formed. It’s kind of like colours, I guess. What’s purple for one person is blue for another, red for one and orange for another – there aren’t definitive lines, as anyone who’s had an argument over whether it’s really metal or just hard rock will know.

Because of this, arguably one of the coolest things you can do in music is to blend elements of two genres that seem to be as far away from each other as possible. Bohemian Rhapsody is a fantastic example of this – a bit of pop, bit of rock, bit of opera. Or Nightwish, who famously blend metal and opera to make music arguably cooler than either of those genres alone.

One of my long-term favourite bands who are pretty much professionals at this mixing of genres, is Left Or Right. They’re a New Zealand band from the deep south, made up of three guys who are part musicians, part hippies and part construction workers, and the only way I can describe their music to the uninitiated is ‘reggae metal’. I’ve had enough funny looks when describing them in real life to know the look you’re giving your phone or laptop right now, but I’m completely serious. And better than that, it works. I like metal and reggae enough – neither are genres I know loads about, but I’m prone to the odd Bob Marley playlist when chilling in summer, and have often studied to Rob Zombie or Mastodon (fuels the rage required to complete terrible assignments). However, when you put them together, it turns out, you create something truly amazing.

Buzzy came out in 2012, featuring Looking for a Tennis Ball (it’s on youtube) – the first song that got me hooked. It’s a fantastic mix of summery and angry; the lyrics a summation of the New Zealand experience, which oddly enough, I couldn’t imagine set to any other combination of genres. It’s chilled, but controlled; groovy but succinct; relaxed but professional. Weather With You has some seriously stiff competition for ‘most New Zealand sounding song’, put it that way. I think I listened to this album non-stop for about six weeks, and now I own three copies of it. I mean, I’m pretty good about buying albums and supporting my favourite artists (also I’m a sucker for cover art), but even so.

Three years later, and they’ve gifted us with a new magical work of goodness – Trippy is a great follow-up; it shares many of the elements I loved about Buzzy, but is different enough to keep the interest. Well worth checking out if you like metal, reggae or New Zealand music. It’s available in it’s entirety on band camp, and definitely worth the half-hour ish of your time.

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