Local Produce: Look Blue, Go Purple

Local Produce: Look Blue, Go Purple

For New Zealand Music Month and for the 40th anniversary of Radio One, Local Produce will cover four iconic Dunedin bands by way of interviewing a member of each selected band and asking them about their legacy. 

Look Blue, Go Purple (or simply LBGP) is the iconic all-female 5 piece from Ōtepoti that took over the music scene between 1985-1998 with their shoegaze sound. LBGP is Kath Webster (guitar, vocals), Denise Roughan (guitar, keyboard, vocals), Lesley Paris (drums), Norma O’Malley (keyboard, flute, guitar, vocals) and Francisca Griffin (bass, guitar, vocals). Critic Te Ārohi had a phone call with Francisca for a very special LBGPLP.

LBGP often focused their songwriting on the world around them. Famously ‘Cactus Cat’ was written about the cat that lived at their flat. “I’ve never written a song outside of Dunedin,” says Francisca. “I was never inspired by anywhere really, mainly the scenery in my head. I’ll have some words and then images, then little flashes of colour.” For Francisca, all elements of songwriting come at once. “I have a large pile of sheets of music, lines and words. I also have a small amount of music in my head because I can’t write music. I’ll be playing something on the guitar and usually the words just fit.”

The Dunedin Sound can be a compliment for some and a pigeonhole for others. “It’s a sentence that just got carried away with. There was a sound that came from Dunedin in the ‘80s but harnessing [LBGP] with that really pisses some people off.” David Kilgour of The Clean was the one who uttered the words “Dunedin Sound” in 1981 and thereafter a lot of bands got the “Dunedin Sound” title forced upon them. Francesca says, “[The Dunedin Sound was] The Clean, The Verlaines, The Chills, The Stones, and Sneaky Feelings. After that it was free for all.” Francesca even compared it to the Seattle Sound and grunge when really “those people inside those scenes don’t give a shit what they’re labelled as.”

In terms of LBGP being an all women band, Francesca says, “We didn’t have an intent to stand out from anybody. The fact we were all women was just a fact. We wanted to be in a band that was all women, that was it.” The reception of being all women was not even really thought about until the band toured elsewhere. When asked what the response was to being asked ‘What’s it like being in all girl band’ – “Oh fuck off. Nobody ever said to Straitjacket Fits ‘What’s it like being in an all boy band?’”

A few weeks ago, LBGP won the Taite IMNZ Classic Record Award for their 1991 compilation of EPs. The record got rereleased as ‘Bewitched’ in 2016 with some extra live tracks. Francesca says she is “still buzzing” after winning the award. “There weren’t even many music awards when we were making music back then.” Remarking on why they won, Francesca says, “They were good songs. People came up to us saying we are the reason they’re making music regardless of gender which was overwhelming but beautiful to hear.” 

To read more about Look Blue, Go Purple visit audioculture.co.nz. You can find their music on all streaming platforms, as well as their record ‘Bewitched’ on Flying Nun Records.

This article first appeared in Issue 12, 2024.
Posted 10:25pm Sunday 19th May 2024 by Jordan Irvine.