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Cheap Sav For Dead Friends - EP Review: Cheap Sav For Dead Friends

19 Sep 2023 // A review by OLDER

Tamaki Makaurau’s Indie rock-pop band Cheap Sav For Dead Friends have released their self-titled, self-recorded, self-produced, and self-engineered debut EP which includes their September 2023 single Emotional.

Joe Dekkers-Reihana and Jack Buchanan head up the vocals, guitar work and song writing with Sam Clavis on bass and Taylor Hall on drums.

This quartet of young men bring far more than being musicians to the band - their diverse skills include being accomplished professional screen and stage actors, sound engineers and production managers. Their achievements in the creative arts outside of the band are impressive enough in their own right, so what do you get when a bunch of young multi-talented lads' team up to create music as a band you might ask? Pure, unique, sonic magic - that's what.

The best thing I can suggest is don't waste any more time reading this review. Just go listen to them right now. Start with Emotional. Once that’s hit your ears you won't be able to unhear it; you'll be hooked and you'll know there is something very, very special about Cheap Sav For Dead Friends. You'll instantly become a fan and you'll forget all about reading the rest of this review. Thank you and goodnight.

Oh, so you need more convincing? OK since you're still here let’s see if I can do these gentlemen justice…

So, we have 6 tracks to cover – 23 minutes and 6 seconds of the most exciting new music I have heard in years. Opening with Emotional you have an incredibly infectious hook-laden alt-pop track that ought to be on every radio station in NZ right now. It’s a programmer’s dream. It has that quintessential warm Kiwi indie pop-rock sound – simple stripped-back production with clean and perfectly played bass & drums supporting tight, slightly overdriven rhythm guitars. The melodic lead guitar riffs are nailed. Nothing wasted, nothing missed, nothing overdone. Lyrically we’re pulled into a young man’s world turned upside down as his ‘baby’ is leaving. The poor fella is emotional, lost and not sure what to do. Far from an angst-ridden delivery we get a sort of matter-of-fact-lost-and-wounded (but still a bit confused all round) performance. The kind of lost and hurt that makes your nanna want to scoop you up and say, “It’ll be OK there’s plenty more fish in sea luv.” Then everything will of course be OK because nannas are always right. Take out line for me – ‘I’m a horse without a stable.’ Lyric of the year award nominee right there.

Check the video for Emotional here. A wonderfully low-budget production – a green screen, some brilliantly entertaining dancing by Taylor and crazy ever-changing stock footage backgrounds utterly unrelated to the song. Just perfect. Visual entertainment on steroids. Love it.

Track 2: Pinot Gris. A bouncy, catchy song about cooking tea on a Tuesday evening that needs some Pinot Gris. The song is served up with a wonderful Mediterranean vibe. Oooops though, the quiet night at home means the old Gris is going down a little faster than planned. ‘On my own again, so there’s no reason to say no to a glass or ten.’ I’m also nominating this line for a lyrical award. At 2:16 a choral hook lands that is stunning – perfect singalong material. At 2:19 you get a lead guitar that on the first note sound exactly like a trumpet blowing. How did they do that???!!

Track 3; Babies. Ramping up the speed and energy and with another brilliant take-away lyric – wow three out of three!! These guys are habit forming, like the Pinot Gris. ‘Maybe having babies was a bad idea.’ The intonation in the delivery is glorious and has stuck in my head – you have to hear it to appreciate it. The song is just brilliant.

OK intermission time. What sound are we getting here? Well, I did suggest just go listen to it because to be honest I can’t nail it even after over 45 years of listening to a diverse range of music. Cheap Sav For Dead Friends’ sound manages to span decades because they tap into so many influences. There is a self-deprecating humour running through their lyrics but not at the cost of carrying an emotional payload that resonates, if you want it to. I do hear The Kooks at times, but equally hints of Panic! At The Disco, Sparks, Flight Of The Concords and the stage musical The Book Of Mormon. The DNA of musical-style writing is evident but as a seasoning rather than a whole meal. With or without Pinot Gris.

Right back to it – Track 4; Slow Horse. An entire nearly 5-minute song dedicated to the story of a slow horse. Honestly! It swings and glides along with a snake-charming lead guitar. The vocals rise and fall in waves with a theatrical stage presence that match the drama of the story telling. I don’t know if the song is literal or a euphemism, but I love it either way. Another great line in this track; "And when they run, they run at slow-horse speed, when the others run behind him he just thinks he’s in the lead." That’s philosophy that is, right there. Or just a slow horse – you can decide!

Track 5; Why Am I So Sad? Beautiful, slow, melancholic and perhaps a definitive song for anyone living alone and down on their luck. ‘I come home, to an unmade bed, run out of fingers trying to count up all my debt.’ A moment in life that we have all experienced summed up perfectly. More focused than a laser guided laser thing doing laser focused stuff. But wait, there’s more … ‘There’s something cooking in the pan, while I stand here wondering who I really am.’ I paused the song there to just stop and think about that, hypnotised by the imagery. A long think, long enough for the pan to boil dry. This is a song for anyone and everyone. That pan moment is everyone’s moment. It’s the human condition. Own this song, save it somewhere safe and come back to it because it will always be your friend.

Track 6; Won’t Come Home. The tempo and energy are back with gusto. Back in too is the theatrical in spade-loads. A glorious Middle Eastern inspired lead guitar riff. This is an interesting track because I can sense the band pushing hard against production and instrumentation boundaries. Keeping in mind this is an entirely self-titled, self-recorded, self-produced, and self-engineered EP for the record I want to opine that it is brilliantly recorded and mixed. They have thrown in all they can on this song, but I can imagine a raft of exotic instrumentation taking it somewhere sonically bigger. And that’s not a bad thing because early material from a band is also about hearing the potential for growth and the excitement of more music to come.

And that takes me into the summing up. Cheap Sav For Dead Friends are quite simply a brilliant band who have produced a brilliant self-titled EP. Party to it, drive to it or just listen to it. Just make sure you check it out because it is special. It is not just special in itself but for where this band may go from here. I can see them having many potential directions – one might be to continue to write catchy pop-rock indie tunes several of which in the future will become big hits and part of our national story as Emotional deserves to be. Another might be to pen a successful musical because they have the seed of that in their writing. Or maybe they'll find a way to blend the two as some artists have managed very successfully.

Whatever they do I hope they are around for a long time to come. Cheap Sav For Dead Friends are that rare kind of band that directly connect with an audience through writing about the most ordinary of shared experiences. The emotion is there, it’s just served up with a slight of hand, hidden behind the guise of self-depreciation. It’s that classic Kiwi approach to self, life & love that provides the buy-in so that when you listen to them it’s as though they are playing personally for you.

When all is said and done they are just awesome. I feel lucky to have heard them at this stage of their careers and to be able to recommend them utterly, completely and without reservation to you. Grab some cheap Sav and check them out.


About Cheap Sav For Dead Friends

Cheap Sav For Dead Friends is one of Tamaki Makaurau’s most exciting new indie rock acts.

Hailed as “a power-pop act whose practised precision seems to belie their newbie tag*”, Cheap Sav’s six track debut EP showcases the band’s versatility, heart, self-deprecating humour, and keen ear for a catchy hook.

“…good riff-laden suburban bedroom pop tunes...” - *13th Floor

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Cheap Sav For Dead Friends


Cheap Sav For Dead Friends
Year: 2023
Type: EP

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