Local Focus: New Zealand Music Month – Steve Rendle
Masterton District Council’s Senior Communications Advisor takes the microphone and plays two of his original songs for New Zealand Music Month.
By day, Steve Rendle is a spokesman for Masterton District Council; at night, he goes by the pseudonym Topdresser, plays guitar, and writes his own music.
Steve performed two songs in the Wairarapa Times-Age office as part of his Tiny Desk style concert series for New Zealand Music Month 2022.
Growing up, there weren’t many vinyl records around Steve’s house.
“I probably got into rock n’ roll a bit late,” he says.
“I got my first job in Oamaru and had an apartment where there were lots of nice kids with lots of good music.
“I put a lot of myself into The Clash and I haven’t really stopped.
“There was a lot of punk rock to begin with, then the Smiths came along and I found them impossible to copy, so it was still pretty thrashy.”
Steve played “pretty basic stuff” for many years.
It wasn’t until Steve saw Justin Townes Earle in concert that he realized he wanted to make his own music.
“[Justin] is an amazing guitarist and it opened my eyes to what you can do with a guitar,” he says.
“It was relatively new, so I’ve just tried to ditch the pick and play with my fingers ever since.
“Continued passions in my life, that’s been the thing that’s been going on since I was young, until now.”
Steve says he’s just “an old guy playing music”, original songs.
“It’s so much fun.
“You put yourself out there, you’re a little vulnerable.
“But on the other hand, you’re completely bulletproof because no one can tell you that you’re playing your own song wrong.
“I think it’s incredibly liberating.”
Steve’s first gig was in a band with friends called Goats in Russian, where things got pretty rowdy in Oamaru.
“I had bought a guitar that I didn’t know how to play, then an expensive guitar that I didn’t know how to play.
“We had a party as a group, and the police came and threatened to take our instruments.
“But it’s Oamaru, you know all the cops. Everybody knows everybody, it was a lot of fun.
“I think it’s a fantastic thrill when you look up and see people listening. It doesn’t happen that often.”
Despite the thrill of the live performance, Steve says it’s not his main drive.
“I play my guitar every night, my wife will attest to that. It’s just an uninhibited outlet.
“It’s freedom from everything. I love it.”
This New Zealand Music Month, local musicians have the opportunity to take it to the next level.
Fellow musician and Times-Age chief reporter Tom Taylor organized the events and recorded and mixed the sound for emerging artists in the area.
Steve says there are plenty of musicians in the Wairarapa “much more capable” than he is, but his advice for aspiring musos is to “keep playing”.
“I spend most of my time playing live – open mic stuff, the ConArt stuff.
“Very laid back, lovely guys and a really supportive environment.
“If you play in places where people tell you you suck, don’t play there.
“Play somewhere else because it doesn’t exist. Go out there and do it.”
Wairarapa musicians usually have to cross the Remutakas to get to Wellington to show off their musical talents.
Steve arrived at the Wairarapa after the King Street Live concert hall closed.
He has high hopes for a concert hall closer to home.
“It would be great to have some sort of medium-sized venue where tours could happen,” he says.
“If there were regular outlets for local musicians and people on tour, that presents it as an opportunity and something to build towards.”
Although Goats in Russian will remain in Steve’s youth, his most recent band was started in Wellington, called Butterfly P!G.
There are still 200 copies of the Butterfly P!G CD somewhere in Steve’s attic waiting to go to a good home.