This New Zealand guitar-pop band was formed in 1980 by singer, guitarist and songwriter Martin Phillipps from the remains of a school punk group.
For an entire decade, Phillipps hung tough through eleven different lineups of the band, determined to see something come of it.
The Chills released a handful of singles on New Zeland’s prominent indie label, Flying Nun, while band members came and went.
The band were rocked by drummer Martyn Bull’s premature death (from leukaemia) in 1983 and changed their name briefly to A Wrinkle in Time.
Outgrowing New Zealand by 1985, The Chills emigrated to London. Two years later, lineup #10 cut the first full-length Chills album, Brave Words.
The band debuted Stateside at the 1987 New Music Seminar and after a mini-tour of the US signed to Slash/Warner Bros.
Phillipps’ steadfastness paid off and Submarine Bells (1990) made a big splash on alternative radio in the USA, led by the delectable single Heavenly Pop Hit.
While clearly a singular talent, Martin Phillipps was apparently a pain to get along with and none of the Chills lineup from Submarine Bells appeared on Soft Bomb (1992).
While Phillipps and producer Gavin MacKillop tried to drape the album in layers of instruments and wrap it into a tight package, they couldn’t hide the fact that this was the first Chills album to sound like the work of a singer-songwriter.
Holing up in a Burbank, California, studio for six months – jamming with Peter Holsapple and arranging with Van Dyke Parks – brought the worst self-indulgent tendencies out of Phillipps.
He announced the dissolution of The Chills after the Soft Bomb tour and joined a covers band called The Pop Art Toasters.
It wasn’t long though until Phillipps assembled yet another Chills line-up and resumed gigging.
Sunburnt (1996) was recorded in England using Dave Mattacks of Fairport Convention and XTC‘s Dave Gregory on drums and bass, with Phillipps the only other credited musician on the album.
The band then split once again, but Phillipps continued to recruit new Chills members for live shows and played at least a few shows as The Chills every year from 1997 onwards (although he was laid low with hepatitis C for much of the late 1990s – a side effect of drug addiction problems).