One Question Quiz

Pop CultureMay 14, 2024

One woman’s ranking of her 20 favourite local band shirts


To celebrate New Zealand Music Month, Sophie Ricketts wears a different band T-shirt every day. Here she picks her top 20.

I love music. I love listening to it, I love seeing it live, and I love buying a T-shirt from the band or artist I’ve enjoyed. Every year, during the month of May (NZ Music Month) I wear a different music T-shirt each day and post a photo of it on my Instagram. It’s my way of celebrating the music industry in Aotearoa; a small gesture which shows my community my favourite artists and stimulates some conversation. My hope is that the artists see it too and feel the appreciation. Because I live in Christchurch, which has a robust live music scene, and because I’m friends with a lot of musicians, I know some of them do and that also brings me joy.

I started this tradition during the pandemic in 2020; like a lot of people, I was looking for ways to spice up my life since we were spending all of our time inside our bubbles. When we initially went into lockdown, I was wearing silly socks and posting photos of each pair. Throughout April, I was wearing a different brooch each day. But I knew exactly what I wanted to do for May. Sharing a photo to Instagram each day was a way to make my declaration of love for each artist extend beyond the confines of my home and make a time capsule of the fun. In the first year, I didn’t own enough T-shirts so some of the ones I wore were borrowed. I now own over 40 music T-shirts. I buy them when I attend gigs, when an artist or band I love releases a new one, when NZ Music T-shirt Day rolls around and Bandcamp removes all fees. I love to support. At the rate I’m going, I reckon this will be the last year that includes T-shirts from non-NZ artists.

Here’s a countdown of my 20 favourite NZ music T-shirts in my current collection.

20. The Black Seeds

When I think about these guys I remember being introduced to their sound at a pretty similar time to Fly My Pretties. Barnaby Weir has such a distinctive voice and I really loved the big reggae sound and mix of instruments on their second album. I seem to recall their music playing at a lot of flat parties during my uni years. This T-shirt doesn’t get worn too often as I’m always a bit nervous that the more times it gets washed, the more degraded the detail on the front will become; but I love that when I wore it most recently a musician came up to me and asked: “is that a 45 on your T-shirt?”

19. Volts

This T-shirt is bold (like the band), but plain (not at all like the band). It is a great fit, high quality and a classic look. I just wish it had more detailed artwork to evoke the style of their music more. They released a second T-shirt design last year and I can already tell I’ll probably buy it at their next gig.

18. Marlon Williams

This Lyttelton lad has one of the most gorgeous and distinctive voices around, sent from heaven to croon to us. We are blessed. This T-shirt is retro (like his voice), and a classic fit (like the way his albums fit into your record collection). But with a tee this white you need to be careful around certain foods.

17. Fur Patrol

Their album Pet was a pretty big part of my high school soundtrack, and is still a joy to return to. There’s something just magic about listening to really good musicians play really well together, and to me that sums of Fur Patrol. Julia Deans’ voice is so unique and ethereal; I’ve seen her live three or four times and she’s an absolute master of vocal control. Wearing this tee radiates nostalgia in the best way.

16. Pickle Darling

With the anxiety of a turtle who’s lost his shell, and the performer persona of a pangolin politely waiting to ask you a question, it is the music which wafts through over and above these traits to create a dreamy bedroom-pop cloud. Anton’s voice is unique and strangely calming. I bet he’d be an incredible reader for audio books. This T-shirt is cosy and welcoming, just like his songs; plus the artwork reminds us all that it’s OK to not be perfect.

15. The Beths

It was my buddy Edwin’s obsession with The Beths that gave birth to my own. When someone you know loves a band so much, the introduction to their music is such an incredible gift. On stage live, they kill it. On TV, they kill it. On my playlists, they kill it. This T-shirt always gets comments, and the graphic art is cool enough to wear even if wasn’t attached them as a band.

14. Flight of the Conchords

Born ironic, but truly iconic. I’m not going to pretend I loved their music before they were on TV. The honest truth is that from the first episode I was hooked, and still reference their music often. They are just so damn good. Plus I like that their faces perfectly frame my boobs in this T-shirt.

13. Kaylee Bell

While it seems derivative to call her the “NZ Taylor Swift”, it’s hard not to make the comparison. Sweet, unabashed, pop-perfection which has been honed and toned through a country filter. Her music, her lyrics, her guitar riffs, and her outfits are dynamite. Seeing her perform on her most recent national tour made me super aware that it won’t be long until she’s selling out arenas around the world. She had multiple T-shirt designs to choose from, but I definitely wanted the one with her face on it.

12. Mim Jensen

A truly unique voice, who plays a killer live set and knows just how to use her powerful pipes to reach inside you. She is small but mighty. Her birthday gig at Space Academy last month was great and there was no way I could walk out without buying this funky T-shirt. The graphic art and the shirt itself are both great quality.

11) Fly My Pretties

Their inaugural album, Live At Bats, flew forth in 2004. I remember being in my second year of university and my friend Ben playing the CD for me in his car. It made an impression instantly. I’ve subsequently seen them live three or four times. They are always impressive, always exciting. I love the fantail on this design, curving around the T-shirt so it can be seen from both sides. The Homeland tour (the gig where I bought it) was absolutely one of their best.

10. Hollie Smith

There is just something about Smith’s voice that reaches all the way from the mountains to the sea. Since she first entered my world via the smash hit Bathe In The River in 2005, and then contributed to the music of Fly My Pretties, I’ve grabbed every chance I’ve had to see her live. Whether she’s performing with a full band or doing an intimate solo set, she’s captivating. This singlet always gets a lot of wear during hot weather and I love the dramatic artwork across the front.

9. Tattletale Saints

This Nashville-based duo have captured lightning in a bottle. I was first introduced to their music in 2015 at an intimate gig in Nelson. That night sparked a love affair which remains deep and true. Up until last year I enjoyed the steady familiarity of being able to see them every summer when they returned to NZ for a tour, a holiday and visits with their families. But now that they are both players with Brandy Clarke and have solidified their own lives in the USA a bit more, those summer trips are no longer a guarantee. I’ll always be in the mood to listen to Big City Women, or Sonoma County Wine, but Traces of You is my favourite of their songs. Their T-shirts are comfortable and soft: this one features the artwork of their second album, Dancing Under The Dogwoods.

8. Jaggers x Lines

Full disclosure, this dynamic Dunedin double act includes my younger sibling. Obviously I love them endlessly and will support them to infinity, but trust me when I tell you that their music SLAPS. I got to see them live on their mini tour in 2017 and I was truly blown away. They released their T-shirt design in two colours, plus a sweatshirt, and you better believe I own all three. These two are no longer producing music together so what you find on Spotify is a lovely time-capsule of their flame burning at its brightest. If you’re still hungry for more of their lyrics, read Eliana Gray’s poetry. Seriously, do it.

7. Phoebe Vic

Phoebe is a poet and to see her perform live will set your soul on fire. I remember the day her album dropped online last year: I had it on repeat for a long time. Her tune Closure was my number one, most-listened to song of the year and once you hear it I think you’ll understand why. It just grabs you, by the heart and the throat. She’s got a gig on June 7 and the capacity is limited so if you’re in Ōtautahi act now before all the seats are gone – don’t say I didn’t warn you! The artwork on her T-shirt always gets comments when I wear it out, and I’m eternally grateful to every artist who prints on AS Colour tees as their shirts are great quality, wash well, and I always know my size.

6. Fazerdaze

Without a doubt, one of the most interesting and engaging artists currently working in Aotearoa. Her music is fresh, freeing, and deep. The blessing and the curse of being this good is that she spends a fair bit of time out of the country touring in far off lands, but I’ve got my fingers crossed for some more local gigs before the end of the year. This manta-ray T-shirt is gorgeous to look at, fun to wear, and the weight of the fabric is exceptional. Tell your mates in America: she’s playing gigs there this month.

5. Katie Thompson

Her look, sound, and the overall mood of her music is a vibe and I swear I can smell the sea air when I listen to her song West Coast. I bought this T-shirt the first time I ever saw her live: at Nostalgia Festival here in Christchurch. I fell in love with her songs, and I fell in love with this cheeky artwork of her pulling the middle finger.

4. Tami Neilson

Each time I see Tami Neilson live is a spiritual experience. To me, she is the best of the best and I already can’t wait until the next time I get to see her live again. She released the gorgeous duet Beyond The Stars with Willie Nelson in 2022 and this T-shirt was launched at the same time – I couldn’t order it fast enough! The artwork on the tee is as gorgeous as the song, and the fit is exceptional too.

3. Navvy

Bright eyed, optimistic, and full of boundless joy: this is how I would describe Navvy. Her music is so uplifting and wholesome, it makes me proud to think about the positive effect she is surely having on the younger members of her audience. You can’t help but sing along when her songs come on the radio, and more than a few have found their way onto my playlists too. The artwork on this T-shirt is portraits she asked loved ones to draw of her face; she wanted to replicate the design of a primary school tea-towel. Just charming.

2. The Response

I was introduced to this great band in 2018 when they performed at TEDx in Christchurch. I was instantly smitten with their dynamic sound, polished production, and longing lyrics. I could barely believe the things their music was achieving with just two of them on stage. Andy takes lead in this band with Victoria supporting; he is also a talented graphic designer and does all their T-shirt artwork. Look out for more new music from them on the horizon later this year. I just can’t wait.

1. Imperial April

Believe it or not, this is the same talented duo that makes up The Response: but now Victoria is out in front with Andy supporting. The overall sound is different too, with a much brighter pop influence. If you haven’t seen them live, you are missing out: but that can be easily remedied by getting tickets to the Go Live festival in Christchurch in August. (FYI: this is a festival that it is worth travelling for if you don’t live in Ōtautahi.) Yet again, Andy designs some killer merch and it’s no wonder I own all three of their different Imperial April tees. This newest design is just the cutest, covered in artwork of their favourite things. They have to sit in the number one spot because without a doubt they are the band I wear the most! The artwork is great and the printing holds up after many washes.

What are you doing to celebrate New Zealand Music Month? If you can, go to gigs! If you can, buy some merch! And if you can’t, please stream your favourite artists and recommend them to your friends. They will love you for it. You can listen to what I wore last year on Spotify by looking up my playlist “NZMM 2023” and listen to what I’m wearing this year on “NZMM 2024”, you’ll see it grow day by day.

Keep going!