"We got stopped literally every ten metres by people wanting to take pictures with us": Meet Powder Chutes, the small town New Zealand band making a big noise

Powder Chutes press shot
(Image credit: Gareth Hodges)

As the gateway to New Zealand’s Mount Aspiring National Park and the Southern Alps, the lake town of Wanaka is the kind of place where the well-heeled own second properties, and winter heralds the arrival of city types with expensive skiing equipment. It’s also the unlikely home of teenage quartet Powder Chutes, whose recent single Moths To The Flame has been grabbing attention beyond the South Pacific. 

“There are lots of crusty old skiers and snowboarders here,” says 16-year-old bassist Otis Murphy. “So there are lots of people that really like rock music. It’s just a small place, and it’s a real tight-knit community, but once winter hits there are heaps of young people that come to get on the piss and listen to music.” 

Three of the band are still at school – drummer Archie Orbell recently left to become an apprentice mechanic – but they’ve been together long enough to have developed the kind of chemistry that belies their youth. 

“We’ve been playing together for a long time,” says guitarist Clarke West. “Since I could really remember playing music.” 

The quartet, completed by singer Henry McConnell, released an EP, Sweet Noise Pollution, in early 2022, but Moths To The Flame is a giant leap forward. Recorded at Sublime, a remote residential studio located on a vineyard (“You head down this long dirt road and there’s this shed,” says Archie, “and then you walk inside and it’s insane”), it’s a powerful mix of styles that kicks off in the vicinity of early Pearl Jam, but by the time the vocal arrives it’s taken a left turn into Tool-adjacent territory. Throw in some blues rock, a bit of Velvet Revolver, and a smidgeon of punk near the climax, and you’ve got something that’s at least equal to the sum of its very numerous parts. 

People have noticed; Moths To The Flame has hit the Top 10 on the Hot NZ Singles Chart. It’s been playlisted at national radio station The Rock, where it sits alongside the likes of Guns N’ Roses and Metallica. On the other side of the globe it’s been played on rock radio in Scotland and Wales. 

The band can also cut it on stage. A few months ago Powder Chutes were invited to open for ZZ Top, Pat Benatar and Stone Temple Pilots at an outdoor show, and they made quite an impression. 

“Me and Otis were walking around,” says Clarke, “and we got stopped literally every ten metres by people wanting to take pictures with us, which was really strange.” 

The rest of the year throws up more possibilities. They’d like to make an album, and maybe re-record the EP. And if the opportunity arises they’d love to play outside New Zealand. 

“It’s weird, because three of us are still going to school,” says Clarke. “So that whole concept seems so far away.” As Otis adds: “Three of us can’t even get into pubs.” 

Learn more at powderchutes.com

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 37 years in music industry, online for 24. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.