By CATHRIN SCHAER
It's a rags to riches, rock'n'roll fairytale featuring four twentysomething lads from the Waikato who went to seek fame and fortune on the other side of the world.
The Datsuns have gone from starving musicians sleeping on dirty floors and playing support gigs to being accommodated in posh hotels, wooed in expensive restaurants by record companies and headlining some of the trendiest gigs in London.
In the process they've also netted a deal with V2, the label Richard Branson set up after selling Virgin Records, that came with a rumoured £200,000 advance. Yes, that's pounds - more than NZ$650,000.
These days when the band is not touring exhaustively around Britain and Europe, they're hanging out with fellow rock'n'rollers the White Stripes and the Von Bondies.
Or they're surfing the wave of hype currently carrying garage rock to the top of the pops, being interviewed by British music, fashion and mainstream media. The Datsuns have become regulars on the pages of the musically trendsetting NME and recently The Guardian devoted a full feature to the quartet.
Meanwhile, they're also being name-checked by the likes of the lads from Metallica and Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters. And Billy Duffy, legendary axeman from The Cult, has been chasing up the record company to buy their music.
Could it be that the long hairs from down Hamilton way will soon be the biggest New Zealand group in Britain since Crowded House (yes, apparently Neil Finn is also a fan).
So how, you've got to wonder, did the unassuming but very rock'n'roll Datsuns do it?
"Don't ask me," says guitarist Phil Datsun - in typical rock'n'roll fashion, the whole group use their band name as a surname. "Last time we came over here we did a bunch of shows and a few people got interested. When we first got here we expected to do four shows and leave again; we were just wondering how we were going to pay everything off."
Yes, Phil admits, it could be the novelty of coming from so far away that means they make for a more interesting story than an English rock band from down the road.
But as music pundits will tell you, a big part of this particular rock'n'roll fairytale must also come down to near perfect timing.
They started out as more of a powerpop group but in fact the Datsuns, who all met at school, have been playing their brand of rock'n'roll for the past seven years. Along with the D4, who are now also finding success in Britain, they had a loyal but relatively underground following in New Zealand.
Then happily, the boys went to London to seek their fortunes, just as the garage rock bandwagon - also featuring the White Stripes, the Hives, the Strokes and various other groups starting with "the" - was starting to roll, leaving dance culture a casualty in its wake.
Word soon started to spread about the boys from Downunder, their distinctive sound tinged with early 70s heavy metal crossed with garage punk and their live shows laced with rock histrionics that were somehow fresher and more genuine than anything old Blighty could manufacture.
A live session with renowned talent spotter, BBC Radio 1 host John Peel, was helpful.
Then after an April 29 show - at The Verge in Kentish Town where there was a riot because several hundred fans were locked out of the gig - that was proclaimed "legendary" by those in the music press who did get inside, the Datsuns were an official hot property.
"It actually got a bit stupid," Phil says. "At the end of every show we started to get everyone from record company people to press agents to accountants approaching us. There were about five lawyers one time.
"It got to the point where it was just a joke - they all just wanted to see how much money they could make out of us."
Despite that, they're not millionaires. "Last time we were home people told us they heard we were being offered blank cheques. We were like 'where the hell did you hear that'?"
With the money and credibility, there were also a whole new bunch of fans, although many because their music is trendy.
"[Rock'n'roll] is just so fashionable in London at the moment," Phil says somewhat scathingly. "Everybody's wearing Motorhead T-shirts and you've got to wonder if they even know who Motorhead is."
Eventually the band selected a crew of individuals to help ease them into the European music industry. And, Phil says, they're the real thing: folks who will allow the Datsuns to continue being themselves and making music the way they want.
"We've been doing this for seven years now and it's very easy to tell about the whole fashion thing. There are the people who just love rock'n'roll and they don't give a shit about what's cool. They don't care what they look like and they're just losing their minds to the band. And then there are the people who stand at the back, making sure they're seen. You can spot 'em a mile off."
There's a bit of fashion victim-spotting going on at the moment because the band's routine revolves around playing live. They're back home early next month, then it's off to Australia, the United States and back to Europe. They're living out of suitcases and not planning to relocate anywhere anytime soon.
Interestingly enough for a band whose drummer was admitted to hospital after leaping off his drum kit and whose lead singer often wades into the moshing crowd, there is no nasty rock star behaviour, no throwing televisions out hotel windows, drug abuse or anything like that.
"We're not that type of band. We do respect other people's stuff," Phil says. "I mean, why would you do that? Unless, of course, it was your own TV and you felt like going a bit crazy," he reasons. "Basically we don't feel any different. We all just appreciate that we have the opportunity to do what we want to do."
With that happy sentiment, the rock'n'roll fairytale should end. Only, of course, it won't. So what happens to the nice Cambridge boys when the garage rock thing stops being fashionable?
"I'm actually looking forward to that a little bit," says Phil. "We all take it with a pinch of salt because at one stage no one was very interested in us. And there's probably going to be a time when no one is interested in us again.
"We don't have lifelong ambitions and we're taking everything as it comes.
"Rock'n'roll is something that's meant to be fun and turn you on. We have short attention spans and we're just young and dumb enough to do this for a while. I suppose it is a bit of a rock'n'roll dream.
"We've always wanted to make a living from music, play as much as we can and get to see different countries. It's all about whatever gets you to the next show and personally, I'm having a great time."
* The Datsuns is released on October 14. The band plays Bodega, Wellington, Thursday October 10; Regent Theatre, Auckland, Saturday October 12.
By CATHRIN SCHAER