This summer the Chronicle is bringing you another look at some of the best content of 2019. This story originally ran on November 15, 2019
Born out of the local house party scene, a group of Whanganui musicians have built an empire which now sells out shows around the country and garners millions of online streams.
Machete Clan started with a group of mates mucking around recording tunes and writing songs in the background at parties.
Fast-forward to 2016 and they could be heard at student parties around New Zealand with their hit single On The Rark blasting from the speaker.
Now, near the end of 2019, Machete Clan have just completed their second national tour, released three albums and clocked millions of streams on Spotify.
Machete Clan's Issac Chamberlain says the more serious it looked, the funnier it got.
"I figured out how to put it on Spotify and not a lot of people were doing that at the time so then everyone freaked out there was a local group on Spotify, so it made the whole thing funnier because it was a super gutless project that started looking all professional."
Chamberlain says everyone knew someone that was passing the On the Rark track on, and it grew from there.
With lyrics that explore themes of drugs, sex and a good Whanganui party, their albums carry the obligatory "parental advisory" sticker.
Chamberlain says their music first comes from a beat and that inspires a lyric, and within four to five hours with five or six people in the studio they can make a new track.
"When it's hot it's hot but sometimes it will take ages to get it right, we usually have five or six people in the studio with that basic Whanganui bullshitting talk - it's just yarns."
But it's not just Machete Clan. The group's social scene also includes metal band Drxnes (which Chamberlain is also part of) and DJ Mungbeans - the three often touring as one package.
Lez Kiriona, who regularly has Machete Clan and Drxnes play at Frank Bar + Eatery, says the group have come a long way.
"They are doing their own thing and that's great, that's what you want, you don't want them to try and copy what other bands are doing," he says.
"They're not to be dictated by 'oh, Grandma said you can't say that anymore'.
"They know what makes a good show for people, it's not just about 'let's go smash everything', it's about putting the show on."
Kiriona says Machete Clan and Drxnes know how to pull a crowd.
"Everyone else gets a good crowd, but those guys when they play, they're always full, they always have people outside."
He says Frank Bar's bathtub is now an iconic prop for Machete Clan, classing it as "their bathtub".
"Every time they play there, a really heavy cast iron bathtub gets lifted by about 15 guys and someone's always inside."
Whether they're holding up inflated kayaks with Chamberlain inside or wearing orange overalls or oxygen masks, they make it their show, he says.
The band has recently finished up their second nationwide tour - Homeless Monsters - performing 12 shows and finishing up at Frank Bar on September 26.
Chamberlain says their first tour in 2018 validated what they were trying to achieve.
"You've got these groups that you think only exist in Whanganui, but the same crew exists everywhere sort of thing amongst all the boys and girls and young people," he says.
One set of dedicated "rarkers" (fans) they met on their first tour came from Rotorua and travelled together to every show in their very own On The Rark bus.
To repay them for their support Machete took their second tour to Rotorua.
Chamberlain says a big highlight from their latest tour was selling out two of their shows in the early stages of the ticket release.
One Whanganui-based fan, Paddy Kellow, who has featured in a number of their music videos and supported the band from the beginning, says he likes that at the end of the day they are just a group of mates enjoying themselves.
He says they bring the Whanganui pride with them wherever they perform.
"It's still obvious that when they're performing in Whanganui it's still their favourite place to be.
"No matter where they are they rep 'Whangas' and don't try and be anyone that they're not."
Chamberlain says they try to incorporate their fans and their friends into their music videos as much as possible.
"We're always trying to put back on the boys and people that we share the content around with in the local scene because we're like a big dark horse as well. Like, no one ever wants to touch us and work with us so we have to do independent videos, independent planning which makes it pretty hard but we've learnt heaps with it so it's been pretty fun."
Chamberlain says it was great to be able to work as three - Machete Clan, Drxnes and DJ Mungbeans - on the Homeless Monsters tour.
"This time we wanted to make it a bit more about the artists and that's why we called it the Homeless Monsters as it's not just Machete we're trying to push into the spotlight," he says.
DJ Mungbeans, created by Patrick Smith, has mixed Machete sets and their songs to become hit singles.
Smith also has his own tracks that he performed throughout the tour.
Chamberlain says Drxnes was trying to get away from the skull-and-crossbones metal which some people do not find appealing and turn away from.
"People had already made up their mind without hearing the music sort of thing."
They decided to mix in different genres, calling it Drxnes and Bass that included a few drum and bass DJs and a few heavy metal bands.
They thought it was a good mix from the start and have continued ever since.
Chamberlain says Drxnes have been writing quite a bit and plan to have a new single out by the end of the year.
"You learn so much on tour, everyone learns how to perform and the boys have all come a huge way from just getting pissed and standing up there with a mic," he says.
From set-ups and sound checks, Chamberlain says it was really cool to showcase themselves again.
So what's next for "the rarkers"?
All of the boys lead very busy lives with work and other commitments and with some living out of town, the future is unknown, Chamberlain says.
He hopes to keep making music but right now he is just taking in the realisation of the dream becoming a reality.
"With enough effort and perseverance we've managed to tour the whole country, we've made money, only working part-time now so it's all becoming a lot more doable.
"That's been the best thing for me, sort of validating that we can be musicians in New Zealand and we can have fun doing it."
He says Machete may not be the final project but they can all take these experiences and carry them on in future music projects and aspirations.