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Bic Runga Remembers ‘Beautiful Collision’: “I Was Trying to Make Something Timeless”

Rolling Stone AU/NZ caught up with the beloved singer-songwriter to discuss the legacy of her second album, touring again, and her plans for the future

Bic Runga

Aileen Chen

In these post-pandemic years, nostalgia is proving very popular in music. Blink-182 got their most-beloved lineup back together for a world tour; Jet, alt-j, and many more artists are hitting the road to celebrate seminal debut albums.

As long as the music in question is excellent, though, nostalgia taking over the live music circuit is a fine thing. This is certainly true of Bic Runga’s new tour: the beloved Aotearoa singer-songwriter is currently belatedly celebrating the 20th anniversary of Beautiful Collision, one of her very best albums.

Released in 2002, Runga’s second studio album topped the NZ Albums Chart and earned her several nominations at the 2003 New Zealand Music Awards.

It lacked an all-conquering hit in the mould of “Sway”, but memorable tracks like “Get Some Sleep” and “Something Good” helped Beautiful Collision to become certified 10x platinum in New Zealand

21 years later, Runga has been proudly playing the album in full around her home country, supported by Georgia Lines. “As a live show, it was 45 minutes of pure pop joy,” Stuff‘s review of her Christchurch show hailed.

Ahead of the final two shows of her New Zealand tour – in Auckland and Wellington – Rolling Stone AU/NZ caught up with the Runga to discuss the legacy of Beautiful Collision, touring again, and her plans for the future.

Bic Runga performs in Auckland tonight, followed by Wellington on Saturday, July 29th. Her acoustic Australian tour visits Cairns, Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane, and Melbourne in August (tickets available here). 

Rolling Stone AU/NZ: Firstly, I hope the tour has been going well! What’s been the best show so far? How have fans responded overall to the tour?

Bic Runga: All of the shows have been great, the crowds have been really warm. I think people are psyched to see live music again, and this tour is sort of nostalgic of a very different time, 20 years ago. It’s been a really good vibe. 

What does Beautiful Collision mean to you today?

I still love this record, the songs were pretty honest at the time so they still mean a lot to me. 

Is it your favourite album that you’ve made?

Yes, I think so. It was a really difficult but rewarding record to make. I spent three years on it, some of the sessions were done at Sunset Sound in LA and some were tracked at my home in Auckland. It went through so many weird incarnations and made me crazy, but we got there in the end. 

At the time, did you believe that Beautiful Collision would prove to be as popular as it did? Is that something a musician can ever feel during the recording process? 

You never really know how the music will be perceived, if people will adopt it into their lives or not. But most of all I was trying to make something timeless, sort of outside of what pop music sounded like at the time. 

Did any album tracks present difficulties after not playing them regularly for so long? Or did it all come naturally again?

There’s this one song called “Election Night” which was always really awkward because it had this random drum and bass verse beat. But Kody is such a good drummer he handles it how I would’ve liked it to have been recorded 20 years ago.That song had a major identity crisis at the time, but it makes better sense now that we’re getting to revisit it. 

Why do you think Beautiful Collision still resonates so much two decades later?

I was trying to make something that stood outside of the time I was in. It was sort of anachronistic, influenced by 60’s pop, 40’s ballads, drum and bass. It was so all over the place that it almost made no sense!

We’re big fans of Georgia Lines at Rolling Stone AU/NZ. What made her the ideal support at your shows?

Georgia is a great performer but I also just like her company, she’s such a cool person. She’s really funny and a good energy to have around. 

Bic Runga

Image: Bic Runga Credit: Kody Nielson

Have you enjoyed supporting the Women’s World Cup at the same time? I saw that you were playing at the FIFA Fan Zone.

I played a few gigs as part of the FIFA Women’s World Cup proceedings, but my favourite thing was being part of their Gender Equity Events. I was on a panel talk this week with Teresa Gattung, New Zealand’s first woman CEO of a public company, Becca Roux who successfully campaigned to bridge the female-male gender pay gap in football for the US Women’s team, and Monique Fiso, who made history becoming the first woman to be awarded three hats and Cuisine Chef of the Year, just really good conversations. It’s been a really inspiring week. 

Are you looking forward to performing across Australia in August? When was the last time you toured there?

I played in Australia five years ago, it’s been too long, so I’m really excited to be playing there. It’s good to be coming back to sold-out Melbourne and Sydney shows, and I’m doing some smaller shows just with my partner Kody Nielson (from Unknown Mortal Orchestra) as part of the run as well. 

And what’s coming up for you in the rest of 2023? Some rest and relaxation after so much touring?

Relaxing is really stressing me out at the moment so I’m staying busy and doing some recording straight after the Australian tour. I’m so psyched to make new stuff. Sometimes making things is the best kind of relaxation.