Legacy of famous Dunedin indie-rock band perserved in new exhibition

One of Dunedin most famous indie-rock bands star in a new exhibition now open in the group's hometown.

Martin Phillipps formed The Chills in the early 80s, and has been the group's frontman through all its ups and downs.

But following a dire medical prognosis two years ago he was keen to try and preserve his legacy, and that of his band.

The Chills have been creating music for 38 years under various lineups, but having their story headline the Otago Museum show is a new stage for the singer-songwriter.

"Ah frankly, it feels kind of weird", Mr Phillipps says.

"This was meant to be a very whittled-down exhibition, and there's over 500 exhibits from my collection. And if you walked into my house, you could not tell anything was missing."

But rummaging through his full house has turned up some unique treasures.

"We've been discovering all sorts of wonders", he admits.

"Lost original artwork and amazing posters from our trips through America and Europe in the 80s and so on."

The three week exhibition dubbed "Things Change" covers Mr Phillips the songwriter, the collector and the survivor.

The frontman's battled Hepatitis C for decades.  

But in 2016 he was told liver damage caused by the disease along with alcohol abuse could end his life within a year.

A documentary crew was following Phillipps as he began arranging his affairs, with that film due for release next year.

The singer's battle is ongoing, but an antiviral treatment described in the media as "a miracle reprieve" has given him a new lease on life, with the hope of a happy ending.

"You and I are both going to have to wait for the end of the movie to see what happens", Mr Phillipps says.

In the meantime he's getting back to doing what he loves.  

The Chills are back on the road with a series of tours, and have been in the studio recording a new album.

The exhibition itself is a change in style for Otago Museum.  

Mr Phillipps has been involved heavily in the collaborative process, along with a group of Communication Design students from Otago Polytech.

Otago Museum's head designer Craig Scott is a graduate of that course, and admits it's been a bonus getting to work with the star of the show.

"It's a really cool experience", Mr Scott says.

"You get so much more information and detail that you wouldn't normally get.  A lot of the stuff in our collection we don't know anything about it for some items."

Visitors will enjoy hearing some of The Chills' biggest hits as they explore the exhibition, including Heavenly Pop Hit, I Love My Leather Jacket, and Pink Frost.

Phillipps says the band enjoys exposing their new material to fans while on tour, but insists he doesn't mind cranking out the old classics.

"If we become unhappy playing the song.. just get bored of it.. we drop it. Because luckily there's enough old material to circulate."

Iconic pieces from the band's music videos also feature in the exhibition, including Phillipps' criss-cross jumper from Pink Frost, and "that" leather jacket (bequeathed to him by former bandmate Martyn Bull, who died of leukaemia aged 22.

The exhibition is set for a limited three week run at Otago Museum, with some fans even flying in from Australia to catch "Things Change" before it closes on July 15.