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December/January 2020

by Mike Tweed

Dr. Reknaw: Wellington’s Magnificent Seven

by Mike Tweed

Dr. Reknaw: Wellington’s Magnificent Seven

With an intoxicating blend of reggae, dub, soul and funk, Wellington seven-piece Dr. Reknaw have developed a live show that fits perfectly with Aotearoa in summer. Bass player and singer Sophie Cooper took time out from embroidering hats for their merch stand to talk with Mike Tweed about the band’s new single, Kererῡ, plus their plans for the sunny season.

Kererῡ maintains the strong reggae groove of Dr Reknaw’s debut single, Advocate, with bassist Sophie Cooper accompanied by both sister Julia and drummer Jeremy Richardson on vocal duties – the Cooper sisters responsible for much of the songwriting.

After instruments and vocals had been laid down in a variety of locations in the capital, sound engineer Toby Lloyd recorded horns and put the finishing touches on the track at Massey University’s new recording facility.

“The lyrics for both those songs were written by my sister Julia, so that’s where that uplifting magical vibe comes from!” smiles Sophie. “For Kererῡ I gave her a backing track and when I woke up the next morning she’d recorded all the lyrics! We brought it to the band and it grew from there. It’s tricky getting everyone together sometimes, but we have a beautiful kind of family set up, with people changing instruments and stuff”.

Julia’s lyrics often touch on social and environmental issues. Despite an eclectic mix of musical genres, Sophie says the commonality between them is the message they’re trying to put forward.
“Not all the songs are dub and reggae, there’s also a lot of soul and hip hop and stuff. The thing that ties it all together is the lyrics. Julia and I both feel that there’s some collective conversations that we as a society should be having. She writes about some pretty dark stuff, but the way she writes music makes you kind’a see the light and breakthrough.”

Between the seven members of Dr Reknaw all aspects of keeping the band running seem well taken care of.

“That’s how we like it,” Sophie agrees. “Our trumpet player Hayden Richardson made our website, Julia is an amazing artist so she does the artwork. I’m learning to love the business side of a band, the emails and social media etc. You get to make some really cool stuff happen, and be in control of all decision making!”

Already known for their wild live shows, Sophie says outdoor festivals are where the band shines brightest and is keen to perform live as much as possible over the summer months.

“It’s definitely the time of year to play. When you’re playing shows outside the music can drift out and cover everything. With inside gigs the sound sort of bounces back and hits you in the face!”
She reckons Wellington is the perfect home base for Dr Reknaw, with like-minded musicians and a public who get behind local artists.

“You’ve just got to go out and play live gigs. People in Wellington are really supportive and seem to understand what it takes to keep a band going. You’ve got to buy tickets to shows. The community here is awesome, there are amazing artists to play with. Wellington is a great place to be in a band I reckon.”

A sense of community amongst the band and other local artists is something she finds really special. Dr Reknaw’s members play in other outfits as well, making for one big musical family.

“We share members with another Wellington band called Hummucide, so we’ll be playing some shows with them soon. A one-man dub-electro-psych artist from Sydney called Zac Crackalaka is coming over to play with us too, so that’ll be awesome. Some of us play in other groups like Tunes of I and Raw Collective, who have both released amazing music.”

Moving on from the release of Kererῡ it seems the band’s next output will veer away from the breezy reggae template of their first two singles.

“The next two tracks will come out together I think,” Sophie explains. “The next single will be a big funky dance number, and then it’ll be a laid back hip hop-type groove. Live we can mix it all together in a big set and it’s massive!”

Dr Reknaw will be hitting the road throughout the festive season, no small feat considering they are a seven-piece band. Both islands will be covered, and there’s no doubt they’ll win over a whole new bunch of supporters along the way.

“We’re gonna play at the Mussell Inn in Nelson on New Year’s, which is super exciting,” Sophie beams. “January and February are already looking really busy, with lots of shows and festivals. There’s always a lot of dancing on stage, and for the Kererῡ release party, we’ll have the four dancers from the music video up there with us too. It’s gonna be so much fun!”

Do yourself a favour and be sure to book an appointment with Dr Reknaw while the sun is still shining, whether it’s inside or out.