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May/June 2019

by Matt Mortimer

Fresh Talent: The Butlers

by Matt Mortimer

Fresh Talent: The Butlers

Sumner-based band The Butlers have slipped in the back door of the NZ music scene with a laid-back groove well suited to any smokey bar scene from an old school movie.

“We were just jamming a few jazz grooves around Christchurch,” says drummer George Berry, in explanation of how things got started with himself and his good mate Walt Robberds, who supplies guitar and vocals.

Their jamming grew over time to envelop other musicians, including the solid bass of Jordan Kennedy, lead guitar of Bradley King and the smooth saxophone musings of The Butlers’ mysterious masked man, Stingy Hooligan. He’s not like Batman either; he’s way cooler than that – and he also adds some keys on some tracks for good measure.

Such is the soulful, fun and almost whimsical feel of their music, it becomes a case of struggling to find the pulse of what their genre identifies with best. Some sneaky jazz hooks, an almost ska feel and smooth lyric lines all meld together, creating a somewhat eclectic soul vibe that just works.

Getting all of this to come together and have a structure, particularly with their unique sound is largely the work of Walt and Jordan, the two bouncing ideas off each other. Walt describes it as simply coming up with an idea, such as a guitar piece with vocals, and asking Jordan if he thinks it works.
“Our relationship is such that neither of us will get offended,” Jordan notes.

Once the process is rolling, there will be the basic chord progressions sorted before they pass each piece on to the other bandmates, and; “We give each other a kind of artistic licence,” as George puts it. “From there it’s just refining each song.”

As much as The Butlers might be blazing a trail in the genre department, plenty of listeners agree with the mixture they’ve come up with, and their tours have been bringing fans out all across the country. Indeed, their favourite gig to date was surprisingly far from their home town of Christchurch.

Coroglen in the Coromandel for sure” is the unanimous answer to that question. They all nod amongst themselves – agreeing it was the best show for that ‘feel good’ experience from the crowd.

A crazy cool introductory EP, called ‘The Halfway House’, was recorded in a garage and released in 2017, serving as a platform to get momentum for upcoming gigs. The musicians, instruments and microphones were separated by unfolded cardboard boxes, but it more than served its purpose.
“I just can’t listen to it now,” Walt says. “We recorded it to get people to our live gigs more than anything!”

In March this year, a new EP recorded at Christchurch’s Orange Studios hit. In a refreshing retro twist ‘The Butlers’ was a limited edition vinyl package that includes a discography around who the band is in more detail, and the background to each song. As epic as the idea is, a stampede was a high possibility with only 100 of them available.