Like a smouldering volcano, His Master’s Voice have heaved into Auckland’s live music scene – and with just a two-week turnaround from stepping into the studio to the release of their debut EP, it would appear the band could erupt anytime.
Formed in 2012 with guitarist Az Burns and drummer Rene ‘Judas’ Harvey (formerly of Cripple Mister Onion), the pair quickly found singer and guitarist Jesse Sorenson, and bassist Brandon Bott to round out the group.
“The band’s growth has been a very natural progression on every level,” says Sorensen.
Indeed, His Master’s Voice eschew the singer/songwriter paradigm and opt instead for a more organic method of creating band music, with each member contributing and songs evolving though jamming.
At heart a live act, His Master’s Voice have paid their dues on the road, playing countless gigs since their inception and developing a dedicated fan base the old-fashioned way – through “blood, sweat and tears” according to Sorensen. In recording their debut EP, ‘Possession’, the band set a premium on retaining the dynamism so evident in their live performances.
“When we went into the studio our main goal was to capture that [live energy],” says Bott. “So we didn’t use click tracks, we didn’t use overdubs. We just played in a room together.”
The group’s authentic, back-to-basics aesthetic naturally lent itself to old-style recording values.
“We chose Stebbing Studio because they’re one of the last places in the country to still be doing analogue reel-to-reel tape recordings,” Harvey explains.
Described unanimously by the group as “the devil’s blues”, ‘Possession’ kicks off like a behemoth stirring as pendulous riffs thunder through the speakers and evoke the likes of Black Sabbath. Just as quickly the tempo and time signature shift gears and we get a taste of swaggering blues licks and singer Jesse Sorenson’s gritty, whisky-soaked croon.
With lyrics ranging from introspective to gothic, the thematic material and song structure on ‘Possession’ never rests too long in any one place – no doubt testament to the band’s diverse musical tastes.
“In part [our sound] is a homage and a tip of the hat to everything that we’ve been influenced by,” says Harvey. “But each song is a different animal… we don’t just go for one formula.”
Indeed it’s the deft blending of influences that mark His Master’s Voice out from the rest of the pack. Clearly unafraid to draw equally upon the classic blues traditions of Buddy Guy or BB King as upon more recent artists such as Graveyard and Orchid, ‘Possession’ manages to be satisfyingly heavy, while offering up more than enough surprises to keep the listener hooked.