Wellington-based Miles Calder And The Rumours released their debut album in October 2016, five years after playing their first show, as lead singer and songwriter Miles Calder reflects.
“I had started writing songs, and showing a few to [drummer] Nick George back in 2011. He and the others who would make up the band were all amazing musicians who played in various other bands, and I would hang out with them, but not in a musical capacity.
“Unbeknownst to me they all wanted to be playing the sort of music I was writing, and so they got me round and gave me sufficient whiskies until suggesting a jam and ambushing me to play some of my songs. One double-bass-dismantled-on-a-door-knob and a few songs later, we were a band. It’s silly because I would’ve jumped at the chance to play music with any of them, but they thought they had to trick me.”
The band released a debut EP entitled ‘The Crossing Over’ in 2013. One of the songs, The Avenue, saw Calder earn a prestigious nomination in the International Songwriting Awards in 2014, though he is delightfully modest about this honour.
“Yeah, that was a really great feeling. To know that such legit songwriters were going to be listening to your song and considering it up there among finalists was really exciting. Tom Waits was a judge for goodness sakes! I think it was a great bit of validation, especially as it was on the first couple songs I had released, and I’d only been writing for a couple years.”
The band began work on their first album, a project that would cross several years and a continent or two, Miles explaining its steady gestation over a period of time.
“It took a good while! Two years pretty much. We were demoing a group of around 30 songs, which we cut down to 15 of the strongest to take in to the studio for the album. We spent nine days in The Surgery studio tracking live instrumentals with guru Lee Prebble, then took the tracks to our home studio and overdubbed vocals over the next few months.
“I then got the chance to live in New York City so had a year overseas. We worked on the songs a little via correspondence, but I also spent a lot of time demoing extra instrument parts that we could overdub, to flesh out the tunes. I came back in September last year and we spent the summer until the middle of this year doing a bunch of extra overdubs and then the mixing and mastering.”
Nearly all of the material on the new album is over two years behind where the band are now in terms of their newer material.
“Pretty much all the albums songs are that old, yeah. The Last Time Around and Cold Winds are the newest ones I think, but even them I probably wrote in early 2014. I’m always writing, so there is a backlog of songs that need recording, ha ha. So yeah, I want to work on new stuff as soon as possible. And I think a lot of summer will be spent demoing new songs.”
The band took to fundraising platform Kickstarter to secure the funds to finalise the album, setting a goal of $10,000 to ensure the album could be completed to the highest standard, Calder admitted this approach was a little daunting
“Well I guess mainly ‘the ask’ is the daunting part. Taking the leap to ask your fans to trust that you’ll make something they want to back ahead of time is a bit scary. But looking back, it was an incredibly rewarding thing to have done that and succeeded in getting the backing you need. It definitely gave us great motivation to make the album as good as we possibly could.”
He admits he was surprised in some ways by the outcome of the fundraising, or the generosity they received?
“Yeah, I mean, we expected people to back us with $15, $30 sort of amounts, but some of the larger amounts that people gave to support the making of the album was incredible. We’re definitely endlessly thankful for it.”
Midway through the recording of the debut album Calder found himself in the enviable position of being able to travel to the States and spend a good period of time embtracing the arts scene in New York.
Unsurprisingly it had a great effect of his writing and creativity.
“Man, it was immensely influential. I think firstly, just the fact of leaving your hometown to live away for the first time is a pretty big shift in a person.
“I remember finding it hard to pin down the concept of home, and feeling it was all relative. The self-confidence that a lot of Americans have was refreshing, in comparison to our over-modesty etc. I felt like I took that on, and gave myself license to feel confident in what I was doing. I think that, and just having the time to work on ideas for overdubs affected the directions songs on the album ended up going. I wanted to not compromise on pushing them each to their fullest potential.”
So it’s been a busy year for the band and with their tour wrapping up in Auckland this month at the Wine Cellar I asked what the bands plans are for the future
“We’ve got some festival shows early next year, and yeah, definitely interested to take the album to Australia and maybe further abroad. Just depends how things line up.”
As shown by the warmth and gentle pace of their debut album, a bright fture beckons, but Miles Calder and the Rumours are in no hurry to rush towards it.