NewTracks New Artist: Corduroy

NewTracks New Artist: Corduroy

Coming off a tour and festival gigs, Corduroy is maintaining a busy schedule with the release of a new single Spaceships (If I Came Back Again) from their new EP ‘Poor Mans Velvet’. The single before Spaceships was I’m So Bored; a colourful pop song that plays into the typically rummaging yet optimistic mind of the youth today. Even judging by the title their new single feels like a continuation of the previous narrative delving into the psyche of youth. NZ On Air Music featured Spaceships (If I Came Back Again) on their NewTracks compilation this February.

What’s your name, where are you from and what do you play?

My name is Riley Barrett, I grew up in New Plymouth but currently live in Wellington. I play the bass in Corduroy.

Was any high school or other music training especially important to you?

I had an amazing bass tutor in my last two years of high school who gave me the tools to write my own music and ignited my passion for playing. Today, I learn through observation – listening to songs that have a nasty groove and trying to translate that into my own playing. I also learn a lot from playing with talented musicians who challenge me to be a better player.

Any other previous (or current) projects we might know you from?

Not me personally, but our singer Rosie is putting out some fantastic content with her other project Alba Rose.

What’s the background story of how Corduroy came to be? Who else is directly involved?

Corduroy is the evolution of a Rockquest band called Kairos, which our guitarist Will Cole and vocalist Rosie Spearing were part of in high school. They both came to Wellington for uni, and through the university halls, met our lovely keys player Simon Kenrick and ex-drummer Dean Gibson.
Later on in the piece, Will and I vaguely knew each other through a mutual friend and were at the same interhall music competition. He suggested I come to practice when we literally stumbled into each other at a shaky 2am Maccas trip, and it was a done deal from there. At the start of 2020 we acquired two new members; Rafe Swan (drums) who we met through Dean, and Jacob Gasser (alto sax) who works with Will. They seriously bring some new flair and energy to our music. 

How has your music evolved with the recently released EP?

We started off by dipping our toes into a rock orientated sound, like an illegitimate child of Arctic Monkeys and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Some of our early songs were really fun and got the crowd moving, but they were lacking complexity and sticking power. Slowly but surely, our sound has matured as we got more proficient on our instruments, and our rock roots slowly got phased out in the favour of neo-soul, funk, and indie-pop. The new EP is probably the most decisive we’ve been on what our style is, though genres vary song by song.

How did you come up with the name Corduroy? 

We locked in our first gig before we had actually had a name, so it was pretty frantic working to that deadline. We locked ourselves in one of the Jazz School practice rooms at Victoria University with the intention of staying until we had a name. We must have gone through 200+ names in around four hours before we settled with ‘Corduroy’. Some of the more honourable names which were banished to the reject pile were ‘Dusty Sundays’, and ‘Binky’. We think the name suits our sound, because the fabric corduroy is versatile – retro, but also modern – which are some of the traits we strive to have. 

Aside from this release, what’s been the big highlight to date?

This one is hard to pinpoint, but the summer tour we have almost finished has been pretty incredible. It’s been very reassuring to see the awesome crowds we’ve had for all of the shows, really getting into it and moving. It was also a surreal experience to play stages such as RnV and Bay Dreams. It makes all the hard yards worth it.

What makes Spaceships (If I Came Back Again) stand out for you as a single?

For a few of us in the band this is our favourite song we’ve ever released. We’ve been listening to a lot of old school disco recently, so it’s that four-on-the-floor drum beat funk feel that has bled into the writing of this track. The track stands out as a single because it’s unconventional for us to write a song in this style. The vocals are captivating, gliding with a rap-like intonation in the verses that catch the listener’s attention with a bold hook in the choruses. Instrumentally, the band is so deep in the pocket of the four-on-the-floor drum beat, which builds momentum great for dancing.

What’s the story behind Spaceships (If I Came Back Again)?

The track focuses on the metaphor of feeling like an alien in a place you once felt at home and secure. This theme was formed around the concept of coming back to your hometown and realising how much you had changed. However, during the track’s conceptualisation, the narrative manifested this in terms of an outgrown relationship, battling with leaving someone for the best but not quite knowing how.

What’s your favourite moment, musical or lyrical, of the single? 

For me, I’m a sucker for tasteful backing vocals, so it’s got to be the moment where the whole band drops out for the all-male vocal chant.

Who did you record/produce the single with and where? 

We recorded the song with Morgan Allen at Depot Studios in Devonport, Auckland. Unlike the other songs on the EP, this track was unfinished when we went into the studio. This made the making of it a hectic but fun ride. Morgan helped us lock down the fundamental groove of the track, and when each of us wasn’t recording we were frantically locking in our parts. I remember we had only a couple of hours left on the last day and we were all huddled in a room trying to write the chorus lyrics. We were just blurting out the first lyrics that came into our heads, but with minutes to spare we locked in a chorus we were all happy with!

What would you like listeners to take away from this song?

Reassurance that it’s ok to feel alienated in a place you once felt so comfortable. When you move on from an era of your life (uni, moving cities, end of a relationship) because you’ve outgrown it, it can feel like a massive dislocation from the comfortable and the familiar. Some people from a past era of your life won’t like that you’ve changed, and even if you know the move forward is for the best, the emotions attached are always complex.

How do you generally work out what song would make a good single?

I think across the band, it would be unanimous to say that vocals come first. If the vocals are sounding tight, the melody is sweet, and the hook is catchy, we have a good framework for a single. Instrumentally, we strive to have the emotion come through as much as possible – be it happiness, sadness, apathy, or anger. Most of our singles have been picked because of their good vocals and tight instrumental which will get you moving, grooving, and manoeuvring! 

Who else is in your team?

We have been incredibly lucky to have a great team around us. Kendall Grace is a marketing wizard who has been in charge of our branding, website and social media for the last 18 months. Kenzie Pigman has been the master behind the lens at nearly every gig we have had over the last two years, and Josh Wotton has run our last few photo shoots off the stage. Both have provided us with some amazing content. We have also had Puteri Dewhirst design many of our posters alongside Kendall. Another very special mention to Morgan Allen, who has recorded and mixed our last two EPs. We bring ideas to him and he improves them every time, turning the song into a product we are stoked with. We definitely wouldn’t be where we are without the people above.

Are there any other musical endeavours you’re working on that we should keep an eye out for? 

Definitely keep an eye out for Rosie’s solo endeavour, Alba Rose. She has some tracks coming out soon and has collaborated with some awesome DnB artists on a few tunes as well.

Can you please name three other local tunes that would fit well on a playlist alongside your song.

TeskyThe Raddlers

Good ChampagneHalf Moon Baby

ESP (Telepathy)Same Name Confusion

Have any previous NZOA applications not gained funding or been included on NewTracks? Got any advice?

This was our first application for NewTracks, but we have had an application turned down for NZOA funding before. On reflection, we rushed the application and submitted the song in a state that we weren’t particularly proud of. My main piece of advice would be to really put the effort into making your application and song stand out.

Was there an NZOA criterion you struggled with in the application?

At the time of application, we hadn’t played at a major festival, meaning we couldn’t check this criterion off. Over summer, however, we were lucky enough to play at RnV and Bay Dreams, so we got there in the end!

Are there any musical blogs, Youtube channels or podcasts you’re super into?

Here are some excellent magazines/websites who we love and who do a lot for NZ music;

Two Minds: A collaboration between photographers/ writers and other creatives featuring live streams, gigs, and a wonderful magazine.

Something Different: A website supporting emerging artists with interviews, song reviews, and other promos.

Sweet Home Collective: A magazine out of New Plymouth featuring nostalgic photos and insights into the lives of 20-something year-olds. Their next magazine will feature an interview of us talking about the concept of nostalgia and touring.

Is there a video to go with?

We don’t have a music video for this track currently, but there are plans in the works!