Along with writing smart rock songs, Stonehurst guitar/vocalist Tim Hunt clearly enjoys the telling of a good story. Like the band’s unlikely links to Evermore, or the one about how the five-piece which was shaping to be named Hell In The Way It’s Run, instead took its name from a gentrified central Christchurch pub. He talked with Dee Muir ahead of the September 2017 release of Stonehurst’s impressive sophomore album ‘Strange Urge’.
It seems that yet again, Christchurch has managed to mix up another perfect blend of musicians to add to the town’s already bursting-at-the-seams, portfolio. With origins in teenage rock act Superhuman, rock/metallers Stonehurst combine plenty of live experience with impressive instrumental virtuosity and the compelling appeal of a guitar-rich but harmoniously balanced five-piece.
According to rhythm guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Tim Hunt, he and his bass playing older brother David Hunt have been jamming since they were kids. Childhood dreams of having their music heard by the world have now been brought to life with a punch-above-their-weight new album that reflects dedication, passion and perseverance.
“We lived mainly in Christchurch. I gel well with David. He could write a cool riff, and I‘ll write an entire song from that one riff. My dad is a pilot, so I moved around quite a bit and randomly I ended up in Fielding. I went to high school and there was this guy Braden [Southee], aka Woot. He was 16 and leaving school to become a mechanic. He was also a mind-blowing guitarist! I started a band with him, and it was almost like fate moving to Fielding so randomly.”
After finishing school, Tim returned to Christchurch.
“I told Woot that he had to come down because my brother was in a few bands down there. So I eventually joined some Christchurch bands, got my experience going and waited for Woot to come down from Fielding.
As Tim enthusiastically recalls, drummer Ben McGillivray was one of the locals hanging around, looking for people who wanted to jam.
“He had a jam session room, which was quite cool. After a while, we just molded to a certain style and grew from there, just Ben and me.”
Jay Arthur was the last to join the fold in October 2015.
“He was jamming in a lot of bands as a drummer, but he plays the keyboard as well. He‘s a really good friend of ours. He’s a good guy. He’s good-looking – he just fit the part! Ever since then that’s been our lineup, and we’re getting better. Oh, and Angie [Stewart] as well,” he laughs, including the band’s manager.
The Gunboat Dread and Hell In The Way It’s Run didn‘t quite last the distance as band names.
“All of us lived on Gloucester Street in Christchurch, and there was this hotel called The Stonehurst Hotel. I always drove past there thinking that I need a name with that logo because it was a cool logo. After a year or so, I searched on the internet, and no one else was using Stonehurst so I thought, ‘Fuck it, I’m taking that name!’ So, we named ourselves after a hotel called, Stonehurst. My brother thought that it was a pretty cool name, so decided he’d join the band.”
The band’s soon to be released second album, ‘Strange Urge’, shows how much Stonehurst have grown in skill as musicians over the 10 years since the name was appropriated. The album’s polished tracks and quality sound sets the bar high, and in combination with the five-piece’s powerful live performances is bound to win new fans.
“With our first album ‘Stonehurst’ we wrote the songs that we worked on and performed at gigs. Then we went into the studio and recorded them, and that was it. We mixed and mastered it without a producer. But with ‘Strange Urge’ Angie worked her magic and got a producer, who is one of the most renowned producers in NZ for that style of music – Greg Haver.
“He has an amazing resume of bands. So, this time there was a lot of pre-production before recording. Greg would say, ‘Can you do this? Can you add that? You should swap this around.’ He kind of just structured the songs just a little bit more, but didn‘t mess with the sound – just polished the music up.”
He describes having some healthy discussions about different sounds, adding that they always came to an agreed conclusion in the end.
“For our first album we had the drums done within a week, but this time around it was Greg just yelling and challenging Ben. But Ben loves a challenge and he pushed himself pretty hard. We did way more takes to make everything the way we wanted it. There’s a lot more producing with the music, rather than just recording it.
“The experience was next level. It was just experiencing Greg’s ideas and different paradigms, lifting things up a bit more and opening things up. The music sounded so amazing that while I was singing, the vocals sounded even better, because I was getting into it more.”
Over the years the band has collected plenty of tracks and the writing for the album became a mixture of old and new.
“There were lots of songs that stood out for us, especially songs that we played at gigs. Sometimes I’ll press record on my phone and play something on my guitar, then about a month later I’ll listen to it and think, ‘I don‘t even remember doing that!’ It‘s cool because I was just freestyling, but then I‘ll listen to it, and it will sound deep and meaningful. Step Outside is a perfect example of that and it was our second single. I love the songs where I can just spend like 10 minutes to put it together like, Give Me All Your Money. Then again, with Portal of Dreams there were a few ideas at the start, but it took six years for the other bits to fall into place.”
Band career highlights include opening for Corrosion of Conformity and Anvil, plus hosting Black Label Society during their stay in Auckland. One of the most recent highs was joining fellow Kiwi rockers Devilskin on their ‘Be Like The River’ release tour. The opportunity proved to be enormously positive, and Stonehurst has taken a lot of encouragement from the experience.
“It’s inspirational for a band like Stonehurst because we’ve been performing for just as many years, trying to do the same thing, so it’s awesome to see how you can achieve it. It’s defying everyone else that says that you can’t make it in NZ, but you know if you do it right, then you can do it, and Devilskin is the perfect example of that. You just have to have confidence in it.”