With old-school swagger and sharp-edged attitude, Thee Rum Coves have been electrifying the Auckland music scene with their energetic live shows. Now the band are gearing up to release a self-titled debut album filled with a smart blend of punk, soul and vintage rock’n’roll. Clovis McEvoy caught up with vocalist Jake Harding and drummer Jono Goss.
Thee Rum Coves was originally formed by lead singer ‘English’ Jake Harding, formerly of seminal Kiwi rock act The D4, as a way to reacquaint himself with the Auckland music scene after a five-year stint in his home country of England. Originally working with Dave Taylor, now in The Raw Nerves, and eventually drummer Jono Goss, Harding slowly drew together like-minded musicians.
Though they’ve seen various line-up changes, the band has cemented in the last 18 months with the addition of bassist Jimmy Christmas (also formerly of The D4), guitarist Tomi Marin and vocalist and keyboard player Kendall Todd. The opportunity that this new blood presents is certainly not lost on the group.
“It’s interesting now as the band is changing,” says Harding. “Originally I was the only one who would sing, but now we have Kendall and Jimmy who both sing brilliantly – so that’s suddenly changed what we can do as a band. That will naturally impact the way we sound and the kind of songs we write.”
Harding’s punchy lyrics and plaintively punk vocals sit perfectly a top a tight rhythm section, creating a satisfying mix of polish and self-consciously lo-fi grit. With members hailing from Auckland, London and Santiago, Thee Rum Coves have myriad backgrounds and influences to draw upon.
“We’re all aiming at the same point, but come from different angles,”Gossenthuses . “Tomi is a lot more psychedelic, I’m a bit more punk, Jake is probably a bit more ’60s garage. It all sort of meets in the middle.”
Things got a jumpstart in 2011 when the group first went into the studio to record what they thought would just be a bunch of demos.
“Originally it was just intended to get us some gigs,” Harding recalls. “You know – get a demo out there so we could show it to a few venues, but the songs ended up doing really well.”
So well that those recordings would eventually form the band’s debut EP and garner them support from the likes of bFM. Then, as now, the band chose to record at Frisbee Studios in New Lynn with engineer and studio owner Bob Frisbee.
“We recorded [the first EP] on the Saturday,” says Goss. “And on the Sunday John Baker came in to the studio and heard it. He asked Bob Frisbee who we were and got on board. That was a good impetus for us.”
Stepping into the studio, the band felt it was essential to try and capture the kind of energy they bring to their live shows. On stage, the group exudes the kind of in-the-moment musical confidence synonymous with bands like pub rock legends Dr. Feelgood or punk pioneers The Buzzcocks – something that clearly translates onto their debut album.
“All the recordings we’ve done have been ostensibly live,” says Goss. “Just us in a room bashing out a take.”
However, Thee Rum Coves aren’t content to be pigeon-holed as merely loud and rowdy, as Harding explains.
“We’re learning a lesson now that it [playing live] can be powerful, but it doesn’t always need to be frenetic. We’re kind of realising that we can still do all of that energetic stuff but give it some space and, God forbid, emotion.”
When it comes to visual aesthetic, the band embrace a kind of mod-rock sensibility with an unusual dash of turn-of-the-century England. Indeed, the band’s name is Edwardian slang for an ‘untrustworthy gentleman’. Kind of like Edwardian punk – without being steam-punk according to Goss.
Thee Rum Coves are proudly DIY and have funded their records through tireless gigging.
“There’s a great thing about independence,” says Harding. “It’s such a powerful thing for musicians in general to be able to record and release music independently.”
Getting Making Tracks’ funding for their forthcoming single Baby Please turned out to be something of a double-edged sword, as it pushed back the release date for the album.
“We were… about to release it and then we were very fortunate to get NZ On Air funding – which means you then need to do some more work on the material,” says Harding. “You’ve got to get a single right, but you don’t want it to stand out too much from the rest of the album. To be honest it also allowed us to reflect on a couple of the songs. In hindsight it’s actually given us the opportunity to get to a point where we’re happier [with the album] now.”
Thee Rum Coves’ eponymous debut showcases an experienced band drawing widely on influences past and present, leaving plenty of room to grow.
“We’re a mix of the influences,” Harding smiles. “And that influence changes on a weekly and monthly basis. Bands are organic, growing things and you have to learn to try something new.”