Travelling with The Eversons

ARTS, Features, Interviews, Music
img_eversons4The Eversons’ Mark Turner on migrating from Auckland to London and what to expect from the band’s forthcoming sophomore album, Stuck In New Zealand. Photography by James Black.

Kiwi indie rock band The Eversons will next year release their sophomore album Stuck In New Zealand, the follow-up to 2012’s acclaimed Summer Feeling. Ahead of the release, the ex-Wellington, ex-Auckland, now London-based act have shared lead single ‘Emily’, a balls-out rocker that thunders with guitar solos and a stomping beat, and signals a bold and confident direction for the band. The accompanying video, filmed at a fictitious restaurant on Dominion Road, is as large and loud as the song itself.

Sitting with 27-year-old vocalist Mark Turner at a Parnell bar earlier this year, he explains ‘Emily’ was inspired by the band’s relocation to Auckland and a nod to classic New Zealand rock music. “Moving up to Auckland, you see acts like the Finn brothers and Dave Dobbyn around, and it made me go back and listen to a lot of songs that would be on ‘The Best New Zealand Songs Of All Time’. You hear the hits but you listen to the albums as well and there’s all sorts of great tracks.” Turner was led to read John Dix’s Stranded in Paradise: New Zealand Rock ‘n’ Roll 1955-1988, a history of New Zealand music. With an influx of popular local electronic acts, it provided the right inspiration at the right time. “I haven’t heard many bands do this kind of music for a while, so it seemed like an interesting thing to do. The album is pretty eclectic, and [‘Emily’] is the only song like that. There’s a range, and that one’s our hard rock song.”

img_eversons7Summer Feeling was clever and subversive; its harmonious guitar lines all too accessible and its subject matter engaging and entertaining. It dealt with all the great things of youth overshadowed by old age, examined through playful, dead-pan lyrics in highlights ‘Going Back to Work’, ‘Marriage’, and ‘Creepy’.

After its release Turner, Christopher Young (lead guitar), Blair Everson (rhythm guitar), and Tim Shann (bass) moved from Wellington to Auckland to be closer to their New Zealand label Lil’ Chief Records and other friends. “There wasn’t a lot of music in Wellington. There was some electronic stuff, but we thought it would be cool to be closer to our friends who were releasing albums that we really liked. It’s inspiring to be around people who are doing that, otherwise it’s easy to get slack.” They soon recruited drummer Jacob Moore of The Checks (the award-winning, now disbanded, Auckland rock band), and more recently, NZ/UK psychedelia act Splashh.

With Stuck in New Zealand, the five-piece examine the common feeling that many New Zealanders—particularly those in creative fields—encounter in their mid-twenties. “[New Zealand] starts feeling too small and you want to see what else is out there, but you can see from all your friends that most people come back. They don’t go overseas forever because it’s great to live here. That’s the vibe of the album overall, whether it’s explicit or not. That’s the headspace we were at when we were writing those songs.”

img_eversons8Turner is quick to dismiss any negative connotations associated with the title. “It’s a good feeling, because you’re guaranteed a place in one of the best countries in the world. There’s a patriotism to it which I haven’t felt in the past, but I’ve felt it increasingly. And with ‘Emily’, it’s cool to do it with a tip-of-the-hat to the guys that started it all.” This patriotism shapes the eponymous track—an eclectic, funky slow-burner with lyrics celebrating our island paradise in the middle of nowhere: “oh what a wonderful feeling, no way in hell I’ll ever be leaving.”

Turner learnt how to play music from a young age, experimenting first with a brass instrument before picking up the bass. “I started singing because it was too hard finding a bass player who could sing, and I started writing songs because no one else was writing.” This DIY approach is the same way the band operate, with each member contributing to the recording and mixing in various ways. “It’s really expensive going to a recording studio and you’re often at the whim of someone you don’t really know getting involved creatively—which has happened to all of us [in the past]—so it’s been cool to figure it out for ourselves.”

’50s doo-wop and blues, The Beatles, Lou Reed and Bowie, and Swedish pop producer Max Martin, whose credits include Taylor Swift and Britney Spears, have all influenced The Eversons. Turner describes rap and R‘n’B as the most interesting form of modern music, and excitedly points to Kanye West, Drake, and Kendrick Lamar as favourites. “I think of it like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm—those guys are exaggerated versions of themselves. I really like how [they are] reasonably open about their lives, respond to critics, and address others aggressively. No one does that in rock and I’d like to bring the theatrical and character-based elements into it.” Kanye West and Paul McCartney’s recent collaboration on ‘All Day’ is a pick. “Those are two of my favourite songwriters of all time, it’s like my dream team. It cracks me up that it drops so many n-bombs and McCartney is involved.”

img_eversons5In terms of the live show, The Eversons are at their A-game. Their shows at Whammy and Golden Dawn earlier this year featured in-your-face, big-personality tunes—it’s fun and brass even makes an appearance. “We’re more certain with what we want to do,” asserts Turner. As on stage, he is animated, lively. “Our first album tended to be more dead-pan because we were kind of nervous. Whereas now we’re like, ‘yeah, it’s cool to yell and be real extreme and have like three guitar solos in one song’.”

He likens Stuck In New Zealand to the modern DIY bedroom producer, using the Internet to scan the vast history of recorded sound within our reach. ”You can increasingly go down these rabbit holes of music, and I think that’s what our record sounds like: people picking out a bunch of sounds they like and doing whatever, because they can.”

© James Black 2015. All Rights Reserved. More images at blackphotographic.

‘Stuck In New Zealand’ will be released in 2016. The Eversons recently spoke about the experience of relocating to London in their podcast, Hicks From the Sticks.