Scott & Andrew Newth of Rumpus Room
By Ian Duggan
Formed in the mid-1990s, Rumpus Room is centred around three Newth brothers, Scott (bass, vocals), Andrew and Kent (guitars), along with the familially unrelated Greg Page (drums). I caught up with Scott and Andrew ahead of their gig supporting Inchworm to talk about their history, being in a band with brothers, and curious to know why they haven’t yet released an album.
HUP: Let’s start at the start. Around 1997 you evolved out of Love & Violence, via the darker more industrial FALLen, replacing synthesisers with traditional band instruments and became an indie-rock band. How did this seemingly rapid evolution in styles transpire, especially when your earlier projects had a strong following?
Scott: We started Rumpus Room mainly because I thought it was a great band name, and that we should use it up. Our other acts were still operational at the time. Both L&V and Southern Tribe for Andrew, so we started Rumpus Room for a bit of fun. Greg and I kicked it off and we roped Andrew in because he owned a guitar. When we started, none of us could play the instruments we chose, so for the first year it was pretty bad. The whole thing was comical and that was reflected in our songs as well.
HUP: Who primarily writes the songs, and who are your major influences?
Andrew: I can't say that any one person writes the songs. It usually starts off with someone playing a riff either on bass or guitar. Sometimes Greg will just play a drum rhythm and we jam around that. If we are really lucky a song will fall out of the noise we are making.
Scott: As far as influences go, we were obviously doing something very different to our other acts, and we were taking inspiration from the other bands playing around that time. It was very much focused on Hamilton's alt band scene and what we were hearing on [Hamilton] compilations like the Fridge and Discordia [Concors]. We were fans of Inchworm especially, but I was also keen on Watershed and Romantic Andes, Postlethwaites, Nodrog and A Crown of Wild Myrtles and the like. Because these were people we knew or were aware of that you could hear and see regularly. I thought there was a distinct Hamilton indie sound emerging and we wanted to be part of that. We also had international influences, especially Joy Division for me and Andrew, but also this little known Swedish act called Salt.
HUP: You have three brothers in the band. I imagine on one hand this is difficult, but that it may also have contributed to the longevity of the band? What do you see as the pros and cons of primarily being a band of brothers.
Andrew: Having Kent joining the fold has been interesting as he lends a darker side to the songs which we all really like.
Scott: I also enjoy the two guitars. Maybe it's a brother thing but Andrew and Kent never play the same thing, but it always works. Maybe it's a brother thing, but they just gel and it's really instinctive. They never talk about what they are doing, they just do it. Having three brothers in the band isn't a problem. It’s actually why we do it. We get to hang out on a regular basis and it's why we are still doing it.
Scott: No he didn't. He has been in the band twice though. He first joined when we became a five piece. We had Jane Pierard with us on guitar and cello. And he jumped in too to play a third guitar. He was very sparse in what he played. But he left shortly after Jane moved to Wellington. Kent moved to Korea and we enlisted Chris Paki, who had been in L&V and Fallen with us. Kent then returned a few years ago, and we became a five piece again for about a year. But we were not playing shows or doing much more than the odd random jam, so Chris called time on his involvement and that left the current line-up. We have only played one show since Chris left I think... but we want to be more active again now.
HUP: One thing that amazes me is that despite Scott being a sound engineer, having recorded albums for a number of bands (e.g., The Datsuns), Rumpus Room have never released an album! Are there plans for an album, and what else might the future hold?
Andrew: We are writing new material at the moment. Will they become an album? It's pretty hard to say. It would be nice to do at least one album at some point. For now we are really wanting to play live and write new material.
Scott: Making an album is hard work and I'm a bit of a task master so it's hard to apply that to yourself, or find the time when you are making records for other people. It's the same reason why we have very few videos. Or a web site. Another thing about an album. I never thought we were in a position to record one. We always seemed to be in some kind of transition between members changing or in long periods of inactivity with me being away from New Zealand a great deal of the time. Now we wouldn't record the old songs I don't think. If we did do one, it would have to be new material and it would have to be very good for me to want to bother releasing it, as we don't have a following built up. It's a lot of effort if you're not in a position to push it. And we haven't been until now really.