I N T E R V I E W
SURE TO RISE:
Julian White and Greg Edwards of The Scones
By Ian Duggan
Photos by Ngamihi Pawa
Hamilton Underground Press last interviewed The Scones in April 2016, immediately following the release of their debut EP ‘The Trouble with Thompson’. Since then, the band have played Hamilton a number of times to increasingly appreciative crowds, and in early November they appeared on bFM’s ‘Fancy New Band’ slot. We caught up with Julian White (guitar, vocals) and Greg Edwards (guitar) to talk about the bFM gig, their history together, and the bands future plans.
HUP: In early November you played an awesome set live-to-air on Auckland’s bFM, in their ‘Fancy New Band’ slot. How did that opportunity come about, and how did you find the experience?
Greg: That was a spot of good luck. Julian and I went to The Others Way festival in Auckland earlier this year and were queuing for a show, discussing the virtues of [Auckland musician] Anthonie Tonnon with two women ahead of us. One turned out to be Hannah [Renwick], the host of bFM’s breakfast show. She mentioned the Fancy New Band slot, and we asked if The Scones could play. Julian and I both went through Auckland University, so it was cool being back there with the band. Playing live-to-air was a new experience for all of us. Bit of a challenge squeezing the gear into the studio, and it was a bit hit-and-miss setting up the mics, etc, but it was a great morning that we really enjoyed, and would love to repeat.
HUP: Since the release of ‘Thompson’, you have been playing in front of increasingly larger crowds. Are you getting a feeling for songs that are becoming crowd favourites?
Julian: It’s hard to say. We had a really good reception the last time we played live, which was at the Bandfandango at Nivara [Lounge] in August. I felt like the best response was to Ode [to the Mountains], which was interesting as it’s not on anything we’ve released or put on the net. It’s a lively, upbeat song, which I think is pretty accessible to a discerning crowd like the ones at HUP shows. Must put it on the next release. I think Thompson has also gone down well.
Greg: It was great seeing people enjoying the HUP shows. Nivara Lounge is a great place to play, and deservedly well supported. I heard some lyrics being sung by folks down the front. Nice surprise. I think it was ‘Thompson’.
HUP: The pair of you met at Northcote College. You first played together in a high school band called Limited Western Art, and another while at university in Auckland named Yorkie the Bricklayer. Julian noted in our last interview that a few of The Scones’ songs originated from those ‘Yorkie’ days. Which are the songs that date from that time, do you perform them similarly now as then, and do you see a change in your overall style, sound or capabilities since these times?
Julian: Thompson, the title track to the EP, was one. Weeds, a rough version of which is on Soundcloud, was also a Yorkie song. Ode to the Mountains is another one. I actually wrote the guts of Scones even earlier, but kept it secret until the current band got together. As far as playing them goes, of course we have a different bass player and drummer now, who bring their own styles. The structures of the songs are unchanged. I think we have kept some of the original bass lines, but Dave [Colborn] has added some bits. I think the major change is that Greg has come up with some much stronger lead guitar.
Greg: Once we got together again after a long hiatus it was back to the start for me. I couldn’t recall most of the earlier guitar parts. I’ve enjoyed building things up again. Mike [Paterson]’s arrival and his intensity on the drums has ramped things up, which has been great.
HUP: There was a gap between the two of you playing together in Yorkie and The Scones. What musical projects were each of you involved with in-between?
Julian: Greg and I went on a legendary — at least in our own minds — busking tour of North America one Kiwi summer/Northern Hemisphere winter, singing mostly Flying Nun and related songs. Apart from that, I really did nothing for many years, except for writing a handful of songs. I had moved away from Auckland and didn't spend more than a couple of years in any one place for a long time. I was in another band around the same time as Yorkie. Probably just before, actually. The band was called The People's Popular Band of New Zealand, led by Steven Sacatos, who is now an artist in Auckland. I just came along for the ride, playing guitar and doing a little backing vocals. Thompson Is in Trouble originated in that band, as an instrumental.
Greg: I’ve loved listening to and playing the guitar for ages, but have precious little to show for it. That’s what makes playing in The Scones with Julian, Mike and Dave extra special. Sometime in the ‘90s I played with Auckland band The Plaster Saints for a bit. Also about this time I was in a band fronted by unknown singer [and current ‘Fair Go’ reporter] Garth Bray, who quickly ditched us for the bright lights of broadcasting, and never looked back. There is one song of mine recorded between Yorkie and The Scones that survives on the net; Grim Theo, off The Milker Disc (thanks to Milker bandmate Stu for the upload). It’s really low-fi, and is accompanied by a baffling video which features amongst other treasures my first car, a teal Wolseley. It got shunted through a wall at a band practice by an Audi doing donuts in the carpark. Shame.
HUP: I note you have been adding new songs to the live repertoire. Do you think your style is changing relative to that on ‘Thompson’?
Julian: The songs on 'Thompson' are really pretty old, and mostly my original ideas with embellishment from the rest of the band. Some of the newer songs started with ideas from other band members. Also, more effort has been made with the lyrics and song structures in the newer songs, so hopefully they're a bit more interesting. But the overall sound is one we like and hasn't really changed much.
Greg: Hats off to Dave Rhodes at Depot Sound for helping create the Thompson EP. It was our first studio recording, and it’s fair to say it exceeded our expectations. There are some newer songs in the set now that have a different sound. We have a bit more confidence with the EP behind us, and that might have loosened the shackles a little. I think to date we’ve approached most of the songs in a similar manner. After a while you start looking for a different way in, so that you’re not repeating yourself – perhaps that’s where we’re at.
HUP: While you have been playing regularly and developing a name for yourselves in Hamilton, three-quarters of the band are actually based in Auckland. I don’t think you have played there since 2013, but I see you have a gig lined up there on 14 December. How are you feeling ahead of that gig?
Julian: Really good. It seems there are quite a few people who are keen to see us again, or for the first time. I understand The Clare Inn is an intimate venue, so hopefully we can get a good crowd and a good vibe. The other acts look very worth seeing, too.
Greg: Darren McShane (of Auckland band Superturtle, and ex-Chainsaw Masochist) runs a fun gig at The Clare on Wednesday nights. He attracts an eclectic range of local, and not-so local, bands and singer-songwriters. It’s going to be great to finally join in. The line-up looks really promising; it should be a great night.
HUP: What are your future plans for the band, both short and long-term?
Greg: Short term we’re back into the studio come January to record another EP. We debated whether to crack on with new tunes or record the older tunes that didn’t make the first EP. I’m pleased to say we’re going to complete the original batch, and are planning to follow that up recording the newer songs in the middle of the year. Other items on The Scones medium term to-do list include putting something out on vinyl, and heading off down-country for the first time. Long term we talk about playing in Japan, which we’re pretty keen on.
The Scones Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/TheSconesBandNZ
The Scones on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/superscone