By Poppy Tohill
"Take my hand and I'll lead you back on to the other side..."
Remember that relaxing, acoustic soul single, ‘The Other Side' which became a number one airplay hit in New Zealand in 2005? Well Breaks Co-Op the talented band behind the popular single are back after a long nine years and ready to hit the road once again for the Classic Hits Winery Tour with their new album ‘Sounds Familiar' which is set for release just before the tour kicks off in February.
I had the pleasure of catching up with vocalist Andy Lovegrove this week to have a chat about the upcoming album and tour and find out just what Beaks Co-Op have been up to these past few years...
It's been about nine years since Breaks Co-Op released their last album, what have you been up to during that time?
The last three years have been predominantly about making the new record. It's taken longer than it might have done if Hamish and I had nothing else to do. But going way back, touring the last album was three years on the road essentially - New Zealand, Australia, the UK and Europe. After touring I did a little solo album in 2007 and then I just put the breaks on everything cause I'd kind of had enough of being burnt out. I decided just to chill out for a little while and a while turned out to be three years or so (laughs). Then my wife got really irritated by me not being creative, so she spoke to Hamish and said she wanted me to go over there and start working with him, because she was sick of me not creating any music. So she purchased my ticket and sent me on my way. We wrote the first three tracks of the album on the first five days I was there and that really got the ball rolling basically, and since then I would go over once a month to work on the new stuff. Then my twins were born in 2011 and they took up a big chunk of my life for a while, so we took a bit of a break for six more months during that time and then re-located the studio to London where we continued writing and pre-production work and then finished in London last year.
Initially living in different countries from one another, what difficulties did that place on the band in terms of the production process for the new album?
The only hard bit essentially was the actual getting together. The creative element of it was all relatively easy. It was like a long distance relationship to be honest. You have to look after it and nurture it. If you're going to keep things stable you need to be in contact all the time, talking to each other about what you're doing, So even if you're not working on stuff, you're thinking about it. So yes, it was expensive, which was the major issue cause I'd have to fly out to Berlin all the time, but it can work and it did work.
How do you think Breaks Co-Op have developed since the release of ‘The Sound Inside' album (2005) to now?
This record is a natural progression from The Sound Inside, I would say. From a song writing point of view this album has progressed quite a lot. It's still got all the flavours and is quite a mixed bag of what influences us in music but I think the songs are stronger. They've got a bit more commercial value possibly as well, which we had half an eye on at the time of writing the record. We didn't want an album that just had the one ‘The Other Side' type single on it and no others. This album's full of singles I think (laughs). Although that was a conscious decision, I believe it didn't in anyway detract from the quality of what we were trying to achieve.
So who were your main musical influences when developing the new album?
Well that kind of depends really... from a vocal point of view for me, it's people from the 70's like Stevie... not that I think I sound or sing like him - I don't, but it's admiring the vocal qualities. Others like Bill Withers, Ella Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughan too. However from a production point of view it's producers like Quincy Jones that I love. That's who I guess is the main influence, for me. Hamish would probably give you a completely different answer.
With a name like Sounds Familiar does that suggest the new album is going to be a similar style to the bands previous releases or am I totally barking up the wrong tree?
You are and you're not really. Because we didn't consciously think of the title in its real terms of "Oh this is going to sound familiar to you," it just happened to be the title of a track and we'd gone through several titles for the record and none of them really stuck. It wasn't until ‘Sounds Familiar' that we decided to keep that and run with it because it felt good. But, it will sound familiar, it is Breaks Co-Op after all and the record does sound like a Breaks Co-op album its just more of a progression in song writing than anything else really.
The album artwork is so fantastically simple but very powerful at the same time...is there an underlying theme with the album?
Yeah, It's a boy in the water and the sea has always been quite prominent with Breaks Co-Op. Even in the last album there is lots of sea in it. I was looking for images for the record and the guy who took that picture is a really good friend of mine. I say he's a ‘really good friend' of mine but I've actually never met him before (laughs). We met on Instagram the first week it was on the internet when there was about 2000 people using it, and we've been sort of buddies ever since (laughs). Anyway, he lives in Mexico and that's a picture of his son swimming in the sea, it's a great image and it does really reflect the power of the record, I think.
Is the upcoming album a one of release or can fans expect more Breaks Co-op tunes in the future?
Definitely. We're thinking about going to the south of France later this year so we might do some writing there and crack on with the next record, which I promise won't be nine years in the making this time (laughs)... It probably won't be ready I shouldn't think next summer, but hopefully the summer after that.
I hear Clarke and Lowe are both currently busy overseas at the moment and you're going to be performing with a brand new line up for the Winery Tour shows, how are things with the new band coming along so far?
That's right... crazy isn't it! What a stupid idea that was (laughs). Well Hamish is living in Singapore at the moment and Zane had nothing to do with this record at all, because of his Radio One commitments he was unable to get involved on the record. It's always hard, I mean we had the same problem with the last record, because there was no band. Breaks Co-op is three core members with no gigging band as such, until required. So for the Winery Tour, I contacted a good friend of mine Paul McLaney who runs Mushroom Music over here and said "I'm going to need to put a band together" and he started cherry picking potential members for the new line up. I was looking for guitar and vocals and I didn't even think about asking him at all, I don't know why but I just thought he'd be way too busy. Anyway, I was getting to the point of frustration and asked him if he'd fancy being in the band and he said, "Of course I'll do it!" So we've got McLaney on guitar and vocals, Mark Vanilau on keys, Richie Piccard on Bass, and Andy Keagan on drums and everybody sings a bit as well. Paul and Mark are obviously really strong singers, Richie is a good singer and it turns out that Keagen can sing as well so he will be too, we all will be! (laughs).
Stan Walker, The Exponents and Breaks Co-op have all been big names in New Zealand music for several years now, what are you most looking forward to while touring with the likes of Jordan Luck and Stan Walker?
(Laughs) What do you think? You're on a Winery Tour, there's going to be great wine, great food, the audiences will be great hopefully and I'm really looking forward to it. Because I don't know Jordan, which is surprising considering I've gotten to know most people over the years, but they've not been overly active so maybe that's why. As for Stan Walker I have never met or hadn't even heard of him until this year, but from a line up point of view I think it's really great. It's quite diverse, because there's something there for everyone. The Exponents fans will be middle aged and they'll bring in their kids who will really like Stan Walker and then there's us who're blurring the lines in between. But I'm really excited to be on the road with them. Despite the fact I don't know either of them now, I'm sure by the end of the tour we'll all know each other quite well and be life long buddies (hopefully), or not, maybe we'll just fight every night, I don't know. I hope not though!
After the Classic Hits Winery Tour is wrapped up, what else does 2014 hold in store for you musically?
Hopefully this year my year will be quite nicely divided into production and Breaks Co-Op essentially and then hopefully making the next Breaks Co-Op record later in the year!!
Without giving too much away, what can fans and audience members attending a Winery Tour show expect from your set?
They can expect the new album, predominantly to be fair. Of course we'll be playing ‘The Other Side' and perhaps another track off the old album, but the majority will be the new stuff and hopefully people will relate to it because it... ‘Sounds Familiar' (Laughs).
To finish off... On a scale of 1-10, how much are you looking forward to playing the Classic Hits Winery Tour?
10... SO EXCITED! It's going to be brilliant!
Classic Hits Winery Tour 2014
Friday 31 January Hamilton Mystery Creek
Saturday 1 February Matakana Ascension Wine Estate
Sunday 2 February Tutukaka Marina Reserve
Wednesday 5 February Napier Church Road Winery
Friday 7 February Havelock North Black Barn Vineyards
Saturday 8 February Martinborough Alana Estate
Tuesday 11 February Palmerston North Arena Manawatu Lawns
Thursday 13 February New Plymouth Sentry Hill Winery
Friday 14 February Tauranga Wharepai Domain
Saturday 15 February Auckland Villa Maria Winery
Thursday 20 February Invercargill Anderson Park
Friday 21 February Gibbston Waitiri Creek
Saturday 22 February Waipara Waipara Hills (Ex The Mud House Winery & Cafe)
Sunday 23 February Greymouth ANZAC Park
Thursday 27 February Upper Moutere Neudorf Vineyards
Friday 28 February Upper Moutere Neudorf Vineyards
Saturday 1 March Blenheim Villa Maria Winery
For all ticket information click HERE.
Breaks Co-Op's new album Sounds Familiar is available from January 31st and can be pre-ordered via iTunes.