Frankly Mauve of Burnside High won the Canterbury regional finals of the smokefreerockquest in May. Pulse talked to three of the band members fresh on the heels of their gig with Streetwise Scarlet to ask how they created the Frankly Mauve sound, and just what it took to make them the top young band in the region.
The first thing you find out when you meet Frankly Mauve is that they’re into a whole range of musical styles. We walk into the interview space singing Afternoon Delight (made popular in Will Ferrell’s Anchorman, but originally by the Starland Vocal band in 1976), so we started by asking if the band set out to sound different to other bands.
“We listen to a bit of everything, the best of everything,” drummer Miles says. “We’ve been told that our music doesn’t fit into a specific genre as such … I think that’s the fact that we listen to so much diverse music it comes through in our stuff as well.”
“Which is pretty good,” keyboardist Josiah adds. “You get a lot of bands that have a really generic sound and they don’t stand out at all - you can get bored with that.”
It’s the quality and range of writing and the skills of the musicians in the different genres that really appeals to this band though.
“The musicianship’s a big thing,” Miles says, “there’s a lot of crap out there.”
“I’m not a fan of the radio stuff you here where the person who’s performing is not the person who wrote the stuff,” Tim adds. “Anyone can sing a song, but not anyone can write a song.”
The band plays together a lot, practising several times a week in Miles parents’ garage - which they are really grateful to have the use of.
“With the whole rockquest thing we’re set up with gigs for the rest of this year.
We took it pretty seriously, and now we can start enjoying it and start gigging more.”
The band were stoked to have played with Streetwise Scarlet, from Auckland, at Burnside on June 11.
Summing it up, Tim says it was “awesome fun”.
“We sat down and chatted with them afterwards. They were real nice guys, real helpful … good musicians as well. It was cool.”
The core of the band has been together since Year 9, and played smokefreerockquest last year, reaching the regional finals. This year saw them more focused and more determined, Miles said.
“There was more of the feeling that we’re here to place, and we want to do that so we put in the required effort to get where we wanted to be. It wasn’t just play and hope.”
“Our goal was to get a good place in Canterbury, Tim added. “We had all said before any of the rockquest started we’d be pretty annoyed if we didn’t place, so to come out on top was good.”
“We work real hard at what we do. We practised, and we practised a lot to get our songs finely tuned.”
That meant a lot of time spent in the garage and the music practice rooms at Burnside High School.
Miles continues: “Leading up to rockquest we were pretty much practising daily - up to two or three hours at a time. We focused really specifically on our rockquest songs. We wanted to get that tightness factor and get it sounding really good as a group.”
Attention to the details of the song, and making sure nothing is unrehearsed is crucial to making sure things stay on track, Tim says. It’s important that there’s no “backsliding”.
“That can happen quite easily if you don’t play for three or four weeks,” Tim adds. “You might forget just one tiny little bit - that’s what can bugger a song up.”
Writing’s an important process for Frankly Mauve, and the band have a shared approach to the task.
“Ollie will sit down at his piano at home and just nut out a song for a week and then bring it to the band and we’ll rock it out.
“Then for a couple of the songs I’ll sit down on my guitar, and then I’ll take it to Ollie - cause he does all the vocal stuff - and then we’ll take it to the rest of the band.”
Once they’ve got the songs, transferring it to stage is a natural step for the band, who say they don’t have a contrived or conscious image - just more of a natural look.
“Image is quite a big thing,” Miles says. “We don’t purposely put on a costume to play. I think our clothes do sort of reflect the people we are and the music we’re into. There is definitely a look there, but it’s not an intentional thing, it’s just us.”
The band have to complete more tasks for smokefreerockquest. They have filmed a video - using five cameras, stage lighting, miced drums and a tech crew at the Aurora centre - and captured a live performance.
The school have been supportive of the band’s efforts, the boys say, but it took a bit of time.
“It’s taken a little bit of warming to, but the fact that there’s a chance of us representing the school nationally, you know, they’re going to get behind that. Not only is it good for us, it reflects well on the school,” Miles says.
“Generally the school’s known for its classical music so having this rock element is going to kill some stereotypes about the school.”
The band now play a waiting game until further results are announced.
So how was it?
“Pretty insane really,” Miles says. “I’ll tell you the full story…
“We got some mates, Much too Much who were other regional finalists. We respect them as a band, they’ve got a good sound.”
“Basically after we performed we said you guys played real well, we played real well - it could be down to the wire…”
“The third and second placed bands were announced and they (Much too Much) weren’t either one of them so we thought it could be us, it could be them … we we’re shaking a bit … We got a little bit worried and then when they announced Burnside High, we just went crazy.”
“Yeah, that was awesome,” Tim says.
“It was the relief as well - all this work and the result came out,” Miles adds.
“We were real stoked that we won, but we were also kind of gutted that Much too Much didn’t get through… I reckon they deserved a place. Second and third were good bands but much too much were right up there… It was disappointing.”
Once the video is away (set for last week of June) along with forms and the write up of our gig, it’s pretty much a waiting game for the band. The judges take the videos of all the first and second place-getters, watch all them and pick up the top 12.
“They’ll tell us at some point.”
The finals are set for October 20 in Auckland, and the band plan to keep gigging and trying to maintain their momentum until they find out if they’ll have to book tickets for later in the year.
“We’ve spent so much time doing this it does take a bit of a toll on schoolwork,” Tim says.
Miles adds: “The school, as much as they love the fact that we’re doing it, they look at our band commitment as a part-time recreational thing and school as a full-time and all this and we’re thinking: ‘This could be our future; we want to work hard at it.’ Our parents know what we want and support us in that.”
“Our parents have pretty good to us - especially Miles’s parents - they let us hit up the garage a couple of times a week, make some noise,” Tim says.
Miles’s mum Bernadette said: “They all deserve it…they work very hard, they’re a great bunch. They’re normal teenagers - not saints - but as a band they are really tight.”
All have plans for next year, but they’re really passionate about music. I think that they’re prepared to reconsider and take some time out to see how far the band thing will take them. There’s no guarantees… it might be a chance for them to do their own thing…”
Being mates has been a big help has well, the band says.
“It’s half band practice, and ‘gotta do work’, but it’s half hanging out with mates. It’s sweet as,” Tim says.
“It makes it when we are performing more enjoyable - we’re still hanging out with mates,” Miles agreed
“I couldn’t imagine being in a band with four other guys that I hate,” Tim laughs.
Other plans for career and study all have a big ‘if’ in front of them now, the band say.
“Who knows? It’s all really down to the question of if we do well - there’s a big if there. We can make our plans, but they all could change,” Miles said.
“We’ll work as hard as we can to get where we want to be, there’s always two different paths we can take so we’ll have to face that when we get there, I think.”
“You can wait and do one thing later,” Josiah says.
“If you want to go to uni, gig with the band for a year or two, and then go.”
“It might pay your fees,” Miles puts in.
The band liked the idea of being able to earn money doing something they love, so weren’t too stressed about choosing one career path or another.
“We’ll wait and see - it could well be worth it,” Miles says.
“Winning the whole thing isn’t really the issue,” Tim says. “There are some really good bands out there - and then its all up to what the judges want, but getting up to Auckland - that would be pretty cool.”
“Give us a chance to compete and we will”, Miles says.
The band are fans of Motorcade, and The Mint Chicks, and say there are good examples to follow in terms of being successful musicians in New Zealand.
“With New Zealand (music) the Crowded House, Split Enz Boys kind of set that up you know, the fact that they’re living off their music,” Miles says.
“They jumped over the ditch and made it in Oz, and once you’ve done that you can expand…they got it right in the sense that they managed to get their music out of New Zealand, which is not always easy to do.”
Whatever happens - and we don’t envy them their wait - Frankly Mauve can be proud of what they’ve achieved so far, and with their professionalism and dedication, they are well equipped to go far.
So if you get the chance to see them at a live gig - take it - you’ll be able to say I saw them before they got really big…
Tim Hardie, guitarist, says his favourite guitarist is Michael Hedges solo man.
Miles McDougall, drummer, picked Phil Collins and Buddy Rich as the best kit players ever.
Josiah Young - keyboards - plural - chose Thelonius Monk as his ‘best-ever’ [musician.
Absent: Ollie Sewell (vox) and Tim King (bass).