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August 4, 2011 | by  | in Music |
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Interviews… Karl Stevens

The Drab Doo Riffs arrival in our fair city is imminent and happily anticipated. Their live shows are infamously good and with the inimitable Karl Steven at the helm, you can be assured of deceptively clever rock’n’roll and a goddamn good time.

How did the Drab Doo Riffs come into being?

Well, the songs I started writing when I was living in England, so it sort of started out by myself really, and a friend of mine encouraged me to put them up on Myspace, just these demos that I’d done with a dictaphone, and so they sat there for a while under the name Drab Doo Riffs, until I moved back to New Zealand, then I started thinking, ‘wouldn’t it be nice to get a band together and muck around with these songs, write new songs, and play gigs etc.’ And that’s pretty much what happened. I would just point the people who I came across to the Myspace and if they liked the songs that was the sole criteria really. And kind of miraculously Marcus, the bass player, was into it, and then Lucy, who I work with in the Vietnam War, she was really keen, and then Mikey was keen to work with Lucy, and then Caoimhe was keen as well, she’s my sister in law, and I just thought ‘wouldn’t it be good to have another vocalist and someone to add a different flavour.’ And so that’s how it came together.

So you wrote those demos in England by yourself, how much do you think about how songs will work live when you’re writing?

Well they changed a lot when we all got together in a practice room, the songs got bigger and everyone’s different tastes polished up the songs. But really when we’re writing them it’s a bonus if they are going to work well live. Occasionally we write something and go, ‘oh that’ll go well live’ but just whatever blows our hair back is what we go for really. There are two sort of ways I write really, one is the sort of, ‘oh this is cool’ and the other is ‘this I have to get out of my system.’ There’s the cathartic and the aesthetic. It’s probably like that with all bands I think.

So you were in London doing your PhD, does your academic life influence your rock n roll life at all?

I have no idea (laughs). I guess the lyrics are sort of philosophical in their own way, and it was philosophy I was doing over there. I guess life always influences your songs and it was a big part of my life and my feelings about doing that work, and the whole experience of being in England and the impact of that. So it sort of comes through in an indirect way I think. I’m not necessarily writing about ancient Roman and Greek philosophy in my songs, but I guess there is sort of a pantheon of people who get mentions; Darwin gets a mention, Nostradamus gets a mention. Maybe they don’t normally get mentioned all that often in songs…

Did you have any specific differences that you wanted between the Drab Doo Riffs and Supergroove? Not just musically but in any other way?

I think the main one was that I wanted to keep the music as the focus, and also, have it be a nice thing rather than it be a pain in the arse, which Supergroove sort of turned into. It felt like there were more band meetings than creative things we were doing. And the Drab Doo Riffs have never had a band meeting I am proud to say. We just practice and play. We had to meet with a lawyer when we signed a deal with Liberation and stuff, but we try and keep it pretty fun and have it be about the good stuff that comes with being in bands, and that is very much to do with my experiences in Supergroove. I was aware of all the pitfalls and all the quagmires that bands can fall into.

We’re all very much looking forward to you guys coming to Wellington, and thanks for talking to us!

Cheers, looking forward to it.

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