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July 30, 2007 | by  | in Music | [ssba]

The Thomas Oliver Band

There are three music genres that are making the local charts, getting backing from NZ on Air and filling poster billboards nationwide at the moment: guitar based indie, pop-punk and roots/reggae. But what if, as a musician, your chosen genre isn’t as esteemed in New Zealand? Thomas Oliver, of The Thomas Oliver Band, finds that his fusion of blues, folk and country is not an entirely popular style in New Zealand…yet. But with hard work, relentless touring and an overriding passion for it, Oliver speaks of starting a movement to get it to these heights.

The Thomas Oliver Band have just released their EP Every Penny and have some solid plans that Oliver hopes will propel his band into an international market in the near future.

The band is made of Thomas Oliver on vocals, guitar, piano, harmonica and weissenborn, Steven Moodie on bass guitar and double bass, and Tom Scrase on drums, percussion and backing vocals. Oliver went to school in Hawkes Bay with Moodie and both went to Music School in Wellington, as did drummer Scrase. On finding Scrase, Oliver states “I stayed behind in class one day, playing a Dave Matthews Band song and he just jumped on and played straight away, and I thought: ‘that’s the guy.’”

Now, two years down the track, the three fulltime musicians have just released their EP Every Penny, packing out Hope Bros on Thursday 19 July with 450 fans to celebrate this. Oliver’s sense of pride, accomplishment and anticipation over this release is understandable, as a self confessed perfectionist by nature, the title of the EP aptly references the band’s hard work that went into it. The three funded the entire project, which Oliver admits, was the only option for it to turn out exactly how he wanted.

Oliver emphasises that their music is very much rooted in American music traditions. Blues, folk and country are three of their biggest inspirations – however, they put a New Zealand spin on this and have a sound that evolves and changes frequently, as they are constantly inspired by different music they listen to. Even drum and bass has its influence on Oliver, who is drawn to the “power of rhythm, beats, and drum tone; it’s all about production and how things feel. We are one of those bands whose sound changes every few months. It’s not like we haven’t found our sound yet, but rather that because we’re all musicians we don’t want generic refinement basically. At the moment it’s somewhere between rock, folk and blues but the genre changes song to song and I guess we are going a little bit towards that roots-y sound, with an earthy feel.”

Most important to Oliver is matching this music to appropriate lyrics. His perfectionism makes lyric writing seem an arduous task, as Oliver is fuelled on his desire to avoid clichés and express himself in ways his listener may not have heard before. “I hate generic lyrics, so when I write lyrics I look at every line and then go why did I write that? Why is that there? Do I actually mean it? That way I can avoid saying things that have been said before, so I think that the strength of my lyrics is that I am saying things in ways that haven’t been said before.” With their upcoming first single, ‘I Wish I was the Rain’, Oliver explains he has taken on the topic of relationship break-ups by poignantly singing about “talking to someone I love out in the rain, wishing I was the rain so I could touch her; it’s just a way to try and take a different approach.”

Another track on the EP, ‘Train to Work’ employs thoughtful lyrics with a double meaning. As Oliver describes, “it’s about conformity to social expectations. Basically, that we go to school then we train and then we work. But the cool thing is that people can think if they like, that its just about taking the train to work, but for people who want to know or listen harder they will know it doesn’t mean a train to work.”

With feet firmly on the ground, and little time for idle dreams of rock stardom, The Thomas Oliver Band are going to work on getting well established in New Zealand with relentless touring. “We would rather tour the album and get the word of mouth out ourselves and build a fan base. We will be looking into some record deals soon. I’ve always believed that you can build a strong band from a lot of hard work.” When they feel they have accomplished this, Oliver’s ideal plans are to see The Thomas Oliver Band as “an international touring act with international respect, and basically for people to just understand the music. It would be nice to lead a movement in New Zealand music because there is so much good music in New Zealand and a sound now that’s attributed to it. But this sort of music is not very big here. It’s biggest in the States but we have an NZ twist on it.”

It sounds like there are at least 450 people willing to bet a few pennies on this twist on an internationally poplar sound, and along with Oliver’s convincing passion and determination, we should see the three piece heading up that ladder of success in the near future. In the meantime, pick up Every Penny – currently available from The CD and DVD Store, and soon will be available nationwide.

Thomas is next playing at Happy Bar, Tuesday 31 July with Kimbra and Tony Barnao. Starts at 9. $5 on the door.


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