|Let's hear it for Cover Drive|
This energetic young Bajan band are making a splash all over the world, including a No.1 hit in the UK earlier this year, so just who are Cover Drive? ZiNG went to find out…
"I compare us to a pack of Starburst,” laughs 20-year-old Amanda, the band’s lead vocalist. “Okay, I know it’s odd, but if you were to take every flavour of Starburst and put one of each in your mouth, that sort of sums up our music. The red is our sassiness, the pink our sweetness, the orange our quirkiness and the yellow our zestiness.”
Typically, the singer is only halfway through her analogy when her eye-rolling band mates try to intervene. 18-year-old bassist Jamar and 22-year-old guitarist Barry jokingly object to their songs being likened to sweets. Only drummer T-Ray, 17, approves – and possibly only because Amanda used to be his babysitter!
Starburst-style or not, Cover Drive are as fresh and fun a band as you’ll hear. Based in Barbados, but in the process of moving to London since being signed to Polydor this year, the quartet blend their Caribbean sunshine-drenched musical roots with infectious pop hooks honed with A-list writer/producers such as Wayne Hector, Steve Mac, Ina Wroldsen, J.R. Rotem and Future Cut. Cover Drive’s sound is brisk and bright, aimed as much at the beach and high street as dance-floors. The band likes to refer to it as “sunshine-y, feel-good music.”
Discovered last year after posting just one video on You Tube, (a cover of Train’s Hey Soul Sister), mere months after forming, the Bajan quartet are friends who had been making music individually. But when Amanda’s manager suggested they all team up, it was then that they hit on the infectious sound they call ‘Carib-pop’
“We had known each other for ages, but it never crossed our minds to start a band,” says Amanda. “As soon as we did, it seemed so obvious. We’re the perfect fit. I adore pop music, T-Ray likes metal, Jamar likes indie and Barry likes punk rock, but our influences and Caribbean roots meet and create a blend of edgy, feel good music that is unique to Cover Drive.”
Their name may come from their homeland’s love of cricket, but it was the covers the quartet posted online that instantly attracted major label attention. Dubbed The Fedora Sessions (because they wore fedoras – hat-obsessive T-Ray has a collection of 20-plus) and filmed in T-Ray’s basement, their funky, Caribbean-flavoured re-workings of Hey Soul Sister, B.o.B.’s Airplanes and Ke$ha’s Tik Tok first earned them an offer from Sony in the States. They were considering signing when Polydor stepped in. One showcase of four Cover Drive originals at their mentor Eddy Grant’s house in Barbados later and the quartet had inked a deal and agreed to move to Britain.
“We were persuaded that the UK would be more appreciative of our differences,” explains Jamar. “We may be young, but we knew exactly how we wanted our songs to sound. We were happy to work with experienced writer/producers, but we didn’t want to lose the energy we had when it was just the four of us.”
After six months spent travelling back and forth from Barbados to London, L.A. and New York to write and record their debut album it was complete.
“We learnt a lot from different producers,” says T-Ray, “but we also learnt to speak up. We were determined to stay true to our sound. Rather than dilute our music, the more people we worked with, the more the sound we found when we started doing covers came to the surface.”
Fast forward ten months and Cover Drive’s album is a true reflection of the band. Their debut single Lick Ya Down, recorded in L.A. with J.R. Rotem, is breezy, bass-driven dancehall-pop, based on a Bajan phrase that means ‘to knock you down’.
“Lick Ya Down is what you say when you’re vexed and want to knock someone down,” explains T-Ray. “It’s more used as a verbal threat than something you would actually do. We like using Bajan terms in our songs and wanted to keep it fun.”
Listen to their music and you quickly realise why they are creating a buzz. The percussive ‘That Girl’ boasts verses with soca-flavoured beats and high, hypnotic vocals and bursts into a gloriously catchy, reggae-pop chorus. ‘Twilight’, on which T-Ray chants, sends perky Euro-pop through a Caribbean blender and soulful love song ‘Sparks’ features both Amanda and T-Ray singing over a mix of piano and electro.
Between recording sessions for the album, the quartet continued to post their Carib-pop covers online, reworking the likes of Ellie Goulding’s Starry Eyed, Katy Perry’s California Girls, Jessie J’s Price Tag, and J-Lo’s I’m In To You. Watch them on YouTube and you’ll see T-Ray playing a helmet (worn over a fedora, of course) with a drumstick, playing a shaker of sand in a soft drink bottle, banging cardboard boxes and making beats by scraping the floor with an upside down skateboard.
“Our aim with the album was to have as much fun as we did in our basement,” says Amanda. “We definitely did and you can hear it in the songs. They’re about being young, having fun and living in the Caribbean sun.”
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