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The River Jones

The River Jones

Interviewed by
Danielle Street
Thursday 19th June, 2014 12:14PM

Experimental punk four-piece The River Jones have been active in the Christchurch music scene for a few years now. When they first started playing together fresh out of high school, the group's guitarist Hunter Jackson was only 17-years-old and had to stand outside bars during the band's soundchecks for gigs later that evening. Nowadays all the members are of legal drinking age and the band has a whole swag of accomplishments, including releasing a self-titled debut album last year and the recently revealed video for their single 'Steady Vision'. With their place firmly cemented in the local music scene, The River Jones are now set to the next generation of musicians and fans by playing at the opening gig of new all-ages venue Re:VIVE this weekend.

We caught up with band members Ben, Abi and Hunter to have a chat about the Christchurch music scene and where all-ages venues fit into the picture....

UTR: Firstly, where did the name The River Jones originate?

Ben: When me and Hunter started playing together at his house, we did it with a good friend of ours named River Jones. He left to go live in Australia indefinitely so we decided to name the band after him. He came back pretty quick and started playing with us again, but we were pretty lazy, and he's got a cool name I guess. We wrote and recorded that first album with him before he left to go live in Dunedin and Abi started playing with us.

How would you sum up the music you make in one sentence?

Ben: Four very different musical entities trying to meet in the middle, thus creating something very dynamic, unpredictable, and rhythmically driven. That's me being optimistic though…

Hunter: A heretic bark of experimental punk, that is loud.

Do you think Christchurch bands get enough support from local industry to help get music out there?

Ben: It's a mixture I suppose. We've never had any help getting our songs actively sent anywhere outside of Christchurch, though I would say that certain local industries have nurtured and supported us to the point where we can now begin to do it ourselves. We played our first shows just coming out of high school when Hunter was still 17! We had no decent gear, no cash, had never sung into a microphone, and couldn't play bar shows without Hunter having to stand outside during soundcheck. I think if we were thrown into any other tiny musical community, and/or we were without the people from places like the Darkroom and Mainz, we would be totally fucked.

Abi: I think it has a lot to do with learning it all yourself. Some bands seem to be a lot more industry savvy, or maybe more motivated, but truthfully I do think there is a huge disconnection between some parts of local industry and the Christchurch music scene. The hardest part is trying to get the money together to go and play other cities.

Hunter: This is a really tough question.. And we will probably all disagree to a certain extend across band members. In a short answer, no. But it certainly hasn’t stopped any of the Christchurch bands in the city. There is some really incredible bands in the city, that are producing their own records, albums, putting on their own shows, promoting and touring on their own accord.

What are some of the main pros and cons of the music scene in Christchurch?

Abi: I wouldn't really know much about how the Christchurch music scene compares to other parts of New Zealand but sometimes I think that living here is a double edged sword. It's quite a small scene, after the quakes a lot of people left but the people who are still here and coming to shows seem to really love music. I guess it can be a bit isolating. The only other shitty things are the things you'd find anywhere I suppose. 

You are playing a gig on to open new all-ages venue Re:VIVE. Why do you think spaces like this are important?

Hunter: When we were all kids, there were more all age venues than you could poke a stick at! And there was an amazing scene of kids, playing awesome music, starting labels and experiencing music. And when we started this band, I was still 17. And couldn’t see so many amazing acts due to alcohol laws. Music should be for everyone, regardless of age. So it’s so important to see a place where kids can experience and see amazing bands. And to play themselves! So we always do our best to play All Ages shows, and support anyone that’s willing to help. What’s even Re:VIVE, is amazing independent project! Being headed up by people who really care about music.

Do you have any thoughts on how the public can help make venues like this successful so they stay open?

Ben: Stop thinking of them as "youth venues". It's not just for teenagers, it's just a place where the primary focus of the venue is the music.

Abi: I think it'd help if older bands or more successful bands show their support by playing at them. I think that needs to happen more.

Hunter: Just get amongst it! It’d be great to see this whole “I can’t drink there, what’s the point” Attitude erased. Play shows there! GO to shows there! Tell people about that. I think that’s the main thing.

A number of bands talk about the Christchurch earthquakes being influential to their music, have you found it impacted your songwriting in any way?

Ben: I think naturally something that affects your life that hugely will come out in your songs somehow. I remember someone referred to Ipswich as a "post-quake" band. I guess they were literally a band that came out of Christchurch after the earthquakes, but I think it's stupid to refer to a band as that due to them sounding pissed off and coming from Christchurch. I don't know, it's been a really shitty time at some points, but you adjust.

A few months ago you put out a video for ‘Steady Vision’ which has been described as “subverting the backyard barbeque”, is that an accurate description?

Ben: I guess you could say that, but when we came up with the idea it definitely wasn't so intelligently put. Me and Hunter started off talking about doing this crazy single shot slow-motion thing, kind of like that Chris Knox video or the opening scene in A Clockwork Orange. After we decided that wasn't going to work out we decided to go with the BBQ thing. I'm pretty sure it started out from Abi making jokes about a Six60 video and taking it way too far.

Can you tell me a little bit about making the video?

Ben: Initially, when we all began planning the concept for the video, we had all these insanely elaborate characters we'd planned into a storyboard, but none of them turned out. We'd made a date with the wonderful Alex Parsons to shoot, but ended up kind of waking up on the day with nothing planned. We had talked over the idea of making a fucked up Six60 video, but not a lot else. Really we just told some of our friends to show up to a flat in Wainoni with the weirdest shit they owned and hung out all afternoon, the rest was just good editing on Alex's part.

Hunter: The video process was pretty ridiculous, it started off with Woodsy and I just drawing on a piece of sound proofing foam, coming up with the most bizarre things we could think off. We’d all been watching a lot of twin peaks, which was our biggest influence. We threw around “David Lynch Porno” a lot, while planning the video.

What was the main thing you learned from putting it together?

Ben: Personally all I figured out was if you've got someone who knows what they're doing behind the lens, then you can really get away with doing whatever in front of it. We'll see what happens next time. If we're lucky enough to do another with Alex, I think I'd like it to have a simple concept so he gets more freedom, and we can take full advantage of his eye.

Hunter: I think the main thing we learnt was, that you can achieve something really awesome as long as you involved cool creative people that like the things you do.

Was it self-funded?

Ben: Yeah, though I think we only paid for some hashbrowns and beer. We're lucky enough to have friends who sorted the rest.

Hunter: I would say it was self-funded, but we didn’t really spend any money on it at all (aside from a few beers and a dinosaur tail). So it was a total DIY effort, maybe it was friend funded? That might be the best way to put it.

What’s next for The River Jones? We hear you have a new album in the works…

Ben: Yeah, we're just settling a date for the session. Although our last album wasn't put out all that long ago, those songs were written a few years ago now, and we only play two of them. It'll be good to have something out that represents us currently. We have a couple demos you can find in a dropbox folder on our facebook page, but other than that it's pretty dry. My main focus is getting that done and playing around New Zealand as much as we can. Hopefully we'll get up to the North Island pretty soon.

The River Jones are playing with Villain, The Near Veddar, The Ashtray Harts and Silk Kactus, at the opening of Christchurch all-ages venue Re:VIVE on Friday night. See here for details.


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