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Interview: The Correspondents – Splore, WOMAD NZ and Electric Avenue Festivals

Interview: The Correspondents – Splore, WOMAD NZ and Electric Avenue Festivals

Gareth Shute / Tuesday 19th February, 2019 2:26PM

High-energy jazz-electro duo, The Correspondents, are returning to New Zealand to play Auckland's Splore Festival 2019 and Christchurch's Electric Avenue Music Festival 2019 in February, Taranaki’s WOMAD New Zealand 2019 in March, and even the Morning People rave series at Whammy Bar.

The Correspondents have already played New Zealand twice in the past - at WOMAD in 2013 and Splore in 2015 - but the flamboyant antics of their frontman, Mr Bruce, wowed audiences so much that they’ve been invited back to both this year. Their music is hard to describe, since it mixes dance beats, swing, and catchy hooks into a style all its own. One thing’s for sure - their music is perfect for dancing and their singer leads the way, with his constant movement across the stage. We caught up with Mr Bruce himself, who shares some of his memories of performing here in the past and why he’s particularly buzzed to be coming back again.

You’ve played Splore before, what are your memories of it?

It was quite an intense experience actually. We play a lot of festivals here in the UK - maybe 30-35 a year, when it was at its peak. We got to Splore and we were just blown away by the natural beauty and performing on a stage that looks out to sea. Every time we go somewhere new, we expect to start at the bottom and work our way up, but there was a big crowd and everyone was completely into it, so that was quite mind-blowing.

It must be hard playing a lot of festivals. While 50% of the crowd might know your music or check it out beforehand, but the rest might have heard it and have to be convinced...

With a crowd that doesn’t know us, there can be up to fifteen minutes of people staring incredulously and you just hope you can win them over. If you haven’t won them over five tracks in then you know it’s going to be an uphill struggle.

The other thing you’ve got on your side - apart from such energetic performances - is that your songs are extremely catchy. That new one, ‘Who Knew,’ is a crazy earworm.

Oh thanks. Really happy with that one actually.

Does it get stuck in your brain as much as it got stuck in mine?

For me, that’s how songs happen. I come up with a hook - often in the shower or doing something menial like doing the dishes - and I’ll suddenly start humming something. If that melody sticks in my mind over the course of a few days then I get the urge to do something about it! ‘Who Knew’ definitely came about that way.

I hate to tell you, but it’s actually been incredibly hot here for the last week. How are you going to handle that when you’re dancing wildly in your full suit?

You know what, I had a costume made about a month ago of neoprene and I almost died on a stage. I had to hole-punch holes into it, so that I could breathe! And I’ve realised it’s way way too hot, so I’ve actually had some costumes made that are the most lightweight costumes I would’ve ever worn. I’m getting too old to put myself through this masochistic form of agony.

You’re not going to try hot pants - create a summer version of the costume?

Well, as tempting as it is…


Maybe I should have velcro pants that I can rip off.

People might get the wrong idea.

Yeah, maybe!

Well, the beach is right there so you can always go for a dip after your Splore set.


You’re also playing WOMAD in New Zealand a month later. Are you hanging around this part of the world in between?

My bandmate, Chucks, will be - he’s going to see a friend in Wellington and they’re going to do some travelling together. I have a relatively new daughter so will have to return home and then come back again.

He’ll be all tanned, while you’ll be all winter-fied?

Chucks has a distinct dislike of hot weather and the sun, so I don’t think there’s much chance of him getting a tan.

If you’re lucky, he’ll just complain about how hot it was and you won’t have to feel jealous.

Quite possible!

You’ve played quite a few WOMADs around the world throughout your career - how do you find that festival?

I remember WOMAD New Zealand (in 2013) being particularly memorable because there was a massive drought that had lasted a very long time and it started to rain two-thirds of the way through our set. I’ve never ever experienced a crowd get that hyped about anything. It was an unforgettable gig - that to me would be one of the biggest highlights of my career. In the UK, if it starts to rain all you see is the rustle of people trying to get their jackets on as quickly as possible and people start to leave. Instead the people in New Zealand went ballistic. It was really great fun.

You know how to pick ‘em - WOMAD and Splore are two of the most scenic, good-vibe festivals in New Zealand. It’s quite handy that you’re playing both of them in a row.

It’s a real honour - especially to return after playing them before. You do these things and they’re great and you hope to be invited back, but there’s no certainty of that. So thank you Splore, thank you WOMAD New Zealand.

I notice you’re also doing ‘Morning People’ at Whammy Bar, which is an early morning rave. Have you ever done anything like that previously?

The closest thing we’ve done is a festival that’s dedicated to running, which was just heaps of very healthy people almost putting me to shame. But a morning rave? I’m not sure how I feel about it. I’m sure once we get going and get used to it being in the morning, we’ll get into it. Though it’ll be interesting to see how different the shows are. I can’t imagine myself going to one, but I’m totally intrigued.

If you’re coming back from the UK, then time difference might actually be on your side.

There you go. I wish it was the first thing we were doing after arriving, before we’ve reset our body clocks. That would make sense.

With energetic sets like yours, you don’t really need to go to morning raves in your personal time. You get a bit of exercise every show.

No exactly.

When you’re at these festivals, do you get to wander around and check them out? You are quite a noticeable individual.

You know what - since we were last there, I’ve tactically shaven all my hair off.

Every interview I read in research for this they asked hair-questions. I was trying to avoid it but…

Yeah, it’s funny. I feel like I’m not as recognisable now, if I put a hat on anyway. But yeah - when we go to New Zealand and Australia, we’re actually spending a bit of time there so we will get to see a bit of the festival. Whereas when we do them in the UK, we literally dip in and out since moving around at those festivals is quite difficult - especially if it rains, it’s a nightmare. So we barely get to see anything before we’re packing up and onto the next one. Whereas with WOMAD New Zealand - I think we get a day between our shows, so we can just hang out and watch some stuff. It’s gonna be great!


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Splore Festival 2019
Thu 21st Feb 3:00pm
Tapapakanga Regional Park, Auckland
Splore Festival 2019
Fri 22nd Feb 8:00pm
Tapapakanga Regional Park, Auckland
Splore Festival 2019
Sat 23rd Feb 8:00pm
Tapapakanga Regional Park, Auckland
Electric Avenue Music Festival
Sat 23rd Feb 8:00pm
Hagley Park, Christchurch
Morning People - The Correspondents
Wed 13th Mar 6:30am
Whammy Bar, Auckland
Womad New Zealand 2019
Fri 15th Mar 8:00pm
TSB Bowl of Brooklands, New Plymouth
Womad New Zealand 2019
Sat 16th Mar 8:00pm
TSB Bowl of Brooklands, New Plymouth
Womad New Zealand 2019
Sun 17th Mar 8:00pm
TSB Bowl of Brooklands, New Plymouth