Red Wine Rock & Roll
Dec 18, 2014
Photography by James Loveday Issue #51 - September/October 2014 - alt-J
Coves hail from the picturesque spa town of Leamington, in central England. Though the city is not particularly large, the duo (Beck Wood and John Ridgard) may never have come together had it not been for The Assembly, its prominent rock venue, where they were co-workers.
"John was my boss," explains singer and lyricist Wood. "I was the box office girl. The nickname John had for me was 'box office bitch,' because I didn't have great public skills when people would phone up and ask me questions."
"It was literally the worst customer service you'd ever see in your life," says multi-instrumentalist Ridgard, and they share a laugh. "Someone would ask for a ticket, and they wouldn't say it quite loudly enough, and she'd be like,"—he raises his voice to an intimidating volume—"What?! I can't hear you!"
"People would ask me, 'What time is the band on? Because I need to get a babysitter,' and that would drive me up the wall!" Wood continues. "I don't need to know their life story."
Ridgard had been involved with a number of bands over the years but never got very far, despite playing what he described as "every single terrible venue in the U.K." He'd started working on some tracks inspired by '60s psychedelia, but hit a snag when his friend and writing partner dropped out of the project. Enter Beck Wood.
"My sister was having a birthday party [at The Assembly], and me and John were quite drunk that night. John was telling me he wanted to start another band, and I was like, 'I wanna be in your baaaaand,'" Wood says in her best nasal, drunk-girl voice. "And at that point I'd never sung before, so John was in for a treat."
Ridgard took her up on her request, and brought her to his home studio—named Castle Grayskull, after He-Man's fortress—to take a crack at the tunes he'd been working on.
"[We] drank a bottle of red wine and started singing 'Honeybee,'" Wood recalls of the night they not only formed Coves, but wrote a standout track from their debut album, Soft Friday. She jokes: "And then it went downhill from there."
"Because we didn't know what the band would be like or whether it would even work, we were very secretive at the start," Ridgard says. "[On the demo] Beck was called 'Tanya,' just in case anybody accidentally loaded up the file and was like, 'Who's singing that?'"
Once Wood's voice was added to the mix, they knew they were on to something. Coves' neo-psychedelic sound—think Temples or TOY, but with blissful, Nico-esque vocals—caught the attention of some famous early supporters. When Echo & the Bunnymen came through town for a gig at their club, Wood and Ridgard begged the promoter to book Coves as support. Their music was forwarded on to the band. They said yes, but that wasn't the biggest surprise.
"After the gig, they were like, 'Hey guys, what are you doing for, like, the next week?'" Wood recalls. "'Would you like to come to Europe with us and tour?'"
"[That was] three months after we formed the band," Ridgard says, still sounding somewhat incredulous.
Coves has come a long way from those early star-struck days. Soft Friday landed in Europe to critical acclaim earlier this year. Ridgard and Wood have since relocated to London, and have their eyes set on the U.S. with a tour and stateside album release this fall. Readers on this side of the Atlantic have much to look forward to.
"We like to get really intense: lots of lights, lots of color, lots of reverb," promises Ridgard of their performances. "We like to turn it into a heady experience."
[Note: This article first appeared in Under the Radar's September/October print issue (Issue 51).]
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