Band of the Day



Glazes of classic psych rock vibes coating airy, blissed-out vocals and gritty guitar riffs
You said we'll love forever, I close my heart to others. You said we'll die together, but now you'll lie forever.
lyrics from Beatings

Basements hung with fairy lights, 60s tape reels spinning antique spools, drums dusted with white powder. Gritty riffs and psych rock washes slither beneath airy, blissed-blank Nico vocals spinning spectral tales of shattered romance. A beautifully ruined pair – he a leather-clad glowering guitar phantom, she a glacial, broken bombshell – blow glitter at each other through the flashes from old cameras. This is the world of Coves, a classic psych-garage aesthetic vacuum-sealed forever in one time, one space. The space is Castle Grayskull, the live-in studio that musical mastermind John Ridgard helped build in a disused office in Leamington Spa and where their debut album was recorded. And the time covers the duration of singer and lyricist Beck Wood's last big relationship, laid out in her songs from first flutter to final choke. “It was a frustrating time,” says Beck, “so I was trying to voice my anger. Bad times. It’s about heartache and revenge. I was freshly single so, right, let’s get the knives out.” “It was a really weird period,” John says of the year Coves spent writing and recording their album at Castle Greyskull, “because Beck had just broken up with an ex, and I’d moved into these disused offices which were originally the first pool hall ever built in the UK so a really mad building. The owner let six of us move in, so we made a living space and one room we turned into a music studio. A couple of the guys who lived there were a lot younger than me and were into all kinds of weird fucking parties. I was single at the time and obviously got involved. The whole album’s a really nice snapshot of a really bizarre year in that house.” John, a Manchester-born 60s aficionado who moved to Leamington aged 14 with his family, first got to know Leamington native and northern soul fan Beck when she worked in the ticket office of the local music venue he was assistant managing. In mid-2011, when she heard he wrote music and played in bands, she volunteered her vocal services. “It was ‘I’ll be in your band!’ and he was like ‘what band? I haven’t created one yet - can you sing?’ And I was like ‘I don’t know, I’ve never done it before…’” John prepared some tracks for her; edgy, brooding garage clatters with the Velvets, The White Stripes and The Kinks pulsing like endorphins through their veins. “I went to a record fair in Leamington and started talking to one of the sellers about 60s garage and stuff, and he just got me a whole handful of records and so I’d been listening to loads of 60s garage. The first stuff was very much based on that.” Beck turned up at Castle Greyskull with wine and lyric sheets and the two would spend hazy evenings piecing her woes and vitriol around his acidic pop melodies. The results were swiftly spectacular. By August of 2011 they had a home-made five-track ‘Coves EP’ up online, including the sitar’n’synth psych-pop wonder ‘No Ladder’, the simmering shoegazer ‘Throw Your Soul’ and ‘Honeybee’, the first song they wrote together and arguably their most vicious, Beck sweetly snarling “you’re burning through my memory like a poison” over John’s demonic gutter bass. Full of bravado, they booked their first London live shows and played a “really shit” debut gig at the Barfly as a two-piece with a backing track. Nonetheless, word got around. Echo & The Bunnymen caught them at a Leamington gig and personally offered them the support slot on a tour which found them sharing the headliner’s tourbus around the country. It was this tour that convinced them they needed a drummer, so Beck and John began formulating a full live band for Coves. Before long they’d expand their vision to incorporate an artistic visual element to their shows, filming their own videos and playing in front of backdrop films or in Tron-style art installations. “People would walk into the room and a 3D image of themselves would appear on the back wall,” John explains, “so they could put their hand towards it and see this big hand.” Coves were becoming a multi-media happening, ultra-modern Factory-style revisionists with a cool cult edge. In early 2012 they peaked the interest of industry legend James Endeacott, the man who A&R’d The Strokes and signed The Libertines, now part of Oh Mercy management. By March he’d taken them on as manager and arranged a single deal with Cross Keys Records to release their debut EP proper that May, featuring 'No Ladder', 'Run With Me', 'Fall Out Of Love' and headed up by the propulsive garage beauty ‘Cast A Shadow’ (“that's about when I got back with him and all the frustration in the relationship”). Then, in March of 2013, he resurrected his own 1965 label to put out the beguiling synthetic pound of ‘Last Desire’ (“the actual end of that relationship. Once again. That was the 'done and dusted' song”), which saw the likes of Zane Lowe, Huw Stephens, Lauren Laverne and Nick Grimshaw become fans and critics liken Coves to such disparate acts as Spiritualized, Lana Del Ray, The Shangri-La’s and Brooklyn trend-setters Crystal Stilts and Vivian Girls. Coves rose quietly, but elegantly. They toured with Dutch Uncles and Eugene McGuinness, had ‘No Ladder’ remixed by new psych heroes Toy and recorded a cover of Chris Isaak’s haunting classic ‘Wicked Game’, which ended up being used on BBC1’s The White Queen in some kind of global Isaak lottery. “Recently everyone started covering it and it’s become a bit embarrassing,” John chuckles. “We played a student festival and we were the fourth band on the bill to play ‘Wicked Game’.” Following a set at Latitude 2013 that found the band playing to a rammed and rapturous tent, they signed to the resurgent Nettwerk Records. Cue the November release of new single ‘Beatings’, an icy slab of unearthly Americana mixed by Brendan Lynch (Primal Scream, Paul Weller) to concoct a masterful fusion of Lynchian desert menace and modernist electronic crankiness. It’s a demented energy that Brendan, on mixing and additional production, has brought to the whole album. “We specifically asked Brendan to do whatever he wanted,” says John, “so he’s gone really crazy with all these echoes, and tape delays, he’s making it a lot more psychedelic. We’d just bought a big old Hammond organ, an old seventies synth. So this is like a big organ synth wig-out.” ‘Beatings’ marked the end of Beck’s lyrical journey through the wreckage of that relationship - “My heart stops beating for you,” she coos, finally shedding the heartache. “It’s basically saying ‘look at me now’,” she says. “I’m looking at a past relationship, saying ‘I don’t need you, I’m at a good place in my life’.” It also marked the end of recording the album and Coves’ cruel but creative year at Castle Greyskull. Within six months Beck would be happily ensconced in a new relationship and John would be engaged and living in London’s East End. “It’s all gone now,” John mourns. “My friend Tim still lives there, but all the other rooms are empty, and our studio’s gone. Last time I went to pick up the rest of my studio, it was just bags of rubbish, and flies everywhere. It’s like the end of an era. I was taking loads of pictures when I moved out - it’s really cheesy to have a montage on the inside cover of your vinyl, but I think that a montage is necessary.” So Coves have produced that rare and precious thing, a debut album – due in January and as yet untitled - that works as a complete piece of art; a statement, historical document and diary inhabiting its own hermetically sealed aesthetic world. Their waters are inky deep, but their currents run warm. -- Written by Mark Beaumont