Musical acts shaping sound and style

By Dan Ahwa

They're young, gifted and dedicated. We put the spotlight on six music acts that have shaped their own sound and style, each with a unique sense of what it means to be an artist

Singer and 'X Factor' judge, Ruby Frost. Photo / Jessica Sim
Singer and 'X Factor' judge, Ruby Frost. Photo / Jessica Sim

The Veils

Finn Andrews, lead singer and songwriter for London-based indie/alternative rock band The Veils, is rarely seen without his hat. "It's become far more of a signature than I ever intended but I really do feel weightless without it. Frank Zappa once said 'wear a hat, be a pressure cooker'.

"I agree," says the dapper 30-year-old.

After a successful tour of New Zealand in July - as part of their world tour in support of the band's fourth studio album, Time Stays, We Go - Andrews has already begun to prepare for their next project. "I'm writing another record, composing an orchestral piece for the Anzac memorial in Belgium in 2016, and writing a film with my friend, Squish."

As for bassist Sophia Burns, when it comes to personal style, a lived-in approach is key.

"Find something you love and let it die on you," she says. "I wear the same thing for every show. The dress changes about once a year but the shoes haven't shifted in a long time.

At the moment the dress is a Les Filles en Fleur one that's probably my favourite ever stage dress. It's wearing through in the line where my guitar strap sits though, which is worrying."

Along with bandmates Uberto Rapisardi, Raife Burchell and Dan Raishbrook, both Andrews and Burns will be touring throughout the Netherlands and Denmark in the next couple of months on the final leg of their tour.

Most influential records:

Finn: "The first ones were probably all Nirvana records. My first band and I played exclusively Nirvana covers and, I think, sometimes Wonderwall. We were pretty badass."

Sophia: "Sparklehorse's Good Morning Spider was the first one that made me feel similar feelings to the feelings I have about music now. Patti Smith's Horses and also Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead."

Finn wears shirt and blazer by Crane Brothers and own hat. Sophia wears dress by 3.1 Phillip Lim from Adorno.


David Dallas

"Extremely basic," is how rapper David Dallas describes his personal style, opting to keep the things simple and let the swagger do the talking.

A black T-shirt, beanie, jeans and Polo socks complete a failsafe wardrobe for the artist, who is due to release a new album, Falling In To Place, which will include an exclusive track recorded with Ruby Frost. With two successful albums already under his belt, Something Awesome (2009) and The Rose Tint (2011); and two EPs - Something Now (2008) and Buffalo Man (2012) - Dallas is one of New Zealand's most prolific hip-hop and rap artists, with an original sound and style.

"I've never really thought about it, but I guess what I wear is just an expression of my taste and influences. I think that's all it comes down to. For a musician, the music, visuals, design and fashion should all make sense together as an expression of the taste of that individual."

Most influential records: "Snoop's Doggystyle, Mobb Deep's The Infamous. Almost everything I do musically in some shape or form can probably be traced back to those two albums."

David wears own clothes and Hermes timepiece from DFS Galleria.


Ruby Frost

It's hard not to take a second glance at Ruby Frost, with that famous mane of pink hair and sweet smile. However, these days her personal style is anything but saccharine, as she prefers wearing crisp whites and striking metallics, accented by her selection of bold jewellery choices.

"I always wear lots of crystal jewellery. I'm just a magpie, drawn to shiny things." After a successful season as, arguably, the most popular judge on The X Factor, 26-year-old Frost is looking forward to taking time out to reflect and write again, heading to Sweden next month to collaborate with a range of producers on new material.

It's an opportunity for the pop vocalist to continue evolving her sound, much like her distinctive look.

"I'm going through a phase of refining everything in my life, and it's even affecting what I wear. I want everything to be more simple, structured and strong. I've been wearing a lot of boxy, monochromatic outfits. But part of me will probably always be drawn to
sparkling materials, metallics and crystals. I think fashion is just a natural extension of whatever story you're trying to tell as an artist. I seem to always be going through different phases, musically and creatively, and then my perspective on fashion often just moves with everything else."

Most influential records: "Michael Jackson's HISTORY compilation defined my childhood. And I remember listening to Mariah Carey's first album when I was really young and idolising her. A lot of 90s R&B was played in my house, too."

Ruby wears a dress by Gregory, heels by Miu Miu and her own jewellery.


Watercolours

Chelsea Jade Metcalf's ethereal vocals, with a backdrop of ambient sound, will no doubt be reflected in a forthcoming collaboration with fashion designer Emily Miller-Sharma from Liam, a label for which Metcalf is also an ambassador. The Watercolours star is collaborating on a wardrobe to align with a music release early next year.

"The content and sound are in cahoots with the concept of the garments. It's very exciting," she says. Preferring to wear pants and flat shoes while performing, Metcalf explains that she needs clothes that "allow for maximum full-body flailing."

After winning the New Zealand Music Awards Critics' Choice prize last year, she is looking forward to releasing new material soon.

"The record I finished during April in London has been fractured into two E.Ps and they'll come out in quick succession, starting in mid-November. Meanwhile, Boycrush and I are putting out a dual single combo in September."

Most influential records: "Jenny Lewis' Rabbit Fur Coat record defined my taste so aptly in high school that my friend and I attempted to cover the entire album, recording the songs with a Skype headphone into the questionable Windows sound recorder. Some of it is still on YouTube. No shame."

Chelsea wears a jacket by Comme des Garcons, from Scotties.


Glass Owls

You only have to look at the beautifully directed music videos for the singles No Avail (2010), Griffin Boy (2011) and Let's Take the Road (2012) by Auckland-based band Glass Owls to get an understanding of their overall musical aesthetic. "We feel that style permeates everything you do as a person or artist - our music informs our style and vice versa. So I guess our style is a visual representation of what we're trying to do musically." The two core members are vocalist Thomas Nelson, 24, and guitarist Anthony Metcalf, 23, who together have created a band that's quickly gaining a reputation for being the consummate live act. Nelson's strong vocals are a highlight, and fans can look forward to hearing new material on an 11-track album to be released early 2014.

Most influential records:

Tomas: "The Doors' Morrison Hotel, Jimi Hendrix's Experience Hendrix, Johnny Cash's American IV."

Anthony: "Spoon's Girls Can Tell, Wilco's Summerteeth, Radiohead's OK Computer."

Anthony wears A.P.C shirt, Working Style blazer, own jeans and shoes. Tomas wears shirt by Ralph Lauren, coat by Prada, Working Style shoes and own jeans.


Anthonie Tonnon

Songwriter and performer Anthonie Tonnon sometimes has a case of synaesthesia. "I often see colours with music, and I get a similar feeling with clothes. If everything is working well, style should be an extra layer beyond the music that adds to the experience I'm trying to create, in the same way a backing vocal or a string part can."

When it comes to deciding what to wear on stage, a classic blazer never goes astray. "I always wear a jacket. To me it announces I'm putting on a show." After two EPs and an album with his band, Tono and the Finance Company, Tonnon has this year focused on solo performances and touring the country, with an album ready for release early next year.

"I think it's essential to be playing live to develop an act - little details about the sound, the songwriting and the style are always being refined when I'm on tour. I recently played six dates around New Zealand with Watercolours and my band, and in September I'll be playing solo in Sydney and Melbourne, and starting a six-week tour of the US with Seattle artist Shenandoah Davis."

Most influential records: "I was pretty versed in The Beatles and 60s pop as a kid. I taught myself to play guitar by learning all the songs I could from a David Bowie greatest hits cassette tape. But I think my songwriting big bang was a trip to the Dunedin Public Library when I was 17, where I got out The Strokes' Is This It, Ryan Adams' Heartbreaker and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds' No More Shall We Part, all based on the newspaper reviews librarians had stuck to the covers."

Anthonie Tonnon wears a jacket by Vanishing Elephant and shirt by Prada.

* Photography by Jessica Sim

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