Evermore in the running

By Rebecca Barry Hill

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It's Friday afternoon at a generously stocked bar and Dann Hume is not behaving like your typical drummer. "Chamomile or green tea?" says the teenage Evermore sticksman, staring quizzically at the pub menu.

"Here we go," mutters brother and bandmate Jon. "Every time he orders he's like, 'Have you tried it? Oh wait, what about this one?' He always orders, like, five drinks."

You can't blame him for being cautious. Evermore have stared at a lot of menus lately, including one in India that resulted in a bout of food poisoning.

Brother Peter, however, lights up when he talks about their international culinary experiences, particularly the sausages he had in Switzerland. He was also the one downing the most red wine at the band's listening party a few nights before for their new album, Real Life.

Although the Humes sound like typical young guys back from their OE, theirs has been the stuff of dreams.

First, quite literally, the debut album, Dreams, which led them from the rural anonymity of Feilding to big sales in Australia, an APRA Silver Scroll Award in New Zealand and recognition on the other side of the world.

Then came the passport-filling sojourn around the world in 18 days to film their music video for Running, an experience that also led to them going without sleep in Hong Kong, and thinking they were about to die when parts started falling off the plane shortly after take-off from Egypt.

Now they're preparing for the big, bad world all over again with the release of their appropriately named second album, Real Life. It is the band's first release on US record label Sire Records, a subsidiary of Warner Bros.

The band were signed last year by Sire boss Seymour Stein, the man responsible for launching the careers of Madonna, the Ramones and Talking Heads.

Stein told TimeOut last year that he liked Evermore's debut and was impressed with how hard the brothers work. "I think they can make a much better record, and so do they."

He was right.

"This album is more direct, more to the point and more upbeat," Jon explains. "The other was more dreamy. I think it's partly all the shows we've played. We love the songs off Dreams but we really needed to balance it with some more upbeat songs in our set and give ourselves something fun to play."

Real Life is already paying off. The boys have mobile phone sponsors and were invited to support New Zealand's other great partly fraternal band, rock institution Split Enz, in Australia.

And Evermore think they might be about to tour the US and Britain.

"I sometimes think our manager deliberately doesn't tell us things because she doesn't want us to realise how busy we are," says Jon.

Evermore still laugh about the time a radio DJ asked them how they met. Although Jon was born in Australia, the brothers, now all in their early 20s, grew up in Feilding. Perhaps it's because they were home-schooled by their artist parents, away from the judgmental eyes of fellow peers, but there's an unaffected, what-you-see-is-what-you-get appeal about the Humes.

Home-video footage included as an extra on their first in-concert DVD shows the brothers jamming together in their younger, gawkier years, something most rock bands would go to desperate lengths to hide.

"Yeah, we did have some pretty bad haircuts back then," says Dann. "But everyone looks like a dork when they're 13, y'know. We weren't trying to impress anyone."

Their parents had a great record collection, and the boys grew up listening to Bob Dylan, Led Zeppelin, the Kinks and the Who, before they discovered Britpop in the 90s.

"They were very supportive of us and they always wanted us to do something creative," says Jon. "Not just something run-of-the-mill like an accountant or something. Nothing was too risky."

Evermore's breakthrough came when they won the high school Rockquest in 2000. Instead of pouring the money into clothes or a car, the proceeds went straight into their home studio.

By late 2002, even though Kiwi programmers were yet to bite, their first single Slipping Away had made it to high-rotate on Australian youth station, Triple J.

Two exceptional EPs, Oil and Water and My Own Way, followed, and the band were invited to tour Australia, where they met Seattle producer Barrett Jones, who signed on to produce their debut album, an experience disrupted by torrential flooding.

Dreams emerged from the whitewash as a gem, garnering praise from local music critics but barely making an impression on the charts. Instead, it found an audience in Australia, selling more than 75,000 copies, earned them an MTV Award and an astounding five Arias. In New Zealand, it reached 10 per cent of that.

It's Too Late and For One Day were also picked up in Los Angeles, where they appeared on the soundtrack of hit American drama, The O.C.

If the band were disappointed things weren't really happening at home, they're too modest to admit it. "Different countries have different tastes," Jon shrugs.

Their major breakthrough in New Zealand didn't occur until last September, when they were announced as nominees for the coveted Apra Silver Scroll Award, against an all-star list that included Dave Dobbyn, Goldenhorse, Pluto and the Mint Chicks.

"It's a pretty special award because it was awarded by people we respect," says Peter. "It's pretty amazing. We didn't expect it at all. We just sat there and enjoyed the show."

By now, the band were sleeping on the floor at a friend's house in Sydney, where they remained for eight months. "She was pretty tolerant," says Peter.

Last year, New Zealand was hit in the face with the reality it had stars in its midst. In September, Evermore pipped Dave Dobbyn at the post and won a coveted Silver Scroll award for It's Too Late.

"It was a great encouragement," says Dann, "because we've always been about the songs. It's not about your haircut."

That said, it's doubtful Dann has long hair for the purposes of head-banging.

Evermore have escaped the flak that piano bands like Coldplay and Keane have come up against in Britain, but you have to wonder if Kiwi music fans were reluctant to embrace them because of their earnest, emotive approach.

Although the new material is bolder and rockier, Evermore have promoted it in small opera theatres where their audience is seated.

"You have to be who you are," says Jon. "We're not a hard rock band and we never intend to be. The last album was a little more out there, sonically and musically.

"This one, in certain respects, has a little more of the sounds people are used to hearing. But I think we've focused more on the songwriting this time."

After the epic nature of Running, Unbreakable seems the next likely hit, with undulating U2 guitars and soaring chorus. But any suggestion the songs were coaxed out of them by an over-zealous producer are far from the truth.

The band were adamant they would record the album their way, so they chose to work with John Alagia because they knew he'd let them get on with the job.

"To be honest, we did nearly all of it without him," says Jon, who has always looked after producing duties. "We basically worked with him because we had to - the record company wouldn't allow us to do it all ourselves."

"We were completely self-sufficient making the video, as well," says Peter, who does the artwork.

Dann: "It's just us walking around the world. There's no smoke and mirrors making us look better-looking than we are. I think we're like that, just slightly raw."

Quite. Another cup of chamomile tea anyone?

LOWDOWN

Who: Evermore, Feilding's band of Hume brothers Dann (18, drums) Peter (20, keyboards) and Jon (22, voice, guitar)

Previous form: Winners of 2000 high school Rockquest, despite being home-schooled. Debut album Dreams (2004) won them five Australian music awards, an APRA Silver Scroll in New Zealand (and a five-star TimeOut review to boot)

What: Second album Real Life, released on Monday, July 10

- NZ Herald

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