Evermore's Hume brothers considered splitting before creating their most ambitious album yet. Scott Kara reports
With their penchant for long, flowing scarves and big production number videos, Evermore have always been a bit flamboyant and ambitious. And, as bassist-keyboardist Peter Hume jokes, "our band is called Evermore", after Led Zeppelin's 1971 acoustic classic, The Battle Of Evermore, itself inspired by The Lord of the Rings.
So even though Peter and older brother Jon, who are sitting having breakfast at an Auckland cafe, have left their scarves at home today, it's not surprising the band's third album, Truth of the World: Welcome to the Show, is a concept album akin to The Who's rock opera, Quadrophenia.
"I love Quadrophenia," says 23-year-old Peter, who was born 12 years after the album was released.
Evermore's own sprawling album is built around a fictional news broadcast, a cast of characters like newshound Donovan Earl, and takes a wry look at "really trashy media".
"It's all around us and you don't realise how much you're consuming," says Peter. "That's what this album is about: the fun of playing around with things. It's not self-righteous because we're part of the media, we're doing an interview now, but [the album] is looking at how surreal it is and the funny side of it."
However, as with any concept album, there is a fine line to tread to avoid coming across as the self-righteous prats that Peter Hume so adamantly insists they are not.
But the two brothers agree, rather gleefully, that they "deliberately went there".
"We just embraced the whole over-the-topness of it," says Jon. "Musically it was fun because we could do something that was orchestral and strings, and the next track it's electronica and drum machine, and it kinda sorta works. We get away with it."
There's a song called Max Is Stable and while Max might be in control, the song is not. It moves from a smouldering synthesiser beginning, into a twisted Broadway musical sing-song, then a glitchy electronic breakdown crackles into the Donna Summer/Giorgio Moroder-disco of I Feel Love.
Somehow it works, and the end of Max flows straight into new single Boys and Girls (The Truth of the World pt.2), a camp synth-rock number with a jaunty handclap beat. It's nothing like their previous hit Running but still has a radio-friendly single appeal.
There are trademark Evermore ballads too, like Girl With The World On Her Shoulders and Front Page Story/Diamonds In the River, but then there's the guitar pomp of Everybody's Doing It and the panicky keyboard and drum machine-driven Chemical Miracle/Faster.
"We were freaking ourselves out at times," laughs Peter, "and in the back of my mind I was thinking, 'We'll cut this at the end', but I can't think of anything we left off."
"There is a lot of humour in it too," continues Jon. "We didn't want it to be a know-it-all, preachy and depressing album. Obviously we're poking fun at the media at times, but we're also poking fun at ourselves."
He says lines like: "What's hot this summer, a V12 Hummer, it's what gets you all of the girls," from Tonight On the Show (Truth of the World pt.1), can hardly be taken seriously.
And besides, he says with a laugh, "If you wrote a song about global warming it would be the most annoying song."
The idea of making a record of this kind was also driven by a passion to keep the art of the album alive.
"Where you have a glass of wine, turn the lights down and really get into the album as a piece of art," says Peter.
And it's also about having a good Kiwi go at something - a trait they say their dad instilled in them.
"He's always had this blind faith in us," says Jon. "He would say, 'Yeah, you guys can make a concept album'.
"It's about having a go at it, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. I think this album really required us to stick our necks on the chopping block, and we didn't know whether it was going to work."
As soon as they had finished second album Real Life, which was released in 2006, they knew the next one was going to be a concept work. However, there very nearly wasn't a third album.
Since they started out in 1999 and rose to prominence courtesy of their intriguing back story - they are three home-schooled brothers who were brought up on Led Zeppelin and the Who in the small Manawatu town of Feilding - they had not had a break from music or each other. While they scored two hit albums here and across the Tasman - becoming more popular in Australia than New Zealand - this busy schedule had taken its toll.
"We had to spend some time away from each other. It was the first time in a long time that we had some real time off ... " says Peter.
But then the brothers found themselves growing apart and musically doing different things, especially 21-year-old Dann (who isn't here today), who was making a name for himself with his own "singer-songwriter folk thing".
"That was something that Pete and I struggled to get our heads around and we didn't know if Dann wanted to do the album," says Jon.
"We were feeling like we were growing apart a little bit. So we needed a unifying thing," continues Peter.
Then they hit on the idea for the album.
"I had this story floating around in the back of my head, and Dann was struggling to write to my story," says Jon.
"He just didn't get it. But then he came up with this idea of having news reports coming in between songs and as soon as he said that we went off on this tangent of TV shows, newspapers, ad breaks, and all this product people were trying to sell. It turned into this crazy, over-the-top idea that took on a life of its own."
So they moved to Melbourne - their new hometown - about 18 months ago, built their own studio, and went about recording Truth of the World.
"It made us realise we really do like making music together," says Jon.
Line up: Jon Hume (vocals/guitar), Dann Hume (drums/vocals/piano), Peter Hume (bass/synth/vocals)
New album: Truth of the World: Welcome to the Show, out March 20
Past albums: Dreams (2003), Real Life (2006)