Kubb class at the Waterfront
EMMA LEE The band Kubb, who have been compared to the likes of Radiohead, Muse and Jeff Buckley, play the Waterfront in Norwich this week. Emma Lee spoke to mainman Harry Collier.
What do Dido's brother, the song Happy Birthday, the Cornish surf-rock scene and the Caribbean have in common?
In their own ways they've each shaped Kubb mainman Harry Collier's songwriting and given him much-needed breaks into the music business.
The band's debut album, Mother, was released last year to wide acclaim.
Radio One DJ Jo Whiley was among their early high-profile fans, and the Times declared that they could be the new Coldplay.
The names Radiohead, Muse and Jeff Buckley have also been bandied about.
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“I think we're a little bit like those bands, but not any one in particular,” says Harry as we grab a quick chat in between studio recording sessions and tour rehearsals. The band play the Waterfront, Norwich, this week.
“I can hear similarities to Radiohead and Muse, but only in as much as they are similar to Jeff Buckley. There's a whole Buckley influence going down. I hadn't heard about him until a year after he died. And also it didn't sink in how good he was the first time I heard it, but then the second and third time… it's probably one of the biggest growers I have ever heard,” he says.
Harry was born in Liverpool. His dad is from London and his mum from Tobago. When he was four the family moved to the Caribbean.
He was barely into double figures when he discovered music.
“I had a really brilliant music teacher. When he explained to me how it all worked I was hooked. I must have been nine or 10,” he says. “I played clarinet and recorder.”
When he was 17 Harry moved back to England and settled in Cornwall, where he 'went electric' and formed a band.
A few years were spent gigging in different guises, then relocated to London just as the influential indie label One Little Indian offered his then current band a deal.
Luckily fate intervened and he got another offer when he was working as a waiter in an organic café.
Rollo, of dance band Faithless and brother of singer Dido, was there for a birthday meal - and Harry was nominated by his colleagues to sing Happy Birthday to the table.
Rollo was impressed and invited Harry to his studio in Highbury. They played some football, wrote a couple of dance tunes and there was talk of Harry singing on one of Rollo's projects.
“Nothing really happened with that, but through him I met a couple of guys and started writing with them,” says Harry.
They were Rollo's best friend from school, Ben Langmaid, who had a studio in the same complex and Jeff Patterson.
“But they weren't really interested in being in a band, they were DJs more than musicians,” says Harry.
He moved on again and put together a band made up of contacts he'd made in the music business.
Ex Reef member Dom Greensmith was recruited on drums via an old touring contact of Harry's. Keyboardist John Tilley was fresh out of the Greenwich Conservatoire and recruited via an NME ad and Adj Buffoni joined on guitar. About two-and-a-half years ago they became Kubb.
And last year they went into the Olympic Studios in Barnes with renowned indie producer Youth, who recently rocket-powered Embrace's comeback.
They laid down nine tracks in just seven days.
Youth describes Harry as having a “sixth sense” when it comes to music.
Some of the album documents the fall-out of one of Harry's relationships - such as the bitter Somebody Else and Bitch.
While Grow, probably the best-known song off the record, is described as a relationship recovery song.
“Writing is a mixture of everything,” Harry says. “Sometimes you've got things written down and have loads of ideas and can write it in one go. I'm working on new tracks - I don't have anything specific in mind, but we've got to get the second album done. Hopefully we're going to work with Youth again.
“I listen to lots of music really - anything that's good! I like Kate Bush, the Chemical Brothers, Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Radiohead, Sly and the Family Stone. I don't tend to stick to one genre.”
There's been plenty of touring in support of the album, including one where they were supported by up-and-coming Norwich rockers Cord.
How did that collaboration come about?
“I think that Cord are a good band. I met them first in the studio when I was visiting Youth just to say hello and they were in there recording and I thought it was sounding really good. They asked if we had any space for support bands, and they came along,” he says.
And there's the oddities that are all part and parcel of being in a band.
“Doing TV can be a bit weird. At Top of the Pops you stay in the dressing room, then they get you on stage and it's over before you know it. But I was really nervous doing Later with Jools Holland,” he says.
t Kubb play the Waterfront, Norwich, on Thursday. Box office: 01603 508050 or visit www.ueaticketbookings.co.uk. The album, Mother, is out now on Mercury records. www.kubbmusic.co.uk