Spotlight: roves

Written by Ben Standring

20 Mar 2019

The atmospheric alternative rock quartet offer a cinematic soundtrack laden with vulnerability and wisdom destined for times of melancholy and sorrow

In recent years, the British indie rock and alternative music scene has descended into a hollowed quagmire of repetition and tediums. However, in roves, there is a band capable of producing a sound of such haunting beauty that your faith in the emerging generations is instantly reignited. To develop a sound so intoxicatingly serene is an immensely difficult project to complete, yet the four-piece’s sun-kissed debut EP resonates a level of emotion and artistic maturity seen only from the likes of London-based outfit Palace in recent years.

Consisting of Ethan Morgan (vocals, guitar), Connor Coutts (guitar), Ellis Morgan (bass) and Matt Jamieson (drums), roves grew up in Wokingham, near Reading. Despite being in a band together, Ethan and Connor have been lifelong friends, and both started learning guitar at the same time, leading to the duo forming a band before roves’ foundation. ‘We were playing in a band before [roves] for a couple of years, but we were playing heavy rock stuff,’ says Ethan. Having decided that they wanted something more adventurous and freeing, the duo formed the early basis of roves in 2016. ‘We decided to write more in the style of music that we like listening to,’ offers Coutts.

Image: roves (NewLevel Management)

Having spoken of the difficulty that came with forming the band, the guitarist highlights the importance of his relationship with Ethan. ‘The band is basically built on the chemistry between me and Ethan. Having someone there that you know where the ideas are going is key. We both know where the music is going and we have similar music tastes.’

Despite being keen musicians and lifelong friends, the two had contrasting musical influences growing up. ‘I grew up listening to Kerrang on the TV,’ says Coutts. ‘I just remember bands like Foo Fighters, blink-182 and Linkin Park. My dad has about 200 CD’s and we listen to loads…he made me appreciate good music from an early age.’ Ethan, however, was a late-bloomer to music. ‘My musical introduction wasn’t until fairly late on actually…my interest in playing came from Ed Sheeran and that sort of stuff,’ he says. With both Jeff Buckley and Ben Howard acting as writing influences, it’s no surprise that his haunting vocal style has been compared to Palace’s Leo Wyndham and The Maccabees' Felix White.

'The four-piece’s exuberant blend of hypnotic melodies laden with atmosphere-cutting vocals and shimmering guitar conjures a seismic snapshot of life as a young adult.'

For roves’ debut EP A Strung Out Pilot, their eclectic combination of influences produce a hazy dose of melancholic bliss. Jeff Buckley is integral to understanding how the four-piece work as a creative unit. ‘I listen to a lot of Jeff Buckley, who is my main inspiration when it comes to guitar,’ explains Coutts. ‘Some of the guitar parts that he writes suit the melodies perfectly. Ethan seems to know instantly where the melody is going straight away which is great.’ For Ethan, Buckley’s inspiration transpires through his lyrics. ‘I write purely based on experience,’ he states. ‘I always try to write cryptically. Jeff Buckley always wanted people to take their own interpretations from his lyrics and that’s kind of what I wanted to do. I don’t want to write about something so clear and obvious, I want people to take what they understand from that.’

As a band still in its early life, you might expect roves to be nervous surrounding the songwriting process. Yet, there is an intriguing process behind Coutts’ method, that is the key to the band’s debut EP. ‘Writing is quite easy I think,’ he offers. 'When I pick up a guitar, my first inclination is to write something new. If you play the first thing that comes to your head, that’s where the inspiration comes from. Out of a hundred songs there’s going to be at least two good ones. My approach to writing was aimed around the instrumental sound. Listening to the song without any lyrics has to be as good as listening to the compete piece. [A Strung Out Pilot opener] i was an instrumental that sets the mood for the EP.’ As an EP opener, i sees dancing waves of percussion crash atop a breezing and lush guitar melody. The atmospheric depth within the track’s instrumentation paints a cinematic landscape of ethereal beauty. From just the opening track, it is clear that the band’s naturalistic depth is a vital aspect to roves’ sonic vulnerability.

'For A Strung Out Pilot, [roves'] eclectic combination of influences produce a hazy dose of melancholic bliss.'

Writing for the debut EP was a long process for roves. Having originally planned to write and record the project themselves, the plan was soon scrapped in 2017 as the quality was not what the band was looking for. Going into the studio later, the four-piece recorded a set of three singles and then Beneath My Skin, which was the intended base of the EP. ‘We needed the right songs to fit around Beneath My Skin to create the EP,’ highlights Ethan. Rich, melodic vocals warm the sparse opening canvas of the EP’s leading track, which contains delicate notions of Ben Howard, eventually twisting into a winding path constructed by harmonies and experimental guitar lines.

Despite the impressive offering of Beneath My Skin, roves were adamant that their writing process and musical depth were diversified across the EP. ‘Beneath My Skin was the first track we wrote as roves and it’s the title track of the EP. However, each track is written differently,’ states Coutts. ‘For Wonder, Ellis came in with the idea for the guitar part. There’s no specific formula that we stick to.’ The presence of a track like Wonder was also noted eagerly by Ethan who says ‘We were definitely conscious that we were writing long songs. Having something like Wonder was important. It was much more to the point and lyrical.’ Perhaps the band’s best offering to date, the concise single still keeps hold of the enchanting nature behind roves’ sound but follows a perfect journey of peaks and troughs throughout.

A Strung Out Pilot is a very cohesive and melancholic EP that resonates with the teenage angst that comes with growing up in today’s society. The Maccabees-esque Florence contains intricate percussion dissipation amongst the inherent vulnerability behind the vocal and guitar combination. With narrative songwriting of the highest quality, Ethan’s honey-smooth vocals remain an integral aspect to the band's sound. EP closer She opens as a disparate, remote piece of fractured guitar before Ethan’s vocals add the final jigsaw piece.

'With narrative songwriting of the highest quality, Ethan’s honey-smooth vocals remain an integral aspect to the band's sound.'

As a band with a unique and accessible sound, roves’ future looks bright, especially given their proximity to the growing music hub of Reading. ‘There’s now an abundance of promoters in Reading which is great.’ projects Ethan. ‘BBC Introducing in Berkshire has been amazing and we’ve played some headline shows for them, with another one booked for April. I do feel that if you say you’re a Reading band, there is the connotation of someone that has done well. It’s a shame that we missed out probably on six months on The Amazons…but they’ve left something great behind.’

Despite the spotlight being shone near their hometown, university life pulled the band apart. With Ethan in Cardiff, Coutts in Leicester and Jamieson in Southampton, the band have been forced to adapt to continue. ‘We’re dotted around the country at the moment,’ proclaims Ethan. ‘Being around the country is a bit difficult. Me and Connor have a writing partnership that works when we’re in the same room as each other.’ Coutts admits that ‘being around the country means that we have to make the effort to stay connected. It makes the band a bit stronger knowing that we still want to write songs together and we can’t wait to get back and rehearse. We are a lot more productive when we come back from university.’

Image: roves (NewLevel Management)

Looking forward, the band do have a lot to be excited for. ‘We want to continue playing as much as possible this year,’ says Ethan. ‘We’ve got a couple of shows booked for Easter and a couple of festivals that we’re keen to announce. We want to release some new music as well. We’ve got some studio time in April in which we want to record our next single, which is probably going to be a bit more upbeat, a bit poppy almost in comparison to the debut EP. We’re going back into the studio in the summer to record the second EP. We’ve got two definite songs that will be on it which is exciting.’

For Coutts, university life looks to be an influence for future music. ‘You learn a lot when you go to university and it’s going to influence our sound and I think it already has to be honest. There are people from all over the country, liking different songs, going to different gigs for example, and it’s a very interesting experience for the band. Our sound could go in many directions really. I’m listening to a lot of Tom Misch at the moment, so we could go down a more melancholic, jazz route. It could be a bit more pop-based, it really could go anywhere. The band adapt to new ideas very quickly. Matt’s brilliant with coming straight in with new ideas and we don’t know what the future holds but we’re really enjoying being a band right now and we’re just going to see where it goes.’

Roves’ ethos of living in the moment is strikingly positive, but has proved useful for thousands of bands across the globe. The four-piece’s exuberant blend of hypnotic melodies laden with atmosphere-cutting vocals and shimmering guitar conjures a seismic snapshot of life as a young adult, surrounded by so much beauty, excess and vulnerability. To have the emotional intelligence and maturity to siphon such experiences and feelings into a condensed yet picturesque sound highlights just why roves could be a band soaring to great heights in the near future.

Edited by George Jones |


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