Graham Reid | | 6 min read
We'd never heard of the Rocky Bay Midnights from Waiheke Island, Auckland until a very polite and professional e-mail message from the band's singer-songwriter Meredith Wilkie introduced them.
Listening to the first two songs on their debut album Songs About People We Know made us immediately curious: here were strong and empowered songs with smart lyrics, great arrangements and playing (Kyla Dyresen's piano) and the full-throated soul-blues voice of Wilkie.
TRBM were clearly no local pub band or a bunch of friends who thought it might be a lark to make and album, but rather a collective of mature musicians who had something to say and the songwriting craft to deliver it.
Their album can be heard on bandcamp here. and as you play it here songwriters Meredith and Kyla answer a few questions for us . . .
The first piece of music which really affected you was . . .
Meredith:Since I’ve Been Loving You (Led Zeppelin)- I was 14 and madly in (unrequited) “love” and the song broke me in the best way possible!
Kyla:What’s Love Got To Do With It by Tina Turner. As a young child I saw the music video on TV and was absolutely enthralled.
Your first role models in music were . . .
Meredith: Stevie Wonder, Led Zeppelin, Eric Burdon & War, Nina Simone, Fleetwood Mac, Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell
Kyla: Siobhan Fahey in Shakespeare's Sister for her strong presence and image, and Tori Amos for writing and playing the music she loved.
Lennon or Jagger, Ramones or Nirvana, Madonna or Gaga, Jacko or Jay-Z?
Meredith: Lennon, Nirvana (though loved the Ramones too, they just didn’t kick me in the guts like Nirvana did), Gaga, Jacko!
Kyla: Lennon! Nirvana! Gaga! Jacko!
If music was denied you, your other career choice would be . . .
Meredith: What I’m doing now, working in education, technology and creativity or helping people through counselling/coaching etc.
Kyla: I’m a graphic designer and pretty happy with that.
The three songs (yours, or by others) you would love everyone to hear are . . .
Meredith: Sun & Moon (Eric Burdon and War, The Black-Man’s Burdon) - this song is utterly magic, and the album is totally under-rated, my most favourite album of all time, and if you want to take a journey of raw beauty with impeccable talent, this is the song that will do it. This is the album to drink a bottle of wine to (or partake of your other favourite relaxation tactic.)
As (Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life): such an impeccable piece of pure music- raw, gloriously under-produced, the layers he builds with his voice, the BVs, the solos, especially in the last 2 minutes are a work of genius-infused organised chaos.
Midnight in Harlem (Susan Tedeschi Trucks Band) They create such a gorgeous vibe straight away with this beautiful bluesy soundscape, with soulful vocals and stunning guitar. This song always takes me to a place of slight melancholy, hope and peace.
Kyla: From the album I think Lothario, Insomniac and You Must Stay. I have to stick to our album as I can’t narrow anything else down to just three ;)
Any interesting, valuable or just plain strange musical memorabilia at home…
Meredith: A really beautiful carved ocean-themed ukulele I got in Austin Texas. And a Nina Simone concert ticket from 2000 at the Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles, was an incredible concert, with a supreme artist, even in her later years, she commanded the room in a way I will never forget. We cried, and laughed and everyone in that theatre was in awe of her talent, vulnerability and power.
Kyla: An autograph from kd lang.
The best book on music or musicians you have read is . . .
Meredith: I loved Scar Tissue by Anthony Kiedis- it brought me back to the chaos of growing up in Los Angeles, and his story is incredible.
I so want to read (and it’s on my bookshelf so I need to) I’m Your Man- The life of Leonard Cohen— I know it will go into his dedication to lyrics, storytelling and self-deprecating humour, gentle humility. Undoubtedly too - his concert in Wellington 2010 was the best concert (in hundreds) I’ve ever had the privilege to attend.
Kyla: Songwriters on Songwriting by Paul Zollo – or The Dirt by Motley Crue!
If you could get on stage with anyone (dead or alive) it would be?
Meredith: (Living) The thought of us opening for Fleetwood Mac, Neil Finn, or Stevie Wonder brings chills up my spine. And I would give away a toe or two to be backup singer for Leonard Cohen for one night.
Kyla: Neil Finn
The three films you'd insist anybody watch because they might understand you better are . . .
Meredith: Cinema Paradiso, Grace of My Heart, Gloria
Kyla: This is hard. In terms of music: The Story of Fire Saga, The original Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (for the soundtrack!!) and I recently saw Three Summers and had to laugh because I could relate so much to it.
The last CD or vinyl album you bought was . . . (And your most recent downloads include…).
Meredith: Morphine - Good (spectacular album - best use of a baritone sax as a main instrument in every song I have heard probably ever)
Kyla: Lake Street Dive – Hypotheticals
One song, royalties for life, never have to work again. The song by anyone, yourself included, which wouldn't embarrass you in that case would be . .
Meredith: Volatile by The Rocky Bay Midnights
The poster, album cover or piece of art could you live with on your bedroom forever would be . . .
Meredith: Anything my friend Monique paints https://moniquestorey.com
Kyla: The Doors – Full Circle
You are allowed just one tattoo, and it is of . . .
Meredith: Sorry already have 2- Can’t choose between the galactic “faith” symbol, or the mermaid on my shoulder (a 14 year old makes a lot of mistakes)!
Kyla: My kid’s artwork.
David Bowie sang, “Five years, that's all we've got . . .” You would spend them where and doing what?
Meredith: Ideally writing music with Kyla, recording albums (hoping to get out one a year), spending time with friends and family on the glorious Waiheke Island, beach time, kai with the extended whanau, laughs, love and creativity in equal measure!
Kyla: Travelling around the world playing music. Starting or ending with New Orleans!
And finally, in the nature of press conferences in Japan, “Can you tell me please why this is your best album ever?”
Meredith: Well, we laid our hearts a bit bare about people we have known and loved in this album, and it’s our first album together as a songwriting front-woman duo. I think it’s raw yet polished, non-genre specific or pandering yet to me it still feels cohesive, I hope it is emotional and vulnerable yet strong. I don’t know if it will be our best ever, but it’s out first, and parents shouldn’t have a favourite child (yet usually, we do, and it’s usually our first).
Kyla: It’s the beginning of a genuine songwriting partnership.
You can hear and buy the Rock Bay Midnights album at bandcamp here.