The band Cover Drive: (clockwise from left) Amanda Reifer, T-Ray Armstrong, Jamar Harding and Barry Hill.
COVER DRIVE IS back home. And oh, how happy the band members are.
“We love coming back home. It is a chance to reset . . . . Travelling is tiring. We miss family and friends, the food, the beach . . . ,” said Amanda Reifer, as the other three bandmates nodded their heads vigourously.
But for the band it isn’t all play and no work. They are currently putting the finishing touches on their second album.
“We are in the final stages of mixing and mastering for a release in January 2017. The title is called In The Meantime, “said T-Ray, the drummer.
“People kept asking what’s next . . . What happened to Cover Drive. The album has been two years in the making. It is a celebration of our journey. Chasing our dreams . . . the valleys and the mountains of life.”
T-Ray said, unashamedly, that one reason also for coming home was financial. “Honestly speaking, we ran out of money,” he said. “Studios are hard to find and to afford. We pay for everything as we are no longer on a label. We also wanted to be very creative with the album and felt better doing it home.”
The band was talking to EASY magazine before their Hennessy Artistry performance last week Saturday.
And they were candid.
Cover Drive started in 2010. Four young long-time friends who were into music. They started doing covers of songs and posting them on YouTube. They got signed to a label in London and moved to the British capital and worked on their first album for over a year.
“We had over 100 songs and of course whittled it down to 12. In 2011 we released our first charting single. That was a big year for us as we opened for Rihanna at her mega concert in Barbados so that was a huge deal for us,” said Amanda.
Singles started to gain prominence, climbing charts. In 2012 Twilight was one of them, then Sparks, Explode and Turn Up The Love (double platinum in Australia).
Then the band departed their label at the end of that year, which was a huge adjustment for the group.
“We had to learn to adjust to the independent life . . . do some recalibrating. Now we were not only writing songs, but we were producing, mixing, mastering and marketing.
“It took a long time for us to find our footing . . . ,” said T-Ray.
The band came home and spent a year and half in Barbados to re-evaluate and work on themselves and their sound.
“We learnt how to be a self-sufficient unit and do some self reflection,” said T-Ray.
The band decided to go on tour. Nothing as high profile as previous gigs at Wembley Stadium.
They went on a United Sates college tour . . . 160 shows over 37 states.
This was the end of 2014, going into the past two years. The band started to build a fan base and to build a tighter core.
“We actually drove ourselves to every gig. Slept in the four-seater car that has to fit our equipment and in small, seedy motel rooms.
The band has clocked hundreds of thousands of miles on the road, with gigs 15 hours apart that means sometimes hitting the stage half-dead.
Members alternate with driving – and a heated discussion over who should not drive cropped up.
The consensus was that Amanda should not drive. That also created a debate, with Amanda not backing down. What was endorsed was that Barry was the best driver. But the road trips have taught them plenty.
They learnt about the culture of different American states and have seen so much.
The band has played in cafes, schoolrooms and big, festival-style stages.
“There are some places we would love to go back and some we wouldn’t,” said Amanda.
But they agree it has been a great and humbling experience.
“We have played for hundreds, and thousands and also for one person on this tour . . . . The organiser in Milwaukee,” said Jamar, with them all laughing loudly at the memory.
The band said they have grown tremendously and have shared highs and lows.
They were so broke at one time they shared three donuts among them for a whole day.
Most of their journey has been documented.
Jamar was the man behind the camera, filming their good and bad and worst days.
The series is on YouTube called Chasing Cover Drive.
“It was to make people feel like part of our journey. Jamar films everything. We don’t pull punches,” said T-Ray.
Amanda called it too real: “He pulls out the camera in my worst moments.”
Jamar doesn’t escape though, as the band says the last two episodes are mostly about him.
The group did some revelations in this interview that they said many are unaware of.
T-Ray: “I learnt to appreciate the journey and not to preoccupy yourself with the destination as you will miss out all the fundamental steps required to get to the destination. It has made me reflect on how I view things. I produce with Barry in the band and at first I used to think I suck but now I have become more patient.”
Amanda: “About two years ago I went through depression. It was a huge contrast to what I was prior to that. I was always the positive, bubbly force. I went through some personal issues and it was one of the most difficult things I have ever faced. It was the most challenging for me and for the band. What I was experiencing they were there with me too experiencing. Depression isn’t something you can just easily snap out of it. It was a long recovery process. I have learnt now to find the joy in every moment.”
Barry: “I have learnt that if you apply yourself, the results will come. Not to worry about the outside noise.”
Jamar: “I remember when we were dead broke. People think that music is a moneymaking business. But I know how it is to have and to not have. The struggle is real.”
The band is now focused on having a good time and spending Christmas with family. They also plan to visit the tattoo parlours, to add to their collection – Amanda has four, Jamar two; T-Ray eight and Barry three.
“We are really excited to be home.”