Fresh Talent: The Checks
Author: Zoe Hooper
Waiting for The Checks to start their gig, itís hard to believe the five stovepipe-trousered 18-year-olds, busily chatting to their school-age groupies, are the same band who have supported REM and been lauded in NME. It feels a bit like the high school talent quest. When they start their energetic set it instantly makes sense - thereís no talent quest these boys couldnít win, and no bored punter they couldnít win over.
Edward Knowles (vocals), Sven Pettersen (guitar), Karel Chebera (bass), Jacob Moore (drums) and Callum Martin (guitar) met at Takapuna Grammar where they sang in the choir together. They formed The Checks two years ago at the tender age of 16, and for a band that hasnít even released an EP yet, have enjoyed remarkable success.
The first most of us knew about the North Shore band was when they impressively opened TV2ís 24 hour musicathon National Anthem. The REM gig was landed after one of their songs, Tired From Sleeping, was put on a CD and distributed with a magazine about Auckland. According to legend, the CD became a favourite on the REM tour bus.
"They really liked it, so when they came here they asked us to open for them," says Ed.
The NME interest was sparked when they played as part of an Auckland industry showcase during Resonate. Ed says NME editor Conor McNicholas was so impressed he invited The Checks around for a bbq the next day. That liaison over sausages quickly led to a mention in the popular British weekly under the headline ĎWhatís On The NME Stereo?í A review of their demo of Mercedes Children reads: ĎThe Antipodean revolution blows up again as these five Auckland kids show Aussie cousins Jet a thing or two about retro R&Bí.
Ed isnít so sure about the comparison to Jet. "Weíre quite different to Jet. You canít really say one bandís better than the other I donít think - it depends what youíre trying to do as musicians."
Jet isnít the only act The Checks have been likened to. Mick Jagger tends to pop up in descriptions of Ed, and the bandís other influences include Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Bob Dylan and St Germain.
Despite a stream of glowing reviews and much industry attention, The Checks have been sensibly slow about getting signed.
"There have been lots of offers and stuff, but we just have to keep our feet on the ground and do things properly you know - not rush in to anything," says Ed.
The band are talking with several major labels in NZ, the UK and Australia, but wonít disclose names. As for the elusive EP, Ed admits thereís vinyl sitting at home getting dusty.
"Itís called What You Heard and the B sideís called Oh Please. Theyíre both just little pop songs."
The record was made in mid-late 2004 at the Finn brothersí studio and produced by Matthew Heine. It will finally be released in April, along with a What You Heard video - courtesy of a $5000 NZOA video grant.
After the release it looks likely the boys will be off the UK. Their dream is to "go to England and have a nice flat", but if a permanent shift doesnít happen theyíll at least wow the northern crowds with a few decent gigs.