Grumpysuns Interview with Butlers drummer George Beret.

If you have never been to a live kiwi act then you’ve been missing out! Some of the best gigs we’ve been to have been those bands that have developed their sound in the land of the long white cloud. Eva and I have been blessed with an abundance of live music over the years and when George Berry from the Butlers said he would do an Interview with us we were more than stoked! Unfortunately the time we had scheduled to meet up with George was cancelled due to the lockdown, not to worry though we decided to send through the questions to George to answer in the safety of his home. This is what he came back with and we think you’re all going to like it!


It’s been a crazy couple of years for you guys, you must be stoked to be able to say you’re a successful rock n roll band?


Haha, not sure how to take that compliment, but we certainly appreciate it! Definitely has been a crazy couple of years, lots of fun times on the road in various places in NZ and abroad, lots of kilometres on the odometer, lots of lackluster sleep, all worth it though.


I think you would agree that your guy’s music is a mix of genres, how would you describe the ‘sound’?


We’ve never been sure on how to properly define what our sound is, sometimes that can be kind of annoying but it’s also pretty gangster to be blissfully unaware of it and just play what we love to create as a unit. The other day in a band meeting over video call we came to a decision that we would call our sound ‘Funkadelic Surf-Rock.’ We’re pretty sure we’d be the only ones going ‘round parading a genre like that, so we’ll go with that eh?


Whatever it is i’m absolutely stoked to have been around the scene you guys have been involved with. Would I be right in saying that the Dunedin music scene in particular influenced you guys in some respects?


You’re a lucky bastard for being down in Dunners during those golden years where music was brimming from so many avenues. I’m not sure if we would say it necessarily ‘influenced’ us, but I would say that seeing those bands taking off and gigging as much as they possibly could definitely gave us the mentality of ‘if they can, we can too.’ Walt, Jordan and I have been playing music together since we were 15, so that’s nearly 8 years. Since then we’ve always kind of played with a sound that’s similar to our sound now, or that Dunedin Sound, that kind of indie reverb heavy sound with wavy vocals and what not. So seeing those bands go for gold down in Dunedin definitely gave us the confidence to get music out there and into the ears of punters, then back ourselves and try to play some gigs that they would hopefully enjoy.


As much as you guys have had an amazing time evolving as a band in Christchurch it would have been bloody great to have had you guys down in Dunedin during the time when The Gromz, The Shambles and the rest of those great indie rock bands we’re bursting onto stages of Dunedin! Do you think Christchurch is an accommodating city for an up and coming band?


Man, you have no idea how much I would’ve loved to have been sitting in the flats or venues where the Gromz and The Shambles practiced or played their impromptu end-of-week gigs. I’ve always been such a massive fan of The Shambles, especially the front man Mr. Max Gunn. I remember seeing them with my good pal Brad here in Christchurch back in 2016 I would say. It was the first time seeing the band play and I was grinning from ear to ear the whole time, I was such a big fan I even cued to get a photo with Max after their set. Now I’m stoked to call him a friend, and he’s always telling me how stoked he is on our progression. When I lived in Auckland for six months in 2019, he came over to my flat for one beer and a quick chat (many beers over many hours), and he asked me what our big goal was, no matter how unachievable it would be, I said we’d love to open for Sticky Fingers, and he said “Great, now you’ve said you’ll all put in the work to make it happen.” Surely enough that Summer, it happened, and I always think back to that conversation with Max and how awesome it was for me to hear it from someone I looked up to. To finally answer your question though, I think Christchurch isn’t too bad for an up and coming band, but I think in terms of starting out here we were lucky in the sense that we’re from a wee tight-knit community called Sumner. All the frothers out there were following our journey as we finally were ready to play our debut show, we called this dusty (but perfect) venue called The New City Hotel and asked if they would have us, and sure enough they did and we packed the place out. We were the first band of our kind to play there, and from there so many other great Christchurch bands similar to us went there and took to the stage. The issue in Christchurch is a lack of venues who want to host gigs, it’s always been that way unfortunately. New City Hotel for example is now closed, Winnie Bagoes is closed now too which was a pretty good venue, and while there are other great venues out there like Blue Smoke and Wunderbar, there’s also a lot of places which could host gigs who choose not too. It’s a shame cause there’s some really good bands here in the 03 who deserve to be shown all around the place.


Well regardless you’re a force to be reckoned with now and that’s all that matters, those Dunedin bands all had great band names which brings me to my next question which is how you arrived at the Butlers? Do you see yourselves as servants to the youth that just want to party and have a good time?


I wish I could tell you some long and meaningful story about how we came to our name, but Walt and I needed a name for our duo act in a concert at our high-school, and we both must’ve agreed on The Butlers. We then used that name after high-school when the two of us (eventually three when Bradley joined us) played covers and originals in bars and cafes. There was talk of maybe changing our name when we were first starting out, but the name stuck.


Thoughts on band names in general, in your guys opinion do you think a good name can play a big part in a bands success as a group. Or is it a case that if the music is good enough then the name can be simply thought of as a title?


You’d hope the music would do more of the talking than the band name I think. The name is definitely important and needs to be something that grabs the attention of the average punter. But you want the music to be stellar and have people frothing it, then no matter what your name will just automatically be respected and enjoyed by everyone.


Speaking of amazing bands, who were some of the bands your old boys played when you were kids and how has that set you on a course musically?


The really cool thing is that we all had quite different music played to us when we grew up, but of course we all share the love for some amazing music, albums etc etc which definitely has helped set us on course musically. Like you said at the start, it’s hard to define a genre for us, and maybe this is why. For me, my Dad played Jazz, Blues and Lounge vibes… Miles Davis was on repeat in his office at home and sometimes we’d sit there and just listen with our eyes closed. Good times. As I grew up I got really into Rap and Hip Hop thanks to Scribe. I used to sit in my room with the lyrics to his songs printed out and would recite the lyrics to myself blasting his hits out of my CD Walkman. Then my music taste just kind of evolved as I met new people and asserted myself into new environments. In terms of the other boys, I know there’s bands like the Pixies that were big in their households, Bob Dylan too. Our masked man on the Sax Mr. Stingy Hooligan has such an epic music taste in particular. On the road he’ll stick in his headphones, and one minute it’ll be MF Doom or Team Dynamite blasting, next it’ll be some smooth jazz with ridiculously complex time signatures that make him stoked as, that’s pretty cool to watch.


I assume you all played instruments from a young age but was being in a band something you all aspired to be a part of or is it something that has simply just propagated through chance? I guess that also begs the question how have you all become homies over the years? 


The way we all became homies was pretty seamless really. Walt, Jordan and I went to high-school together, and we all played music together from early on into the piece. Jordan and Walt would write songs at high-school and show them to me and I was always blown away at how good their songwriting was then, and it’s only gotten better as the years have gone on. So long story short, Jordan went and did a trade half-way through our last year of school, so Walt and I went forth with ‘The Butlers’ and started playing around bars and cafes making some moola. Then Walt pitched the idea of adding Bradley in to come and play too. The two of them had worked the Summer together at the Surf School and had been jamming heaps together, so along came Bradley on the lead gat which was epic. Then the three of us were playing at a wee Christmas party for a subdivision, and Jordy was there to watch us. Walt and him had been jamming together for a while before he came to watch us, and he had been learning bass guitar, so then along came Jordy on the bass. The four of us would practice at my flat in town and we were starting to play heaps of originals, eventually recording our first EP out of a garage in Taylors Mistake. After that, we still kind of felt there was an ingredient missing, perhaps some sort of sexy brass. Jordy was at Fat Eddies and was loving Stingy, who was playing alongside the band there. When the band took a break and Stingy went and took a piss break, Jordy followed him into the bathrooms and said to him something along the lines of “You should come to our practice and come play with us” Stingy was keen, so he came. We played through some new stuff that is now our Fredericks Friends EP, he had a big ol’ listen, came back the next practice and played his bits in the song and we were frothing. The rest is history really.


Music has been a critical part of social change in the past, it is a great way of creating sub cultures. Do you guys have any particular messages in your music that you feel strongly about?


No doubt, it’s epic that music can create waves of change. We haven’t written about major political issues or anything, but in our last album there were instances where we sang about some social issues I guess. In our debut album we released last year, there are a few lines that come to mind. Like in our Introduction; “They say that I need to see someone, get prescribed with something so down I’ll come. But we are the rogue ones, we don’t answer to no one.” Or in Leopard of Sweet Dreams, most of that song is essentially a fuck you to the concept of working 9 to 5. Go back and have a listen to it and you’ll maybe understand it a bit better now that you know that, and the morse code at the end definitely has a meaning too. As I write this answer, a couple more songs come to mind that kind of fit the same mould as Leopard of Sweet Dreams, and just make sure you don’t miss out on having mega good times in your young years.


Lastly, what is the best thing about being a part of a successful band?


We’ve still got a fair way to go, but there are a lot of things for me personally that make being in a band so epic. It’s the little things really- getting to hang out with your best mates and travel with them to different places is a big one. We were supposed to be kicking it in America right now on our debut tour there, but I guess the universe is wanting us to go a bit further down the line now. I was talking to Bradley the other day, and he was saying he wished he kept a diary so we could look back on some of the crack-up moments and the hundreds of stitch-ups we’ve put ourselves in over the years. Another one is playing to people and seeing them sing your lyrics back to you or you can see that they’re just loving being there and hearing your songs. That’ll never get old. It’s pretty crazy that four or five years ago two of us were playing in cafes to sometimes nobody at all, and now we’re a five piece playing to sometimes thousands of people singing back our lyrics to us. The feeling you get after coming off a shit-hot set is indescribable. I guess for anyone in their industry, there’s always going to be some feeling that makes them froth what they’re doing and keeps them going. For me, that feeling after a show, or after hearing one of our new songs in the studio come to life is just unreal. 


I hope that tickled all of your whistles and brought some insight into the life of a band member. As soon as live gigs are back in business make sure you spend some pocket money on a ticket. A lot of up and coming bands rely on ticket sales at their live shows these days and it’s very important for our culture to keep NZ music thriving. You’re doing them a favour, while they produce beautiful music for your listening pleasure.


It’s a no brainer, get your boogie shoes on and dance at home for now.

Happy NZ music month everybody!


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