“Our keyboard player has been doing a solo tour of Singapore, so he’s been out,” Grimwade explains over the phone as we settle in to chat, “and one guy, Hamish [Knight, vocalist] has been off traveling in India. He’s missed the first couple of shows, but he’s managing to get back in time [for the last two]!”
“We’ve normally got five singers, so we’re pretty good if someone can’t make it,” he concludes with a laconic laugh.
Founded in 2007 by Grimwade and his mates Hamish Knight and Josh Bridges, The Dub Captains were formed over a love of grooving music. Gotye’s breakthrough Like Drawing Blood and Fat Freddy’s Drop’s Based On A True Story were the inspirations for the mates to start putting together some demos. After enlisting the help of friends and families, they did some touring, got some damn good press – and then promptly disbanded when a sizeable chunk of the lineup drifted away from Melbourne, or focused on their own bands.
“Yeah, we started off doing demos and stuff in my bedroom,” Grimwade recalls, “and we decided we should try to get something going on. We’d just been talking bullshit about it for years, ‘How good would it be to have a 16-piece reggae band?’”
Fast-forward to 2011, and everybody was back in Melbourne and keen to pick up where they left off four years previously. They put their noses to the grindstone and finished off their debut record, the gleefully boisterous and jubilant Big Boomin’ Sci-Fi Unit. While the album certainly had its feet planted firmly in reggae territory, the music itself is like a gumbo of different genres and influences, equally comfortable with a raucous brassy anarchy as it is with folk, jazz and bebop.
When asked about their genre-mashing and how different styles manifest themselves into their music, Grimwade posits, “I think just having that amount of people, all bringing their little bits and pieces of where they’ve been. We certainly don’t sit around and write a song that sounds like ‘such-and-such’, but we might be working on an idea and it’s good but someone says, ‘How about we do it in this style?’”
Influenced by the aforementioned Fat Freddie’s Drop and earlier reggae releases by such luminaries as Pablo Moses and Bob Marley as well brass bands like Toots And The Maytals, a lot of these styles get mixed into the system, he admits. “You know, none of us would really say that reggae’s what we listen to all day everyday or anything … we never quite got there I think – the aim to be a ‘reggae band’ sort of never quite happened. We call it ‘pseudo-reggae’!”
When it all comes down to brass tacks, he states, “We’re a bunch of white guys and girls from Melbourne. It doesn’t really make sense to be playing really traditional Jamaican music. You can nod your hat to things you like, but it’s always going to be where you’re from, and where you’ve been.”
Excitingly, The Dub Captains have their sights set on the release of their second album sometime later this year, but if you catch them on stage, you can hear the direction their music is currently taking. “We’ve been in the studio and we’ve tracked about half a dozen songs, and we play in the live set we’re doing, we’re playing that many again that we haven’t recorded yet, so yeah – we’ve certainly got all the music sorted,” he says happily, in his friendly and laid-back demeanour.
“But it’s pretty slow-moving,” he admits, “trying to get everyone in the right place at the right time when we’ve got that many members!”
The new album, he promises, is going be bigger and better than their debut. “With Big Boomin’, we did it over a number of years in bits and pieces and it was all tracked in my bedroom studio and Josh’s bedroom studio – we did bass and drums live and then we’d just layer up all those harmonies and parts over top when we had time for it,” he explains. “But with this second album we’re doing it in proper studios and we’re going to try and get possibly a proper producer in to give it a bit of guidance and such, other than what we come up with ourselves. Hopefully it will be a more professional sound and a cleaner recording than the sort of lo-fi first one!”
But don’t lose all the lo-fi!
“Exactly! Exactly!” he laughs. “We’re tracking live!” He pauses a moment and says, a grin in his voice, “We certainly don’t want something too polished!”
BY THOMAS BAILEY