The ReChords formed in 2009 when Shaw met Leo Potter and Felix Potier, and found they shared a passion for all things hillbilly and western swing. The boys came from diverse backgrounds, having honed their chops in everything from punk bands to jazz ensembles to acoustic Irish folk acts, but things really clicked for each of them when they decided to play together. Traversing music styles from 1930s bluegrass through to 1950s rockabilly and 1960s rhythm and blues, The ReChords carved an energetic, toe-tapping sound using an electric guitar, an acoustic and a double bass, plus robust two and three-part male vocal harmonies that really kick the choruses along.
“It’s all about the upbeat rhythm for a lot of songs and the amazing harmonies produced,” Shaw enthuses, “And in some tunes as you can hear from performers like the Louvin Brothers, their songs may have a catchy feel and give you a good vibe but then it can be totally twisted with the lyrical content – it’s not all cheesy and corny. When you hear lyrics about taking the girl he loves and drowning her then disposing of her body, that’s hardcore!”
The ReChords like to keep things sharp, drawing on the raw energy and simplicity of rockabilly too, which blends ’50s rock ‘n’ roll into swamp rock and hillbilly country styles, “giving a unique sound that the youth of that day could relate to (that) still has a place in today’s music market,” according to Shaw.
The magpie-pick approach to music has paid off for The ReChords; the band has earned a loyal following by slugging through more than 200 shows since they first took to the stage just two years ago, buoyed by the healthy country roots scene that prevails in Melbourne’s inner north. They put on quite a show, dolled up with slicked back pompadour quiffs and cowboy shirts, but the band is adamant that their act is more than musical theatre.
“It’s not easy sometimes, to be taken a little more seriously as band when you perform the music we perform. It tends to be put into the category of almost being a ‘novelty’ act, especially considering we do tend to wear a specific style of clothing and have a particular look for the band, but it’s certainly far from a stage show or a ’50s cover band,” Shaw explains.
Shaw feels the local roots scene is garnering more and more respect lately, with bands like Graveyard Train and the Toot Toot Toots packing out venues, and The ReChords playing to faithful crowds at venues like The Gem. There are plenty of opportunities for the band overseas, too, as they discovered on a recent trip to Europe. The ReChords’ two and a half week tour included two rockabilly festivals and a spate of gigs in Spain, Belgium, The Netherlands and Germany, where the sheer scale of the local rockabilly/roots scene was a real eye-opener.
“The highlight was our final show of the tour which culminated at the Spanish roots festival known as High Rockabilly, held in Calafell in Spain. We were the only Australian act on the 25-band line up for this five-day day festival and we were performing as the first band of the biggest night, Saturday night, where everything just came together. The band itself performed at its best, the sound worked well, the crowd grew from 20 or 30 when we first walked on stage to about 500 to 600 or more within the first few songs, and we were called back for three encores!”
The ReChords were thrilled with the reception, but also keen to come home and keep their local fans engaged, beginning with a month-long residency this November at The Gem, where they have virtually become the house band.
“I think prior to our tour we were pretty much there for about a 12 to 18 month residency,” Shaw laughs, “The Gem has been good to us and we’ve managed to build quite a following out of our performances there alone. The audiences there are genuine music lovers, so you feel a strong connection with them. It also has a great vibe and with the raw ‘saloon’ type feel of the joint, it just really lends itself to The ReChords sound. We really enjoy the up-close and personal space, and the fact it’s a low-key sound, which makes our harmonies warmer and the instruments livelier. And as soon as we returned, there was no doubt that we had to make a return to the venue and the people that inspired us and helped us get to this point.”