The Thomas Oliver Band

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The Thomas Oliver Band


The bluesy band from Wellington has existed in some shape or form since 2005, expanding from their original three-piece in 2007 to the present five-headed beast that regularly cuts a swathe through their whisky-soaked fans. The increased population of the band required a period of adjustment – though it has yielded significant rewards. “It probably took between six and twelve months to incorporate the new instrumental elements that come from having more members. Initially Matt [Benton, baritone and alto-sax] would play three songs per gig, and then the next show he’d play four or five. As we found our feet as a larger band, we probably loosened up a bit. There was period where we played only a few songs, but did a really thorough job of riffing them out solidly, which the fans seemed to like.”

Thanks to The Thomas Oliver Band’s musical niche, they’ve built a very strong relationship with their followers. “We’re a bit of an anomaly on the Wellington scene, which probably explains why we’ve been so fortunate with such awesome fans. A lot of the music scene here is dominated by dub and hip hop sounds, so our whole rocking blues shtick stands out from that. On top of all that, though, we’ve got quite an appreciative and dedicated audience who allow us to experiment and be creative in the musical choices we make.” The Wellington music community has also provided many opportunities for collaboration, which has had its own effect on the diversity of the band’s sound. “No one here really has just one project,” Oliver says. “Despite the dominance of dub music, there’s a lot of encouragement for whatever music people want to pursue; we all play on each other’s recordings and help out wherever we can. I think that makes for a pretty diverse scene, and builds up the skills of the working musos around here.”

After releasing the Every Penny EP in 2007, the band last year released their debut album, Baby, I’ll Play. The long-player garnered the title of Best Blues and Roots Album 2011 through iTunes, an achievement of which Oliver and co. are justifiably proud. Yet it was not achieved without significantly hard slog. “The process of recording the album was much more complicated than the EP,” Oliver says. “There was a fair bit to do in terms of pre-production, and whilst the bluesy stuff comes to us quite naturally, there was a lot of other layering that took a while. I guess we’ve always seen ourselves as primarily a live band, but it had got the point where people at our gigs were saying things like, ‘Come on, you guys have been a band for more than five years, just release a bloody album already!’ So we headed into the studio and laid it all down. I was listening to the album the other day, actually, and think it’s a pretty good representation of the whole period of time since the five of us came together. Somehow we captured what we are as a live prospect, and I think that’s where we really spring to life. Although I’m certain that I’ll spend the rest of my life endeavoring to match the energy of the live show even more fittingly in an album format… But then, that’s just the way it goes.”