Splashdown from Welly World


When Wellington band Tunes of I expanded from three people to seven they might have worried about getting in over their head.

You might say it’s a sink or swim moment.

Given that watery circumstance, one secret aim of their summer tour will come as no surprise.

Frontman Conway Jeune: “We are on a mission to swim in every river in New Zealand. We swim a lot, every minute of our downtime is like – where should we go swim?”

Jeune was one of the band’s original trio, who write original music based on stock-standard reggae. They wanted to create a bigger sound so asked the other four to get involved.

The bigger group does have the odd disagreement, but nothing they can’t get over.

Guitar player Jules Blewman: “You just need to think about everyone and listen to everyone’s opinion. I do think we are really good at communicating, respecting different tastes in music. That attitude makes it really helpful.”

Most tiffs are usually about stuff they don’t know much about – like design creatives or tour dates.

The boys say they like to bring a bit of the unexpected to each gig, splashing on stage with high-energy antics, jam-session-like performances and on-stage banter.

Trumpet player Mike Costeloe says playing live is a real contrast to anything they record.

“Some songs are written quite intricately and controlled – but we are all graduates of jazz school and like to open up sections and have a bit of a jam.”

Jeune agrees and says there is nothing better than having fans sing your songs back to you “or lose it over a horn line”.

The band doesn’t have a set process for composing music. Sometimes tracks come from an impromptu jam. Other times someone will bring a finished tune to the table, or have a melody or lyric in their head they want to explore and develop.

Blewman says they love every aspect of it – writing, recording and touring.

“It’s hard to pick a favourite. I love writing new songs and get a real buzz out of it. But we also get to go to the studio each month and think ‘cool, this is my job’. After spending so many months writing and when we finally got on that stage it’s a real relief and satisfaction. It is great playing live.”

Costeloe says it’s quite circular. When you’re on tour you itch to get back into the studio but when you’re recording you can’t wait to get back on the road.

The boys are excited to play Queenstown. They say it’s a great way to see the country.

We’ll see if they’re still saying that after a dip in Lake Wakatipu.

Tunes of I play Vinyl Underground this Saturday as part of its summer tour. R18. Admission free.