“Yes, I pissed in Elton John’s dressing room.” Why Coves are not a load of rubbish, despite what they think.


Words by Ian Roebuck | Photography by Elinor Jones

“Yes, I pissed in Elton John’s dressing room.” John Ridgard, the male half of Coves, is talking us through his new lifestyle. “We were in Belgium and I was just so tired in the shower… it went all down the side of the dressing room that Elton John uses and because I’d been drinking Berocca it had gone a funny colour and looked like something out of a ’70s horror film.” Rebekah Wood, John’s counterpart, fails to control her giggling fit. Just a year ago, urinating over Rocket Man’s wallpaper would have seemed far-fetched to say the least, but the two friends from Royal Leamington Spa have come a long way in a short space of time, or at least long enough to take a leak in a world star’s vacated locker.

Coves psychedelic-tinged, layered, propulsive spin on rock and roll cast a spell too pronounced to be ignored in the ashes of 2011, and just months after they had formed, the duo were hand plucked by Echo and the Bunnymen to support their European tour.

“We just wanted to get on the Leamington show but Ian and Will really liked what they heard so we couldn’t believe they asked us to do the entire tour,” exclaims Rebekah.

“We work in a music venue and we’ve always had to deal with getting riders, so it was so nice to be on the other side of it,” says John. “To be on a bus and to wake up in a different city was just insane – ‘ooh look, there is Paris’.” The pair are still coming to terms with their rapid fortune, with their feet firmly rooted to the floor. But as for the music, that’s for an entirely more lofty attitude and altitude. Sprawling, epic and beat-driven, there is a glorious strut to Coves’ clatter. The recently released ‘No Ladder’, for example, sees Rebekah’s bewitching vocals drop-out over John’s intricate production – a song full of spindly complexities and a weightlessness that really should come with a music video filmed underwater.

It came to the attention of Lauren Laverne whose 6music session was recorded just hours before we meet.

“She was just so awesome and makes you feel really comfortable,” Rebekah gushes. “We haven’t done anything like that before.”

“[Being on the radio] kind of phased us,” admits John. “Lauren asked us what our new songs were sounding like and I said ‘rubbish!’. We aren’t the best at self-promotion.”

“You’re such a dick,” says Rebekah.

Maybe hearing yourself on the radio will make all of this seem a bit more real, though, seeing as Echo and the Bunnymen seem to have missed the spot.

“Not really,” says Rebekah, matter of fact. “It just feels so supernatural that I could achieve that; getting on the radio to me feels odd. It really is the best feeling in the world, but all this is happening to someone else, not me.” She finishes with a humbling smile.

“We tend to feel negative about everything,” says John. “‘Oh listen, they’re playing us on the radio, well they won’t play us again’,”.

“You are such an idiot,” says Rebekah.

This is a charming friendship; a barbed contest of chiming putdowns. John and Rebekah clearly “go back”, as they say. Rebekah explains how years ago John was the sound tech in Moody’s a Leamington bar that she used to hang out in. “One drunken night, John said he wanted to start a band and he asked if I could sing, I told him my Dad says I can…it was like the X-factor or something!”

John rolls his eyes at the thought of it. “I honestly had no idea what would come of it, but she opened her mouth and…well I used to love Mazzy Star when I was younger and it reminded me of the singer. I just stopped everything and said holy shit!”

For a band so young, Coves maturity and richness in sound is something to behold. “That’s all down to John,” winks Rebekah, like a sister throwing a sibling a nugget of overdue respect. “Everyone in Leamington knows John and takes their hat off to him,” she adds. “We all admire him because he’s got such a good eye and ear to what he wants – he listens to a lot of music and he can do it himself.”

It is no surprise these two often get taken for a couple; so much so that their manager stops me on the way out to make sure I don’t report it as such, while John spends our time saying “my girlfriend” more times than we care to remember.

Coves have an easy way about themselves that could be misunderstood. “We’ve developed our own language,” says John. “Becks has never worked in a studio before, so I’ll finish a track and she will be like, oh it sounds a bit wet or a bit soft and I will instantly know what she is talking about. If she says she wants a ‘square sound’ I will understand.”

A Coves debut release is already out there, released under the radar on the Cross Keys label back in May of this year. At once brittle and lustrous, this collection of early material burnt brightly, although evidently not brightly enough calling for a second single from the record (‘No Ladder’) to be released last month.

“Think of it more as a re-release,” John says. “The first single was a straight up pop song, but this is the track that gets to people, this is the track that stays with them.” (For the record, they do a pretty alluring cover of Chris Isaak’s ‘Wicked Game’ too).

You’ve got to hand it to Coves – with ‘No Ladder’ now getting the attention it deserves, John and Rebekah are doing as they please, making sensual psych pop for whispered perfume campaigns. More live shows are coming up soon, too, providing they don’t tell us they’re rubbish as well. “I have always had this thing where I say, ‘what is the point in being a live band because the Flaming Lips have done everything?’.”

Oh John.

“But,” he says, “actually, we want our shows to be like that! We want people to jump into a Coves bubble and be spat out the other side.”

Originally published in Loud And Quiet 43. Read the issue in full here.

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