We sat down with the four members of COVEY, a Boston-based indie rock band fronted by British vocalist Tom Freeman. During the hour we spent together in the lobby of The Marlton Hotel, each one of them proved to be not only talented, but open and genuinely reflective. Their words reveal values in music that are interchangeable with those in other forms of art.
dimanche Do you want to go around and say your roles in the band and a little bit about your background in music?
Dillon I'm the drummer. I started playing back in middle school, originally born and raised in New Jersey. I went to Berklee College of Music and played in Boston for a while, that's where I met Tom -
Tom Vocalist and I write the music.
Dillon We were roommates for a while, I started doing some accompaniments on some of his tracks and the group has since transformed many times over the years. I think we've landed on something really nice now.
Adam I play keys in the group. I grew up playing classical music and then stopped for a long time. I've been playing with Covey just on the new record. Feels good.
Guillermo I play bass. It was funny, I got tendonitis a few months before I started playing with them. So I was looking to change up my playing a lot because I couldn't play a certain style anymore. When we started playing this music, I was like this is perfect.
dimanche What were you playing before, what type of music?
Guillermo I was playing more funk stuff, which I like, but I wasn't doing what I was meant to do creatively until I came to this group.
dimanche Dillon and Tom met in Boston, but how did everyone else meet them?
Adam I was buying some gear from Tom when I met him. I haphazardly said "I love the music" and he haphazardly said "Really? We need a keyboard player."
Dillon We also needed a new bass player and Adam connected us with Guillermo
Tom As Dillon was saying, things have gone through so many different transitions. It started as a solo project and has since gone through a lot of changes, which you can see even in the discography. This set-up of the four of us has been for about a year. But I started in music probably about four or five years ago.
dimanche The process of making an album is a constant flux and evolution. How do four people come together to create an album?
Dillon This album specifically was pretty different.
Tom Yeah it was. I recorded about twenty demos on my computer at home. We wanted to have analog recordings. We got in touch with a guy named Alex Garcia-Riviera in Boston and spent every single weekend for two months at his studio. One weekend would be dedicated to bass, one weekend dedicated to keys, etc. We layed things down and elaborated on the minor ideas that were brought to the table and worked together like that. We did drums last didn't we?
Dillon We did. Alex is also a drummer, so he was able to speak drummer to me which was helpful.
Tom We would be behind the soundboard, spitting out ideas. Dillon is such a fucking amazing drummer that we would say "Okay, try something like this" and he would nail it every single time. We got to try out a bunch of different things. At the end I sent everybody twenty songs and we sat down and picked our top ten. We'll probably end up doing a B-side record or a small EP as a follow up because there are a lot of other songs we liked.
dimanche That's exciting.
Adam Some of them are already floating around though.
Guillermo They're on the cassettes.
Tom Oh, yeah. So we made cassettes for merchandise because, I mean, CD's are okay... but cassettes are making a bit of a comeback, especially in basement shows. I wanted to do something a little different and have five cassettes for the album, each cassette being a different character. We came up with a backstory for all of them. A friend in Australia gave me the idea to do one different bonus track on each cassette. Then I made a pully tab on them so you can change out the eyes.
dimanche Did you make them all yourself?
Tom Yeah, I handmade them! It took me probably about five months total in terms of conceptualizing.
dimanche Who are the characters?
Tom They're all super old photos from Creative Commons' website, so it's royalty-free. They have a little description of who they are. I love them to death, they're one of my favorite things I've ever made.
dimanche You're going to love looking back on those. What was it like to translate ideas attached to music into something visual?
Adam The cool thing about all of the visual art attached to Covey is that Tom does it literally all himself.
Tom Obviously they're not complex but...
dimanche But that's not really the point, right?
Tom Exactly. Music is obviously what's important, this is just a side thing. It just adds to the overall story of Covey, which is what we want. Graphic design has grown into something I love. We don't show our eyes in a lot of our photos, you can see it on our Instagram.
dimanche So we talk to different creatives, from designers to restaurant owners to musicians. We're really interested in how people translate their ideas and values into something visual. It's fascinating how have ideas embedded in a song, for example, can be represented visually. Having visual collateral, like the design elements of the cassettes, weaves a commonality through the story of Covey. It's about creating a bigger picture.
Tom I have fun doing it, which is what matters. It's the same with anything creative. With music, for example, it's not necessarily about what you know, but about what you can do with heart. If you can convey that, it's just as powerful as someone shredding on the guitar.
Guillermo It's not what you're playing, it's how you're playing it.
Dillon And what you're putting into it.
dimanche What the passion is.
Adam Yeah, the passion and the emotion.
dimanche And so much of the creative process is experimental. We talk a lot about how the process is an art itself, the experimentation involved can be just as beautiful as the final product.
Tom Exactly, I don't know if I'd want to do Covey if it was just about music. We have these other outlets to be creative and chase ideas. This is a dumb example, but take this ring; I've never made a ring before, but I just decided to try and make one.
dimanche This record is a little rougher around the edges than your previous work. Is that because you drew from different influences or sources of inspiration?
Tom I think it came from more honest forms of inspiration in terms of what I grew up listening to. I think Anthony, our manager, is the reason why I dipped into more of those unapologetic influences. There's a blink-182 album that I listened to a lot growing up. Pulling from blink-182 isn't really considered musically savvy. No one says "Yeah, blink-182 is one of my influences." But there was a point I said "Fuck it, I'm gonna do it". On this record, there are injections of this nostalgia. It just kind of bled into the music more and more. Musically, you can do this through a progression or a melody, which is what we did.
Dillon I think you hit the nail on the head when you said it's coming from a more truthful place. I've complimented his old music, but there was always a strong aversion to it because they're not necessarily truthful anymore. This new record was what needed to be played, how it needed to be played, and serving the songs through honest references.
dimanche I think you can feel honest through someone's music when they're playing from a really truthful place. How long does it typically take to make an album?
Dillon That's a really good question.
Anthony It's all about writing style, what kind of instrumentation they want to put into it, and how much they've demoed etc. Edits, cuts, mixing and mastering, all take different amounts of time. So it really depends on the artist. Tom writes super fast.
Tom I can get a lot done if you put pressure on me.
Anthony Flushing out ideas takes the most amount of time.
Tom Yeah that's true. Flushing out ideas with Dillon specifically is quick and is getting quick with the rest of the group too. Just because Dillon and I have been playing together for four or five years.
Dillon I can predict where he's going with something.
Tom We have our own names for structural parts of songs. We sometimes say "island" instead of "verse" for example.
dimanche We do the same thing, we have our own language between the two of us.
Adam The first time Tom said "there's an island here", I said "what do you mean? We're in a basement!"
Guillermo It's funny to look back at those rehearsals when Adam and I had no idea what you guys were talking about.
Tom But now these guys know what islands are so it's all good. In terms of writing, I'll usually demo something at home and bring the general idea to the guys. They'll run with it and then we bring it all together. What I lacked in my solo stuff was the togetherness that comes from a band.
dimanche What's the toughest part of the process?
Tom I hate the amount of time you have to spend to write a record, because by the end of it, you're guaranteed to hate your tracks after.
dimanche Yeah because you listened to them so many times.
Dillon It's a creative curse. By the time you're done with whatever you're making, you've grown as an artist. At that point you say, "I can do better than this".
dimanche Because you've learned from the process.
Dillon Exactly. It's a viscous cycle.
Tom That cycle is across the board for a lot of art. Any artist is kind of doomed to not enjoy their product as much as someone with fresh ears or a fresh tongue to the food or a fresh eye to the art, you know? They don't know what went into it, they're getting it for face-value and that's something an artist will never have, ever. I think that's partially where the frustration and anxiety comes from for the artist. It's such a quintessential stereotype for an artist, but I think it's because creating art can be really hard. For businesses, there's a relatively structured mentality attached to it. But in terms of writing a song, there are no rules. You can't Google, "how do I write a good song?" You can get some pointers here and there, but in terms of being truly creative or truly innovative, no one can tell you how to do it. And that's the frustration for any artist that wants to be innovative. You've got to figure it out for yourself.
dimanche You have to start somewhere.
Tom Yeah, it starts form within you and that's scary.
dimanche It's overwhelming.
Tom That's the best word for it. Overwhelming.
dimanche How do you feel about pursuing music as a career versus for fun?
Tom We're obviously pursuing a career in music, but you can't hold the financial weight of that over the band's head or the artist's head, or anyone's head. As soon as you do that, you start chasing shows that don't give you joy, you start playing weddings or things like that. We know plenty of musicians who have done it and it just kills you, it kills the creativity.
dimanche One thing we've struggled with in starting a magazine is creating within a structure. Even working with deadlines is difficult. Editorial has a system and a strategy if you want to actually reach and connect with people. At the same time, we never want to sell out and do the expected, safe thing. It goes against the point of innovation and creating something of your own.
Tom Me and Alex, who produced the record, were talking about obsessions the other day. If you're not obsessed with what you're creating, if it's not crossing your mind all the time, then something is off. Obsession sounds negative but it's probably the best thing for someone trying to work towards a greater idea. When you're obsessed, the project takes on a life of its own.
dimanche I agree, when you love what you're making and you're obsessed with pushing it forward, you have new ideas every five seconds. That's when you know you're on the right path.
Tom I think there's a balance to be found between schedule and -
Dillon - freedom.
dimanche Do you enjoy performing as much as the process of creating an album?
Guillermo I have some amazing memories from recordng the album. The feeling of having it done is so great.
Tom Oh man, that's a tough question. I don't know, I love recording so much, especially the process of writing a melody. When you get the melody, it's like creating gold. And that feeling is why I'm going to go with recording. When I'm recording something and it's done and I'm fucking happy with it, I'm glowing for the next few days. I'm untouchable.
Dillon I agree. Playing a show can be amazing, but I don't think it will ever beat having the finished product.
dimanche I feel like recording is about seeing a private relationship with a song come to be.
Tom Yeah because you did this. The show is that you did it again and you're sharing it.
Guillermo Making it is tangible.
Tom Like putting those cassettes together. As soon as they were done, I said "holy shit, there it is. I made these with my hand and now they're here." That's a good feeling.
Dillon When it's just us, there's no reading the room. There's no seeing how people feel about it. It's about how good we feel about what we've just done.
Tom: It's exciting because you know what has been put into it. That's when you get excited to share it with people.
Listen to COVEY's new record, Haggarty.
Our favorite tracks? ////, Same White Shoes, 1955, and Eyesore.
Interview by Paige Melkerson and Carly Smith