11 May 2019

Skinny Hobos - live in session

From RNZ Music, 2:15 pm on 11 May 2019

Meet Skinny Hobos the drum and guitar duo that is making more noise than the sum of its parts.

The Skinny Hobos story begins in the time honoured way of many New Zealand bands: the Smokefreerockquest.

The difference is that this duo met through guitarist / singer Alex Elvis’ cunning strategy to maximise their respective chances in the high school music contest.

“We had schools that fit in both the Auckland central and east Auckland Rockquest rounds. And we figured that there would be less people out east so we went out there to see if we could not have competition.”

“- or smoke out what was out east,” interjects drummer and fellow hobro Texas Holdom, “Which for the most part was probably true.”

Skinny Hobos actually formed years later when they both found themselves working in the same musical instrument shop.

“We ended up in a place that had instruments and we had to play them,” says Holdom.

“Getting a chance to see all the stuff that comes in and to try it all out definitely gives me the chance to know what I need,” says Elvis, sounding like the knowledgeable salesperson but then concedes, “To be fair, the discount that you get there really helps and I don’t actually know if I could buy anything anymore at full price.

“I’m kinda screwed if I ever leave my job,” he laughs.

I’m interested in the Hobos day jobs and anecdotal suggestions that young people are turning away from traditional instruments such as guitars and drum kits in favour of making beats on their laptops

“I think it is true and not true. It [guitars] are not the forefront of what it once was, but it’s still there and it’s being used differently... like effects pedals and processing stuff in the computer. Using instruments to create more synthetic sounds is super popular these days.”

It’s an approach Skinny Hobos use in their straight down the barrel rock and roll or “big riffs and big drums", as drummer Texas explains.

“Our ethos to make it as easy as we can between the two of us.

Guitarist Alex concurs,“We’re playing old people music- but we’re doing it our own way.”

For this live session, Alex had a guitar shop’s worth of pedals and effects at his feet.

“Clearly I use a lot of gear to make the sounds and the kinda stuff I use especially to make the bass sounds. That didn't exist back in the day that we grew up in and what we grew up listening to. But the big drums, loud amps, rock and roll, stripped back kind of thing is not a production.”

Alex Elvis' pedal boards

Alex Elvis' pedal boards Photo: Andre Upston

As well as the pedals and equipment, Skinny Hobos’ commitment to the traditional rock and roll ethos is clearly evident in their approach to touring. At present count, they’ve only had Easter weekend off this year and that’s the way they like it.

Drummer Texas explains, that  “playing live is the easiest way to get new fans”. He’s about to say some more when his band mate interjects.

“It isn’t the easiest - but it’s our favourite.”

“Everywhere has its own identity and the coolest thing about getting to travel to the extent that we do is that we get to experience that."

Texas picks up the point about playing in Aotearoa’s smaller provincial towns.

“The adage goes 'in a small town where nothing happens when something happens everyone comes out' and that rang true in those places especially.”

"Our strength is being a live band a lot more than the other parts of what we do."

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