The Naildrivers: Why covers work!

Agathe Roulin went to see if the Cork Jazz Festival lived up to the lofty expectations she had.

When you are a foreigner in Cork – as it is my case, you definitely can’t miss the Cork Jazz Festival, recommended in every tourist guide as one of the most important Irish events. Curious, I decided to go to see some live music in pubs to discover this particular atmosphere. This is how I met the Naildrivers.

Smiling musicians, words warmly addressed to public, the band obviously aim to entertain. Indeed, the Naildrivers are one of those bands who invite us to have fun – to sing and dance along with them.

Playing together since 1999, Eva, Sean, Gary, John, Dave, Ian and Aaron – the Naildrivers – are the children of musical eclecticism. Moving between several influences, their music style is not fixed, and the instruments on stage prove it: guitars, trumpet, voice, drums, saxophone, keyboard, bass, and even flute are all played at the same time!

And that is part of their strength. Their musical choices spring from a common ground: “They’re just songs we love to listen to […]. We all love ska and reggae and punk and rock to varying levels and some of these songs do have strong messages.” I have found it impossible to get out of my mind one of the last songs they covered, the famous “Should I Stay or Should I Go” by the legendary Clash.

What is the recipe of their success? Because, I have to admit it, the Naildrivers definitely rock on stage. No original arrangements, but a perfect covering of the best 70’s and 80’s musical anthems with such energy. The Specials, The Beat, The Selector, Bad Manners, Madness , The Jam, The Clash, The Undertones and The Buzzcocks are all brought to life with conviction, strength and energy during gigs.

Although some members of the band have other projects and write their own music, the Naildrivers don’t feel the need to compose together. They understand that the public likes to recognize songs, to be able to sing along, and that this creates a strong link between musicians and spectators.

‘We love […] the energy you get from belting out the lyrics and the energy from a great crowd like the one we had over the Jazz weekend.’

The example of the Naildrivers asks the question most of musicians could wonder when beginning to play: will we compose or will we cover?

The fact is that covering is generally regarded as the first step in musical learning. Of course, when you begin to learn guitar, you like covering your favourite bands. But people often forget that covering is a genre by itself and it requires as much talent as writing original arrangement.

It would even be sometimes more difficult to play a song you didn’t create than a song you composed yourself. So, to create or not to create, would that be the question? However, the debate doesn’t stop there.

It unfortunately seems that bands have to propose something original, something new to succeed in the music business. But who said that music had to be original to be regarded? Would musicians playing only covers not be considered as artists?

Furthermore, in some ways, covering is creation too. Even when covering a song, musicians leave their mark on the original music, consciously or not. On the contrary, some bands pretend to have created something totally new – and of course it is, because it’s a real composition – but it is finally revealed to be a weak imitation of something already existing.

Anyway, does this really work? Is covering as powerful as creation? Personally, I’d say even more: in case of live music, covering is often more efficient.

A band like the Naildrivers allows you to lose yourself, during a transcendental concert, in a kind of musical communion. Even after a ten year long adventure as a group, they are definitely not a band that’s too big for its boots. They perfectly know their work, and do it with ease and genuineness in front of a crowd who still wants more. But with a slogan like “Fun, fun, and fun”, you definitely couldn’t expect less!

Find out more about the Naildrivers on their MySpace or Facebook. 

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