MUSIC

Even ready to bring the sunshine for Gum Ball return

BOND: Even's Matthew Cotter, Ashley Naylor and Wally Kempton have maintained their chemistry almost 30 years after they formed. Picture: Emma-Jane Johnston.

BOND: Even's Matthew Cotter, Ashley Naylor and Wally Kempton have maintained their chemistry almost 30 years after they formed. Picture: Emma-Jane Johnston.

ASHLEY Naylor likes to describe his indie-rock band Even as a "special operations branch."

Long gone are the days when the Melbourne three-piece, which also includes Matthew Cotter (drums) and Wally Kempton (bass), were among the hardest-working bands in Australia, constantly playing pubs and festivals in the halcyon days of the '90s alternative scene.

These days Naylor is among one of the most in-demand guns for hire, playing in Paul Kelly's band and last year he replaced founding member of The Church, Peter Koppes, as one of the legendary '80s band's guitarists.

However, his original band holds a special place in the 51-year-old's heart whenever Even dust off the amps for a one-off show. That next gig will be an appearance at the return of Gum Ball at Dashville in the Hunter Valley in two weeks.

"It's one of those things that's always on the boil," Naylor says. "We all have different work lives and Even doesn't tour as such, we do isolated tours interstate.

"We're like a special operations branch."

One would imagine that playing one-off gigs - sometimes months apart - would prove problematic to the cohesiveness of the band. However, Naylor says Even songs have become part of their "muscle memory."

Because of all the heavy playing we did between 1994 and 2004 I reckon it's given us a foundation to pick it up at the drop of a hat.

Ashley Naylor

"Sometimes it only takes a couple of songs to psych up," he says. "The good thing about the band is it's always on the boil.

"We played a wedding a few weeks back, believe it or not, and we didn't do any rehearsal. But we picked up where we left off.

"We plug in and play a few songs and it's like, 'here we are, we're back in motion'.

"Because of all the heavy playing we did between 1994 and 2004 I reckon it's given us a foundation to pick it up at the drop of a hat."

Even never reached the commercial heights of their contemporaries like You Am I, despite both bands being unashamedly indebted to British '60s bands like The Beatles and The Kinks.

Even - Black Umbrella

However, albums like Less Is More (1995) and Come Again (1998) - which featured the songs Stop and Go Man, Sunshine Comes, Black Umbrella and No Surprises - showcased Naylor's knack for summery melodies and punkish guitar riffs.

In January Even released a collection of covers they'd recorded for tribute albums and B-sides since 1996, called Down The Shops.

The albums features versions of And Your Bird Can Sing (The Beatles), For Your Love (The Yardbirds), Living In A Child's Dream (The Master's Apprentices) and Pretty Vacant (Sex Pistols) and is a revealing glimpse into Even's influences.

"There's no denying it or hiding it and no apologising for it as well," Naylor says.

"It is a little bit urban-centric our influences. We were products of our suburban environment. We were suburban Melbourne kids who grew up on commercial radio and Countdown.

"Thankfully some time in the mid-80s it changed a bit for us and we got more acquainted with, for want of a better pigeonhole, alternative music.

"That said, my quest is to make classic rock. I don't care about indie rock. I love being independent, but I don't want to pigeonhole the band."

Besides Even, Paul Kelly and The Church, Naylor also plays with Western Australian band The Stems, was a guitarist in the RocKwiz TV music trivia show house band and in 2019 he performed with Arc on their run of Abbey Road tribute shows.

All the while he's continued to release Even albums - the last 2018's Satin Returns - and several solo efforts.

Naylor says the various projects provide a continuing education process for him to relay back to Even. These include the importance of professionalism and making each member feel like their contribution is appreciated. It's a lesson he's learnt first-hand from Paul Kelly.

"You watch Paul rock up to the studio with all his lyrics written out and the arrangement solid in his head and encouraging each member to contribute their part to his song and it enables you to feel invested in the outcome," he says.

"I hope my bandmates in Even feel the same way. If I write a song for Even, I hope they feel a part of their personality comes through in their contribution."

The Gum Ball returns to Dashville on April 16-18.

This story Even gearing up for special operation rock'n'roll first appeared on Newcastle Herald.