The three Hume brothers from Feilding first entered the Smokefree Secondary School Rockquest in 1999, under the name Electro. Their win the following year - as Evermore - attracted the attention of the local music business to the Humes: Jon (17) on guitar, Peter (16) on bass, and youngest brother Dann (13) on drums.
From day one Jon Hume was keen to take control of Evermore’s recorded sound, investing prize money from their Rockquest win in gear for the band’s home studio.
Meanwhile, in Australia, expat New Zealander Rebekah Campbell had worked with established entertainment manager Grant Thomas (Crowded House) in 2000; she went out on her own and had success with the band George, taking their debut album to No.1 before parting company. Campbell then started her own company, Scorpio Management, and went looking for talent.
Campbell met Evermore at the 2002 NZ Music Awards in May and made the trip to Feilding to hear the group’s demos. She returned to Sydney and played the songs to her management mentor, John Woodruff, and he was also impressed. Woodruff had worked with The Angels, Baby Animals, and Savage Garden, and although retired from artist management, he was still active as a music publisher and as a production company. Due to his success with Savage Garden in the US, he was regarded as the expert at getting deals with their record labels. Woodruff was more than a mentor for Campbell, he was clearly pushing for Evermore to succeed and the group signed with his publishing company, Rough Cut.
In conjunction with Louis Vuitton Cup yacht race being held in Auckland, the NZ Music Industry Commission and Trade NZ created the “World Series” showcase: “Taking New Zealand Music To The World.” The idea was to fly key Northern Hemisphere music business people to Auckland to see the best local bands. Evermore and 30 other local acts played five concerts at the St James Theatre, 18-23 November. Two of the big names from Australia were Arnold Frolows, Music Director of Triple J Network, and John Woodruff, who encouraged some of his international contacts to visit Auckland to see the local talent and a yacht race. One VIP visitor was Canadian Donald Tarlton, who was in business with Woodruff as co-publisher of the music business tipsheet Music Network Magazine in Canada and Australia. After the showcases, Tarlton undertook to release Evermore (and 8 Foot Sativa) in Canada on his Aquarius label.
In the first half of January 2003, Evermore toured Australia with Seattle band Brad (Stone Gossard of Pearl Jam’s other band). Later in January, Evermore played their first Auckland Big Day Out concert.
On the Brad tour they met Seattle producer Barrett Jones, who expressed interest in working with them. Jones had worked with The Foo Fighters, The Melvins and had recorded Nirvana B-sides. When Evermore headed for the USA to play South By Southwest (SXSW) in Austin, they were able to visit Seattle and record at his studio, The Laundry Room.
The February 2003 indie release of Evermore’s Oil & Water EP gave radio in New Zealand and Australia tracks to play while the group went looking for a record deal.
In March 2003, New Zealand had a big presence at SXSW Music Conference in Austin, Texas, partly because The Datsuns and The D4 were the talk of the town. Other bands in attendance included Evermore, Betchadupa, Goodshirt and 8 Foot Sativa. Also attending was the Associate Arts Minister, MP Judith Tizard. Although there were 1,100 acts playing showcases that year, Evermore and Betchadupa were in the list of 50 acts to see, as chosen by Hits Daily Double writer Rodel Delfin (who added: “Of course, you may also want to check out anything from Sweden, Australia or New Zealand, just to be safe”).
Recalling one SXSW New Zealand showcase night, Cath Andersen of the NZ Music Commission said, “Evermore management did a fantastic job of getting influential people to their show. The venue was very full. VIPs were getting ready to leave, so I bought 20 people a beer – Goodshirt started before they had finished their beer.”
Tizard bumped into Lord Of The Rings actor Elijah Woods at a D4 in-store performance, quoting him as saying, “Oh, New Zealanders, great. I’m sort of a New Zealander.” Tizard viewed SXSW as a continuation of the Government World Series trade initiative. “We had World Series people bringing their friends to see Evermore, staying to see Goodshirt and jumping in taxis with us to see Betchadupa.”
Fresh from SXSW, Evermore was one of four New Zealand acts to play Toronto, Canada, on four different nights within eight days. Evermore played a small showcase gig there at the legendary Horseshoe Tavern but the Canadian record deal didn’t make any impact.
New Zealand was also looking like a crowded market when NZ On Air showcased one of the strongest ever line-ups of new music at the 2003 Radio Broadcasters Association Conference, held in May. Scribe with P-Money, Brooke Fraser, Op Shop, Evermore and Katchafire shook up Auckland’s sterile Sheraton Hotel. A lot of the tunes performed there were ready to do well on New Zealand radio.
In February 2004, US producer Barrett Jones flew to Auckland and Jon Hume drove him south to their family home in Feilding. The plan was that Jones would assist them to complete their album at their Red Sky Studio and he would enjoy a balmy February summer with some fishing at Lake Taupo. A lot of recording had already been done with Jon at the helm.
Unfortunately some unseasonal rain occurred. The massive flood became worldwide news when on Monday 16 February, in nearby Woodville, 350 cows were swept into the Manawatu River with farmer Kim Riley clinging to Cow 569. A house in the Hume’s street was last seen floating down the river. In the early morning darkness, the herd swam to the safety of higher ground with a pleased-to-be-alive Mrs Riley. The story was big news because very few people knew that cows could swim.
The six-week recording session had issues. “The power went out at least four or five times, sometimes for a day or so. The main bridge to the closest town was washed out and the water was unsafe to drink,” producer Barrett Jones told Who magazine. “It was also hard to record drums in the kitchen while their mother was making dinner.”
Bottled water and candles did not save the six-week session. “You couldn’t get outside the front gate without a kayak,” Dan Hume said to Sunday magazine. With only five more weeks to go, it was time to relocate to Seattle and Jones’s turn to accommodate Evermore at his place.
During the recording of Dreams in Feilding, massive floods meant the Humes couldn't get outside without a kayak
A lot of the guitar and drum tracks were re-recorded but many of the original vocal tracks were kept. John Alagía, whose credits include Dave Matthews Band, John Mayer and Ben Folds Five, was also brought in to work on the production and mixes with Barrett Jones and Jon Hume, who had to argue at times to keep his stamp on the sound. In early interviews they were already talking about doing a “concept” album.
Evermore now had a debut album and they made the move to Australia. Manager Rebekah Campbell organised a tour of schools and regional colleges and clubs and later told Billboard that Evermore were “the first band to do that since AC/DC in the 1970s.”
While recording Dreams, their second EP, My Own Way, released in May 2004, kept the band on Triple J. Evermore had built a live following in Australia and an audience on Triple J but Campbell wanted to push them to the next level.
Channel Ten was pushing hip teen drama The OC in nearly every ad break. Mid-July, Campbell phoned the producer of the TV promos and offered ‘It’s Too Late’ for use on the programme. The song debuted as the theme to The OC promo during the final of Big Brother the following Sunday and it was used for another month. Campbell wrote in her blog in 2013: “Thousands of new people signed up to our website every day. The audience transferred their feelings for the show to Evermore so by association we were a hit too.” Channel Ten also used the Evermore songs ‘For One Day’ and ‘Come To Nothing’ on promos for The OC.
‘It’s Too Late’ was released in August 2004, a few days after it appeared as a promo for The OC. One of the three B-sides was Evermore’s take on the Straitjacket Fits classic, ‘Down In Splendour’. The single release also coincided with Evermore opening for Snow Patrol and Keane in Sydney and Melbourne.
When the album came out in Australia in September, three producers were credited: Barrett Jones, John Alagía and Jon Hume. Dreams reached No.15 on the Australian ARIA Album Chart and No.30 on the NZ Album Chart. In 2005 the album received platinum accreditation in Australia with a massive 70,000 sales and the single ‘For One Day’ was nominated as Single of the Year at the 2005 ARIA Music Awards.
In 2005 Evermore played their first Australian Big Day Out tour, appearing on the entire tour from Auckland to Perth. For the band picked as most likely to have Northern Hemisphere success, it transpired that the home front of Australia was where success unfolded and the band was preoccupied with the demands that success entailed.
On 4 August 2005, a press release announced “Sire Records/Warner Music Group To Release Evermore Internationally”. Sire Records boss Seymour Stein has been an A&R legend since the 1960s and is best known for signing The Ramones, Talking Heads, Madonna and The Pretenders. Sire’s prestige is partly due to its releasing dozens of British acts that could not get deals in the US, such as Depeche Mode, The Smiths, Primal Scream, The Cure, and The Undertones. Prior to Evermore signing with Sire, under consideration was a US release via Nashville-based New Zealander Barry Coburn, who broke country legends Alan Jackson and Keith Urban in the States.
Instead, a more tried and true route was chosen via Sire, whose CEO Stein told the New Zealand Herald, “The original plan was to release their debut, Dreams, in the US but the band believe they can do a better album, so everything is on hold.” Stein had heard four new songs and said, “I love two of them, and I like the other two. But the [first] two are quite mind-boggling.”
The record company boss pointed out to Herald journalist Scott Kara that it’s easy to tour a three-piece in the USA. “They’re used to living in one room anyway and I think we will get a lot of mileage out of them in terms of touring. They work very hard and they really like what they’re doing and we’ve got to work to get them on the radio.”
2005 was a productive awards season for the band. At the Australian MTV Awards Evermore won the public-voted Supernova Breakthrough Act for their album Dreams; in September the Humes also won New Zealand’s 2005 APRA Silver Scroll Award for ‘It’s Too Late’.
At the 2005 NZ Music Awards, held in October at the Aotea Centre in Auckland, Evermore won one of three International Achievement Awards for the success of Dreams in Australia. (The other two winners were Scribe for the success of his 2003 album The Crusader in Australia, and the Finn Brothers for their album Everyone Is Here, which was released in the Northern Hemisphere.)
In Australia at the 2005 ARIA Awards Evermore had an impressive five ARIA Award nominations, but there were no wins. The nominations were Best Group, Dreams for Album of the Year, Best Rock Album and Breakthrough Artist (Album) plus ‘For One Day’ for Single of the Year.
In the last two months of 2005, Evermore started to record their second album Real Life at their home studio on the central coast of New South Wales. The band then moved to the USA for the first three months of 2006. Some pre-production was done with John Alagía in Easton, Maryland, before they moved to the rural Longview Farm, Massachusetts (where Jimi Hendrix had recorded). Some recordings were done at another legendary studio, The Village Recording Studios in Los Angeles (whose clients have included Fleetwood Mac). Real Life was then mixed by Tom Lord-Alge in Miami.
When Split Enz toured Australia in June 2006, Evermore were chosen to open for them nationwide. Both groups were from New Zealand, melodic, went to all-boy schools and were Melbourne residents at the highpoint of their careers.
In 2006 the Humes strayed onto the dancefloor with Dirty South vs Evermore ‘It’s Too Late (Ride On)’ – a dance re-edit by Australian DJ/producer Dragan Roganović. Although mainly consumed digitally, the track was released on 12-inch vinyl on Kastoria Records / Blanco y Negro Music (Spain), Superstar Recordings (Germany) and Vicious Vinyl (Australia). The re-edit entered dance charts worldwide, and also appeared on numerous dance compilations.
Evermore played alongside Pearl Jam in the 2006 “Make Poverty History” concert and rally during a G20 summit in Melbourne
In June 2006, the single ‘Running’ reached No.4 on the New Zealand Singles Chart, the group’s highest charting single in New Zealand. In Australia the single peaked at No.5. Real Life was released in July 2006, hitting No.2 on the New Zealand Album Charts and No.5 on the ARIA Album Chart.
The “Make Poverty History” concert and rally – in Melbourne on 17 November 2006 – was on the eve of the G20 summit, hosting the world’s political and financial leaders in Melbourne. The concert, organised by 23-year-old Melbourne activist Hugh Evans, aimed to take the “Make Poverty History” message to the world via media coverage. Evermore performed and appeared in promotional interviews for the event. The headliners were Pearl Jam (with U2’s Bono and The Edge as guests), plus local musicians John Butler Trio, Paul Kelly, Jet, Evermore and Eskimo Joe. The concert drew 14,000 punters to the Myer Music Bowl.
No.1 in Australia
Evermore began 2007 playing the Big Day Out Tour of Australia and New Zealand with their album Real Life still in the top 15 of the ARIA album sales chart and with sales of over 100,000 units. Their single ‘Light Surrounding You’ topped the Australian singles chart of 28 January 2007, just over a decade after OMC did the same with ‘How Bizarre’. In New Zealand, ‘Light Surrounding You’ peaked at No.15, but the song got extra TV exposure when used in TV One branding promos.
After reportedly signing with the USA record label Sire Records in August 2005, Evermore appeared to have issues with Sire – or vice versa – prior to the planned April/May 2007 US release. In March Sire’s Seymour Stein told Undercover News, “We are having problems ... at their end.”
Rebekah Campbell commented to AudioCulture in 2016: “Yes, Evermore signed to Sire but they didn’t release the record, which was disappointing. But the record reached at least double platinum sales in Australia so we very much appreciated their A&R support. It was also lovely getting to know Seymour Stein, a true music fan.”
In April 2007 Evermore appeared on the 2007 MTV Australia Video Music Awards in Sydney, performing ‘Light Surrounding You’. In June they returned to tour New Zealand with Thirsty Merc from Sydney and The Electric Confectionaires from Devonport. Some venues were unorthodox, so that the bands could play to all-ages audiences.
At the New Zealand Music Awards in October 2007, at the Aotea Centre in Auckland, Evermore won Single of the Year with ‘Light Surrounding You’ and the International Achievement Award. They won the latter award again in 2005. In Australia ‘Light Surrounding You’ was nominated for Best Pop Release but did not win at the ARIA Awards. In late 2007 the group moved from New South Wales to Melbourne.