“We’ve learnt to rely on each other’s strengths:” The Advocators chat collaboration and new album

Fresh off their debut album, NZ duo The Advocators shine a light on songwriting and collaborating as “neither a dictatorship nor a democracy.”  

The Advocators made their mark with ‘Songs from an Endless Night’, a sweeping debut album that traced the New Zealand duo from bluegrass ballads to country rock.

While it’s clearly the work of an act who have dedicated time to perfecting their sound, Leroy Brown and Mark Bruce maintain a carefree energy when they swing by Happy for a new interview.

The Advocators interview

“Whenever we were dizzy from recording,” the recalled, “we’d make a pot of tea and discuss the immaculate condition of the sheep in the paddock next door to the studio.”

It’s insights like this that shine a light on The Advocators’ creative process, pulling back the curtain on one of NZ’s most promising acts.

Catch our full interview with The Advocators below, and scroll down to listen to their debut album ‘Songs from an Endless Night’.   

HAPPY: What are you up to today?

THE ADVOCATORS: Today we are down in the big smoke of Auckland, skulking about the shadows and slapping up promo paraphernalia to promote the release of our debut album Songs from and Endless Night

HAPPY: What’s the music scene like in your neck of the woods?

THE ADVOCATORS: We live in a rural town of approximately 1000 people, this has resulted in a definite influence upon our sound but not a music scene in itself within the area.  People move away but the town never seems to leave them.

There are a lot of good musicians from this area (check out Erny Belle’s music for example) working independently of one another but the music that they make can be traced straight back to the area and its people…a little offbeat and eccentric.

Think misanthropes, idealogues, scrap metal dealers and farmers.  

The Advocators interview

HAPPY: Given that you’re a duo, how do you go about ensuring that each of your ideas are used and both of your strengths are played to?

THE ADVOCATORS: This is something that has happened naturally for us and remains neither a dictatorship nor a democracy.

There are definitely stages in the process that together we are pursuing one persons ideas to fruition, however the focus is always on refining the song and ensuring it relays the emotion that it was written to evoke rather than servicing our own expectations or needs.

We have learnt to rely on each other’s strengths with Mark’s being arrangement and structure and Leroy’s being lyricism and the original inspiration for a song.

There is an openness and obligation we share in our willingness to shoot down each other’s ideas if they don’t pass the muster.

HAPPY: What does a typical day look like when recording a project like ‘Songs from an Endless Night’?

THE ADVOCATORS: This project had a long incubation period (about 18 months of writing songs) to get us to the point where we went to the studio.

This long preparation meant that when we went into the studio and started recording and collaborating with William Jackson and Anita Clarke that things happened quickly; we recorded and mixed the entire album in 5 days.

Two days laying down the foundation tracks, two days of overdubs, and a day of mixing. Whenever we were dizzy from recording we’d make a pot of tea and discuss the immaculate condition of the sheep in the paddock next door to the studio.

The Advocators interview

HAPPY: Is there a certain level of pressure that comes with ‘making your debut’, or were you more keen to just have the music out?

THE ADVOCATORS: No one knows who you are or what you are working on when you begin creating what will be your debut so the only pressure we felt was on ensuring the songs and the performance and recording of those songs captured our vision for the album.

I think as our expectations of what is possible now grows, naturally so will the pressure.

HAPPY: The album touches on multiple genres. Is this versatility a conscious effort on your part, or does it come about naturally in the studio?

THE ADVOCATORS: The songs themselves dictated the genre. The way they were structured or written seemed to call for a particular style or sound.

We never consciously wrote a country song or a blues song, or any other song to fit within a genre, but do still work within the confines of our amalgamation of influences and stylistic preferences.

These are primarily blues, folk, country and rock music. Our drummer and producer William Jackson also helped to shape where some of the songs sit with his distinctive drumming style.

HAPPY: What would you say is the one sound that anchors your music, or the one you’re most comfortable in?

THE ADVOCATORS: Someone called us ‘Southern Gothic’, and another Hostile Gospel which are terms we sure liked the sound of, and most probably fit, but we’re not entirely sure yet exactly what that means or what depraved box that puts us in.

The Advocators interview

HAPPY: Anything else exciting on the horizon that you can tease for us?

THE ADVOCATORS: There’ll be shows later on in the year in New Zealand, and we are just starting to get ourselves organised and line this up at the moment and hope to announce dates and localities soon.

We are also working on a series of acoustic versions of some of the songs off this album that will be recorded in a few of the old community halls that dot the more obscure corners of the countryside here in Northland, New Zealand.  

HAPPY: What makes you happy?

THE ADVOCATORS: You might pick up from listening to the album that happiness is a fickle thing at times and it’s been said that there is more meaning in willingly taking on responsibility, than to consume oneself with the search for happiness.

However..… Waylon Jennings may have been far closer to the truth when he sang, ‘the only two things in life that make it worth living, is guitars tuned good and firm feelin’ women’