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The Bonnie Scarlets

Clodagh O\'Connor-McKenna



Wellington band The Bonnie Scarlets have been getting local crowds on the dance floor for about a year now. I sat down and had a chat to Peter (vocals/guitar), Adam (vocals/guitar), Chris (vocals/drums/percussion) and Curtis (vocals/ bass/harmonica) about their music and scored the totally sweet cabin at Camp A Low Hum.

Forming in early 2006, The Bonnie Scarlets were all ready to move on from their respective bands. They met at university, through mutual friends, and started playing together – their main goal was to simply find enjoyment in playing music again. “I remember us all agreeing that we just wanted to play music to make people dance,” says Chris. And make people dance they did. Right from their very first show at The San Francisco Bathhouse, the good time The Bonnie Scarlets were having on stage seemed to instantly translate to their audience, hooking the crowd in right from the first track.
Playing a form of blues/rock, their sound originates from their love of Delta and Chicago Blues and the beat bands of the sixties. “When we get together, this is just the music that comes out,” says Adam. The Bonnie Scarlets appear to have a successful blend of just wanting to have fun, and being very conscientious musicians who love the art of live music. “That’s why this band works as well as it does,” says Curtis. “We just get a kick out of playing with each other.”
As well as having played a number of shows around Wellington and Auckland, the Bonnie Scarlets were one of a group of acts from around the world that played the local three-day music festival, Camp A Low Hum, over Waitangi weekend this year. “It wasn’t really about playing. It was more about hanging out, watching bands…and then it was our turn to play,” says Adam. “What was nice about it was kind of the collegiality of the whole thing.” The Bonnie Scarlets cabin, The Lion’s Lodge, became a focal point for partying over the weekend. “We managed to get this crazy lodge. Everyone else got these tiny cabins and somehow we got a huge one with all the amenities. Just us and the Whipping Cats,” recalls Curtis. “We got two hundred people, plus DJ’s, in there on the second night.”
So, what lies ahead for The Bonnie Scarlets? Having seen them play a number of times, I can say that they always succeed in getting their audiences up and dancing, right from the opening bars – so plenty more toe-tapping gigs are on the horizon. In terms of releases of any kind, there don’t appear to be any firm plans for a single or EP at this stage. However, they’re not ruling anything out. “We don’t really want to release anything until we’re happy with it,” says Peter.
A few days after this interview, The Bonnie Scarlets were heading up to Auckland to play at the ‘Sounds like a Blur’ photo exhibition at the Schooner Tavern; with The Have, The Vacants and the Defendants. Auckland is a significant city for this band, as it is also where their manager, Phil Moore (also manager to the now London-based The Checks), is based. While up there, they are fortunate enough to be dressed for the show by Little Brother, New Zealand mens’ fashion house.
In the long-term, far-off shores are definitely beckoning these boys. But, just like a single or EP, no decisions have been made. “I wouldn’t mind playing London Astoria with The Kings of Leon,” smiles Peter. “I’d second that,” says Curtis.
The Bonnie Scarlets have good thing going on. They play catchy music which audiences seem to gravitate towards, and they even have a great time doing it.
If you haven’t seen them live yet, go out and do it – they’re quickly becoming an essential part of Wellington’s live music scene.
Catch The Bonnie Scarlets at the SFBH on May 31 and June 23.