Gary King meets Cover Drive, the music phenomenon – and Rihanna support band – bringing a little Bajan magic to Britain and beyond.
” I’m sitting in the Orange Street Grocer in Speightstown, Barbados. It’s a lovely little eatery that looks out on to the Caribbean Sea, all big wooden tables, chalkboards and quiet music.
I’m here to meet Bajan pop sensations Cover Drive – and I’m wondering if I’ll recognise them when they turn up.
I shouldn’t have worried because as soon as they file in, the place suddenly becomes full of energy, life and colour.
The four-piece ensemble have taken this vitality and packaged it into a blend of music that has been labelled “Carib-Pop”, a unique blend of reggae, dub and hook-laden riffs that floats through the air as easily as the gentle winds blowing in from the Caribbean Sea.
“We’re just trying to give a big dash of Barbados to the rest of the world,” says Amanda Reifer, the band’s 21-year-old lead vocalist.
The rest of the band is made up of T-Ray Armstrong, 19; Barry “Bar-Man” Hill, their 22-year-old keyboard-playing guitarist; and bassist Jamar Harding, 19.
I immediately warm to them. They very much seem to have their feet firmly planted on the ground. This may be due in no small amount to some of the impressive mentors that they’ve had, one such being Eddy Grant who also lives on the island
“We call him Rasta Yoda,” laughs T-Ray, full of admiration for the musician of Electric Avenue fame. “He’s full of great advice and says things like, ‘Be good to the music and the music will be good to you.’”
They all hoot with laughter.
The music has certainly been good to them so far. They formed in 2010 and started posting cover versions of popular songs on YouTube.
Within the space of a few months, these videos had been viewed many thousands of times and were attracting interest from movers and shakers in the music industry. “It all happened so quickly,” explains Amanda. “One minute we were playing in our bedrooms and the next we were getting phone calls from Sony and Polydor Records.”
The former offered them a publishing deal and the latter a recording contract.
It was at this point that they went into the studio to produce their first single, Lick Ya Down, that went straight into the UK charts, peaking at No 9. Their second single, Twilight, went straight to top slot and their third,Sparkes, was almost as successful. They then released their debut album, Bajan Style, in May of last year that went in at No14.
The A&R scout who spotted them online only a year before was certainly doing their job on that particular day, and Cover Drive’s big break came when they were asked to open for Rihanna during the Barbados leg of her “Loud” tour.
“It was our first ever live gig and it was in front of 25,000 people,” says Amanda. “Let’s just say it was a little nerve-racking. The boys don’t even remember meeting Rihanna they were so nervous!”
“We were petrified,” admits T-Ray, “but Rihanna was really pleased with our performance and it was great to play in front of our home crowd.”
Cover Drive have since toured the UK supporting top American singer Kelly Clarkson but love to come back to Barbados.
“This is where our music originates from,” says Bar-Man. “We love the beaches, the weather, the people, the attitude. It’s what we’re all about and it’s what we want to give to the world.”
Keep giving, Cover Drive, because the world likes what it sees and hears. “