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Cover Drive are a band on a mission to bring the sunshine and sounds of their native Barbados to the world. The young quartet has already ignited the UK charts twice. Debut single Lick Ya Down reached the Top 10 last year, while its fabulous follow-up Twilight shot straight to No.1 at the tail end of an otherwise dreary January.
With their debut album, Bajan Style, due for release in April, Cover Drive's fresh, fun, sun-soaked sound is set to dominate the airwaves in 2012. Their YouTube views are at over eight million, their fans include the likes of Ed Sheeran, Emeli Sandé, Labrinth and Jessie J and both their fellow Barbadian Rihanna and UK chart-topper Dappy have allowed them share their stage as main support acts.
"We're amazed how quickly people have connected with our music," says Amanda, the band's sassy, 20 year old singer. "On the first two dates of our tour with Dappy, most of the audience only knew Lick Ya Down. By the third night, because fans had filmed our set and put it online, the crowds were singing along to every song. It was incredible. Then we released Twilight and although we knew people loved it, we were shocked when it went to No.1. Shocked and so happy!"
Cover Drive comprise of the lead singer Amanda, 18 year old bassist Jamar, 22 year old guitarist Barry and drummer/singer T-Ray, 18, for whom Amada used to babysit. Although they joined forces less than two years ago, the four were friends who had been making music individually since the start of their teens.
"We had known each other for ages, but it never crossed our minds to start a band," says T-Ray. "As soon as we did, it seemed so obvious. We're the perfect fit. Amanda loves pop music, I like metal and hip hop, Barry likes punk rock and Jamar is into indie music, but our influences meet in pop and the Bajan music we grew up on. When we formed, we found our sound straight away."
Cover Drive call that sound 'Carib-pop'. A bubbly blend of their Caribbean roots in reggae, dub and soca with happy, hook-laden pop, hear it and you won't stop smiling. Little wonder Twilight is still a radio staple.
Cover Drive's name came T-Ray's dad's love of cricket. Coincidentally, it was cover versions the band posted online that instantly attracted major label attention. Dubbed The Fedora Sessions (because they wore fedoras - hat obsessive T-Ray has a collection of 20) and filmed in their manager's basement, their funky, Carib-pop reworkings of Train's Hey Soul Sister, B.o.B.'s Airplanes and Ke$ha's Tik Tok saw them signed to Polydor within six months of forming. Crucially, as they demonstrated at a showcase at their mentor Eddy Grant's house in Barbados, the quartet also write their own songs - Twilight was one of their first.
Indeed, six months spent travelling back and forth from Barbados to London, L.A. and New York to record Bajan Style only strengthened Cover Drive's signature sound. Working with A-list producers including Steve Mac (JLS, The Saturdays, Kelly Clarkson), StarGate (Rihanna, Ne-Yo, Jennifer Lopez), Future Cut (Lily Allen, Nicole Scherzinger, Estelle) SuperDups (Bruno Mars,Estelle), Boi1da (Eminem,Drake) and J Remy (Jay Sean, Lil Wayne), Cover Drive created an album that couldn't have come from any other band.
Bajan Style's title track is slinky pop-rap that suggests a dancehall Salt-N-Pepa. Headphones is an entire summer of fun squeezed in to four, frisky minutes. That Girl begins with a nod to Rihanna's Rude Boy before bursting in to a glorious chorus that tips it's hat to the sounds of Shakira. Can't Live In A World is a beautiful ballad that shows off a more mature yet still feel good Cover Drive sound. Hot on the heels of the breezy, bass-driven Lick Ya Down and Twilight's Carib-Euro-pop, the album's third single will be Sparks, a gorgeous, mid-tempo, electro love song that sees Amanda duet with T-Ray.
"Sparks is about the connection you feel with someone special, regardless of their age or race or background. It is a love song. It's about anyone who steps in to your life and changes it overnight.
"Singing a love song with T-Ray isn't weird, although everyone expects me to say that it is. I've known him for ages and there's a lot of love between us. When we sing it to each other, we can't stop smiling."
Bajan Style will surely have the same effect on the fans who sent Twilight to No.1 and those who are about to discover the sunniest sound of 2012.
"Our aim with the album was to have as much fun as we did in our basement doing covers," says Amanda. "We definitely did and you can hear it in every song on the album. They're all about being young and having fun. They're songs that bring that feeling of being on a beach in the blazing sun with your best friends to every day, whether it's sunny outside or not."