Rebekah Davies

Faint Spells in NO Magazine

You could call her lucky. It seems Rebekah Davies just falls into one amazing situation after another. She started out as a child actor, working in film, television and radio from the age of eight, after being discovered by director Sam Pillsbury. Then, after years spent living in Los Angeles and Sydney, she moved to New York and was asked by Nicolas Ghesquière to appear in Vogue Nippon alongside Charlotte Gainsbourg and Joana Preiss, which kickstarted a modelling career. Her work in the fashion industry kept her in New York for over five years before she finally decided she'd have more creative opportunities back in New Zealand. It didn’t take long before she was taking photographs and writing for magazines, all while continuing to work as an actor and model. Oh, and did I mention she’s started a band called Faint Spells with Shayne Carter from Dimmer?

In actual fact, Davies doesn’t just rely on luck to get by. Her achievements are a reflection of her willingness to take full advantage of each opportunity that arises. Her interest in music dates back to a few childhood violin lessons and singalongs with her musician father. Later, she taught herself how to play guitar and started writing her first songs. However, it wasn’t until she returned home after almost ten years overseas that she decided to turn her full attention towards it. “I stopped drinking when I got back to New Zealand, and that had a huge part to do with it. I just felt a lot more focused and motivated. A couple of friends coerced me into doing a show with them. At that show, we performed all of our songs together, and we got a really good reception. Jen went back to Australia after that, but Hannah and I continued to make music together for over a year.”

For someone who had been in front of a camera from an early age and had experience on a catwalk, Davies found it surprisingly nerve-wracking when she first began playing music live: “It’s really different, even though it's all a form of performance. I was actually an incredibly shy child, and acting was a way for me to express myself more easily because I always had a character to hide behind. So even though I could be on a set with 50 people standing around, I was able to do it without any problem. Performing music live is something else again. It’s way more raw since there’s no character, and I’m not saying someone else’s lines. These are my songs, and I’m expressing the way I feel about things, so I find performing live quite confronting. It’s something I’m still coming to terms with and learning how to do.”

At first, Davies made music under the moniker ‘Pocket Knife’, however, she soon became dissatisfied with making music in the singer/songwriter mould. So, assuming the name Faint Spells, she set about forming a band. Her first collaborator was Tom Healy, a guitarist who regularly works with Curwood, one who has played with the Verlaines. “We recorded at home on ProTools. Tom played quite politely at first because he’s used to playing with Hannah, and they have more of a folk sound. I encouraged him to put down something more gritty. I really liked the idea of having a juxtaposition between my vocals, which can be a little ethereal, and some kind of nasty noise.“ When it came to choosing a rhythm section, Davies had a convenient standby since her partner was Shayne Carter, and he’d been hinting for over a year that he'd like to play bass for the group. When she finally relented, he brought along his drummer from Dimmer, Gary Sullivan, and the current line-up of Faint Spells was formed.

Carter saw joining her band as just another opportunity to play with a musician that he respected. “I just really liked Rebekah’s songs — she has a great sense of aesthetics and a really good knowledge of music, and that comes through in the songs she writes. Since the beginning of last year, it seems like I’ve been spending a lot of time being the sidekick dude for other people. I’ve played with everyone from my mum (The Erica Miller Experience) to the Dead C. That’s quite a wide territory! I played in Chris Knox’s band, and Punches, and more recently, I've been doing some work with Jon Toogood. It’s been a nice holiday from my usual stuff. And I love playing bass; it’s just a different pocket to sit in. I never paid attention to it before —it was just banging in the background.'

Davies and Carter both share a love of Grinderman, especially after seeing them at the Big Day Out this year. Faint Spells might not be quite so aggressive, but the band creates a similarly ominous mood with sparse musical parts that play off the darker elements of Davies’ lyrics. Davies has found that things have moved forward exponentially since she cemented the current lineup. “I’m playing with people who are highly attuned to interpreting music, so I don’t feel I need to explain much to them. It’s been great, because I feel like these songs have come to fruition and have been realised, finally.”

Interview by Gareth Shute.

Using Format