By Will Brown
2013 is looking to be a big year for Fat Freddy's Drop.
The band are currently putting the finishing touches on their third studio album 'Blackbird' and are about to embark on the Classic Hits Winery Tour with The Adults and AnikaBoh&Hollie (Anika Moa, Boh Runga and Hollie Smith), playing 17 dates around the country.
We caught up with Fat Freddy's sax player Scott "Chopper Reedz" Towers and found out more about the tour, the upcoming album and future plans.
Fat Freddy's Drop has been together now since 1999. Is there still the same camaraderie within the band?
Yeah, if anything it's probably stronger now than it ever has been. We sort of know where everyone is now at. Things have changed quite a bit; we all have families and are married, so we kind of appreciate each others' situation a little bit better than we did before. We understand if someone can't make a rehearsal or whatever because their kid might bit sick, which might not have been the case before. So yeah, the band is going well.
Your 2005 album ‘Based On A True Story' won all sorts of awards and broke a bunch of records. It must have been a surreal feeling for the band.
I wasn't in the band at then, I joined in 2007. But I was definitely an interested spectator while that was all going on. I'd just moved back from London and reconnected with the guys; I knew them all in Wellington before I left, and I think it was an amazing combination of things. The band had forged a pretty good live reputation at all the festivals and there was a real sense of ownership amongst the audience. I guess that people sort of responded in much the same way that they did to ‘Lord Of The Rings' or something like that, where they were buying multiple copies and would want to give to their friends overseas and that sort of thing. So it was a pretty amazing time for the band, yeah.
You must have been pretty happy when they asked you to join?
Yeah, I'd sort of played with the band on and off over the years when Warren (Warren Maxwell) couldn't make shows or whatever, because he had a complicated life with Trinity Roots being on the road at the same time. I was playing with the Open Souls at the time and I'd sort of fallen back into music by accident, as I'd had a bit of a break and went to the corporate world for a little while. So I'd just got back into music again and the opportunity came up and of course I jumped at it.
You guys are releasing your third studio album ‘Blackbird' very soon. Is there a release date for it yet?
We don't have a firm date, but we're trekking along quite nicely. We're at the business end now where we're doing final vocals and a bit of postproduction work, so it's getting close... I can almost see it (laughs).
Where did you record it?
It's mainly been done in our new studio; we built a studio down in Wellington. The preceding two albums were actually done in a small sort of home studio at DJ Fitchies house. And it was a pretty typical bedroom / studio scenario. With this one we actually had a dedicated space with a full control booth, and an isolation booth to do the vocals in. We sort of really developed a space that we could all get together and play the songs, which is how we've recorded it, rather than doing tiny small little bits that we loop up and do that sort of thing. We've been trying to capture large chunks of music in full performances. We wouldn't have been able to that without the setup that we have now.
And the album was self-produced?
Yeah, I think it would be a difficult ask getting an outsider to produce the whole thing, because it's a pretty unruly musical combination we've got going on there. I think it's a pretty unique sort of style and a unique approach that we take. Although it would be interesting to see.
How long did the whole recording process for Blackbird take?
Oh god, it feels like it's been going on forever to be honest. Some of the songs we started recording probably about 2 years ago. And then we cameback from the tour; we were in Europe in September last year, and the songs had been slowly evolving over the last 18 months or so. We'd mainly played them in Europe, road tested them over there, brought them back to the studio, polished them up and recorded them. But we found we were rearranging a lot of these songs on the last trip to Europe, so we came back and listened to what we had recorded already and we weren't too happy with what we had... the versions of the songs and the feels and everything. So we basically went back to square one again. I guess we're in phase two of recording, which has been going since about September last year.
Is it quite a democratic songwriting process with Fat Freddy's?
Yeah, it is. It's an interesting one, as it's very rare that a song comes to the studio fully written if you know what I mean? It's starts in a very democratic way because we sort of get together and jam out the idea behind the song. For a long time, we'd sit there and play a song idea for a couple of hours, then go back, listen to it, decide bits we'd like to keep and whittle it down and a form comes together. If it's a strong enough idea then Dallas (vocalist Dallas Tamaira) takes it away and starts coming up with the lyrical content of it. So it inches along a bit like that.
The Classic Hits Winery Tour is just about to kick off. That should be a lot of fun...
Yeah, it's going to be brilliant actually. We've always really liked that style of gig where it's in an outdoor environment. Dusk really seems to suit our sort of music... going from dusk to deepest night. So yeah, we're looking for that and it'll be fun listening to the other acts as well. It's going to be a good one I think.
The other acts are The Adults and Anika, Boh & Hollie. Do you know them all well?
Yeah. Jon was kicking around in Wellington with Shihad in the 90's as well, so the band has a long history of knowing those guys. Julia Deans as well, she was kicking around the music scene when Toby (Laing), Joe (Lindsay) and I started playing in Wellington as well. And we've been friends with the girls (Anika, Boh & Hollie) for a long time. We've jammed with them and hung out with them quite a bit. So it should be a bit of a hoot actually.
And following the tour, what's the plan for Fat Freddy's?
The plan is definitely to get straight back into the studio when we come home and finish the last few vocal tracks and then mix the album. So yeah, that's the focus, to get stuck into that one.
And more shows in Europe?
That's right. We've also got the Byron Bay Blues Festival, so after that we'll come back and regroup before heading off to Europe. And hopefully to Japan for the first time too... fingers crossed. That would be pretty good if we could do that.
2013 Classic Hits Winery Tour - Fat Freddy's Drop, Anika Boh & Hollie and The Adults
February 2nd: Ascension Wine Estate, Matakana, North Auckland - SOLD OUT!
February 3rd: Marina Reserve, Tutukaka
February 5th: Brunton Road, Gisbourne
February 6th: Church Road, Napier (WAITANGI DAY)
February 8th: North Black Barn Vineyards, Havelock North - SOLD OUT!
February 9th: Alana Estate, Martinborough
February 10th: Tui Brewery, Mangatainoka
February 12th: Sentry Hill Estate, New Plymouth
February 16th: The Mud House Winery & Cafe, Waipara
February 17th: Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin
February 19th: Waitiri Creek, Gibbston
February 22nd: Neudorf Vineyards, Upper Moutere
February 23rd: Neudorf Vineyards, Upper Moutere - SOLD OUT!
February 24th: Villa Maria Winery, Blenheim
March 1st: Wharepai Domain, Tauranga
March 2nd: Villa Maria Winery, Auckland
March 3rd: Mystery Creek, Hamilton
Tickets can be purchased via the Winery Tour website and Ticketmaster. For the Gisborne, Blenheim & Gibbston shows, tickets can be purchased via the Winery Tour website, Ticketmaster and Ticket Direct. For the Dunedin show, tickets can be purchased via the Winery Tour website and Ticket Direct.