By Poppy Tohill
Hours after announcing an upcoming tour throughout New Zealand in August, I had the absolute pleasure of catching up with the wonderfully talented Ladi6 over the phone for a super fun chat about all things touring,‘Automatic' and the numerous handy purposes of sunglasses.
Hey! How are you? This must be a pretty exciting morning for you getting to announce a bunch of shows back home here...
Hey, I'm good thanks. Yeah, It's been awesome. I love it! It's very exciting. Then it will sort of ease off and come time that I actually have to do all this stuff and then I'll be really shitty and that's pretty much how it goes (laughs).
It's been a while now since you've headlined your own tour throughout NZ, but you have played a ton of the summer festivals. Which do you enjoy more, the festival vibe or your own shows?
I actually enjoy my own shows more. I love getting together the artwork and concept and then putting it all together. I think it's a lot more stressful putting on your own tour, especially financially, but I actually think that after its all set and done I really feel more satisfaction out of putting on my own tour and running the whole thing. I think festivals are enjoyable for the day but they don't provide me with the satisfaction that I actually sort of did something tangible. With your own shows it's really awesome and heartwarming when people turn up too, because it makes me feel really good. I'm the constant cynic so I'm the one that doesn't believe that people are actually going to show up until everyone is there and the place is sold out. Right up until I'm going on stage I'm like "ahh this is going to be terrible," but it's exciting feeling like that, doing this whole roller coast weird ride that I constantly punish myself with, somehow its satisfying and awesome.
What's been your favourite festival in NZ that you've ever performed at?
That's a hard one actually, but my favourite festival that I've performed at would probably have to be Northern Bass over new years last year. That was really awesome. I mean I'm old, so I kind of like festivals to be sort of chilled with not too many rowdy drunk people around. I love big open spaces and that kind of thing where there is more room to picnic and eat and listen to good music. Lots of access to good food too is kind of what I look for in a good festival as well as of course the line up and Northern Bass was kind of one of those festivals last year.
This year saw you tour Brazil for the very first time too, how was that?
It was really awesome. I was there for a really short amount of time (about a week and a half), because I went to Thailand after that so I felt like I didn't get as much of the sort of day to day living, cultural vibe that the boys got because they were there for much longer, probably about three weeks. The gigs themselves though were so amazing and dope. Favela where we played our first gig is like the Brazilian slums up on the hill. It was an outdoor event overlooking the water and all these incredible Brazilian people came out to our show. Even though technically the sound was terrible and the party didn't actually kick off until 3 in the morning which is totally fricken unheard of for kiwis. So we got there at 10pm, and had to wait for like five hours until the show actually kicked off which was kind of irritating and frustrating at the time but it ended up being this crazy and incredible party, so yeah they just do things differently there, It's cool. They're having dinner at 10pm yah know, that's how they roll. It's really one of those places that never stops partying. They've got this area in Rio, which is like a suburb of what would be like (I don't know where our nightclubbing area in Auckland would be) but in Christchurch it was a place called the strip before the earthquake, so it was kind of like a suburb of the strip, which actually sounds awful to me at the moment (laughs) but I'm sure it parties like 24/7 there.
Is there any one memory that stands out from that tour which you remember fondly?
Yeah the one main thing - It's not like a memory, it's more like what I took from this whole experience was the incredible blending of both tropical island and big city. I'd never really seen that before. That was the first time that I really felt like a country had done it completely right. It's this mixture of lush jungle and tropical bush and coconut trees and all of those amazing things that come with being on a tropical island. You've got mangos, pau pau and all these beautiful fruits and that weather and this greenery, then you turn around and its full skyscrapers and high rises. I kind of came away with that as it was sort of the feeling that stayed with me after leaving there. I felt like Rio did it the right way when it comes to blending that big city life and being on a tropical island vibe.
You're also heading off to tour the states for the first time soon too...
Yeah, that's really nerve-wracking for me. I'm a bit scared about that. I've been to the States once for five days but that's nothing. I don't know if I'm looking forward to performing over there, I don't know how I'm feeling about it. I'm very anxious about that whole thing.
Aww, I'm sure you will be fine! With the amount of touring that you do, what would you say are your three must have items to takewith you whenever you go on tour?
Aw, thanks. Yeah I'm sure I'll me fine! Hmm, three must haves for me.. well number one would definitely be good food. Like either I pre-pack some good food and bring it with me or we know of places we're going to stop for good food. It's always important, because hey we're humans- we need food. But also for me, like lots of people say, ‘oh a musicians life is eating pies from the mobile all the time' and while there is some of that. Certainly as I tour more I realise that it's actually important to eat well because if you end up going on stage at 12, but you got up at 7 to check out of the hotel or you've travelled all day to get to the gig to soundcheck or actually perform, it's just a nuts kind of life and if you don't take care of yourself, it sucks! Like emotionally you're not having it. Like don't even worry about physically you're fucking yourself in the ass, but emotionally its just like you're a horrible person and you can't cope with the whole deal of touring, yah know. So for me that's like absolutely number one.
Second I think is entertainment. So either having an ipod or just something to separate yourself with while you're in the car. Yeah you're in the car with all these other people but you can pop these in your ear or open up your computer or a book. I often take a book with me cause I read a lot. Just to have that private space within this really small space, to get away from it all for a bit.
Third for me is probably sunglasses or something really simple like that. Because you can sort of sleep behind them and pretend you're awake in places that it's not okay or maybe not polite to be fast asleep, so at least you can look awake (laughs). They're also good for shielding yourself from the daylight if you come out of your show and you've partied too hard afterwards and you're realising it is now daylight (laughs). They just serve so many purposes. On stage when I get so shy I can't look people in the eye, I just put on my shades. People are like ‘oh you look pretentious, it's crazy, take the glasses off,' but I'm like ‘no I need them because it's separating me from you and you from seeing me and my real expressions which are all in my eyes.'
Do you actually get shy when you are up on stage?
Oh sometimes, like unbearably shy. It can kill me, seriously. So often I take glasses on stage with me, just incase I get that feeling and then if I do I pop them on. I feel like its almost a glass wall between me and you guys out there so I can just be more free I suppose and not worry that I feel like everybody's judging me, I'm really shy right now, I just hit a bung note and I'm worried everyone thinks I suck.
(After reassuring Ladi I've never thought she sucked, the interview continued.)
Considering how much you tour, do you ever go through times when you just want to be home with your family?
Yes, yes, yes and the last time I felt like that I just stopped pretty much everything for two years. I kept summer touring and doing the little odd shows here and there but I didn't do any international touring. Because I just think I didn't have that whole balance thing between food and alcohol sorted out and I was just rinsing myself too hard and I've got a kid so it was just insane to do that. Plus as well that whole being away from home for too long and feeling like you're kind of alone. Even though we've lived in Berlin a couple of times, we toured most of the time so literally didn't make many friends there because we were never around to kind of grow a friendship with anybody. So yeah, it got kind of lonely sometimes and I got over that. But I'm from a massive family and I've got loads of mates and that's the kind of environment I grew up in and that's what im used, so all of a sudden being the only girl in a band rocking around the world, yeah I do get like that sometimes. But this tourI'm looking forward to.
Have you ever taken your son on tour with you?
Yeah loads of times. I mean he's ten so he's toured his whole life with us. He doesn't really like coming to the gigs that much though. He's like "well is there anything for kids to do?'" and I'm like no and then he says "well is there going to be any other kids there?" and you're like "well maybe a couple but probably not." So then he just says "yeah nah I don't want to go," (laughs). So while he comes with us, he usually doesn't generally come to the shows or anything even if they are in the day or are festivals. He's got his own specific interests like science and magic (laughs) and he just enjoys doing his own thing. He's not consciously into music but he's always been able to hold a tune since he was a baby. You'd sing him something and he'd be able to repeat it back to you like a little parrot or something, it was really bizarre. So he's always been able to sing but he's never really been interested in music. I kind of think he's always thought ‘that's your guys thing' because both me and his dad are musicians, so he's kind of been surrounded by music competently, so he's just like "nah, you do that, and I'll do this."
Apart from those who saw you throughout the summer this is going to be the first time a lot of people have heard the new songs from your ‘Automatic' album. Without giving too much away, what can fans expect from your upcoming shows?
I don't know what everyone can expect yet really. I think we're going to make some new jams in Berlin too, and change up the set a little bit. But as always at a Ladi6 gig, our goal is to make people feel happy. To come out of there and feel like they had a good dance and a good party. I mean really we just go to bring a party, because I think that's why people buy a ticket. They don't buy a ticket to have a cry yah know, we're not that kind of band. So yeah, we'll just be putting together a show that sort of brings that energy. I'm not sure if it's going to all be from Automatic the album or a lot of old stuff, or even new shit perhaps, who knows..
Do you have a favourite song from the newest album that always makes it to your set list?
Shine On is a pretty major, but no actually- Ikarus is my favourite from Automatic. That's my all time favourite song that I think we've ever written.
Team Dynamite are going to be joining you for the NZ tour too, correct? What's it like to have them on board, have you ever worked with them before?
Yeeah! I've never worked with them before. Infact I don't even really know them that well. Parks is really good friends with Team Dynamite, so I dunno. We'll just see. I'm going to meet them I suppose and we'll be in the van together, but yeah. I'm looking forward to it.
Now enough talk about touring, what does Ladi6 have planned once all the touring is over?
After all the touring we've got this really interesting project that is boiling away on the stove with Red Bull, so that will be in September. I think it's a little bit too early to talk about that yet. But yeah, It's going to be a really interesting project that we're putting together that might involve some more travelling which will be exciting.
I saw the other day that a few songs from Automatic have been pressed on vinyl recently!? That's exciting...
Yeah, actually the entire record got pressed on 12 inch, and we also got the songs ‘Ready To Fly' and ‘Ikarus' pressed on 7 inch. We're full vinyl junkies in the Ladi6 crew so this is something that was at the top of the list of priorities of things we needed to do with this record. We put Liberation Of out on vinyl too, which was great, but the vinyl that we're doing this time is a little bit heavier and the quality is just that much better. We're working with this kiwi company called RPM and we're just so super excited that it's finally coming out. It's in production at the moment so we should see it on the shelves in about 8-9 weeks. Look out for a competition on my facebook page because I may give one away!
Talking about the album, it's received rave reviews throughout New Zealand and Australia, what's the reception been like towards itoverseas so far?
It's a weird record. I think it's a little bit weird for people because there's not really any massive commercial jams on it, like the last record with Like Water. We weren't trying to do that sound this time. So I think commercially it might be a little weird for people, but definitely the people that we admire in music, like the record and have supported it, so we're really happy.
You recorded the album partly over in the States in Detroit and partly here in New Zealand too, what was the decision behind that choice?
The decision was kind of based on the producer we were working with at the time, Waajeed. He lives and works in Detroit and wanted us there, to work in the studio that he likes working in. So we went and did that, but both times that we went we didn't finish the record within that time cause we were sort of writing the songs as we were going, so we ended up having to get a space here too. We went to this incredible space in Waiuku at this studio called Revolver, which was kind of awesome. It was like going to the heart of knitty gritty ubran Detroit where its really run down and you know city living at its hardest, to beautiful New Zealand, epic farm life in Waiuku, in the middle of the country. Like these two fully opposing environments, it's weird.
Did splitting the recording between the two different places make it harder at all?
I mean it wasn't harder, because we were writing at the time. But it definitely would have been easier if we kind of had all the songs written and we just went over there and knocked out the record in two weeks. It certainly put a strain on us financially having to fly over to Detroit twice in one year. But at the end of the day we produced this amazing record which we really truly feel like in the future to come we're still gonna be super proud of. So I mean who gives a shit you know (laughs).
Would you say the recording process was fairly different for ‘Automatic' compared to ‘Liberation Of'?
Completely. They're completely and utterly different. I mean Liberation was recorded in six weeks and we spent like a year on this record. Not a full year, but like a year of making it, over that span of time. Liberation Of was literally like six weeks of just hardcore writing. Also we worked with a completely different producer and we were recording with no gear, just in people's kitchens and lounges all over the fricken show. It was a real stressful period actually, trying to put out that record. But I mean, it was a great record and people liked it so that's cool.
I think you should probably have a holiday first, but can we expect another Ladi6 album sometime in future?
The funny thing is- that we are totally going to be working on some new shit when we are in Berlin and I mean that is at the absolute top of our wishlist of things that we actually want to come back to New Zealand with, so fingers crossed that we have a little something new over the summer period. That's how I would like it.
(To finish off the interview we played a round of quick fire where I gave Ladi two options and she had to pick her preferred one, which proved a lot of fun!)
Hat or beanie?
Ohh, I'd say hat. But I can rock a good beanie too though.. Sorry, this is supposed to be quick (laughs)
Wine or beer?
Nope, I don't do alcohol. Alcohol is a no no for me.
Okay then, Lemonade or water? (We both began laughing)
Is there really a choice here? You have to say lemonade cause you can't be the douche that just wants to drink water all the time (laughs)
Dog or cat?
Who are you currently listening to right now?
I'm like obsessed with Iggy Azalea right now!
To finish off, who is your fave NZ artist on the scene at the moment?
Ohhh, I don't know! Shit... (laughs).
Are you a fan of Lorde?
I am actually! I brought her EP when it came out. So yeah, okay. Let's go with Lorde then.
Ladi6 NZ Tour with special guests Team Dynamite
Friday 1 August - Papakura - Stampede Bar
Saturday 2 August - Mt Maunganui - Brewers
Thursday 7 August - New Plymouth - Mayfair
Friday 8 August - Wellington - Meow
Saturday 9 August - Riwaka - Riwaka Hotel
Wednesday 13 August - Wanaka - Mint Bar
Thursday 14 August - Queenstown - Base
Friday 15 August - Dunedin - Re Fuel
Saturday 16 August - Christchurch - The Bedford @ CPSA
Friday 22 August - Auckland - Powerstation
Saturday 23 August - Whangarei - The Ballroom
Friday 29 August - Gisborne - Shipwreck
Saturday 30 August - Napier - Sideline Bar
Tickets at www.eventticketing.co.nz, the venues and usual outlets