Seven-headed soul monster

WHILE there are few things more satisfying than seeing a favourite band live, one of the most enjoyable aspects of a music festival such as Bluesfest is ‘discovering’ a band that you previously had no knowledge of; a band that you see live and become an instant fan.

I suspect for many attendees of this year’s Bluesfest, Fat Freddy’s Drop will be that band.

The seven-piece outfit from Wellington, New Zealand, has been wowing audiences around the world with their raw energy and eclectic live performances for more than a decade.

To describe Fat Freddy’s Drop’s style is difficult, as the band has so many influences and incarnations. They have described themselves as “a seven-headed soul monster”, and that’s fairly apt. If you imagine a fusion of soul, funk, reggae, jazz and live techno you will start to get the idea.

Formed in the late 1990s as part of Wellington’s close-knit music scene, the group still maintains its original line-up of Dallas Tamaira (vocals), Toby Laing (trumpet), Warren Maxwell (saxophone), Joe Lindsay (trombone),Tehimana Kerr (electric guitar),Iain Gordon (keyboards) and DJ Mu (mix).

Toby Laing says each member of the band brings with them their own influences, tastes and ideas, which go into the melting pot and contribute to the band’s sound.

“Fat Freddy’s Drop is our main priority, but we all have other bands or acts that we are part of,” Laing says. “And I think that’s part of what makes the line-up work. We go off and do other things and Fat Freddy’s Drop stays fresh.”

Fat Freddy’s Drop is known for its live performances, which are essentially improvised jam sessions. Because of this improvisational style no two performances are the same.

Laing says that these performances are as much a product of the audience as they are of the band.

“We’ve travelled around the world performing live,” he says, “and obviously you pick up influences from everywhere you go, but we draw a lot of energy from the audience, and pay a lot of attention to the audience.

“That’s what makes a great live gig, I think, the audience’s energy combined with ours.”

The band’s live gigs are also the place where they finely tune each song before recording it.

Their first album, Live at the Matterhorn, released in 2001, was a 70-minute recording of their performance at the Matterhorn Club in Wellington.

Two studio albums followed – Based on a True Story, in 2006, and Dr Boondigga and the Big BW in 2009.

Based on a True Story was a bit of a different experience for us,” Laing said. “Because of our schedules we each recorded our parts at separate times.”

Kind of a strange occurrence for a band whose members draw on each other’s energy so much.

“Yeah, it was unusual, “ Laing says, “but for Dr Boondigga and the Big BW we all came together at the studio and recorded. You can feel the energy in the album.”

Laing says Bluesfest will be a highlight of 2010 for the band.

“We can’t wait,” he says. “Bluesfest audiences can expect an extremely excited Fat Freddy’s Drop.”

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