Katchafire have been touted as New Zealand's 'hardest touring band', and it's fair to say that the description has been pretty bang on. The band have played to sell-out crowds and some of the most respected stages in the world, as they continue to solidify their status as one of the country's strongest touring and respected reggae bands. For Katchafire's Australian fans, the band is coming back for a huge tour at the end of August and to tell me more, I chat with guitarist and lead vocalist Logan Bell.
Thanks for having a chat with me Logan – how is the tour of the States going?
Yes, I’m in Idaho! It’s going well; this is our third down day in a couple of weeks, so we’ve been touring quite hard.
‘Touring hard’ is kind of the band’s motto, if you had to have one! Katchafire seem to be everywhere!
It’s most bands’ nightmare! I’ve been told by a lot of other bands that we’re crazy, but you know, that’s just the way we do it!
The band has been dominating over in America this year – what has it felt like, being in your fourth album zone, and being able to sell out such iconic venues including the House of Blues?
The boys and I, we have to pinch ourselves sometimes, it’s a bit surreal. We’ll play the House of Blues gigs and you look at the billboard and there’s Ice Cube performing the night before us and then Bon Jovi the night after or something! We take it in our stride and it’s another goal we’ve reached and an adjustment of the next goal, you know?
Is it had to manage to stay so grounded and also to be constantly setting your sights higher?
We’ve all got great partners and families at home that keep our feet firmly on the ground! When we get home, we get told that we’re not in a hotel anymore and we have to do our own washing and our own dishes! We’re whipped into shape pretty smartly! We’re pretty ambitious and we’ve always wanted to take our music as far and as wide as possible and share it with the world, so there’s no better way to do it than going to visit these countries that we usually only get to see on YouTube.
I read that recently Katchafire performed in places like Brazil and then went on to play the Sierra Nevada Festival. Can you tell me what it was like to a) perform in parts of the world like Brazil, and then to perform alongside some heavyweights in the industry…
Oh look at you; you’ve done your research! [Laughs]
Oh yeah, that’s my job! I have! So what was it like performing alongside people like Jimmy Cliff?
Oh he was amazing, that Sierra Nevada Festival had one of the sickest line-ups all summer and for one of festivals that started a whole trend of Californian reggae festivals, it was just crazy. The culture at these festivals are awesome. Then sitting in Rio and then flying in these little eight-seater planes from one city to another to get back to a festival that holds 100,000 people in the city of Rio…we played at nine o’clock in the morning and there were still thousands of people there! Those were definitely two ends of the spectrum, in terms of touring, but there some really great people. That’s what keeps us going, is the fans.
A lot of people praise the Katchafire live shows because of the distinctly ‘NZ feel’ they have to them – how much of your own culture do you find tends to bleed into the live gigs when you’re performing over such a range of genres?
I think the culture and who we are as a people shines through a lot more if you meet us off the stage; definitely in the way we carry ourselves as Maori people in the world, that shines through when you meet the boys in person a lot more than when we’re onstage, in terms of who we are. Polynesians are usually the first and foremost at the front of our gigs and they’re very vocal in building atmosphere, that’s what I call it! Definitely that, coupled with Maori people in the room, missing home, kind of magnifies that vibe.
Now, a lot of Aussies are looking forward to Katchafire returning to play some shows here in August…
We’re noticing a lot more Australians at our gigs and it’s amazing. The ratio when we first started coming to Australia was a lot more New Zealanders and a lot of Polynesians; now, it’s a lot more Australians.
Yeah, the demographic seems to be getting broader.
Yeah and also, reggae music as a whole is getting stronger in Australia. It’s being slowly but surely being accepted into commercial radio.
I know fans can be expecting the hits you guys have produced over your career thus far, but can we also be expecting some new material?
The boys haven’t quite gotten there in terms of being able to play new stuff, but it is a month away, so you never know. We do a lot of rehearsing at our sound checks when we’re on the road, so we have been playing some new material at the rehearsals. With our show at the moment, we’ve kind of got our ‘best of’ from our four studio albums; over the last three or four years, we’ve been touring the world quite heavily and we’ve been changing our show up and refining it in terms of which songs fit best and which shows different countries are seeing. We’ve started making a show for the Australian tour and I’m hoping that it’s a show that not many people have people have seen before in Australia and we’ll be playing new songs that we wouldn’t normally play.
You’ll be over here touring for just on a month – will you guys be getting a break to spend some time at home any time soon?
Yeah, well we kind of do have a break but we’re still doing shows at home; we’ve got our first and only tour of 2012 in New Zealand in August and it’s only eight shows, so it’s not quite as hard. We get the weekdays off at home and then on the weekends we go and do the shows. After August, we come to Australia!
Awesome! Considering the amount of touring you do, are you the sort of musician who finds it stranger to be stagnant and off the road for long periods of time than to be on it?
Yeah, I start twiddling my thumbs after a couple of weeks without any shows!
I guess a lot of people would say that they can be more creative when they’re on the road…
You know, you’ve got that momentum – muso’s are on the road with you, the band’s there and you can bounce ideas off people. You’re used to spending long hours travelling and there’s a lot of down time on the road as well, it’s a natural thing to be doing that and everything sort of stems from the live stuff as well. The momentum, that’s where it comes from.
This is true. Well that’s pretty much all I had for today, like I say, a lot of people over here are looking forward to Katchafire coming back!
Oh mate, the boys are stoked and we always have good vibes. That’s why it’s called the ‘Irie’ tour, coming back to Australia and I’m looking forward to it man, I can’t wait. We’ll see you guys soon!
Best of luck for the rest of the States tour and we’ll see you soon.
Details of Katchafire's 'Irie' Australian tour can be found at http://www.katchafire.co.nz/gig-guide. They will be on tour from August 31st until the 23rd of September.