Kuki Blaze of Fat Freddy’s Drop (New Zealand) talks about new LP Bays and dance floor affliction

An affinity for drawing on a lexicon of genres and a live show that packs a punch. That’s Fat Freddy’s Drop. Their unguarded structures enable their signature improvisation to teem, rife with their ever-familiar horns and the soulful croon of Joe Dukie.

The welcomed release of Bays will see the much adored Fat Freddy’s Drop endure the tour, once again resuming their wholly habitual state: live performance. Returning to the stage to embolden the reckless and subsequently grievous flailing of limbs, the seven-piece will set off on a huge national Australian tour in 2016. Submit to the movement, but for the love of god, take out health insurance first.

Ahead of the release, we chatted to Kuki Blaze (formerly and affectionately dubbed, Dobie Blaze) about diversifying their recording experience, dance floor blows and new toys.

Your new LP, Bays is set for release at the end of October, which is very exciting. Am I correct in saying that it was recorded at BAYS Studio?

Yeah, that’s correct!

Any correlation between the name or just a happy coincidence?

Yeah, definitely. It’s been a studio album. It’s directly linked to that aspect. Also, we’re all about bays, we live in the lower bay. It’s all about the bay and where we are here, our life.

Tell me about the making of this album. How was it getting back in the studio after the release of Blackbird in 2013?

It’s good! It’s our process to just record an album, release it, go touring and at the end of that period we decide to do another album and that process starts again. We collect up a few song ideas that have been sitting there, brewing over the years. We have some jams, figure out which ones work and then start developing ideas and turning them into something else. Quite often, in the past, from that point, we’ve gone out on the road with the tunes and we’ve done a lot of finalising. Which ideas we’re gonna stick with and which ones we’re gonna piff. We kind of figure that out [in a] live [setting] or we have done a lot of that live in the past, but for this album we were in the studio for the whole process. So that’s sort of the point of difference on this album. We’ve actually written it in the studio and now we have to figure out how to do it live, so that’s a slightly different process. But that’s exciting from my perspective because I’m using a little bit of different technology, which I haven’t used in the past. Trying to make that all work!

So it’s a bit of a reverse cycle for you? In the past you would have done more of a live and translated to a studio setting and now you’ve done it the other way round?

Yeah, that’s right, that’s right. It’s not a total departure from how we do things. It’s still based around being in the studio, live jamming. We come up with the core ideas in our initial recordings and then we refer back to maybe four or five jams in particular. A particular beat, a particular idea. Then, sort of pick out the bits that work and try and stick it all together (laughs).

Do you find that your musical direction has changed with this latest offering?

For me, I was looking for new ideas and new stuff to play with myself. I wanted to make some new sounds. I happened upon a couple of new bits of equipment, which have made quite a new batch of sounds for me to be able to use. Some new toys! That’s quite heavy on the album that particular analogue step sequencing. It’s made it a bit more electronic, I suppose, on a few of the tracks.

New toys are always fun.

I love new toys.

As far as collaborating goes, do you find that being a group of seven lends options? What’s the process like for all of you?

Yeah, definitely. That’s the great thing about having a big group. I love it. Quite often we’ll break off into smaller sub groups and two people or three people will work on a tune. Makes less mess. Makes different work groups (laughs), but then at the end we all come back together. It’s always good to have the different sets of inspiration. You can hear that on the tracks, when one person has had more to do with a particular song.

Someone brings it to the table then you all add to it together?

Totally, that’s right. They may even finish off the idea. When you listen through the album, you can hear everyone quite clearly. You can hear the inspiration. You can hear their buzz, their vibe. It’s not just one sound, you know? That’s what I like.

Your live show’s seem to be a very important aspect of what you do, what are the most essential factors for Fat Freddy’s live shows?

Just doing a really good show. That’s it. Delivering. I mean for me personally, it’s making people dance. That’s the thing I love the most. If I can be connected personally to a particular part of the instrumentation that I know is immediately translating into dancing, that’s what really gives me a buzz. I love that. If I feel that I’ve got any sort of control over how people crescendo and where they go with that… it sounds a bit weird… control over people (laughs)! I mean, it just makes me kind high. I’m feeling that myself and I’m just hoping that they’re feeling the same. When people respond in a positive way with their voices, adulation and their clapping, you know that it’s worked. I love that climactic dancing and for different people, it’s a different buzz. For our audience, different parts of the music, when we’re playing live, give them that same feeling of euphoria. That elevated high. It’s better than any other feeling in the world.

The first time I think I saw you guys would have been at Splendour In The Grass a couple of years ago. I was actually dancing so hard that I accidentally punched my brother in the in the face.

(Laughs)

I was having a great time!

(Laughs) Awesome (laughs)! I was going nuts one night, I was going so hard. Actually, I was injured. This is really weird. I’d been bitten by a fish quite badly (laughs). The fish bit through my arm, not right through, it didn’t bite my arm off or anything, but it bit through the tendons in my fingers and I had two lots of sutures to get this corrected. Anyway, the tour was only about three weeks after my surgery and I couldn’t use my left hand so I was using just my right hand.

Oh wow, that’s super impressive!

I was playing keyboard and Joe, you know Joe? Trombone player? You know what he’s like as a dancer?

I do, I do. I love Hopeppa’s signature booty shake.

(Laughs) He worked up into a frenzy, into this phenomenal storm of dancing, this wall of man (laughs). Anyway, I was playing something that he was really, really getting into so much. He was going so hard that he ripped his tendon, his calf muscle tendon, he tore it to shreds! He fell over on the stage. I know that’s a bad result, but that’s what I’m going for (laughs). I want people to injure themselves (laughs).

You know you’ve made a connection when there’s dance injury involved (laughs).

Yeah, that’s right, you’ve succeeded (laughs). Pretty bad ey? Funny story though.

Well you definitely, definitely connected with me, and my brother also up until the point I punched him in the face (laughs). Over all these years of touring and boogying, it’s probably safe to say you guys have life on the road pretty down pat. Do you have a moment that stands out over the years from being on tour?

I actually don’t have a single moment where I think back to. There’s so many different and enjoyable things. I find touring really hard. Just because physically it’s really hard work, you know, day to day, travelling, staying in hotels, lopng bus trips, getting to venues, waiting. So much waiting around. So, that’s a little bit taxing. You’re always in each others pockets. That’s also a challenge, keeping the relationship amicable, that can be a challenge with any group when you’re stuck together, tired, hung over half the time (laughs). Always, on every night, every tour, there’s always fantastic gigs and people. Just the pleasure and enjoyment that the band is able to give people is just a constant affirmation of success really. But I mean, those momentous things, we played Ally Pally last year and walking into that venue. I can always remember walking into a venue when it’s empty in the afternoon and you get an impression of the venue, your stage is set up, the techs have all got it going, the lights are going, the sound and the rooms empty. I can always remember those moments. Walking into Ally Pally, there was a lot of anticipation, the biggest gig that we’d ever done. Those are the things that stand out.

The quiet before the craziness.

Yeah, yeah, you’re sort of awe struck by the venue sometimes. You know, you walk into this gigantic room and you know come evening, it’s going to be full of people. Lining up to listen to your music. I can always remember that. You’re going through the motions. I remember the food quite often too (laughs).

(Laughs) Thanks for taking the time to chat today, look forward to seeing you bust a move when you come out next year!

Thanks Lauren, looking forward to it.

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Bays is released today, Friday 23 October 2015, out in Australia via The Drop / Remote Control Records. The group are embarking on a tour next year to celebrate – check out the dates below:

Saturday 13 February @ Red Hill Auditorium, Perth WA
w/ Hiatus Kaiyote + Thomas Oliver

Sunday 14 February @ Dunsborough – Clancy’s Fish Pub WA
w/ Thomas Oliver

Wednesday 17th February @ Thebarton Theatre, Adelaide, SA
w/ Thomas Oliver

Friday 19th February @ The Forum Melbourne, VIC
w/ Thomas Oliver

Saturday 20th February @ The Forum Melbourne, VIC
w/ Thomas Oliver

Wednesday 24th February @ Odeon Theatre, Hobart, TAS
w/ Thomas Oliver

Friday 26th February @ Horden Pavillion, Sydney, NSW
w/ Hiatus Kaiyote + Thomas Oliver

Saturday 27th February @ The Tivoli, Brisbane, QLD
w/ Thomas Oliver

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