Fat Freddy’s Drop
Fat Freddy's Drop
Photo Credit: Constant Formé-Bècherat
Fat Freddy's Drop
Fat Freddy’s Drop have carved a place for themselves in music lore; NZ’s highest-selling album by an independent artist (Based On A True Story), a slew of RIANZ Tuis for everything from Best Producer, Album of The Year, Best Artwork, Best Video to People’s Choice awards, a multitude of performances at internationally acclaimed festivals including SONAR, Bestival, WOMAD, Lowlands, DEMF, Pukkelpop, Glastonbury and Roskilde. Not to mention sold-out and legendary shows at venues such as Brixton Academy (LDN), Paradiso (Amsterdam), Vega (Copenhagen), The Coliseum (Lisbon), Henry Fonda Theatre (Los Angeles), Columbiahalle (Berlin) and Le Zenith (Paris).
The seven strong line-up pretty much remains the same; vocals, guitar, synths with assorted keys, 3 piece horn section as well as a guest MC. The music composition starts from a collective jam reflecting a mix of influences, soul, reggae and techno. You might sometimes detect a side order of country or epic dub. You might even get a whiff of blues, ska or Chicago house. Consequently, no two live Freddys gigs are ever the same as the jams switch to the stage and tracks are road-tested for recording in the studio.
The perennial soul shakers first emerged from the underground music scene of Wellington, New Zealand in 1999, jamming along to instrumental B-sides of funk, dub, house and hip-hop records dropped by DJ Mu (aka Fitchie) at parties and clubs around the capital. Fourteen years later and Freddys are still together, still doing things in their inimitable way and still getting better and better.
Writing, recording and performing is a full-time thing and the band have resolutely remained indepdendent with an unhurried approach. Freddy’s slow food technique has now developed over three long players; Based On A True Story (2005), Dr Boondigga & The Big BW (2009) and Blackbird (2013). The catalogue includes two live albums; Live At The Matterhorn (2001) and Live At Roundhouse (2010) as well as a smorgasbord of vinyl singles. With international demand for the band at an all-time high, Fat Freddy’s Drop have plated up a definitive selection of the flavours they’ve served international audiences thus far. With over 800 shows in their career-to-date, clocking up over 450 appearances in Europe, almost 30 Australian Tours and over 300 shows in their homeland.
Flight of the ‘Blackbird’
Tucked away in Wellington’s beach suburb of Lyall Bay, in the spacious surrounds of an unassuming studio known affectionately as Bays, Antipodean soul chefs Fat Freddy’s Drop slaved over a hot pot. The ingredients: disco, rootsy dub, blues, soul and electronic funk, rendered down to a master stock of rich, complex flavours that infused their third full-length release, Blackbird.
With so many cooks in the kitchen, Freddy’s needed a scullery big enough to accommodate the cornucopia of instrumentation and influences that Blackbird commits to tape. Bay’s generous dimensions offered the elbow room needed for the seven-strong collective to flex their musical muscle on herculean jam sessions, riffing on ideas to be sliced and diced by Freddy’s production master-chef, DJ Fitchie.
“We throw a lot of ingredients into the writing and recording process, and then spend the rest of the time pulling things out to make sure the tastiest pieces have room to breathe,” says Fitchie. “You’ve got to make your pick and put that ingredient centre-stage.”
“You listen to a song like ‘Bones’ – that’s our tribute to country music – but then there’s a little bit of old school hip hop in there too,” adds Freddy’s horn blower and beat archivist, Tony Chang. “The reggae bass lines on ‘Blackbird’ and ‘Russia’ underpin these crazy, ramshackle horns. A double-time techno tune might get pulled back to a half-time dub thing. There’s always room for unexpected things to happen.”
“Blackbird neatly sums up Freddy’s career and philosophy,” says FFD’s saxophonist Chopper Reedz. “It starts with heavy dub influences, moves into soul stuff in the middle, and then it gets into the electronic vibes at the backend. It’s a true document of our time at Bays and what we do live.”