25 August 2011

Interview: Mu from Fat Freddy's Drop


It seems appropriate Fat Freddy's Drop will be performing at an iconic Auckland venue most recently used as an evangelical church.

Auckland's oldest surviving theatre, The Mercury, hasn't been home to a musical show since 1992, which was a large part of the attraction for the band when they began planning to play a few local gigs before heading to Europe for the seventh visit in as many years.

"We wanted to keep things fresh for us and our audience," says Mu, when discussing why they'd chosen The Mercury Theatre and Wellington's Front Room for these shows, rather than ramming a few thousand punters into bigger venues and banking some serious spending money. "The summer tours have been pitched at the younger end of our audience, so we thought this was a good way to appeal to the older demographic. It'll be much more intimate, classier, more comfortable, and you get the same Freddy's show with a mix of new and older material."

Did you say new material?! "Some new material and two older songs - 'Black Bird' and 'Afreak' - which we've just tracked and we're really happy with." So, new material, for a new album? "Yeah, there's new material and older stuff that's never been recorded being reworked. We're sifting through those to pick out ideas strong enough to make good songs."

While I pause to take in the good news, it seems Mu's just warming up. "We've found a great space, one of those classic old Welli warehouse spaces we all grew up in, going to awesome parties. We keep the PA set up there and just walk in and jam, so we've been writing some new material and jamming it loud to replicate a gig environment."

Anyone familiar with the Freddy's back story will know this is a huge departure from their set up at The Beach, Mu's home studio at Lyall Bay where they recorded both their albums, but Mu is resoundingly postive about the change. "It has injected new life and new energy into the band. It's cool to have our own space and it's exciting to go and jam there."

He laughs when I ask if he ever really thought Freddy's would make it to three albums. "It's been amazing to be involved. The personnel within the band is the main thing: whenever we hook up to tour, to record, to write new songs, it's still a lot of fun. We just love making music together."

I put it to Mu that, besides loving making music together, it must also be incredibly gratifying for the band to return to Europe year after year to bigger crowds and better venues - having made a conscious decision to do it all independently. "Definitely, very much so. It's been a lot of hard work, but being independent has been the right decision for us. I think it still is. In Europe there are different tiers of the industry, and when you operate at the level we're at, you can get over there, put on good shows and make enough money to bring some home."

This tour sees Freddy's in Norway for the first time, alongside their own dates in Poland and Belgium (where they'd previously only played festivals), plus Germany, France and the UK. "Berlin will be big. Brixton will be big," understates Mu (they're headlining Brixton Academy, expecting just shy of 5000 people). "We get well looked after in those places now."

He laughs again: "Though it's always about finding new ways to keep it fresh, there's still that spark when we get together, and it's still really enjoyable."


This interview was originally published in Groove Guide issue #368, 4-10 May 2011.

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