Interview: Fat Freddy’s Drop are connected
Scott Towers (aka “Chopper Reedz”) of Fat Freddy’s Drop is having a normal, run-of-the-mill day with his kids in the January sun at Langs Beach, Auckland. Just being a dad. When he picks up the phone and I can hear the kids squealing with delight and simultaneously destroying one another in the background, I feel like I might as well have stepped on a baby bird, the guilt setting in.
Scott insists on us having a chat, consoling me with a “if I need to rush off into the water I’ll let you know.” Guilt aside, we get straight into it.
I admit to him that it’s refreshing to see that Fat Freddy’s Drop have been able to keep a big-band style flowing and still have a lot of momentum in a musical world where a lot is computer generated or manipulated. Scott is adamant that, rather than having a “style” of music, they have thought more so about “developing a natural collection of sounds that [they] like.”
On considering whether they’ve had to sacrifice anything musically or personally to continue to play and progress and build the momentum as a performing act, he rattles off the normal concerns that any band would have. “I guess… you’re playing on bigger stages, for more people. You start to sacrifice that intimacy and laid back, quiet moments, unfortunately… we’re finding that we’re having to fill whatever room with our sounds, our stage presence, our everything. And we’re getting better at doing that. We can not regain some of that intimacy and pull and peel things back – it’s back on the table again now.”
Scott mentions the confidence that performers get in the studio where “everything sounds so beautiful,” and admits that sometimes you can lose a bit of that on stage with all the noise in the room.
I ask him about the “confidence” that they’ve built that he mentioned, and how they’ve found performing around the world. “In all of that, you haven’t really lost your humble approach to the way you perform. People praise the fact that you’re humble on stage, but your main focus above all is your music and that’s quite refreshing,” I insist. “It’s just taken a long time and a lot of effort.” He laments. “Realising that New Zealand is a small place – even Australia is a small place. It soon became very apparent that we had to take our show over to Europe and I think that the humble approach that you talk of is very appealing to a lot of people over there. We’ve never really come on and been all ‘oh, aren’t we amazing’. We’ve just approached it as the stuff we love doing. We’re amazed that we get the response we do. It’s pretty special.”
Scott talks of the “connected moment” with the audience, whatever size it may be. He constantly reflects upon how lucky they’ve been. “Not many people from New Zealand get the chance to travel and tour the way we do.”
At that moment we’re interrupted by dad duties. “He’s just running towards a boat. What a twit.”
I bring up the iTunes Sessions. “That’s a big deal – you’re capturing a few of your old tunes and a couple of newer ones including the September release, Slings and Arrows. Do you find that it gives you that opportunity to get together and just jam and relive some of that older, original content?” For the band, Scott says, the scenario was a peculiar one. “We were in a studio that wasn’t our own. But we’d just come off the tour finishing in Tokyo and we were in good form. We’d just go in, plug everything in and have a jam and see what came of it.”
Scott says that everything stems from their jam sessions, of which a few have been filmed and are available to view on their YouTube channel. “It’s always a work in progress.”
I ask him about the Graphic Festival in 2012, where the guys got to perform alongside artist Otis Frizzell who painted as they played. He describes it as a “unique opportunity. We know Otis well. His work is so organised, and meticulous…. I remember pinching myself, saying ‘oh my gosh, we’re literally playing at the Opera House – this is insane!”
Scott compares their first release and performance venue – Live At The Matterhorn, with the Opera House: “I still try to marry those two images together in my brain. DJ Fitchie’s daughter came over for the show and thought ‘this one is for the scrapbook’… seeing dad play at the Sydney Opera House, an iconic building. It was a landmark moment for the band, so it’s pretty special that we’ll be back again this month.”
In terms of balancing time with family and being on tour, Scott says that they were really lucky. “We came up with this idea that we would lock off part of the year to be at home in New Zealand. We had to understand what we were capable of doing to deliver quality 2 1/2 hour shows.” With their tours normally lasting 4-5 weeks with around 20 shows, the guys get to come home and spend time both with their families and also to get back to the studio to produce new music, taking a lot of the pressure off. The “leap of faith” as Scott uses to describe their music producing is always “fun and progressive” and its result is well worth checking out later this month.
Fat Freddy’s Drop 2015 Australian Tour
Wednesday, 21st January 2015 – The Tivoli, Brisbane
Friday, 23rd January 2015 – Palais Theatre, Melbourne
Saturday, 24th January 2015 – Fremantle Arts Centre, Perth
Monday, 26th January 2015 – Opera House, Sydney
Interview by Ruth Hodge.