‘Fat Freddy’s Drop throws a fun party. Get into it’ Erik Thybony, San Francisco Critic, USA
Fat Freddy's Drop’s pirate soul train has seen them beat a resolutely independent path to the ears and feet of audiences around the globe for over a decade.
Formed in 1999 the Wellington seven-piece has never stuck to a script. Their sound draws inspiration from almost every part of the black music lexicon. Soul drenched vocals and jazz harmonies collide with tape delays and echo chambers, underpinned by a rhythm section as comfortable laying down a throbbing, techy soundscape as they are a swampy blues stomp.
It’s an approach that demands a lot of performer and listener. According to DJ Fitchie, MPC & producer, Fat Freddy's Drop is the product of both the band’s restless creativity, and New Zealand’s geographic isolation.
“One of the upsides of being far away from the action and not having to deal with the weight of a strong musical history is that we don’t feel we have to stick to one particular style or approach,” Fitchie said.
A string of legendary festival performances around the world set the scene for Freddy’s debut album, Based On A True Story. Released in 2005 to a storm of critical acclaim and public support it remains the highest selling independently released album in New Zealand’s music history (9 x Platinum) and garnered the band seven New Zealand Music Awards between 2005 and 2006.
Championed in the UK by BBC Radio’s influential left-field DJs Gilles Peterson and the late Charlie Gillett, and constantly evolving live performances led to invitations to play iconic festivals, such as Glastonbury, WOMAD and Barcelona’s super-hip SONAR Festival, and a string of sold out tours of the UK, Europe and Australia.
On the second studio album release, 2009’s Dr Boondigga & The Big BW, their songs took a natural path from the live stage to the studio and the band stretch themselves further musically by digging deeper into their grab bag of influences. There are stylistic nods to Memphis soul (the low slung soul of Boondigga), Detroit (album opener The Big BW) and even Africa jazz alongside the blues and dub that Freddys fans expect.
“It’s still jazz, soul and reggae with a bit of a modern take on it. I like that you can keep coming back to it to make sure you've discovered every layer. We’re better songwriters now too,” Fitchie said.
Dr Boondigga & The Big BW was the biggest selling local release of 2009, going Platinum in four days and picking up several NZ Music Awards. The nine track seventy minute long disc has again attracted critical international acclaim. Charlie Gillett named it one of his top seven albums for 2009 while Garth Trinidad, Radio KCRW, Los Angeles, hailed Fat Freddy’s Drop as ‘the bugged out love child of Isaac Hayes and Lee Scratch Perry.'
Celebrating the release, Fat Freddy’s Drop toured to Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam and London and in 2009 made their headline debut in North America, selling out all three shows in San Francisco, San Diego and The Roxy in LA.
The third album release in 2010 Live at Roundhouse captures the band at the second of two luminous nights at the converted rail roundhouse in London in 2008. The gig was the finale to a six-week European tour and the band, in their natural element and lost in the music in the best possible way, drop long extended jams that laid the foundation for the studio recording of Dr Boondigga & The Big BW.
No two Freddy’s shows are ever the same and given the band’s beginnings, it’s no surprise that live performance is really what excites and drives the band, with regular pilgrimages across the seven seas. The international respect means the band continues to sell out headline shows via word of mouth and garner spots at top festivals such as most recently playing the likes of Rock en Seine Festival in Paris and Bestival, Isle of Wight. The band kick off 2011 playing Good Vibrations Festival across Australia and with an invitation to Coachella the4 coolest summer festival in the U.S.
Fat Freddy’s Drop’s free-spirited approach to making and performing music spills over into all facets of the FFD operation. Their marketing campaigns are spread via word of mouth by feverish fans. They design, produce, and sell merchandise via fatfreddysdrop.com, the website where they also host an internet radio show and a direct FFD Dealer model enabling indie record stores worldwide to order exclusive product directly. In 2009 the band launched their second website, fatfreddysdrop.tv, an online TV channel.
The band release all their music on a range of vinyl, digital and CD formats through their artist operated label The Drop. Freddys albums are available across Europe, United States, Australia and New Zealand with distribution partners Rough Trade, !K7, Inertia and Rhythmethod.
“It has been very important being independent and guiding the direction of the band ourselves. We’ve been together for over a decade now and being independent has given the band a strong identity,” Toby Chang said.
FAT FREDDY’S DROP BAND MEMBERS
Fitchie aka MU/Chris Faiumu - MPC, Joe Dukie aka Dallas Tamaira - Vocals and lyrics, Dobie Blaze aka Iain Gordon - Keys & Synth, Jetlag Johnson aka Tehimana Kerr - Guitar, Tony Chang aka Toby Laing - Trumpet, Hopepa aka Joe Lindsay – Trombone & tuba, Chopper Reedz aka Scott Towers – Saxophone