The return of The Fourmyula

Tonight, in Auckland and on Saturday in Lower Hutt you can see the return of The Fourmyula.

These two shows are in support of the new four-CD set, The Complete Fourmyula. This box-set collects all of the band's singles and albums, including the previously unreleased Turn Your Back on the Wind, an album recorded in the UK for Decca, then shelved.

It's an exciting album for fans - old and young. The music feels not entirely out of place with today's crop of psychedelic/folk-referencing acoustic troubadours. Admittedly, it carries the weight of its 40 years more obviously than something that sounds old but is new like, say, Midlake - but Turn Your Back on the Wind really is a remarkable album; as is Creation and Green B Holiday.

The difference is Turn Your Back is also exciting to the band hearing it again, ecstatic about the release.

I caught up with Fourmyula drummer Chris Parry, who admitted, "it was bizarre, really, hearing it again, because I played it with my son and it was just, um, bizarre", he stresses the word, aware he's repeating it. "I honestly couldn't remember it," pause for laughter and then, "definitely some black spots. But as we played through it, bits of it came back to me but other bits remain a mystery. And that has been kinda neat, rediscovering this album, hearing it again - but it's a first time in a way."

Parry says the "new album" will inform much of the band's reunion show sets. "We'll not do everything off Turn Your Back, some of the songs won't work live and obviously there are other songs to play but we'll work up versions of quite a bit off that album; a substantial amount I would say."

The Fourmyula are of course known as the band that sang Nature - a song that was written by Wayne Mason. A song that was named New Zealand's number one tune - one of a handful of alternative national anthems - and was re-recorded by The Mutton Birds.

Parry laughs at thoughts of being bored with having to play Nature, saying "well it's different for us because, sure, the song is known and we're very honoured by the acclaim the song has gone on to receive but it was never a case of us having to play it a lot - as happens with some bands and their big songs. In fact we have only played Nature twice together, once in 1999 at a party and then around 2004; it's different for Wayne, of course, who has sung it and continues to sing it at his shows over the years. But as a band, no, we are not sick of it. And yes, it'll be in the set."

The Fourmyula reunion shows are purely nostalgia; purely about "having some fun". Parry goes on to say that "the only ones feeling challenged by this - possibly - will be us, the bloody band". He laughs and goes on to explain that he does not play the drums very much these days - his other job keeps him busy (more on that later).

But, "the secret of playing drums", according to Parry, "is to be a timekeeper, it's essential to keep time and I think I can do that. That skill comes back fairly easily when I do pick up the sticks". He says, of the band rehearsing, that they'll "get there - and the main thing is we'll have a laugh and some fun and so will our audience, hopefully".

There are plans beyond the 4-CD set for Turn Your Back on the Wind to be released on vinyl.

And this weekend - starting tonight and then on Saturday - the band will run through "probably 28 to 30 songs" from across the albums and singles, "something for everyone", Parry reckons.

The main lineup of Mason (keyboards, guitar, vocals), Ali Richardson (bass, vocals), Carl Evensen (vocals), Martin Hope (guitars, vocals) and Parry (drums) will take the stage.

And the call was put out to the band's earliest lead singer - Frankie Stevens. Parry says, "we have asked Frankie and he hasn't said no completely. He did suggest that if he could he'd be in the audience but we'll wait and see - with the Upper Hutt show there is a possibility. We've, perhaps optimistically, sent through a couple of numbers for Frank to work on should he want to step up."

Stevens was, as Frank Stevenson, the band's first lead singer.

So the wee band from Upper Hutt, referred to once as New Zealand's Beatles, is back for a two-date dose of fun. And with the four disc set "filling all the gaps", as Parry puts it, The Fourmyula are likely to be introduced to some new fans and reintroduced to old homes.

There are still tickets available to the shows - and The Complete Fourmyula is available in stores now: four CDs with a 40-page booklet with a detailed band history written by Nick Bollinger.

So, will you be going to the gig? Or buying the CDs? Anyone have memories of seeing the band play back around the time of the photo shown here?

[Part two of this interview will be post separately, looking at Chris Parry's career outside of The Fourmyula]

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