Dave Dobbyn in studio with Phoenix Foundation
Dave Dobbyn is animated but relaxed as he talks about what he does best - write songs.
It's mid morning and he's at his Grey Lynn home studio in Auckland with Samuel Flynn Scott and Luke Buda of the Phoenix Foundation. They're into the second day of working on material for Dobbyn's first solo album since 2008.
There's a mutual respect among this band of musical brothers despite the fact that Be Mine Tonight, Dobbyn's first hit as a frontman for Th' Dudes was released in 1978, a year before Polish-born Buda was born.
He approached them about coming on board, initially as producers, after falling in love with the sound of their 2010 album Buffalo, which went on to win Best Producer at the New Zealand Music Awards. The Phoenix Foundation more recently won over cricket fans when they released Big Mac (Run Rate), a tribute song to the Black Caps, two days before the Cricket World Cup final against Australia.
After a couple of preliminary sessions at their studio in Wellington, it evolved into more of a spontaneous creative collaboration.
"I've always loved their records," Dobbyn says. "I knew they were artisans all the way through and that really attracted me. I knew that if I fed them the right songs, I was prepared to throw them up in the air and see where they land. You've always got to do that with songs. Originally, it was 'help me write a song' and within minutes it became apparent to me that these guys were definitely the production team. I knew straight away that we would be going on some weird little trip."
The Phoenix Foundation released a new single, Mountains, on Thursday ahead of their sixth album Give Up Your Dreams, which is out in August.
"When Dave first came down to Wellington we had the studio set up for the Phoenix recording and he came in and went 'wow there's so much great gear in here'," Buda says with the hint of a playful grin. "I think that's why he might have wanted to work with us."
"It was fantastic timing," Scott chips in. "There were all of these fantastic toys that you can get beautiful sounds out of and meanwhile there's gunfire coming from the rifle range next door and he instantly loved it."
Everyone laughs at the memory.
"The great thing about Dave that people probably don't realise, is that he is so un-precious," Scott says. "There was a moment very early on when Dave asked me about a lyric he had written. I was a bit hesitant about critiquing the lyrics of someone who has been writing songs for nearly 40 years but Dave kept looking at me and it was obvious he wanted an honest opinion, so I took a deep breath and said "I think that line's a bit cheesy'. And Dave just went, 'oh, OK, you think I left that one at the back of the fridge too long'."
That was the ice-breaker – the moment they all knew they were already working together.
"Nothing is ever set in stone," Dobbyn says. "Songs are always bigger than that. I am really excited about what this record could turn into."
- Sunday Star Times