All the sixes

01:53, Dec 13 2012
SURPRISE SUCCESS: Dunedin band Six60, from left, back, Ji Fraser, Marlon Gerbes, Chris Mac, Matiu Walters and, in front, Eli Paewai.

Love 'em or hate 'em, there's no denying Six60 have had a pretty good year.

Their self-titled debut album went double platinum within 2 months of its release. Two No 1 singles off the album went double platinum and another two went platinum.

Then they took out six awards at the New Zealand Music Awards, including single of the year, best group, people's choice, highest selling New Zealand single, highest selling New Zealand album and airplay of the year.

And they've just got back from the US, where they sold out most of their nine shows.

Now Six60 are going hard out in the studio working on their next album and preparing for their summer concert tour, which takes in Oakura, Lower Hutt, Riwaka (Nelson), Coromandel, Mt Maunganui, Matakana, Opononi and Gisborne.

The Coromandel show is at Coroglen Tavern on January 2 (with special guest David Dallas) and there's also a show at Brewers in the Park, Mt Maunganui, on January 4.


Bass player Chris Mac said the New Zealand Music Awards show was a great chance to thank their team and they never expected to actually win anything.

"We just kind of went into it wanting to have a good night. We invited all our team along and bought them tickets because we just wanted to have a good night and celebrate, so the awards was a nice extra I guess."

He says it's been a year of surprises, culminating in the awards and sell out shows in Europe and the United States.

"We've just finished playing the US and did a quick stop in Berlin to play a show there, it was pretty successful. Once again we were pretty surprised. We seem to be surprised a lot these days - we should stop being surprised - but we were surprised that went so well, we had great crowds."

By the time the band hits the road for this year's almost obligatory summer tour, it may be the fans in for a surprise, as they've been busy in the studio working on their second album and Mac says they are "trying to put a few surprises in".

Summer tours have a "great vibe" about them, he says.

"We're able to just have heaps of fun, it's a party; that time of year no-one's taking it too seriously and we don't take ourselves too seriously so it's actually kind of perfect for us."

Playing at festivals gives the band the chance to meet other bands they may not get the chance to hang out with and - surprisingly - top of the list for Mac are rockers Shihad.

"We're actually doing a show with Shihad, which is like one of my dreams coming true. I certainly hold Shihad in very high regard in terms of their live shows. I'm certainly humbled to be going up next to them. I don't even want to play that night, I'm just stoked to see them. They are literally the greatest live band in the world."

Mac, who grew up in Australia, says he was not initially a huge fan.

"I kind of liked them, then I moved over here and I saw them in Invercargill of all places and I was just blown away and they are now one of my favourite bands because their live show is so infectious. They're a big inspiration for us, actually, as a band when it comes to live performances."

While some may be surprised with a band often pigeon-holed as a mainstream reggae act citing heavy rockers as their inspiration, Mac reckons Six60 can hold their own in the rock world and he uses another band, Washington's Bad Brains, as an example of a band which can switch between hardcore reggae and equally hardcore punk.

"Bad Brains are literally my favourite band," he says. "In fact I'm trying to find a new T-shirt cos I wore my one out and they're kind of hard to come by."

"People think we're kind of this chill band, then they see us live and see there's this whole kind of energy and attitude to this band they never knew was there. I think it's starting to become a thing where we can hold our own. Unless you've seen us live, you might think that's unusual. But I come from a rock background, I'm a punk guy, all I really listen to is punk rock and old kind of heavy stuff."

The differences between reggae and punk or metal are not that great, he says.

"That's one of our beefs. We don't really have a genre and I kind of don't subscribe to genre in the first place. I don't really understand how that becomes a thing where people like this kind of music and not that."

There seems no argument that the fans like the music and Mac says despite their apparent success they're not exactly rolling in money.

"People see the awards and think, wow, you guys must be making some money. Why? You think we melted down the awards or something?"

But, as the cliche goes, success breeds success.

"I think as a result of every little bit of moderate success, our appetite gets a little bigger. We played a few shows and got some crowds and then we thought, wow, we could play festivals, then we played festivals and thought we could be kind of headlining festivals; we put out an album and now we're thinking we should be headlining festivals all over the world so our appetite just keeps growing for what we can achieve and where we can take our music and take New Zealand, I guess."