Towers of power
Fat Freddy's Drop have got to be New Zealand's favourite band. And for years now, Hamilton has missed out on a visit from them when they take their annual trek around the summer hotspots.
"I think the last time the band played around Hamilton would have been out at Raglan at Soundsplash and that would have been nearly eight years ago - 2004, I think that was," saxophonist Scott Towers says.
Towers, a former head boy at Hillcrest High School, and his mates will be back in Hamilton in March for the Classic Hits Winery Tour, where they'll share the stage with The Adults and Anika, Boh and Hollie in one of the best lineups to grace a stage.
Towers says the show will be as much fun for the bands as it will be for the audience.
"We get to check out what they're doing and no doubt there'll be a few jams go down where they jump up with us and we jump up with them. I think it's inevitable that'll happen," he says.
"It's good for the audience too because it's a really varied lineup. There's a bit of everything in there and it's all quality so I'm looking forward to it. There should be something for everyone in there."
It will also give the musicians - many of them among the best in the country - the chance to catch up with each other.
"When you're touring over summer, you're usually on a particular schedule and all your musician mates are on a different schedule and you never see each other," Towers says.
"That's two or three months of the year when you don't see your mates because they're off doing tours themselves. This time we're all sailing in the same direction at the same time."
The winery tour will be something of a homecoming for Towers.
"I'm Hamilton born and bred. Grew up in Hillcrest. Hillcrest Normal, Berkley Intermediate, Hillcrest High. I don't get the chance to come home and play music much at all," he says.
"The last time was probably at the Hilly about 15 years ago. I'm excited, not least because I get to see my mum."
Towers was into music as a child, but it was at intermediate where he really grew into it.
"At Berkley [Intermediate] there was a teacher called Colin McMillan. He was a legendary child educator and did a good job getting kids interested in music. I got into saxophone at an early age, but at high school I drifted away a bit and got into sports and girls, as you do. But I broke my leg in football tournament and was in a cast for nine months so I couldn't chase the ball or the girls so I stayed at home playing the sax."
It was a good move.
Towers played with Hamilton band Johnny and the Phantoms before moving to Wellington to attend music school.
It was there he met other musicians, some of whom are also in Fat Freddy's.
"It was mainly the horn section there, that's where we met. It was just the right time. People went from the music school into bands like the Black Seeds, Trinity Roots, Fat Freddy's. The profile of the school broadened pretty quickly after that, but it was just timing really."
The band is recently back from Australia and Europe and Towers says it will be a good chance for Kiwi fans to hear material destined for their next album.
"A lot of it has been part of the shows in Europe for the past 12 months or so, so we finally get the chance to take it around the country, which is great. We don't often get chances to get to some of these places."
The new album will look both forwards and backwards, he says.
"We actually dig back a bit deeper into our collective past. The band actually came together on the basis of DJ Fitchie DJing and then getting people to come along and jam with him. That's really where this band started. Things have progressed and we've got better and better at songwriting. So we've kind of moved in that direction and we've improved our songwriting again I feel, but we've also gone back to some of that vibe."
Towers reckons it's almost like a Grace Jones' record. "Sly and Robbie produced those records. But also, she came with pop songs and singalong sort of songs so we've got a little bit of that going on, that feeling.
"The lyrics and what Joe Dukie does is really important to us. Yet, at the same time, we're happy to let sections roll through where they're just instrumental or just the groove or the horn section have a little feature, which means you can really explore a particular sound at any time.
"It's a Fat Freddy's record, but it has got a few fresh angles in there as well."
Towers says one of the biggest challenges being in a band such as Fat Freddy's is dealing with so many people at any one time and their respective families.
Travel, in particular, "is not cheap".
"But we're used to it. It's part of the game. We've all got families, so that's the biggest stress often. You're packing up to go on tour and the rest of your family wants to go on summer holidays. It is tricky."
"Everyone understands though, that's the lucky thing for us. We've all got families, we're family people and that's very important to us. So everything in balance really."
One of the bonuses of the winery tour was that they weren't late night gigs like they usually play.
"They start a bit earlier and finish a little earlier. I've got a 5-year-old son and it's difficult for him to see the band play because it's bedtime for him by the time we even start to think about playing. He'll be able to come along."
Fat Freddy's Drop play with The Adults and Anika, Boh and Hollie on the Classic Hits Winery Tour that comes to Hamilton on March 3.
We've got two copies of The Winery Tour 2007-2013 CD to give away, featuring Fat Freddy's Drop as well as Anika, Boh and Hollie, Brooke Fraser, Opshop and more. To enter the draw to win, email your contact details to: firstname.lastname@example.org with "Winery Tour CD" in the subject line by 9am, Monday.