Seven piece band Fat Freddy’s Drop are internationally regarded as one of the world’s finest live draws. Over the last four LPs the New Zealanders have navigated their way from the incubator of sunshine reggae through a colour-saturated field of soul psychedelia before swerving onto a desolate Detroit superhighway at night. It’s a sound that demands to be heard live, a potent mixture of jazz virtuosity and diaphragm-wrecking digital sonics.
These influences have not only been formed by the band’s individual predilections, but also experiences on the road: Fat Freddy’s appearance at Detroit’s Movement festival in 2006 was a watershed moment for the band, fuelled by hearing Derrick May’s, Atkin’s and Carl Craig’s stark futurism ricochet off the cold concrete of America’s broken dream. This stoked producer DJ Mu’s love of analog techno, balancing and fusing vocalist Dallas Tamaira’s adoration of soul and reggae with the band’s collective passion for Jazz, Rhythm & Blues, Rock, Disco, House, Post Punk and Balearic oddities.
For FFD this osmosis begins at the start of a composition. Groove after groove, horn line after horn line is laid down by the entire band in their Wellington-based studio BAYS and then edited by trumpeter Toby Laing, DJ Mu and Dallas Tamaira. It’s out of these epic live recordings that they sieve the gold that lies within.
Pre fourth release BAYS, their albums were formed almost entirely on the road; the songs slowly evolving live at festivals such as WOMAD UK, SONAR, Bestival, Lowlands, DEMF, Pukkelpop, Glastonbury, The Big Chill and Roskilde. Stand alone concerts also feature heavily, with sellout mayhem ensuing at 10,000 capacity Alexandra Palace and double hitters at Brixton Academy (LDN), Paradiso (Amsterdam), Vega (Copenhagen), The Coliseum (Lisbon), Henry Fonda Theatre (Los Angeles), Columbiahalle (Berlin), Sydney Opera House, and Le Zenith (Paris).
In the past if a song made it on to the record it was because it had been stress-tested beyond all endurance: at last count Fat Freddy’s Drop have played over 1000 shows in their career, clocking more than 500 appearances in Europe, around 40 Australian Tours and over 400 shows in their homeland.
Not many bands have been so strategic in their approach to their longterm career. Creating a blueprint with a global perspective, the band have consolidated their fanbases across Europe and the UK with high profile performances accompanied by slow burn albums that reveal more and more with every listen, priming the fan for the next live experience. It’s about the long game, a path that has come about by careful stylistic evolution, ever increasing production values and a live reputation that precedes their recorded material.
Fat Freddy’s Drop may have been around since the early Noughties, but they are truly the most modern of institutions. Independently controlled underground music that has sold in excess of three quarters of a million albums. Yet they are that rare thing: artists that don’t live or die on their last record’s sales. They are a clarion call of hope for the talented few looking for another way. Fat Freddy’s Drop show that it can, indeed, be done.
Written by Christopher Tubbs - BBC broadcaster, Monocle contributor, music blogger and musician.
FAT FREDDY’S DROP FACT SHEET
Fat Freddy’s Drop is:
DJ Fitchie aka Chris Faiumu – MPC, Producer
Joe Dukie aka Dallas Tamaira - Vocals
Chopper Reeds aka Scott Towers - Saxophone
Tony Chang aka Toby Laing – Trumpet
Dobie Blaze aka Iain Gordon – Keyboard
Hopepa aka Joe Lindsay - Trombone
Jetlag Johnson aka Tehimana Kerr – Guitar
MC Slave aka Mark Williams – MC, DJ & Videographer
Fat Freddy's Drop self-release on the band’s Artist Owned & Operated Label, The Drop.
Freddys is managed world-wide by Nicole Duckworth at The Drop.
NZ Distribution by long-time partners, Rhythmethod & DRM.
!K7 distributes in the UK, Europe & North America.
Kartel in London add extra muscle with label services.
Remote Control & Inertia look after Australia.
P-Vine releases the catalogue in Japan.
NZ - Brent Eccles Entertainment
Australia - Niche Productions
UK & Europe - Free Trade Agency
North America - Monterey International
RELEASES & NZ SALES HISTORY
Live at the Matterhorn E.P. (2001) – Platinum
Based on a True Story (2005) – 9 x Platinum
Dr. Boondigga & The Big BW (2009) - 2 x Platinum
Live at Roundhouse (2010) - 5,469
Blackbird (2013) - 2 x Platinum
BAYS (2015) - 1 x Gold
And a stash of limited edition vinyl singles and remixes
Independently releasing music since 1999
International Achievement Award NZ Music Awards 2017
Sold in excess of 500,000 albums
Over 157.36M streams on Spotify
Over 1,000 shows worldwide
Largest head-line shows include 12,000 at Western Springs 2019, and sold out 10,000 capacity venues Zitadelle, Berlin 2018, Alexandra Palace, London 2017 and 2014, and Villa Maria, New Zealand 2017.
Largest festival appearances headlining Boardmasters, Cornwall and Rototom Sunsplash in 2018 and Boomtown Festival 2016.
BAYS Album Release Tour sold 250,000 tickets worldwide in 2015 -16
Won a total 13 NZ Music Awards
Most weeks in the NZ Album Charts by a NZ artist with Based On A True Story, spent 108 weeks consecutively in the Top 40
BAYS entered the Album Charts in NZ at #1, Australia at #8, Germany at #9, UK at #16 & France at #24
Blackbird received a Double Silver Impala Award to recognise reaching 40,000 sales in Europe
UK is the band's largest sales territory followed by Germany, NZ & Australia