Interview Conducted by John Baker
Photo/Video Credits: Guerin Williams
It was my first time at Slim’s, a well known venue in San Francisco, and the setting was perfect for reggae power-house from New Zealand, The Black Seeds. With plenty of dancefloor and an upstairs lounge section, the spot was lively but relaxed at the same time, with official and non-official smoke machines keeping the venue in a misty blue hue the entire night.
The 8-piece group opened the show with some of their classics from previous albums, getting the crowd moving and of course, awaiting the sounds of songs from the much anticipated upcoming release, Dust and Dirt. The band gave the crowd what they wanted in the form of the new track “Love Me Now”, a unique blend of smooth Gregory Isaacs style reggae with some punchy horn lines keeping things up beat. Next they hit the title track from the album, a hard driving roots song. The vocals from Barnaby Weir and Daniel Weetman, along with some help from tape echo delay, create hauntingly soaring melodies against the backdrop of a steady one drop from Jarney T Murphy and hypnotic bassline from Tim Jaray. Finally, the horn section, Jabin Ward on sax and Barrett Hocking on trumpet, add some horns reminiscent of the late Jamaican horn player Richard “Dirty Harry” Hall. The band also dropped their song “Pippy Pip” which they leaked as a single earlier this year, but the crowd really got excited for the new song “Wide Open”, which starts out with a slick guitar lick doubled by Nigel Patterson on the keys.
The Black Seeds left the crowd a sweaty, throbbing mess that demanded more of their brand of funky reggae. And they didn’t let anyone down, coming back to do a killer encore set of some of their hits, including Fire and One by One. After the encores, the band took the time to meet eager fans at the merch table, where they could pick up a copy of their latest album, Dust and Dirt, which wasn’t out yet in the states. You could really see that the band appreciated their fans by the huge smiles on their faces after what must have been an exhausting gig. I got a chance to catch up with Barnaby Weir, guitar player and lead vocalist for the group.
Hey Barnaby, thanks for taking the time to join us. So, Dust and Dirt has dropped in New Zealand today, but it drops in the US on Tuesday, what’s it like to have an album drop in different time zones?
Barnaby: It’s actually great this time around for us because it’s the first time that we’ve been able to release the same album in all the different territories in the same month. Before we were playing catch up all the time, releasing the album internationally almost a year after they’d been out in New Zealand. Our managers and labels have done a great job this time of getting the album released at relatively the same time.
What’s your next stop on your tour?
Barnaby: We’re gonna drive to Canada, to play Victoria actually, and then play Vancouver. We’ve only played there once before but there’s a good vibe for it. The [reggae] scene is starting to go off over here. We’re not strictly a reggae band, but you know we have to say we’re some sort of genre. The music has roots in funk, soul and blues, but reggae’s kind of the base.
How was the making of this album different than your others?
Barnaby: Well this was the first time that had our own studio space to do it in. Before we were using our friend, Lee Prebble’s studio, Surgery Studio’s in New Zealand. He had done our first four albums, and this time we just wanted to be able have some more time to do it ourselves over a long period of time, we love Lee and he helped us out with some of the mixing but we felt we needed the time and space to track it ourselves. You know, over that long time of tracking, instead of tracking everything in a month, you get that time to really go over the music and really get the sound we want. Mike Fab, who plays guitar for us but couldn’t make this tour, worked the mixing and engineering on this album.
What’s one of the most inspiring places you’ve played?
Barnaby: Most of the time our gigs go really well, there’s a great crowd here in San Fran that we’ve built up. But I feel like you remember places by the friends you make there, and I really like playing in London because I have some old mate’s there. Amsterdam since we’ve made some great friends there too. New York I’d like to see more of. Though one of our favorite little spots is called Opinoni in New Zealand, it’s a little beach town and it’s just a magical place to play, right by the ocean and the people are absolutely fantastic there.
What’s the music that keeps you going on tour?
Barnaby: Well the driver of the van chooses the music since they’re doing the hard yards, so today we listened to some old school American Blues, which was great. I could actually use some new tunes to listen too, I like to keep finding new stuff. The best part about being on tour is meeting new bands and hearing their music and being inspired by it. Though some staples I dig are some trippy rock stuff like Tamon Parlor, retro stuff like Phil Specter (which launched into a side conversation about the artist) and also I like to keep up with what certain producers are doing like Dre, NERD, and Timbaland.
What’s the writing process like in a large band like this?
Barnaby: We did have a couple of guests on some horns, but for the most part it was just all the guys we have on stage. It was a very DIY album, we’re very proud of that. Solid Ground was a bit clean sounding, but Dust and Dirt is a little crispy, has a little grit on it, you can hear it in the tape.
There’s no real rules in the writing process. A lot of times, people will bring stuff to the table and we’ll work on it, but sometimes it’s not always possible to get everyone together. Sometimes too I like writing alone and sometimes I would work on stuff with Mike Fab and then we’d bring it to everyone. But this album more than the others was a team effort. I think a lot of that was due to having the time with our own studio.
The album is called Dust and Dirt, what does it mean?
Barnaby: I can tell you what it means to me. It’s the name of the song that we thought was the best fit for the album title. We like keeping that connection of having a title track for an album. Daniel wrote that song and it’s kind of a personal philosophy, a relationship philosophy. For me, it means the Dust and Dirt of life, the nitty gritty, but that doesn’t have to be negative. It basically means keeping it real, it’s the dust and dirt of life, the realness of it all and getting a little personal, this is us take it or leave it. We gotta keep it real cause well in the end, we’re just a bunch of kiwi’s.
Thanks for taking the time to catch up with us, anything else you’d like you’re fans to know?
Barnaby: We’re just new here and we love our American fans. We’re grateful for the support and we just hope people come and check us out. I think we’re best live, even though I’m really stoked for the album. Also, we’re not strictly a reggae band, we respect the roots, but we bring a little bit of everything for people. We know our American fans will enjoy the shows and we love traveling over here!
Interview Conducted by John Baker
Photo Credit: Guerin Williams