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The Phoenix Foundation

Rhys, Kristen, Arj, Taika, Nigel, The Phoenix Foundation, Eugene, Demetri, Aziz and more.

by blondesnotbombs » Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:51 pm

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by emira » Wed Jan 30, 2013 4:42 pm

The Captain is so 80s! The album will sound so new and yet it's still the same good old TPF #love3#

So much good news #wah# April and then into May, it's all going to be awesome! #wah#

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It's gymnasts, Chris! That's what gymnasts do! #lol#
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by emira » Wed Jan 30, 2013 7:31 pm

Phoenix Foundation announce new album

Thursday, 31 January, 2013

The Phoenix Foundation are all set to release their new album Fandango via Universal on April 26 2013.

Fandango is the follow up to The Phoenix Foundation’s 2011 commercial and critical hit Buffalo, their first released domestically in Europe, and which preceded storming sets at Glastonbury and a killer spot on Later with Jools Holland.

Fandango, an expansive, ambitious and gloriously rich 78 minutes, was recorded at four studios over a 15-month period with two different drummers and un-countable different states of human existence. From opener ‘Black Mould’ (perhaps the first motorik inspired song about a mouldy bathroom) to the 18 minute closing behemoth ‘Friendly Society’ (almost certainly the only psychedelic epic named after the Quaker movement) Fandango is un-coy about its lofty ambitions in an age of digital disposability.

The album draws from the bands’ collective love of the rock music cannon but also from some of its forgotten by-waters. Check the soulful yacht rock of ‘Sideways Glance’, the end-of-the-party psych-folk of ‘Modern Rock’, and first single ‘The Captain’, a 3 minute ballad of melancholic melodic joy featuring the vocal talents of co-frontman Lukas Buda.

The band recorded Fandango partially at Neil Finns’ Roundhead studios, partially at a barn in the depths of the NZ countryside (in the middle of winter, fire blazing in the recording studio, cardigans on) but mostly at the bands’ own HQ, The Car Club in Wellington. The album was then mixed with the assistance of long term associate Lee Prebble at The Surgery and saw the band engaged in a feverish rage of vintage out-board fetishising in the cause of creating a new aural chimera.

Let’s leave the final word on Fandango to second frontman Samuel Flynn Scott:

"Damn the zeitgeist, I still rejoice in the pan-sexual opulence of a double gate-fold vinyl album. Honestly I'm thoroughly satisfied that we have made 80 minutes of tripped out pop oddities that pays absolutely no attention to the short form game of contemporary music. This is Test Match music, maybe it's prog or psyche-folk, whatever it is it's music that we thought about a lot, worked on a lot and care about in the minutia."

The Phoenix Foundation are lead vocalists/guitarists Samuel Flynn Scott and Lukas Buda, Conrad Wedde (guitars, keys), Tom Callwood (bass guitar, vocals), Chris O’Connor (drums) and Will Ricketts (percussion, keyboards).

Fandango tracklisting:

Disk 1

Black Mould

Modern Rock

The Captain

Thames Soup

Evolution Did

Inside Me Dead

Corale

Disk 2

Supernatural

Walls

Morning Riff

Sideways Glance

Friendly Society

THE PHOENIX FOUNDATION - FANDANGO - OUT APRIL 26TH.

voxy.co.nz
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by emira » Thu Jan 31, 2013 5:38 pm

Luke and Sam are talking to Hugh Sundea just after their show at Laneway. If I stayed up later when it was streamed, i.e. went to bed early morning, I would have seen this interview live online and known more before the official announcement. :P

Are you able to grab this video? I can't. #sadlove#
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by blondesnotbombs » Thu Jan 31, 2013 6:35 pm

I can't grab it either, but my video grabbing software is a mess in general.
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by emira » Thu Jan 31, 2013 7:12 pm

Ok, thanks for trying. #glomp#

I just got my salary, so the first thing I did was to pre-order the album together with the London ticket. #excited2#
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by emira » Wed Feb 27, 2013 5:09 pm

They've just added Brighton show on 13th May. I'm thinking of being double if not triple stuffed with TPF this May. #excited2#


From Memphis Industries newsletter,

More dates in the UK, Europe, and indeed the Rest of the World to be added, so keep 'em peeled.


I wonder if they're talking just about the Rest of the World album release? Because I don't dare to think they would be talking about TPF touring the US...
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by emira » Tue Mar 19, 2013 4:30 pm

Notes from a Small Country: A Conversation with the Phoenix Foundation.
March 8, 2013 · Interview by Matthew Shearn.

When you think of great New Zealand cultural exports the first things that come to mind are Split Enz, Peter Jackson, Crowded House (sort of) and Flight of the Concords. Now five albums into their career the Phoenix Foundation are look poised to join the list as over the last few years the band have began to attract attention outside NZ with their brand of progressive indie music. The last album Buffalo garnered praise from the UK music press and got them an appearance on Later… with Jools Holland.

Next month the band release their fifth album Fandango on Memphis Industries. The album sees the band push the boundaries of their sound to create an epic double album (in vinyl terms) that encompasses everything from psychedelic jams to reggae and folk rock. In this interview Luke Buda (keyboards/vocals) tells Figure 8 how all those jokes about New Zealand on Flight of the Concords are true and how the sessions for Fandango have been their most challenging yet.

Your new album Fandango is almost 80 minutes long, why did you decide to make such an epic album?

It just happened really, we’ve always toyed with the idea in the past, both Buffalo and its predecessor Happy Ending were going to be a double album at some point of their recording (with those two we made the right decision and opted for single albums).

The average song length on Fandango is something like 6 minutes, so a single album would’ve either been really long (which I personally am not into: Beatles albums were pretty much all 40 minutes and the Pixies even shorter) or not had very many songs on it. Also we couldn’t find a way to fit ‘Friendly Society’ onto a single album and it seemed like quite an important track and we really wanted to include it.

The thing is, we really tried to make the material we had work as a single album, we really tried to talk ourselves out of it but in the end this really did seem like the best way to present the stuff that we were working on at the time: mostly long/epic tracks and plenty of them. It was a lot of work to finish in the end, double shifts.

The album has given you a chance to creatively stretch out a bit, what sort of bands or genres have influenced you during the recording of Fandango?

Probably the stuff I was listening to the most last year was Lawrence Arabia, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Connan Mockasin (ha! all NZ bands, purely a coincidence). Lee Hazlewood, Radiohead “King of Limbs” (which I didn’t dig that much initially and then saw it live and thought it was awesome). Lots of Krauty action just like seemingly everyone else, Dr John “Gris Gris”, Goblin, Blah Blah Blah. All of us in the Phoenix Foundation listen to all kinds of music.

But we are also always influenced by all of the cliché great stuff, really like the Beatles, the Pixies, Velvet Underground, Beck, Radiohead, Air etc.

One of the ever present forces in the band is the gentle and loving battle between the songwriter oriented side and the more soundscape/composition side. The cool thing is none of us would make albums that sound like the Phoenix Foundation on our own. Sam and Con and Will and I all have solo albums to prove it too. So there is always someone who is listening to something inspiring and, umm, “sharing it with the group”.

What was the experience of recording Fandango like compared to your previous albums?

The hardest album, first of all, Conrad (who is a major contributor to the production and arrangement of our albums and definitely a sound explorer) moved to Dunedin (a 2 hour flight from Wellington), so that was a bit of a spanner in the works. Then half way through album recording our (now ex!) drummer Richie Singleton left the band to pursue a career in waste reduction/sustainability etc. During all of this Sam and I were pretty much stay at home dads, so we could only work when kids were at pre-school. So it took a long long time, you could say it took a la la la la long long le long long time (sorry). About 15 months from the first session to the completion, this meant that lots of tracks got left behind. Also, it meant that we kinda got to know the songs that are on the album very intimately. And we got bored of them routinely… this would usually set in motion a whole new round of work on a track, trying harder to make it better and have more shelf life. Which is quite a different experience from when you slam it all out in one sitting, so to speak.

How did you first get together?

Sam and Con and I had our first performance together in 4th form. Then we did some inter school band competitions in 6th and 7th and pretty much decided to keep rocking. What’s more we’re gonna keep rocking until we can’t rock any more. Nothing anyone says is gonna stop this rock.

Is there any good bands coming out of New Zealand these days?

Well the three I mentioned earlier are a pretty good example. Lawrence Arabia, Connan Mockasin and Unknown Mortal Orchestra (they may technically be from Portland but Rueben the singer/guitarist is a NZer), The Mint Chicks were really bloody good too.

You supported fellow New Zealanders Split Enz a few years back, how did that come together?

Small country, actually really small All the Flight of the Conchords jokes about NZ is true, really. There is no interesting story here just a promoter who suggested to the Finn Brothers that we support them on one of their tours years ago. Thus we met them, same promoter for the Split Enz tour and thus they invited us to support them.

End of story.

You did the music for two of Oscar nominated filmmaker Taika Waititi’s films, could you tell me how you ended up working with him?

Well the Phoenix Foundation had always talked about doing soundtrack work. I was working in a cinema and one fateful day I just so happened to have a burnt disc with a compilation of our most cinematic tunes to give to a dude at work who was making a short. BUT THEN! Taika walked in with a class from Film School. He had already had his Oscar nomination also we had mutual friends (small country) so I kinda knew he was working on a film so I gave it to him. Actually he saw me too and said “Hey I’d like to use some of your music in a film.” and I said “Why don’t you just let us compose (actually I probably said “make” but this is written down so I’ll make a tiny effort) a score! .Then I gave him the CD and it worked out just swell.

Is writing music for films something that you plan to do more of in the future?

If people want us to, shit yeah. It’s cool and interesting work and let’s not forget that you actually get paid in cash money, not imaginary.

You’re playing the UK soon; do you enjoy touring the UK?

Certainly, a nice Sunday Roast and a few hearty pints.

After the UK tour what plans do you have next?

Do some NZ and Aussie shows then hopefully back to Dear Old Blighty for some festivals, if they’ll have us.

Figure 8

Back in the UK twice! #excited2#
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by emira » Wed Mar 20, 2013 2:54 pm

Why music and cricket are natural batting partners

The Phoenix Foundation's frontman reckons their new album is 'Test match music'. So we told him to watch the second Test in Wellington and explain himself …


March 13 – Eve of New Zealand v England at the Basin Reserve, Wellington

Fate has conspired that I should be asked to write a blog about music and cricket and a few hours later find myself standing in my favourite record store (Slowboat) talking to former England swing master Derek Pringle. It's telling that I keep steering the conversation towards the current English team's tour of New Zealand, and Pringle would much rather be digging for knowledge on where he can find New Zealand post-punk singles in good condition. Pringle is a fine chap and he knows more about music than I know about cricket. I get the impression that he travels the world writing about cricket so that he can visit more record stores.

Are there any New Zealand post-punk classics about cricket? Any tunes by the Clean about the tenacity of Jeremy Coney? No, there are not. I can find numerous songs about cricket, even songs by my friends (Libra Accord have a jam about Andy Roberts!) but I'll admit that I'm drawing a long bow in the following music-cricket mash up. Let's just say that what follows is the inner ramblings of a New Zealand musician watching his side be outclassed (but survive) by our colonial pom-fathers.

March 14 – day one

Ah, the beautiful Basin Reserve, site of New Zealand's first ever victory over England (1978, Richard Hadlee took 6/26 on the last day). Brendon McCullum has called Alastair Cook the greatest Test batsman since Bradman. This ridiculous statement seems to have angered the other English batsmen who are destroying the New Zealand attack ("destroying" in that typical English fashion; slowly).

My favourite New Zealand songwriter James Milne – AKA Lawrence Arabia – is green with envy that I had a random lunch date with "Pring the Swing". James is an avid cricket fan – for one tour, his press release read "Snedden, Kuggelijn, Pringle, Latham, Sua, Harris, Germon, Chatfield … Names that will ring down the ages as titans of New Zealand cricket, warrior-poets of the green." OK then.

I'm not looking forward to tomorrow, England are well in front and they still have a wealth of batting talent to come. Maybe I don't like cricket after all. I think Pavement could sing so jauntily about cricket because they don't really have a team to follow. Following the Black Caps is sport-fan self-harm.

March 15 – day two

When I referred to the forthcoming Phoenix Foundation album as "Test match music", I was, of course, suggesting that it is ridiculously long but a highly rewarding experience for those who can spend some time with it. Today I'm not so sure a Test match is such a great analogy. I don't want the album to get smashed by the English (we did lose several hundred copies of our last album in a fire resulting from the London riots, so maybe it's still appropriate). I'm off to play a show in Marlborough today, we're watching the Test on the Picton Ferry. Seasick cric, it's a heck of a thing.

March 16 – day three

When New Zealand are doing well against England, I like to think: "Gee, I hope Mick Jagger is watching this and getting upset." Suck it up Mick, you may have written Waiting on a Friend, but for at least a few overs I'm beating you at life. Today though, Jagger is still winning. Stuart Broad looks more like a member of One Direction than the Stones but he is a bowling bastard. I am having fantasies that involve him accidentally ending up on the wing for England against the All Blacks. In this inter-sport dream, Broad is horrifically tackled by Ma'a Nonu and will never bowl again. Here's a thing; there are many great songs about cricket – the greatest being Roy Harper's epic When an Old Cricketer Leaves the Crease. But there are no good songs about rugby, and I doubt there ever will be.

March 17 – day four

The Basin has been sold out for the last two days, but I am keen to get in there this morning. Myself and Conrad Wedde, the Phoenix Foundation's guitar/keys whizz, used to jump the fence while skipping school (four of the band's six members met at Wellington High, a stone's throw from the Basin). I don't know if I'm quite up for jumping the fence in my 30s with a three-year-old boy on my shoulders so I pay the £20 and set up shop on the embankment with the common folk. I do feel at home here – this is the first time I've taken the boy and even though he doesn't care about the men in white standing around on the grass, he is enjoying the atmosphere. Lunch brings rain, rain is good. Between Kane Williamson and the rain, we should be able to achieve a glorious draw.

March 18 – day five

The drought has broken, there will be no cricket today. This weather is saving the Test for New Zealand but we still desperately need rain. It's been the most amazing summer ever, great for going to the beach, not so great for cows and sheep or the plants. In a way, it seems entirely appropriate that the drought should break during a Test match against England. We are soggy sister island nations. It's no coincidence that Love Will Tear Us Apart debuted at No 1 over here. We can embrace the bleak, we are a colony at the end of the earth and the dull inevitable plod of a rained out Test is, for today at least, a thing to be savoured.

The band is going to the UK in May, as are the Black Caps. Their audiences will be larger than ours, but I have a feeling ours will be friendlier. I might even make it to Lords on a day off, I wonder if I can jump the fence there?

One last word on cricket and music and how it has affected my life; one extraordinary evening, I went to see the Rolling Stones at the Wellington Stadium (the ODI and T20 venue). Somehow I ended up at the Stones' after party. While I briefly met a charming Ronnie Wood, and saw Keith trying to hide the fact that he was smoking a joint, I left without meeting Mick or Charlie. Apparently, they had gone to find a telly and watch some cricket. Good lads.

The Guardian
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by emira » Mon Apr 15, 2013 3:55 pm

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by emira » Tue May 07, 2013 1:22 pm

In less than a week I'm seeing my boys. #excited2# #excited# #excited2# #excited# #excited2# #excited# #excited2# #cloud9#
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by emira » Fri May 17, 2013 11:02 pm

The Phoenix Foundation - The Friendly Society
by Amanda Mills

The Phoenix Foundation’s previous album ‘Buffalo’, came after a series of solo albums from the various members. When NZM’s Amanda Mills talked to Luke Buda ahead of that early 2010 release he mentioned it had been shaping up as a double album until they’d culled 25 songs down to a more manageable ten. Returning to the market with their fifth LP, exactly three years on, the musically profuse Wellingtonians have this time given in to temptation, producing a double album they’ve called ‘Fandango’. This time round Amanda talked with Samuel Flynn Scott.

I last talked to The Phoenix Foundation in 2010, just before the release of their fourth album ‘Buffalo’, discussing with Luke Buda the band’s plans for the album release and promotion, the departure of their bassist and label changes. Fast forward three years and the band (now comprising originals Samuel Flynn Scott, Luke Buda and Conrad Wedde, long timers Will Ricketts and Tom Callwood, and drummer-come-lately Chris O’Connor) are in fine form, preparing for the release of fifth long-player ‘Fandango’. There have been changes this time around too, as co-lead singer Sam Scott, divulged to me.

‘Buffalo’ was a critical success both here (shortlisted for the Taite Music Prize), and internationally, building on the acclaim that their 2007 album ‘Happy Ending’ received. European touring, good reviews, and making the bill at Glastonbury led to the band being on The Jools Holland Show. The impact on the band’s profile was immediate, selling what Scott describes as ‘a lot’ of albums in the following weeks.
"It’s pretty obvious, the kind of impact playing on things that level has,” he opines. "It’s exactly how you want to be doing things in the music world.”

The Phoenix Foundation started working on ‘Fandango’ five days after returning from that valuable Jools Holland gig, realising it had been two years since ‘Buffalo’. The album was recorded at four studios and took 15 months to complete.
"We had three days at Roundhead… then we had lots of time back and forth at our own studio [Cable Car] in Wellington. Then, we recorded in a barn in the Wairarapa… there was an open fire and the whole band was staying on the property. That was a sort of lo-fi way to record… and then at the Surgery,” Scott recalls.
"It was fragmented, but I think there was a method to it all. The whole record makes sense because it was coming from the right place to begin with.”

Band changes occurred during the recording of ‘Fandango’ too, as they acquired a new drummer, Chris O’Connor. Long serving drummer Richie Singleton left the group to work on climate change projects, after earning an MA in Climate Studies.
"Basically, the opportunities were rolling in for him to branch out to his other passions… I have to say, it’s a pretty good reason to leave a band, to try and save the planet!” ventures Scott. Much to his disbelief the in-demand O’Connor was available.
"I don’t understand how we’ve ended up with him in the band – it’s just too good to be true,” he laughs.

The drumming duties on ‘Fandango’ are split between the departing Singleton, and the incoming O’Connor.
"It will be interesting to see if people can immediately tell which drummer is which on the album. I think there’s definitely good stuff from both of them.”

The title of the album is credited to Mike Fabulous.
"We were really struggling to come up with a name for the record,” Scott explains laughing. "We were having a chuckle about silly album titles… then he said, ‘Fandango’, and we all went ‘Ahhh… yes’.” Released here on Universal, ‘Fandango’ is a sprawling double album, at an expansive 78 minutes.
"It could have possibly fitted onto a CD if we did some funny digital jiggery pokery,” Scott admits, "but we really wanted it to be consumed as two records. I do see it as two records… one record that starts with Black Mould, the other with Supernatural. I don’t know if you should necessarily listen to it from the beginning to the end with no break, it might be unhealthy!”

The Phoenix Foundation found musical inspiration for ‘Fandango’ from a diverse range of ’70s artists, ranging from Can, German acts Amon Düül II and Harmonia to The Carpenters.
"There are elements of ’70s experimental composition music, which might be known as ‘prog rock’. It feels like a good time to be making stuff that stretches out a bit, and is genuinely psyched out and trippy.
"There’s a few things on the album that are pop songs, but I think the things that truly define this album are the spookier tracks.”
Scott also mentions another, closer, influence.
"There’s things on there that sound like Flying Nun – Supernatural has this Flying Nun-kind of vibe, and there’s an ’80s pop thing too.”

Scott and Buda collaborated on a lot of the lyrics. Themes are downbeat, with imagery about death and change prominent.
"I think the songs that we worked on together have a sort of strange melancholy. [Buda] brings up in a couple of songs… parties ending, people not dancing anymore… I think it might have something to do with where we’re at in our lives at the moment!”

There are a number of tracks on ‘Fandango’ that show how the band’s diverse influences and approaches have worked together. Opener Black Mould is in the Motorik style, featuring lyrics about a toxic problem in Scott’s home.
"It’s a rhyme-fest!” he laughs. "I wrote the lyrics because our house was really mouldy, and I started to get a bit paranoid about what the mould was doing to our bodies.”

The song sits easily alongside the ’70s alternative pop of Thames Soup and Sideways Glance, the psychedelic folk/fuzz of Corale, and the ’80s funk of Evolution Did. Amidst the experimental tracks on ‘Fandango’, lead single The Captain sounds like a glossy pop diversion. Scott agrees.
"I think it might be a red herring. I was probably more obsessed with the kick drum gating than I was with anything else on that song! I think there’s a couple of songs… that have this shiny, glossy pop shape, but the rest… it’s a much darker record than that.”

Final track, the experimental Friendly Society, will likely attract the most comment.
"It may not sound like anything on any of our records, but that song is very true to the sort of music that we aim to make,” says Scott emphatically. "In Friendly Society, we just fully went there into psychedelic [areas].”

Neil Finn and Lawrence Arabia feature on backing vocals and shakers, Scott admitting dryly that, "We’ve really under-utilised their skills!”
To support the album’s release, the group are first touring the UK and Europe extensively, then returning to tour NZ.
"We haven’t done many gigs in the last year. I think we’re probably going to make up for it now!”

After 15 years as a member of The Phoenix Foundation, I ask him if the band’s focus has changed.
"You sort of have these little goals, and then… the goalposts become a bit broader. At the same time, the hopes you have of what you’re trying to achieve musically [don’t] change that much, you still just want to make the best record you possibly can.”

There is one difference, though.
"Ultimately, we make Phoenix Foundation records now. I think maybe a few records ago, we were, ‘We’ve got to try something that’s like this, or try something out like that’. We’re not confused about what sort of music we make… you get to the point where you know you’re making the music that’s your own music.”

NZ Musician
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by emira » Fri May 17, 2013 11:23 pm

Test Match Music: The Phoenix Foundation Talk Cricket
Duncan Greive , May 16th, 2013 06:25

New Zealand's Phoenix Foundation are cricket fanatics and have described their latest album Fandango as 'test match music'. Duncan Greive accompanied them to a test match between New Zealand and England and found them waxing lyrical about cricket and music

The sky above is a fierce, brilliant blue, and the air lip-chappingly dry at Eden Park in Auckland on a Tuesday in late March – the fifth day of the final test between England and New Zealand. 10,000 or so cricket fans have skived off work to watch what was supposed to be a relatively early victory for the home side. Instead, England's hopes rise with each passing over. Just after lunch, Luke Buda and Samuel Flynn Scott, the leaders of Wellington's prog-indie quintet The Phoenix Foundation, arrive at the ground. From the pensive expressions they wear, it's clear they've been keeping abreast of the day's play. The New Zealand side's hopes have slowly curdled in the face of England number four Ian Bell's obstinacy.

We settle down in the park's South Stand, at a regulation third man when the bowler approaches, and Scott immediately cuts to the heart of the matter: "We really need another wicket at this point, I reckon." The singer and principal songwriter looks to the sky, but rather than welcoming the gorgeous late summer's day, he grimaces. "If it was cloudy today, this test would be over," he says. Humidity, Scott knows, is a swing bowler's best friend. "But it's so clear, hot, dry..."

In late April, Phoenix Foundation released their fifth studio album, Fandango. They described it, elegantly, as 'test match music' – meaning 'ridiculously long, but a highly rewarding experience for those who can spend some time with it', though other elements of test cricket apply too. It's obedient to mostly-abandoned rules, seemingly possessed of its own language and characterised by a bloody-minded commitment to the form as an end in itself. An album this ornate seems a little anachronistic in 2013, much like the genteel conventions – a tea break! – of test cricket. Fandango, then, appears made for true believers, rather than with any broader audience appeal in mind.

'Test match music'. It was a particularly astute observation, and one which immediately took root in the minds of the band's fans – and music writers. The Guardian sent Flynn Scott along to blog about this series' second test at the band's home ground, the venerable Basin Reserve, a picturesque ground inside a vast roundabout in central Wellington. And I invited the band along to watch what seemed certain to be an emphatic, celebrated victory by our hitherto crisis-stricken national side over this celebrated English team. The first four days had seen New Zealand building an unassailably dominant position, with a huge first innings lead eventually begetting an impossible target of 481 for the shell-shocked English. With a day to play England were 90/4, and on the ropes.

Nearly three hours into the following day, though, and things have turned around. The visitors are 188 for the loss of six wickets, with Bell crawling to an immaculate defensive half century from over 200 balls, while wicketkeeper Prior is charmingly upbeat, and has three boundaries in his run-a-ball 16. With nearly half the day's play gone, New Zealand still require four wickets for victory. Samuel Flynn Scott is absolutely right. We really, really need another wicket.

As tense as the situation is, though, there's no place any red-blooded New Zealand sports fan would rather be. The Phoenix Foundation, despite their impeccable artsy credentials – albums on Flying Nun, film soundtracks, beards – are bona fide sports fans. Rugby, New Zealand's national game, dominates, naturally, with Buda its most ardent fan. Flynn Scott has a theory about this. He reckons Buda's lack of exposure to the game's bastard realities makes him more susceptible to its poetry. "He doesn't know the drudgery, pain and stress when you're playing rugby every weekend," says Scott. "And constantly getting beaten up by people who are twice as big as you." Buda's brief career with the sport ended during a trial as an 11-year-old. "No one at an intermediate school rugby training's gonna say to you – 'you can't pass the ball forward'," he recalls, sadly. "And my parents wouldn't sign the permission slip."

Flynn Scott's cricketing prowess was limited by a slightly lazy eye, which he says "turns on and off every 10,000th of a second". Even in his pomp, though, he didn't terrify opposing batsmen. "I'm more of a gammy slow-medium bowler," says Scott. "More of a Chris Harris. But now I can't even bowl." Instead the band sport is now table tennis. "We've all got quite good at it," says Scott, with a trace of uncertainty.

What they have undeniably got better than quite good at is making albums. Since forming at Wellington High School – an institution which has produced a disproportionate amount of the capital's creative talent – in 1997, the band have grown the determinedly old-fashioned way. That means waiting two or three years between albums, putting out oddball solo records, and building an audience by playing live. Buda, in particular, resents having to apologise for what a decade ago would have been an entirely unremarkable approach to band life.

"Do you read that guy Bob Lefsetz? He's saying 'the album is dead'!," spits Buda, unprompted. "And I think 'no!' Because it's not dead to me." Lefsetz is an attorney and writer known for pouring petrol on the music industry's woes, and generally calling out its most sacred totems. Like, say the 'album', a hoary relic he recently called "an antiquated construct that fits the modern era not at all, but it sustains because it's the only way artists and labels have figured out how to make money."

To paraphrase Buda, that may be true, but it's not true for the Phoenix Foundation. Mostly because if making money is a big motivator for the band, they're not particularly good at it. Later in the afternoon, while lamenting commercial radio's disinterest in their music, Buda notes that he's "struggling to pay the rent". Flynn Scott's housing situation is no better. The opening song on Fandango, a wry synthesiser glide named 'Black Mould', candidly discusses that old rock & roll warhorse, stachybotrys – a toxic, asexually reproducing, filamentous fungus.

"'Black Mould' – it's so much about the New Zealand experience to have a really mouldy house that's making you sick," says Flynn Scott. "That's actually killing you. But, you know, no one wants to think about that."

The song wearily glories in the mundane anxieties common to the damp, depressed villa dwellers of New Zealand, but despite its very literal lyrics, 'Black Mould' is confusing listeners. Surely it's not actually about mould?

"I've had a few interviews where people have said 'what is it – is it a metaphor?'," says Flynn Scott. "And it's not a metaphor! It's just exactly what was going on in my house when I wrote it. We were just really stressed out by having this baby, and having a mouldy bathroom. Dehumidifiers going all the time. Nothing ever drying. It's raining outside. And you're like 'should I use the drier? Can I afford to use the drier?'"

"It's just reality, that song," he adds. "It's not pretend reality, like junkies, gangsters and guns." Notwithstanding that for certain portions of the world junkies, gangsters and guns are every bit as real as mould, he has a point. There is something endearing in the ordinariness of the song's subject matter, and the way the band find elevating beauty growing in the bathroom.

We're a long way from watery Wellington today, though. The sun beats down mercilessly on the tiring New Zealand bowlers, and the crowd who have come to watch them. The session has become almost comically bad for New Zealand. Multiple hard chances have resulted in no wickets from this generally sharp fielding team. The new ball's shine has gone, and with it our pace bowlers' potency. A short ball from the diminutive Neil Wagner catches Prior unawares. He fends it off with his glove, and the ball glances up to his helmet, bounces off the ground and into the stumps. The bails, astonishingly, remain intact.

In the stands, Flynn Scott is cursing like a sailor. When he calms down, he picks up Buda's lead about commercial radio's lack of interest in the band, and their correspondingly small cheques from APRA, the songwriting association which receives and distributes a percentage of radio revenues. Once again, Flynn Scott has a theory.

"I've never understood why governments don't just impose a 45% New Zealand music quota," he says. "Because it would just mean a huge amount of revenue staying in New Zealand. Radio stations say it will kill them, but why? Are people going to stop listening to the radio because of the music they play?"

His bandmate is not convinced. "I'm surprised by this rationale Sam," says Buda, amiably. "There just isn't enough music made in this country to sustain that."

As if to back up his point, the local crowd's response to the endless, glorious singing of the touring English fans known as the 'Barmy Army' has been a single rendition of our turgid national anthem 'God Defend New Zealand'. It was woeful.

After a quiet moment, suddenly Buda sits straight up.

"I do have to get out of the sun now, guys," he says forcefully. "I just had a bit of a 'whoa' moment."

Perhaps betraying their Wellingtonian inexperience with prolonged, profound sunshine, neither has worn a hat, and only Flynn Scott has sunglasses. Between the two of them, there is no sunscreen for all that pasty white skin. We decamp further up the terrace. Alongside the West Stand and back of square leg, we find shade and a breath of breeze.

Buda is immediately revived. Warming to his theme of what he sees as the barren wasteland that is commercial radio in New Zealand, he contrasts it with the musical culture of our on-field opponents. "You get the vibe that the British just care more about music. We played at Glastonbury – that place was a fucking hell hole – and people still flocked there. It smells like shit," he says, before his bandmate interrupts him.

"But a thousand people showed up to watch us in the mud! We were the first band on, you had to wade through mud, we were nowhere near the campground. We were pretty stoked that people actually showed up. But they do. You hear anything about a band being good and people just show up," Flynn Scott marvels.

"I think they believe in the awesomeness of going to see live music," says Buda, leaving unspoken the implication that New Zealanders, well, don't.

They can be a glum pair, at times. It's as if the process of putting out consistently acclaimed albums for consistently middling reward has worn them down. Made them a little bitter. None of it comes through on Fandango, which is big-hearted, richly textured, and generous to a fault. But in conversation the band often veer toward what's wrong with the world. It would be easy to mistake them for a pair of grumpy old men, carping on a sunny day. But maybe they were just hungry?

A while earlier they had dispatched their record company rep to a local café in search of food. When I complimented them on their specific and well-judged instructions – they hadn't been to Eden Park before, but knew the best local take-out food – Buda fixed me with a hard stare. "Can't you tell we know where to eat?" he says, patting his healthy belly. When the pies arrive they are devoured with great relish.

"This is an amazing pie," says Flynn Scott. "This pie's making me feel human again," says Buda. They're clearly pie experts. I ask where these pies sit in their pie rankings.

"Fridge pies would be pretty high up, actually. Pretty high up in the global pie... chart," laughs Buda.

"Good NZ pies are... you get some pretty bad pies around the world. Or no pies at all," says Scott.

"Can you imagine that!", says Buda, shaking his head.

On field things continue to slide out of reach. New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum has set typically aggressive fields, with five or six around the bat to Bruce Martin's not-quite-menacing off-spin. But despite frequent lusty appeals, Prior and Bell are steadfast. McCullum only became captain six months earlier after a tremendously ugly public demoting of his predecessor, Ross Taylor. It was as unpleasant an episode as we've experienced in recent New Zealand sport, and Taylor – a fan favourite – took his leave from the side. While he has now returned, he seems a shadow of his former self. I ask Flynn Scott if there have ever been attempts to depose him from his role as lead singer.

"Well, Luke's singing a lot more songs on the new album, so maybe that's what's happening," says Scott. "I think he's trying to take over."

The tea break looms. Prior manages to rein in the attacking instincts which have him near a half-century, and blocks out an over from part-time spinner Kane Williamson. With four wickets still in hand, this obstinate pair look to have saved the match for England. The deflation in the crowd, the baying Barmy Army – and our own disinterest – convey it all. Out of the blue, in the midst of the final over before tea, Neil Wagner tempts Bell into a push. Southee scoops the catch low at third slip, and the whole ground erupts. "Yeeeaarrrggh!" roars Flynn Scott, out of his seat, fist flailing. Game on.

We move back down, closer to the action, willing the 20 minute adjournment to speed by. Alongside us a elderly chap in the violent red and yellow shirt of the Marylebone Cricket Club overhears our conversation and inserts himself. He first points out the towering figure of former England quick Bob Willis on the edge of his seat a few metres away, then turns to music, regaling us with tales of seeing The Who with Stereophonics ("fantastic", apparently) in support. Buda and Flynn Scott gamely play along, discussing the joys of the recent Neil Young and Crazy Horse tour, until the old man heads back to the bar. The band have occasionally been accused within New Zealand of epitomising that dad-rocker tradition, of over-venerating the grand old men of Mojo magazine. If it were ever true, that sound has all-but vanished from Fandango.

The most prominent instrument here is warm multi-tracked synthesiser. They've leaned on the instrument in the past, but never with such immersion. While Buda has metal roots (sample early music discourse: "which Kirk Hammett solo had the coolest hammer on, hammer off finger tapping?"), it's he who has led the band deepest into this vast, astral sound-world. The breakthrough record was Air's compilation Premiers Symptômes, the constant soundtrack to stoned teenage journeys through the hills of Wellington in Buda's ancient Honda City.

While the rest of the band have more conventional upbringings, Buda is Polish, and his journey to New Zealand involves escape from behind the iron curtain at a young age. Flynn Scott tries to get him to talk up this avowedly glamourous episode, but Buda shrugs it off. He was too young to remember the life they left behind, and is happier talking about the importance of Dire Straits and Genesis records in his television-less household. On Fandango, you can really hear that sound, albeit leavened of those artists' occasional pomposity.

The players return to the field. Babyfaced bowler Stuart Broad comes to the crease. In his piece for The Guardian, Flynn Scott memorably fantasised about "him accidentally ending up on the wing for England against the All Blacks. In this inter-sport dream, Broad is horrifically tackled by Ma'a Nonu and will never bowl again."

Sadly, Broad can bat, and displays a hitherto undemonstrated capacity for stoic defense. Early on, Buda and Flynn Scott sense which way the wind is blowing and wonder how they can contribute to our team's flagging spirits. "Do you think it's time for some quite aggressive sledging?" wonders Flynn Scott, while Buda attempts a slow clap to accompany Trent Boult's lengthy run up. This clap is, I feel quite comfortable in saying, an unmitigated disaster, though one he tries on three occasions – each louder and lonelier than the last – as if to make certain beyond all doubt that no one will join in.

Before he can attempt a fourth, their record company minder arrives. It's time to head away to the next interview. In a little over a session, which should have seen wickets falling regularly and massed public triumph, nothing particularly happened, despite the toil and sweat of the New Zealand side. It's probably best not to view that as yet another sporting metaphor for the band's career.

The following night, the band play four songs to a tiny, packed room at an industry showcase. When I mentioned it as they were leaving Eden Park, Buda warned me "don't expect too much. It won't be any good."

He's wrong. The band jolts a jaded industry crowd from their indifference with big, searing melodies and a sharp reminder of the vitality that years of grind can imbue in a band. Afterwards Buda and I chat on the stairs, and he brushes off compliments as if they could only ever be phony. He is deeply cynical about everyone in this room, and has something mean to say about even the band's most passionate advocates within the local industry. It's unfamiliar, the candour and grouchiness. But bracing too. It's as if, sixteen years and five albums into his career, he's no longer particularly concerned with how he presents himself. The music he creates should say enough.

After they left the ground the previous day, another hour passed before Broad was finally chipped out by Williamson for an astonishing 77-ball duck. The sun-beaten crowd erupts. Two balls later Anderson goes, and suddenly England are nine down with three overs to play. To the crease strolls Monty Panesar, one of the least competent batsmen to ever represent England.

New Zealand try every trick in the book. They let a jab from Prior trickle across the boundary to get an over at Panesar, who looks utterly petrified. He somehow fudges a run, and scrambles a ghastly single. Every ball from then on in carries terrific weight, as five days of cricket bear down on the last pair in the fading light. It is electrifying – a potent reminder of the tension and high drama that can only come from this most expansive form of the game.

And it ends in a draw. Walking from the ground, though, the mood is one of elation just to have borne witness. And while the band weren't there until the end, they might have liked the symmetry. Test match cricket is the gatefold vinyl of global sport, a form for the true believers when the sport's eyes and attention has headed to T20 and the IPL. The Phoenix Foundation's new double LP arrives as a cup-of-tea-and-a-joint experience during an iPhone era, when some commentators are screaming that the form itself is dead. Fandango hopes to do for the album what this afternoon's magical final overs did for test cricket. That is, to none-too-politely suggest that there's some life in the old dog yet.

The Quietus
emira
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by emira » Fri May 17, 2013 11:59 pm

It takes two

Only a double album can do the Phoenix Foundation justice.

By Nick Bollinger
16th May, 2013

Attention spans may be shrinking and the long-playing record headed for extinction, but the Phoenix Foundation have defied the trend and made a double vinyl album. You can get it on CD, too, but even that is divided into two discs.

Actually, Fandango is not much longer than the typical single CD of the mid-90s, when filling every megabyte of disc space was routinely mistaken for giving good value. What the two discs do, though, is prescribe a structure for listening. The end of the first set is an invitation to have a stretch, make a cup of tea or pour a wine and settle in for the second half. It works a treat.

The long form is established from the opening track, which takes its time building from an overture of synth drones and shimmering guitar chords into an Under My Thumb-like riff and a typically droll lyric, in which the perpetual scrubbing of mould in a damp urban dwelling (I smell Aro Valley) suggests a metaphor for the human condition.

It is an early reminder that the Phoenix Foundation have, in their frontmen Samuel Scott and Lukasz Buda, a couple of the wittiest wordsmiths currently working. In these songs, you will find their uniquely skewed views on a range of matters, including evolution, ecology, spirituality and social intercourse.

Occasionally, they tip over into absurdity, and when they sing lines like “Your uncle Dansey has gone mental/and you find it’s inconsequential/to point out the differential” it makes me wonder if one of them had a rhyming dictionary fall on his head when he was a child.

But the playful lyricism is broken up with epic instrumental passages, as fundamental in their own way as the verses and choruses. This has always been part of their style, and as the group have grown they have simply gone deeper into the details.

Over the decade since their debut, multi-instrumentalists Scott, Buda and Conrad Wedde and percussionist Will Ricketts have refined their use of harmonic and rhythmic colour to almost symphonic levels, and with new recruits drummer Chris O’Connor and bassist Tom Callwood, both from jazz backgrounds, the textures are more finely wrought than ever.

Even the two long and largely wordless pieces that close the respective discs are never static, constantly expanding and contracting like universes in quick time.

Its unfashionable length aside, there are moments when Fandango intersects with the zeitgeist, almost in spite of itself. In a year in which David Bowie made a big comeback, his influence on this band has never been more apparent. With bumping basslines and brash analogue synths, the dance-friendly Walls and Buda’s beautifully sung The Captain both nod to Bowie’s fertile Berlin period. And at a time when an 80s revival appears to be in full swing, the Phoenix’s love of lush keyboards and retro drum programs has never seemed more modish.

Of course, that doesn’t account for the quaint sidestep into 70s yacht rock – complete with flute solo – in Sideways Glance, the Vangelis variations of the 18-minute Friendly Society or Meddle-era Pink Floydisms throughout.

But it is this fearless following of instincts – this mixing of the high, the low, the sublime and the ridiculous – that makes the Phoenix Foundation that rare band in whose music 78 minutes of total immersion – give or take a tea break – will always be time well spent.

NZ Listener
emira
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by emira » Sat Jun 22, 2013 11:36 am

The more I discover about Chris O'Connor, the new drummer, the lower my jaw drops. He's everywhere! For example, he plays in this track, too

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exDcam6hcv0[/youtube]

#cloud9#
emira
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