Liam Finn - Fear of Standing Still
Author: Lydia Jenkin
Having barely finished the album it might seem a little odd for Liam to gather new bandmates and head off touring before releasing the album – generally you’d do that to coincide with the release, or after. But as mentioned previously, there was a different intention behind the four shows they played in Auckland back in March (intimate affairs at the 100-person max Tabac) and the ensuing road-trip across the US and Canada. Touring was the best way to gel, experiment with the new material, and find their feet as a band.
It seems like a risky business to ‘practice’ on tour, but part of the excitement for Liam Finn audiences is in seeing him trying things out on stage and pushing boundaries, and his fellow Kiwi band mates are well equal to the challenge. Jol Mulholland has become ubiquitous round the traps in Auckland, engineering, producing and playing on albums from a wide range of NZ’s alt-best, while also writing for his own releases as The Mots/Mulholland.
“Jol is someone that I’ve always really admired as a musician and he really is untameable. What he thinks goes straight to his fingers and it’s beautiful in its own way and I’m very turned on by his ability. It’s different every night, just like the old show was, but he’s also just such a great musician that when it really works it’s amazing and even when it doesn’t work it’s still fine because he finds a way to bend it into shape.
“And Jeremy is the same, he’s very accomplished, and done some great stuff and there was just a little pocket that he had where he was between projects and he wasn’t doing stuff with Opensouls any more. But he’s got his own record coming out, so it kind of didn’t work for him to come and be in my band for the next year or so.”
Liam’s younger brother Elroy has spent the past few years playing drums with Cut Off Your Hands, Connan Mockasin and others. His genetic connection with Liam makes their pairing natural as well as inevitable.
“He has a feel that I can relate to, that’s similar to mine, so it feels really natural to play with him, and we’ve been doing some double drum stuff as well… I guess that was something I really didn’t want to lose was that unique aspect of what my show has become over the last few years. Having the drum kit out there and getting to thrash away, and kind of doing whatever I wanted.”
The plan for the moment is to stay as a trio and they have even already managed to snatch some studio time together.
“Each instrument becomes much more important when there’s less there, and I’ve always been a big fan of three-pieces. We’re kind of a grunge band almost, which is very exciting. I definitely want to make the next record with these guys. We did some recording when we got to London for some bonus tracks and it was kind of obvious that we are bubbling to make new music really. As soon as we started jamming stuff, multiple songs started being written and it made me get really excited about what was to come. Jol is such a great songwriter and I’ve always really loved his songs, so it’s nice to think about what that might make for a new record.”
The next six months however is mainly going to be spent touring and promoting the album, which means they will be based in New York (though they will return to NZ in August for some shows). The theory of extensive touring has been key to increasing fan bases, and has changed the kind of touring Liam is able to undertake now, as opposed to three years ago, in the shape of bigger audiences, bigger venues, more shows, and presumably greater income which makes touring with a band viable.
“It’s definitely progressed a lot, what I’ve learnt over those few years. The reason why I keep on doing it was because every time I’d come back to a place there would be twice the amount of people. You’d see the same people that you saw last time in terms of your audience, but also the promoter and the sound guy and the venue owner, and you’d get to know these people. You create a relationship with a different country and I think that’s far more real than you know, getting your song on radio or selling lots of records.
“These days, with things in decline, it seems that live is the place where you can really gauge whether you’re progressing and really getting anywhere… There’s still a long way to go, because we’re still talking 300-400 capacity rooms, but it’s gotten a lot easier to get taken seriously.”
He says he has no false idea of where he stands in the music world, but likes the challenge of trying to get to the next step.
“I’ve always got big ambitions for what I want to do, but I just really love performing, and if I can watch it grow and keep doing it for the rest of my life I’m happy. The record industry is such an elusive thing. To have a hit record doesn’t necessarily mean you sell lots, it means your music got out there, and you’ve got an audience, and they’re willing to go whatever direction you take them in. And that’s the exciting part. So if this record just means that I make new fans as much as I lose old fans, then I guess that’s a good thing.”