Praises have been heaped on TrinityRoots' second album, 'Home, Land and Sea'. I'm unsure if it is humility or a perverse perfectionist thing, but singer Warren Maxwell and bass player Rio Hemopo are somewhat surprised at the plaudits it has received.
TrinityRoots (from left): Rio Hemopo, Warren Maxwell and Riki Gooch.
"I've learned to say 'Thank you' when people offer praise, but it's hard," admits Warren.
"Musicians are never satisfied. We're never happy, there's always something - but that's not to belittle the public and the units that have sold. I have to keep reminding myself that the 'proof is in the pudding', that somebody likes it. We're just pedantic, that's all."
They readily admit that it is the imperfections that make the album what it is. They did only one or two takes for each song, wanting them to sound as raw and organic as possible. Rio smiles and says recording is a battle between perfection and imperfection. Despite the one-take ethos, 'Home Land and Sea' is carefully crafted and is full of aroha.
Along with drummer Riki Gooch, these two have written songs that are every bit as atmospheric and soulful as those on the first TrinityRoots album 'True'.
"It is about keeping it true," quips Warren, immediately giggling then breaking into laughter over this. "Sincere, I mean sincere."
He says the sincerity and honesty come from their families who, while being very proud and offering much love and support, keep the boys steadfastly grounded in reality.
Rio nods and laughs: "They don't let you get a big head about anything!"
Warren recalls telling his parents about going gold with the last album: "Sure they were proud, but they just went, 'That's nice dear, go have your dinner'."
The lyrics on 'Home Land and Sea' do have political undertones but Warren insists the three-piece is not pushing a political agenda or driving a particular message, preferring listeners to take what they want from the songs. However there is a social message that the band would like to impart.
"Education - it's really important. Get educated, that's what I want to say. Read widely and learn about what's going on around you," says Warren.
Regardless of messages, political or otherwise, most of the songs are very poignant and seeped in New Zealandness - making one wonder how that goes down overseas. Warren and Rio accept overseas listeners probably engage more with the music, at least at first, than the lyrics, but reckon many of the themes are universal.
Not that it really seems to matter, along with fellow Wellington acts Fat Freddy's Drop and the Black Seeds, they have been well received in Europe. Last year they toured France, Germany and the UK as well as playing at a New Zealand Film Commission gig at Cannes.
"I think we're seen as the underdogs. It's not like we have mass marketing behind our product or anything," says Warren.
"It's very fractured over there. People who listen to drum'n'bass will only go to drum'n'bass gigs, and if you like hip hop you only go to that. We're different though. I think, because of the live thing, we attract a cross-section of people."
"New Zealand being so far away geographically means we've got our own sound. We're something new and we don't follow the trends," adds Rio.
At home in Wellington they've typically got their fingers in other musical pies, but reckon the multi-tasking doesn't detract from the TrinityRoots entity. If anything, they say it makes them more focused. Rio says the trick is good time management while Warren recommends "sticking with it".
Warren says the band's focus is very evident on 'Home, Land and Sea' and recounts having to finish up the album just days before he had to fly to Europe with Fat Freddy's Drop: "It actually came together really well, and there was a day to spare so I packed and left."
The album was produced and engineered by Lee Prebble at Wellington studio The Surgery (run by Prebble along with the band and members of The Black Seeds), during the rather structured hours of 9-5 Monday to Friday for the first part of this year. Local distribution is being sorted by Border Music Ltd.
The Trinity trio has been around since 1998, when it won the Victoria University band competition after being together for just six months. It is only in the last few years things have really started to come together.
"We've all grown as individuals and we bring that to TrinityRoots, and that's what helps to keep things going too," says Rio.