Barnaby Weir is one of Wellingtons quietest yet busiest characters, shapeshifting between being a frontman for The Black Seeds and Fly My Pretties, producing electronic music under the moniker Flash Harry, as well as expanding into solo territory for his own debut album Tarot Card Rock in 2011. Every disparate project Barnaby brings to life seems to leave you with a similar starry-eyed, optimistic takeaway though; healing by the soft caress of his enlivening authentic reggae/dub funk. Now The Seeds are back in full force with their long awaited sixth album Fabric, out this week, and a nationwide tour to follow suit.
Hi Barnaby! You and the boys are gearing up to embark on a long anticipated nation wide tour this month in support of your latest record Fabric, and you’ve just returned from a leg of shows in the US and Canada. How do those crowds vary to a hometown show?
Essentially the crowds are the same in terms of what they want and how we wanna make them feel. In the way that they react, Wellington audiences aren’t very vocal, whereas French audiences are very vocal. I think that Wellingtonians are quite apathetic, if they saw The Black Seeds ten years ago they probably won’t bother again, even though we’re evolving and we’ve got heaps of new stuff. Our people are quite snobby, like they are with their coffee [laughs]. They think they know everything, they’ve seen everything!
Fabric is your sixth studio album with The Seeds, and first release in five years. What goings on of the last half-decade can be heard on the record?
Personal experience, relationships – good or bad, feelings of self doubt. All the human feelings. For The Seeds it usually just writes itself, telling a story of your emotional experiences through music. All our music that I think is meaningful is exploring those times that aren’t so easy and using music as a tool to get through that.
Reggae is an extremely universal sound. For you, what makes the Kiwi reggae community special and set apart from the rest of the world?
I don’t think we fit into what is considered the typical Pacific reggae band, but we’re so happy to be multi-genre and thought of as like a progressive reggae/dub act. I think there’s a certain amount of soul in the roots/reggae down these ways, and kind of an old-school, vintage feel as opposed to a lot of modern stuff. There are bands like Fat Freddys that have a core in roots and dub but it’s not obviously reggae. There’s definitely some progressive sounds happening down here, but you also have more traditional sounds like Katchafire.
As a whole, Fabric has such a magnetic, timeless quality because it audibly rubs off a sense of peace and perspective. What little things in life evoke the optimism that radiates off your music, and how do you manage to always keep the peace?
On a good day, you know, when you’re really happy with your partner, the flowers are blossoming, the coffee smells great and everything’s looking up. Some of our songs are darker, but not darker in terms of being more aggressive. It’s more trying to be inspirational, or trying to be a bit political and conscious and poetic. I think if you’re making art that’s from the soul it’s always gonna keep the peace, in terms of being true to yourself.
Reggae has become an eminent part of NZ music since the ’90s. In 2017 how do you see the future of the genre evolving?
It’s taken a long time for it to go fully global, but now you can have a Baltic sounding blues band from Wellington or you could have a reggae hip hop band from Australia. It’s really a time of mixing up genres and blending different takes on sound. You know, The Seeds are never gonna do a drum and bass album – we’re just not gonna do it – but you know, there’s always room for cool new sounds, anywhere is possible.
Thank you so much for your time Barnaby, finally I have to ask what’s your current favourite musical release to come out of 2017?
Oh shit… [laughs] I don’t really listen to brand new music most of the time. That Leon Bridges album sounds so vintage, I was stoked on that and how it sounds very authentically ’60s but it’s modern.
Fabric releases on September 8th, and you can purchase tickets to The Black Seeds’ nationwide Fabric release tour beginning this month on www.aaaticketing.co.nz
Words: Laura McInnes