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Katchafire

Reggae has always been synonymous with island culture. Despite the fact the words “sun-drenched” and “balmy” aren’t the first that come to mind when you think of New Zealand, the land of the long white cloud took to the counter-culture like a moth to the flame. There’s something about reggae and dub music that while it will always have its roots in Jamaica and surrounds, has its heart in a certain lifestyle, an attitude, a rebellion. It suits New Zealand, and they do it well. Luckily, with an explosion of quantity over the past decade, quality hasn’t waned too much and stalwarts like Katchafire have remained front and centre for the entire time. Frontman for the group, Logan Bell, messes with me for a minute when we catch up.

“We’re ah busy keeping our ears nice and clean,” Bell says. I’m sorry? “Nah we’re getting in-ear monitors fitted so that’s pretty flash. We got the kit a month ago but we haven’t had it running at full capacity - it’s definitely the way forward.”

 

In-ear monitors, while helpful on a practical level, are a symbol of Katchafire’s desire to take things even more seriously. With five studio albums as well as a host of collaborative appearances, Katchafire have never taken the lazy route, but they have walked this path at their own pace and they’re now setting a new one. “I guess up is definitely the direction we want to go,” he says. “We’ve got a lot of harmonies – and in falsetto – and when you’re on strange stages not with your own crew you need this. It’s a long time coming and we’ve got in mind that we have to keep upping the ante and keeping our product pure.”

 

The aforementioned explosion of reggae and dub bands in the Auckland, Hamilton and Wellington scenes in New Zealand has been a catalyst for the band – strive and thrive or throw it all in seem to be their only choices. “The main thing we’ve seen in the past three to five years is that competition is really up,” he says. “So much so in New Zealand; there are 120-odd reggae bands that have popped up. Competition breeds excellence and we wanna stay on the front foot. We feel that they’ve come in behind us and everyone is elevating each other. Worldwide, the youth are getting so much more amazing than we ever were at that age.”

 

With most people touting the standard generational line of “back in my day…” it’s nice to hear someone say the kids are alright. “Yeah they are and the whole rock quest and the belief that you can be a musician is a lot more accepted now,” he says. “Our parents did not want that for us and these days it’s a lot more believable; school’s push music, it’s a viable career. I’m not saying they are gonna make a career, I’ve got so many mates that probably have even more ability than me but for whatever reason just haven’t caught a break. But that’s another side of the industry; the one where you need so many little things to fall into place to make it - and then stay together.”

 

Katchafire are no strangers to Australian shores (neither are the other 119 reggae bands on the scene) and with an ever-expanding back-catalogue, Bell explains that they’ve refined the art of set building. “Over the years we’ve honed that and we’ve got a pretty good idea of what the masses wanna hear,” he says. “You’ll never please everyone in the room but you start to gauge crowd reactions and respond to that with your set. This show here will be very much based upon the Best So Far album as well; it’s very much focused on that.”

 

Bell also says that a new album is planned and Katchafire are closer than ever. “I think we really are happy,” he says. “The band has been together over ten years and we role as a family unit. Like all families, we have ups and downs but like family, you wouldn’t wanna got through these struggles without them. That vibe has always been within the camp. We still feel like we have a lot left in the tank, we feel like we have a lot left to give and we’re really excited by the prospects going forward. The pep is in our step. We’re currently considering a world-wide management deal and with that we’ll be taking it to a whole other level.”

 

BY KRISSI WEISS

Katchafire will be at The Hi-Fi on Saturday October 19. Best So Far is out now through Lion House Records/MGM.