The Phoenix Foundation is one of Wellington’s most popular bands, with a strong following overseas, as well as being praised by music veterans such as Neil Finn. But try to pigeon hole the band’s sound at your peril.
Unlike equally popular Wellington bands The Black Seeds and Fat Freddy’s Drop, which play a mix of dub, roots, reggae, funk and soul, more often than not The Phoenix Foundation is labelled indie.
“People sort of mean a particular sound when they say ‘indie’. I don’t know if we’re that sound. We’re genre unspecific, I reckon,” says guitarist Luke Buda. “What [The Phoenix Foundation] is, is the strange middle ground of bands that are not alternative enough to be really alternative, and not commercial enough to be considered commercial.”
The band plays Wellington’s James Cabaret on Saturday, which will be an introduction for some to live renditions of tracks from its new album Fandango.
Last month the band returned from a European tour. “We played a really good gig in Berlin . . . the band just really nailed it,” says Buda.
Its biggest following outside New Zealand is in Britain.
“The UK is the market leader in Europe, and London is the market leader in the UK. I say that both mockingly, and quite seriously.”
The Phoenix Foundation officially began in 1998. However, Buda says he and co-founders Conrad Wedde and Sam Scott had been playing together since they were at Wellington High in 1993.
Since releasing its first studio album, Horsepower, in 2003, the band has released albums with just about every major label in New Zealand.
Fandango, its fifth, was made with industry heavyweight Universal. It was mixed by in- demand Wellington producer Lee Prebble, and Buda is pleased with the outcome.
“We’ve progressed with every album. I think definitely the level of craft on Fandango is far above that of Horsepower, even if I have some sentiment attached to some songs on that album. Fandango sounds bigger, better.
“We’re all better at our instruments.”
The nature of the band has changed over the years. Four of the six now have children, and touring overseas is a big investment of time and money.
The band performed six New Zealand shows this month.
The Phoenix Foundation play James Cabaret, Wellington, on July 27