New Zealand reggae-soul outfit, The Black Seeds will be returning to Australia in April after spending the summer conquering the European festival circuit and earning the title of ‘best reggae band on the planet right now’.
The Black Seeds released their fifth studio album, ‘Dust And Dirt’, last year that saw the band enter a new creative phase by fusing elements of punk, rock and disco with their trademark bass-heavy reggae/ dub sound.
“People have really responded well to it, they see we're not strictly a reggae band,” says vocalist Daniel Weetman. “Since 'Into The Dojo' I think that’s been shining through: just a bit more of a darker feel on that album and a few more synth ideas and tones coming in there. So yeah, it has been well-received — really well-received in Europe actually.
“We get some really good write-ups in Europe, they give us a chance and have an open mind to checking out something new that they possibly know nothing about or just hear that it's a New Zealand band.”
The group’s first foray into the European market was with their third album, ‘Into The Dojo’, in 2006 and with the success of ‘Dust And Dirt’, particularly in France and Germany, both Rolling Stone and Clash Music UK have dubbed The Black Seeds the best reggae act in the world.
“For me, I feel like it’s from this opinion they have of us as one of the best, or the best, comes off ‘Dust And Dirt’ I think. It shows the variety that we’re not just strictly [reggae]. From ‘Into The Dojo’ to ‘Dust And Dirt’, we’ve tried to push the genre of reggae music and still be able to do a bit more of a traditional sound, but in our way we’ve tried to create our own sound as The Black Seeds and I think you can really hear that.”
For Daniel, it’s important the band doesn’t become stagnant.
“I really wanted to make a progression on reggae because so many reggae acts just play what they love, but it’s playing it very safe so how can you progress the reggae music? I haven’t really heard any band actually try to do that, but I think we really try to do that, that’s what we’ve been trying to do — the Europeans really get that.
“With each album you want to branch out [and] try different things,” Daniel adds, “and with this album more members were contributing to writing, and at the time of writing the album we had our own studio space: we could jam ideas a lot more and come and go as we wanted in the studio so that was really healthy for the band. We got to experiment a little bit more with a rock influence which is a big thing for me and tried to bring that slightly into the band.”
While Daniel is relatively modest about their European success and the acclaim they’ve received, he says it’s their live show that really makes the band as popular as they are.
“I think live we’ve always brought a great entertaining show … we don’t overplay and from day one we’ve always been there for the audience. They pay the money to come see us and you put in your two hours to perform and give it everything and we’ve always done that.”
The Black Seeds also make a point not to underestimate their fans.
“If you believe in what you’re writing then people will hear that, I think that sometimes some of the songs that weren’t quite at the standard, maybe your heart wasn’t fully in it, I reckon your fans just totally see through it, you know? I mean, I definitely see through it with bands that I like.”
After playing to crowds over 50,000 at some of Europe’s biggest festivals such as Rock En Seine and Lowlands, Daniel has observed a few cultural differences between how Australians and Europeans enjoy their live music experience.
“I think Australian crowds are possibly a bit more vocal and maybe in Europe they'll be into it but they might not be grooving out as much if they don't know it, but they’ll be listening to it. Especially in France, the early days of playing in France and wondering if they're actually into it because they'll just be standing there and they're just listening.”
While The Black Seeds now enjoy a cult status in France, it wasn’t always the way; they’ve had to work hard to make a name for themselves among the music-savvy French.
“They enjoy things differently and they're spoilt for choice so they're always waiting, like, ‘Wow, what do you have New Zealanders? Can you really entertain us?' and it used to be quite strange in the early days when they didn't know our music, but nowadays they're right into it, they're coming to our shows.
“You'd have a whole crowd of French people just standing there,” Daniel says, “maybe a few people nodding their heads and then afterwards they really show their appreciation: there'll be clapping but the clapping will go on for a few seconds and then just stop, dead silent.”
The Black Seeds play The Coolangatta Hotel Friday April 19. ‘Dust And Dirt’ is out now.