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French For Rabbits interview

On previous European tours, New Zealand dream-folk band, French for Rabbits, have wowed audiences with their ambient and intimate sound.

This month the Wellington-based band returns with another jam-packed 14-date tour schedule.

The band – formed of musicians Brooke Singer and John Fitzgerald – has gained a respectable following after opening for songwriter Agnes Obel, featured twice on The Vampire Diaries, and garnered millions of listens online.

Only in the past few weeks they were honoured that their song, ‘One & Only’, made the long list for New Zealand’s Silver Scroll music awards, which was won by Lorde.

Lead vocalist, Brooke Singer, caught up with me ahead of their full-band tour.

How excited are you to be back in Europe on another tour?

Touring is always a rollercoaster – both exhausting and life-affirming! I always begin a tour with a little trepidation, wondering how the shows will go; wondering how I will manage to drive on the other side of the road in a foreign city, and stay in one piece!

It is definitely a thrill to be able to visit all these different places and perform our music, so far from New Zealand. And, it’s really nice to be able to provide this dream-like experience for people, something that they can kind of escape into for a little while at a show.

I love meeting people who have connected with the music and finally get to hear it in person, also, playing in new places to those who are curious to hear something they have never heard before. We’re super, super excited to be playing in Scotland and Denmark on this tour.

What can fans expect to be different or new with the set this time around?

This is our first time in Europe with the full band – all five of us and our sound engineer. We will be playing songs from our new record which isn’t quite out in Europe yet (but we’ll have some sneaky pre-release copies on the tour) and we’ve resurrected a few songs we haven’t played in quite some time.

We’ve definitely been working on things really hard, we want it to be perfect for these shows. This tour feels like a big chance for us to really show the wonderful people in Europe what we’re about. Also, we tend to natter on about this and that on stage, so the shows are often intertwined with snippets of amusing conversation.

You’re bringing a great line-up of musicians with you! Can you introduce them and tell us what each member brings to the band?

Yes, so beside myself, we have John on guitar – he likes surfing, and can’t go surfing on this tour so be extra nice to him. Ben Lemi plays bass and sings – he is a musical wizard, and brings a lot of careful consideration to the music. Hikurangi plays drums wonderfully – he is a great person to have on tour because he is always so cheerful and is also very good at sleeping in the van. I’m thinking about starting an Instagram account so we can gram his incredible sleeping powers.

On this tour, Penelope is also joining us – she officially joined the band after she toured Europe with me in 2015 (we visited Iceland and it was quite magical).

Have European fans had access to the new album prior to the release, or will this be their first listen?

Not yet! We released a single from the album a few weeks ago called ‘It Will Be Okay’ and we’ve been releasing a series of live videos, too. But this tour will be the first chance for people to hear it and buy copies of the album. We’ve desperately wanted to release the album internationally, but we have had a little bit of a complicated year trying to make that happen, so we are just biding our time until we can do it properly and give it the good attention we feel the songs deserve.

What did you set out to achieve through this new record and what was your writing process?

The new album is called ‘The Weight of Melted Snow’. I don’t know if we set out to achieve anything in particular, although I had an idea I wanted to create something that was both very intimate and meaningful, but also expansive and dreamy. It’s a cosmic little dance, the songwriting process. The songs come to me out of the blue, normally. Sometimes you just have an urge to create something, and so you sit down and out the song comes. Other times I take something to the band and we nudge song ideas into shape.

We definitely work in a very organic way. I have the sound of the songs in my head, but it is very esoteric. It’s not until you hit the right sound, or timbre, sometimes that you know it is the one you were searching for.

Was there any specific message you wanted to explore or get across to the audience?

The thing about songwriting is that I don’t often write songs for an audience. I write them for myself, but then ultimately we bring them to the audience and hope they will mean something to them, too. It’s normally a way of untangling thoughts – in the same way dreams help people process things, this is what I do with song….whether it be through metaphor or with simple, plain language.

Where did you record and what was the experience like this time?

It was a long, long process. Across several cities, more than one country, and in bedrooms, living rooms, practice spaces, a university, at The Surgery in Wellington, and at Ben’s home studio. It took a while because the songs were written in two different time periods. I was really happy when we finished!

What’s been the reaction, so far, to the release back home?

Really good. We were delighted that one song from the record ‘One & Only’ made the long list for the Silver Scroll music awards, which eventually Lorde won.

Do you find there’s a keen interest in New Zealand music when you’re travelling through Europe?

Yes, more and more so. There have been quite a few more bands visiting Europe from New Zealand in the last year or so. Tiny Ruins, Fazerdaze, Lydia Cole, Nadia Reid, Yumi Zouma, Great North – lots of fantastic people doing their respective things. We’re lucky to be part of it.

What’s next when French For Rabbits return home to New Zealand?

Working on new tours, and finally, releasing our album internationally, and definitely a holiday by the sea over the summer.

You can catch the band on the following dates this month:

6.10 Hafen 2. Offenbach, DE
9.10 Mash House, Edinburgh, UK
10.10 Stereo, Glasgow, UK
11.10 The Deaf Institute, Manchester, UK
12.10 Patterns, Brighton, UK
13.10 Hy-Brazil Club, Bristol, UK
14.10 Windsor (House Concert) UK
16.10 Old Blue Last, London, UK
17.10 Theater DER Wohngemeinschaft, Cologne, DE
18.10 Musik & Frieden, Berlin, DE
19.10 Grey Sky Sessions, Darmstadt, DE
21.10 Ideal Bar, Copenhagen, DK
24.10 Paradiso, Amsterdam, NL

For more information about the band visit www.frenchforrabbits.com. Watch their music video for It Will Be Okay below:

[brid video=”168486″ player=”531″ title=”It will be Okay French For Rabbits (Official Video)”]

Megan Gnad
Megan Gnad
Megan Gnad worked as a reporter on daily newspapers before heading into the world of music journalism. Since moving from New Zealand to London in 2014, she began freelancing for UK and Australian publications, focusing mainly on country, roots and Americana genres. Time spent in Nashville has only increased her love and admiration for the music, and those working tirelessly and passionately to keep it alive and well.

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