Related Articles: Music, All

Toby Laing of Fat Freddy's Drop

Coming to America

It’s not cheap to fly, and it’s definitely not cheap to fly out a whole seven piece band from New Zealand. That should say something about the promoter’s faith in Fat Freddy’s Drop, the Kiwi jazz, dub, reggae, and soul band that is touring the United States for the first time. Though the group formed in the early 90s, it just released its second album, Dr. Boondigga and The Big BW. SF Station recently caught up with trumpeter Toby Laing.

SF Station (SFS): What are you most excited to see or do while in San Francisco?

Toby Laing (TL): We’re only in town for like 40 hours so we’ll keep it simple — buy some records from Amoeba and find a great restaurant.

SFS: You had twice as much time to create your first album. Did you ever feel rushed in your process for the second one?

TL: Being an independent group allows us to take some time when we work in the studio. We took two years to record Dr. Boondigga & The Big BW. Most of our songs originate as improvised pieces and it seems to take a while to translate them into recordings. That’s our process really — develop songs live and then find a way to capture them.

SFS: What does it mean for you to be able to tour in the U.S.?

TL: It will be cool to visit San Francisco! We’ve been touring the last four years over to Europe, the U.K., Australia and around New Zealand. We are looking forward to checking some new cities and absorb some musical culture.

SFS: What do you think your greatest achievement as group has been so far?

TL: That’s a difficult question to answer. I’m proud that we have kept the group together and continued to develop our music. After almost 10 years, there’s some great history to look back on. I remember playing the jazz/world stage at Glastonbury. That was probably our largest audience. Also winning the people’s choice at the BBC Worldwide awards was a great honor. And, then there was the Movement Festival in Detroit – crazy cool.

SFS: Do you or the band have any rituals in preparation for a show?

TL: The show itself is a bit of a ritualistic soul séance, so beforehand we like to stay grounded in reality as much as possible. Lately, DJ Fitchie has been creating an alternate dimension on stage with scientific sound design.

SFS: Who is Dr. Boondigga?

TL: Dr. Boondigga is a sinister character that we concocted while working on the album. He is our mean-spirited arch nemesis. He will stop at nothing to hinder us. BW is his unique brain washing robot, his malign butler if you will.

SFS: On the new album there are undertones of techno, and maybe even drum and bass on tracks like “Shiverman.” This is new compared to your first album Based on a True Story. What other things might we might see from FFD in the future?

TL: I think that there are overtones of techno. Techno is one of the musical influences that everyone in Fat Freddy’s shares. I’m not saying I listen much at home, but that was the flavor back in the early 90s when we all got interested in underground music. I hope Fat Freddy’s continues to add new influences as we go on. Maybe we got a double techno exposure from spending many weeks in Berlin.

SFS: With your growing success, I imagine you’re becoming a recognizable face. Does it ever feel strange traveling abroad while your fame is still growing?

TL: I never get recognized for being from Fat Freddy’s Drop. Wellington is such a small place, and I’ve lived there all my life. Everyone recognizes me from shopping at the supermarket or because I owe them 20 bucks.

Fat Freddy’s Drop performs at the Independent on November 19th. Doors for the sold out show open at 8:30pm and the show starts at 9pm.