MusicMade possible by

Blood, sweat and hometown affection: Inside the release of the Black Seeds’ new album

Jazz Kane attends an intimate invite-only Black Seeds show to celebrate the release of their new album Fabric and interviews band leader Barnaby Weir about how things have changed over the band’s long career.

Arriving at Caroline Bar in Wellington for the release show for The Black Seeds’ new album Fabric, a couple of drinks and a dose of nostalgia wash over me as ‘Cool Me Down’, a Black Seed classic opened the invitation-only event to raucous applause and ‘woo’-ing. It’s immediately apparent that, Peter Pan-like, The Black Seeds seem to find endless youth shines in playing their older tunes, while somehow still showing the maturity of musicians who’ve been at this since last century. They know the matrix to live performance, and are comfortable straying outside the conventions and doing things a little bit differently.

Passing through to a tune from the new album, it appears that live performances take on some ephemeral quality that can’t often be matched by the studio recordings. Some elements, like the interweaving of Weir’s and Daniel Weetman’s vocals, sound better when you can see them too.

I hear the extended intro to ‘Fire’ and I’m returned to the summers of my childhood. Now I can fully appreciate the power and intricacy of The Black Seeds. There is, of course, reggae tropes in most of their songs, but the melodic and harmonic work really stretch beyond their genre conventions, and the infectious roots and grooves keep them steadfast in their sound. An array of songs from new and older albums highlights the sweep of their discography. Songs from a decade apart flow together seamlessly while still accentuating the differences between their sound and their vision from each album.

With years of touring behind them, they know exactly what parts of their song to strip back to almost nothing and when to fill Caroline with sound completed only with whoops and cheers from the audience. All of the elements that make up The Black Seeds seem to easily integrate together to make one sound that can hardly be divided, but when the saxophone and trumpet drop out there’s an absence of sound, building attention and anticipation. We’re at their mercy.

Hitting the stage for an encore again after a mere two-minute break, the crowd are still fizzing when the band close the night with the hit that saw them rise to mainstream success. ‘So True’ had the crowd singing along through the whole song. This entire gig speaks to the seemingly universal affection for the band in their hometown. And that’s what is so great about this night: The Black Seeds transcending the expectations of even their biggest fans and warming a cold night with skill and showmanship developed over nearly 20 years.

Photography and video by Ben Stewart, video music is ‘5 Piece’ by Black Ant

The Black Seeds’ Fabric album launch party was presented by Spark and attended by lucky Spark customers. Listen to all the music you love, including Fabric, on Spotify Premium, it’s free on all Spark’s Pay Monthly Mobile plans. Sign up and start listening today.

The Spinoff Longform Fund is dedicated to facilitating investigative journalism. Our focus is on supporting in-depth reporting on important New Zealand stories. Your donation will help us sustain this most resource-intensive form of journalism, ensuring that the most complex and important stories still get told.