Fazerdaze, the current incarnation of 24-year-old Amelia Murray, released her debut album Morningside back in May. Since we wrote about the build-up to that record, Murray has had a whirlwind year, finally catching her breath back in New Zealand for Christmas.
“I do it for selfish reasons,” laughs Amelia. I’ve asked her why she insists on staying after every show, sometimes for hours, to meet fans and sign the various items they’ve carted to her show. “It means a lot to me to do it, to meet the people who are listening to my music. Because often, in New Zealand, I am so cut off from them – they are like a stat on my YouTube channel or Spotify. But when I meet them, I can see what they’re like.”
I saw her do this recently after playing a show at the Echo in Los Angeles. The venue reminds me a little of Auckland’s Powerstation: big enough to feel like a visceral, exciting show, but small enough to remain intimate and special. The Echo boasts a long list of famous headliners – from LCD Soundsystem and Beck to the Pixies and The Rolling Stones – but on 12 November, the venue belonged to Fazerdaze.
Amelia and her current live lineup of Ben, Ollie and Guy played a superbly tight set – as they tend to do – and everyone watching seemed transfixed. It could have been a show anywhere, I suppose. But then I glanced by my right and there was Edgar Wright, the man behind movies like Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz and this year’s Baby Driver, and I’m reminded that I must be in LA.
That show marked the end of an intense year of touring that saw Fazerdaze play throughout Australasia, the UK, Southeast Asia and America. One can only imagine they were all exhausted up there on stage and yet after that show, like all her shows, Amelia stayed on afterwards to meet anyone who wanted to say hello. Which ended up being most of the crowd.
“It’s been really surreal to go all over the world and see that people know the songs at the shows,” she says, back in her home neighbourhood of Morningside. As usual, she’s still humble, adding that “the shows are still small at this stage”.
I ask what her fans are like, considering she’s spent a great deal of this year meeting them in person. “They are more introspective people. Lots of quite shy people, like me. I remember when I was in London a whole group of girls came up to me and hugged me and said, ‘We feel like we know you!’ and that meant so much to me. And that was the first time I had met them, and it felt like instant friends.”
She’s made a lot of new friends this year. Hip Tanaka, the legendary Nintendo composer behind games like Metroid, Kid Icarus, Super Mario Land and Tetris, proudly tweeted his Fazerdaze record straight after he’d bought it. Then Tanaka-san showed up at her gig in Japan, waiting patiently in line for an hour afterwards so say hello. It’s amazing to think that Amelia wasn’t even born when Super Mario Land came out in 1989. “I didn’t get to grow up with his games, which is sad,” she says.
She’s also found fans closer to home this year, with Neil Finn asking her to be a part of his latest solo record, Out of Silence, back in July. “I didn’t even know he’d listened to my album until he wrote to me,” Amelia says, sounding like she still doesn’t quite believe it. “And then he wrote me a letter for my US Visa application! Just little things like that. It’s all so surreal.”
Now back home in New Zealand, she’s been able to take a breath. Sort of. She’s had her wisdom teeth out, which lead to a painkiller fuelled trip to watch Sir Paul McCartney. I ask if she saw Neil Finn and Peter Jackson in the crowd. “It was so funny seeing them on the big screen! The camera was on the those guys quite a lot. Peter Jackson was like filming it all, and singing really loudly!”
Then she’s been reading books and, fans will be glad to know, writing new music. She says the last few months have felt like a dream. “There were so many moments in Southeast Asia where I couldn’t hear myself singing. The most obscure songs, even – old songs that weren’t singles – I couldn’t hear myself singing. I don’t know that it even happened.”
She says the most special gig for her was in Indonesia. Being half-Indonesian, it held special significance. I imagine her fans felt the same way. “I have got some crazy following over there, and they are not shy to let me know. They show their appreciation. Like they’re cheering really loudly, and crowd surfing!*
“We had two days there – which for being on tour, was long. My family came to the show and saw me off at the airport. Being half-Indonesian, the culture was really familiar to me. It felt like a homecoming show.”
I ask her if her family was aware of her following there – or anywhere, for that matter. “When I saw my cousin get married in Bali last year, he asked me what I was doing, and I told him I was mostly working on music… and that was the end of the conversation,” she laughs. “And so to go back and show it was really a real thing I was working on was… good”.
I suppose “good” is a pretty decent summary of Amelia Murray’s year. Her debut album has been well reviewed – MOJO calling it “a fuzzed-up Pixies-worthy melodic high” and Pitchfork saying it’s full of “effortless pop songs that are far less effortless than people think”.
That record saw her nominated in four categories (including Album of the Year) at the New Zealand Music Awards and in the longlist for the Silver Scrolls thanks to ‘Lucky Girl’. Edgar Wright also put that song in his Top 50 Songs of the year playlist.
As someone who’s grown up with Wright’s music-driven films, from Spaced to Scott Pilgrim vs The World, that felt quite special to me – that you can release a record and have it travel so effortlessly through the world. How absolutely wonderful. So I emailed Wright, to ask what he thought of Morningside.
“I loved it. My admiration for her insanely catchy melodies went up even more when I caught her first LA show at the Echo. The tunes sounded even better with a full live band. I can’t wait to hear what she has up her sleeve next.”
As to what she does have up her sleeve next – in the immediate future, she’s opening for The xx on January 11 at Trusts Arena. For the rest of next year, well, Fazerdaze has some pretty exciting stuff lined up, but she’s keeping mum on a lot of it.
But I think it’s fair to say 2018 will be a good year to be Fazerdaze. And to be a Fazerdaze fan.
*I had to follow-up on that crowd-surfing thing, not quite believing it. In New Zealand it’s a rare sight, even if you’re watching a ridiculous metal band like The Dillinger Escape Plan or Meshuggah. Amelia responded: “There was crowd-surfing in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and umm strangely Bournemouth in the UK”.
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The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.