Fat Freddy’s Drop have just given birth to a brand new bouncing baby album, entitled Dr Boondigga & The Big BW. To celebrate, Hopepa and the boys are playing with lego and other educational blocks in their psychedelic funhouse. I interrupt Hopepa as he attempts to place a block atop an impossible, Escher-like structure. His concentration broken, the tower topples and scatters blocks everywhere. Hopepa gives me the crazy eye for a second then begins his building anew.
“We’re really happy to have gotten the baby out, totally stoked to have it done. We were like nervous parents before it came out, seven expectant dads waiting for the final push, right up to when Lou sent it off to be mastered, we were pacing the hallways. We’re really happy with the response from everyone, it’s been fantastic.”
For those not already fans, the dub seven-piece from Wellington take their name indirectly from the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers, a comic created by Gilbert Shelton in 1968 – a time when the name Gilbert was still acceptable.
“Fat Freddy was one of the brothers and there was a strip called Fat Freddy’s Cat which inspired an acid tab in Wellington in the mid to late nineties. That acid was surprisingly strong and seemed to have a big effect on all the people around town.”
That effect seems to extend through the band outwards, in an ever-increasing spiral of musical hysteria. Fat Freddy’s fans can be extreme in their adoration of the band. The last time they played in Sydney the audience kept up a call for an encore long after the boys had left the stage following their first encore. Hopepa tells us at times people can get pretty crazy.
“The time before the last time we played at the Enmore, this woman got up on stage, locked her arms around my waist and wouldn’t let go. She kept yelling in my ear, “I’m never letting you go! I’m never letting you go!” This security guard came on stage and tried to pull her off. I was playing a solo at the time but because she’d locked her arms around my waist I was getting pulled off stage by the security guard too. I felt a bit sorry for her because she must have been kicked out and missed the rest of the gig. When we first started it was a Wellington scene, so it was a bit smaller, so it’s really strange to go to a different country and get mauled by fans.”
Though the band has been around for close to ten years now, their first studio album was released in 2006. Since then the group have made great strides towards international fame, garnering favourable press from dub, reggae and soul enthusiasts all over the world.
“Playing Glastonbury was pretty strange. Being knee-deep in mud, walking through the rain and mud with your gear. We were wearing plastic bin liners down to the waist to try to keep our costumes dry on the way to the stage. Also, playing in crazy little places in Italy to people who don’t know your music was pretty wild. Interesting cultural exchanges like that are great. Playing on a wharf in Poland was very strange. It’s amazing the random places that people know you.”
Hopepa tells us Fat Freddy’s sound has evolved since their latest offering. The album should surprise and delight current fans and hopefully attract some new ones, with a smattering of everything on display. “We’ve been playing with a lot of different influences and genres. We’re probably more on a soul trip than a reggae trip this time. We’ve even got a couple of up-tempo techno numbers. We’ve kind of just gotten all our toys out of the toybox, gotten all the lego out to play.”
These blocks and toys belong to Hopepa’s son, a feisty little tyke already set on becoming a star. “It’s hard to keep him off the stage some times. You know how, if your father is a truck driver, you want to drive the trucks too, follow in your father’s footsteps, well he’s like that which is pretty sweet.”
While Fat Freddy’s Drop play often in clubs and pubs where children are inappropriate, Hopepa says he likes it when the kids get a chance to have a dance too. “Outdoor gigs where kids can come along are great. I like the sweaty club gigs but those nice summer days with a park and the kids and picnics and stuff, it just makes for a really nice vibe.”
We should be getting a taste of those vibes again soon. “We’ll let the album marinate for a bit, give people a chance to get to know the songs and we’ll have a few sessions writing some new stuff and a bit of a winter hiatus and be back with you guys in the summer again for more good vibes.
“We really enjoy doing our own shows where we can stretch it out for a good two hours. The festivals are great for introducing new people to our music and stuff but you need to see our own show to get the full Fat Freddy’s experience. It’s quite hard to squeeze our set into an hour as we only get to play a couple of songs. We tend to stretch our songs out a little bit. When you get into a trance-like state where you’ve been grooving with a song for fifteen minutes, you really start to get inside it. It kinda pisses people off when they’re grooving away to a song, and the song finishes just as they’re getting into it.”
You really must see Fat Freddy’s live. As has been mentioned a few times in this article, the vibe is really good. Hopepa places the last block on the top of his impressive edifice and smiles.
“The album is out and now we can relax.”