It’s been a year like no other for Dave Baxter of Avalanche City. It all started in a tiny hall on the outskirts of Auckland with only some cows and the odd country larrikin as distractions to recording a record. It’s there where he would lay down a collection of songs that would change his life, sending him on a journey across his native New Zealand and catapulting his song Love Love Love to national recognition. For a self confessed non-singer the story of Avalanche City is a delightful one. As we will discover, none of this success has changed him or the friends who surround him, forming the rest of his band. Music Feeds talks to Dave Baxter as Avalanche City are about to take the stage in Invercargill, a town on the southern most tip of New Zealand.
Music Feeds: So let’s start by looking at what’s happened to Avalanche City in the past six months, because it’s been a fairly crazy time. Your song Love Love Love is now the theme song of a television network in New Zealand.
Dave Baxter: It’s been absolutely crazy, just trying to keep up with everything. It’s gone from no one knowing who I was to getting to number one on the New Zealand charts. The last six months has been crazy I never would have thought that I would have gone overseas or anything like that, it’s just me being surprised every single day. It’s been weird doing all these interviews too; at the moment I’m actually down in Invercargill backstage at a gig.
MF: Are you still coming to terms with how fast everything has moved?
DB: Absolutely, it has been an incredible six or so months. Finding myself doing radio interviews and having my songs used for telly has been so weird.
MF: Where did Avalanche City come from? You taught yourself to sing, so are you saying you couldn’t sing before this record?
DB: Definitely not, I was actually appalling and quite scared of singing. I think Avalanche City came out of me just really wanting to teach myself how to sing and just being really jealous of people who could sing, to be honest. It was me just trying to figure that whole thing out and that’s where these songs kind of come from. These songs are quite simple and easy to sing, so I think it was a pretty simple idea.
MF: Our New Life Above The Ground is your debut album and at twelve songs it’s fairly lengthy for a first effort. Are you a prolific songwriter?
DB: There’s quite a lot of Avalanche City material out there, I think there’s about twenty songs out there. I have spurts of writing madness and then I’ll do nothing for ages, but I definitely had a lot of songs to get out there when I started Avalanche City.
MF: What bands had you played in before Avalanche City?
DB: I played in a lot of hardcore bands like One Must Fall and The Chase for years which a lotta people will say is an opposing style to what I’m doing with Avalanche City but the mindset and the ethos are very similar, trying to do things as honestly as possible and sell your album for $5 or give it away for free, that kinda thing. And always making sure you’re pushing musical boundaries.
MF: You were almost an overnight success in NZ. Tell us what happened when you first released your songs online for free.
DB: Initially I put up the album for free online and wanted to see what happened and then I got a manager and we thought about giving it away until a certain point and then it kinda got to that amount. We were gonna give away a gold record in New Zealand, and we joked about it and then it caught up on us quite quickly and then it became obvious that a lot of people wanted to actually own a physical copy of the album and that’s when we started looking at selling the record in stores. The problem is they won’t sell the album if the digital copy is available for free online, so that’s when we took it down and started thinking a bit more seriously about it. We got a couple of offers from labels and then it started getting interesting.
MF: How did you move towards folk music?
DB: Well, like a lot of people who are into metal and hardcorem I didn’t just listen to that style of music. I gotta say that playing in those kinds of bands is a lot of fun though, especially playing live with so much energy, but yeah, I listen to all kinds of music. So in the folkier stuff I found a different kind of enjoyment, one that’s less about jumping around on stage and being pumped up but one that’s more about enjoying playing the music on a completely different level.
MF: How is it playing live as Avalanche City; are you finding it as enjoyable?
DB: It’s exciting having some amazing musicians alongside me. When we play live together, even though they’re my songs it’s not about me having total control; it’s more like a discussion between all of us. They play such good music anyway, but sometimes there might be a certain riff that really needs to be in the song live, something that happened on the recording, then I might say something.
MF: That’s playing live. What about Our New Life Above The Ground, was it all done by you?
DB: Most of it was done by me, I don’t know how many instruments there were off the top of my head. It took a week to do all the instrumentation and then a lot longer to do the vocals cause at the time I wasn’t a strong vocalist – well I’m still not – I don’t really call myself a vocalist. Anyway, when I was laying down the vocals I was still really finding my feet there, so it did take a while – a couple of months.
MF: You spoke of travelling around the country as you are doing right now. Are you excited to be able to make it back to Australia with the success of this record under your belt?
DB: It’s going to be wicked getting the chance to show off the new record to you guys, really excited about the whole tour.
Avalanche City Australian tour dates:
Jive, Adelaide – July 14
Northcote Social Club, Melbourne – July 15
The Heritage Hotel, Bulli – July 21
The CBD Hotel, Newcastle – July 22
34B @ Q Bar, Sydney – July 23