What do you get when you take the singer of the iconic genre-bending seven-piece band Fat Freddy’s Drop and combine it with a lockdown with time and space to create? You get Dallas Tamaira’s (aka Joe Dukie) jazzy, soulful, and experimental solo EP ‘Levels’.
‘Levels’ showcases a different side of Dallas which, as he puts it, is “about escapism, creating and exploring new worlds and spaces, and navigating and strengthening bonds with each other along the way.”
For a singer who has delivered endless exquisite performances over the years, the EP sees Dallas as a vocal voyager, exploring who he is as an artist, whilst being a resolute figure of strength and warmth. His first solo EP in over twenty years, the EP is a brand new and exciting chapter from one of Aotearoa’s most beloved voices.
The six-track EP was recorded in Pōneke - Wellington with Dallas’ long-time musical friends and collaborators, producer Devin Abrams aka Reno (Shapeshifter, Pacific Heights, Drax Project), and engineer Chris Faiumu aka Mu (Fat Freddy’s Drop, Bongmaster, Ladi6).
Dallas has treated fans to several key tracks from the EP over the past few months, with today seeing ‘Huwi’ as the lead song upon release. The track, arguably the emotional center piece to the new solo EP, is best captured by the lyrics "I just want to be with you, when it all falls down". A love song for the end of days, ‘Huwi’ ebbs and flows, with Dallas' ever so soothing performance at the heart bringing it all together into a life-affirming expression of love like no other.
BUY THE VINYL RECORD HERE.
Thanks to NZ On Air for supporting this release.
We we're lucky enough to sit down with Dallas to discuss the album and his relationship with the oh-so-important vinyl release. See our interview below:
Tell us a bit about yourself - where are you from?
Dallas Tamaira aka Joe Dukie, from Christchurch, then Kaikoura, and now Wellington.
Who are some of your favourite artists that you draw inspiration from?
Bill Withers is one of my main influences. He’s one of those artists that you will instantly recognise the songs of, Lean On Me, Ain’t No Sunshine. But then when you start digging deeper into his catalogue, there’s so much more, more gold.
I resonate with him as a person as well. His career path, he started later in music, he’s from the country, he’s a half cast as well like me, he’s a bit in between. I just feel like those things have an impact on your perception of the world and how you make music.
D’Angelo is another one for me. When he came out he was groundbreaking. He fused hip hop with soul and gave soul music at the time so much more integrity. A lot of the soul and R&B music around then had become so formulaic and plastic. D’Angelo came along with this groundbreaking style but also gave a nod to the old soul artists and to great musicianship in general. He is a true musician and he respects the craft.
At the moment I’m listening to Cleo Sol and SAULT.
Tell us a bit about the EP?
It was recorded at Bays Studio in Wellington with Mu (Fat Freddy’s Drop). Mu mixed the EP and Reno (Devin Abrams) produced it.
I began writing it during lockdown and it’s thematically about creating and exploring new worlds and spaces, and navigating and strengthening bonds along the way.
It’s about not leaving things too long, before it’s too late.
Because of that, a lot of the songs are about escapism. Because when you need to deal with problems then you look to avoid them by escaping into other worlds or get distracted easily.
What was the inspiration for the artwork? Who is the artist?
I had the idea for the shot of what I felt would be an image that resonated with the music. Which was someone in a meditation type pose, in the middle of a field of destruction. Someone being peaceful in the middle of chaos. So this guy is there playing a video game in the middle of what looks like a battlefield.
The artist is a guy called Hamish Fraser. Who is a Maori artist based in London. He was recommended to me by Rio from Trinity Roots. And we just happen to be from the same iwi. I saw some of his work and it was really flash. He’s worked on a bunch of video games and done concept art for Marvel films.
For this art Hamish got out the pen and paper and drew it, because I wanted it to feel like a graphic novel.
When you’re looking at trying to create art these days, there are all these programmes that can get AI to create what you want. It will just give it to you at the push of a button. So I was really happy with Hamish drawing it by hand.
Tell us why you chose to press it to vinyl - What do vinyl records mean to you?
I’m a big fan of the format. Something happens when you have a piece of vinyl in your hands. The music becomes tangible and magical.
It’s a format that has been around for so long that having something on vinyl feels like an achievement. It feels like I’ve won an award or something.
I grew up making music when there was just vinyl around. Me and Mu used to flat together and we didn’t have Spotify in those days. With him being a DJ he had all these records around that I could just choose from and play. So that’s the era I come from. It just sounds better too. There’s a whole palette of sound there. It sounds richer and deeper.
Any upcoming gigs we can plug?
No shows on the horizon at this point for me, but lots of Fat Freddy’s Drop shows coming up soon.
BUY THE VINYL RECORD HERE.