Making connections - Q&A: Ebony Lamb
As a portrait photographer, Ebony Lamb has an eye for the defining detail. As a songwriter, she shows that same clear insight. We talk timing, ...
Family connections remain Katchafire’s bedrock after two decades together. The roots reggae masters’ hectic tour schedule will bring them to seven centres in Aotearoa in September and October.
Has your relentless touring schedule slowed down at all?
No. We’ve just completed an eight-week tour of the US. That’s a bit longer than we like to be away – five to six weeks is usually the limit. But we’re very blessed to have this much work available. America and elsewhere are screaming out for Katchafire so we keep making hay.
You’ve played festivals all over the world – which ones stand out for you?
Wellington’s Homegrown is one of my favourites. We’re all Kiwi musicians. It’s just the mana and seeing the stands and everyone buying into that. New Zealand music is second to none, I love it. Internationally the best would probably be Spain’s Rototom Sunsplash. 10 days of reggae – everyone who’s big in reggae plays there. Another one is Germany’s Summer Jam – we usually play that but we’ve put it off to next year.
Who is on the tour?
We’ve got the full band and the full horn section. Every horn section here in New Zealand is busy so we have to share! Some of our horn section also play with Troy Kingi, for example. They’re very talented musicians.
Do you still treat audiences to those legendary long gigs?
No, we haven’t done a four-hour gig since the early 2000s. The longest now is two hours. We’ve got to make room for the support! Looking back, I don’t know how we did it, to be honest.
You are probably celebrated more outside New Zealand – why do you think that is?
It’s the old thing – that’s my uncle, my brother, my cousin... As Kiwis, we don’t celebrate our homegrown things as much as we should. It’s only when other people recognise them that Kiwis go ‘Oh, we should celebrate them’. You have to make it overseas to be a big deal at home. But we’re Kiwis, we’re down to earth, we know how that rolls. In the US and elsewhere, people are much more fanatical.
Certainly in Hawai’i – you’re huge there.
That was a real shock to us. We went to Hawai’i in about 2005. The internet was just taking off and all of a sudden there was a huge demand for Katchafire in the islands. The first show we played there was to open the Pro Bowl NFL exhibition match at Aloha Stadium. It was packed with 50,000 people. That was our first taste of a show in Hawai’i, hearing all those people singing our music back to us.
Is there strength in being a whānau-based band?
Definitely. Just being able to approach tough things as a family has made it a lot easier. When you’re doing it with your dad, your brother, your brother-in-law, you can deal with adversity together, the ups and downs are a lot easier to face. It still means so much to us that we do this independently and as a family and brothers.
Who’s the cook?
Whoever’s not working! I like to delegate the cooking to Leon, he loves his kai. And me, I like to cook.
High-grade sashimi, raw fish, especially when we’re in the islands.
How long before the next generation joins the band?
They’re already taking on music. My son Tane is off to Jazz School in Wellington next year. Leon’s son Wineera is playing lead guitar in a band out of Raglan called Messiah with the kids of Cornerstone Roots. And Jordan’s son Cairo as well. They’re all knocking on the door, forming bands, into production, they’ve got their laptops.
How do you prepare for a gig?
As a band we perform karakia before every gig, taking a moment to ready ourselves. For me, I’ve got a steam inhaler I use to moisturise and warm up my vocal cords. I find the best thing for me is rest, get a good night’s rest after a gig and before the next one.
Do you have any views on the failure of cannabis law reform in New Zealand?
I think it would have been very good and beneficial if it had passed and I was disappointed it didn’t when we came so close. I also think it might have been one or two years too soon for New Zealand’s psyche and attitude. I think over the next year or so we are going to see a change in attitude on the matter. We are catching up with the rest of the world but New Zealand is quite conservative. If the referendum had been a year or two later it would have been a different outcome but we may not get a chance to repeat it.