It's not very often you see contemporary crowds being pulled into an underground live house like Nivara Lounge to listen to folk music, but there's something about Albi And The Wolves that can appeal to all kinds of music lovers and Hamilton has always been known as a town of great music. Nivara lounge is a personal favourite of mine with its cosy couches and lazy atmosphere, but it's when bands like A&TW come in that really brings this place alive.
Currently stop number 13 on a 17-stop tour debuting their new album, One Eye Open, Albi And The Wolves – made up of Chris Dent on guitar, Pascal Roggen on violin, and Michael Young on double bass - have made it clear they have no intention on slowing down.
I had the chance to have a chat with the guys before their gig and this is how it went;
Many of us are aware that it's near impossible to make money off music in New Zealand and touring around the country, I hear you've been couch surfing. How's that been going for you? Have you had some dodgy experiences or close calls with having no where to stay?
*Cue roarous laughter from all three*
Chris: We're fine.. We do enough to be able do what we do consistently so that's cool. It doesn't mean it's heaps and it's usually enough. In regards to accommodation, we can only rely on our wonderful friends and occasionally, the person who organises the stuff.
Pascal: We've actually been ok with where we're staying to be fair, it's nice. But when you have friends all over the country it sort of helps a lot.
Chris: Occasionally we might have, the day before, had nowhere to stay. That happened twice on this tour but we managed to find somewhere on that day.
Michael: I've been around in the folk scene for quite a while so I know people and Chris knows people so we just sort of.. say "hey! We're in town, would you like to come to our show for free?".
The one that I remember is our first trip to Rotorua. Chris had us put to sleep in tents.
Pascal: That's right, I was like "No! No!" So out of the pocket, I got us hotel rooms.
Chris: 'Cause I was like.. A tent for me is luxury, 'specially from my hitch hiking days and Michael was like, "Mmm yeah uuhhhh okay", and Pascal was like "Ha, NO!".
You guys are based in Auckland so when you get the opportunity to travel and perform, where is your favourite location to go to?
Chris: I love New Plymouth. A lot. Because, it's so crazy. The first gig we ever did there was to 12 people and the second gig we did was to 180 so.. and that was based around a few figures in the community that really liked what we did and really helped us out. I don't think I'm ever going to forget that, that's pretty amazing and that's part of the reason why I do this.
Michael: Anand Rose. We should really say his name.
Chris: He's one of hundreds of people in this country who work their asses off just to make choice shit happen and he's one of the first we got to interact with.
Pascal: It's just a nice community. Just a nice sense of 'everything's going to be fine'.
You've recently downsized your band, losing a banjo player. I've seen you play some of your songs off One Eye Open live before you released the album like Giants In The Sky and I'm Not Free. Did this loss of member affect how your envisioned sound was to come out or was there a seamless transition?
Chris: What we did was, Michael and I in particular, sat down and listened to the entire record without the banjo at the point we were at and it made us rethink and re-evaluate what we had with our instruments and it was quite a cool process because you just had to look at things definitely. For some songs on the record like One Eye Open, I'm Not Free and Try, we decided they still needed the banjo part, we don't like it without and for other tunes like Working Hard, we worked on some other fiddle parts and turned them into really cool things. So it was an opportunity to think of something different and do something that we had never had an opportunity to do so.
Michael: Yeah so, rhythmically, the bass may change a little bit but mostly it was over to Pascal to take on a few of those melodic aspects of the banjo.
Pascal: The vast majority of things, it was pretty much sweet with the three of us. Just a few things like Chris said.
Michael: We need that melodic component in there and Pascal takes over that.
Where does the inspiration for your music come from? Do you have a muse or is it reliant on past experiences?
Pascal: I always find Chris pretty a-muse-ing so...
Chris: Uhh I tend to take at least the initial part of the song writing first and then we come together and I really like doing stories, people, and things that affect people. Whether that's my personal relationships or whether that's greater topics like we have a couple of protest songs on the album, and then we come together and work on the songs and I basically let the reigns go and whatever needs to be changed like from Pascal's point of view, they come together and change stuff and we kinda work it out and flesh out the songs afterwards and that kinda changes the feel or the meaning of the songs and that's due to their personal experiences as well.
Pascal: And then we miss with it.
If you could tour alongside any band or artist in the world, who would it be?
Pascal: Oh Jesus okay each one of us gets to pick one.
Michael: Okay for me it would be Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. You've probably never heard of them?
Pascal: For me, I would like to tour with Bjork. I love her to bits. Pretty much everything she does, even her string quartets and other bits and pieces are gorgeous. And she's a complete nutter in the best kind of way it would be fantastic.
Chris: You and her would get on so well.
Pascal: Even if I didn't, it would be amazing. Like, "Oh my God, she's so bad to get along with!" "Really? Tell me about it!" It would be wonderful.
Chris: I want to do something crazy, like, off the top of my head 'cause there's so many people I would want to tour with but I'd love to open for Jack White from the White Stripes because, the potential to collaborate and play around with his songs and vice versa would be hella cool! His shows would be apeshit but due to his catalogue he does have these kind of sit-downy tunes so that would be weird and unique.
What was the first song you learnt on the instruments you currently play in A&TW?
Pascal: TWINKLE TWINKLE LITTLE STAR!
Chris: Sloop John B!
Michael: Oh shit hang on... On bass? Shit..
Chris: Remember Your Name!
Michael: The first song I ever learnt on the bass was probably a Wolves song... It would have been the one in F#
Chris & Pascal: BITTER TRUTH!
Chris: The first Albi and the Wolves song, actually.
What are your plans for the future?
Michael: World Dominance
Pascal: We're really trying to play Trump's inauguration but we might get his impeachment if we're lucky!
Chris: Well we decided to call our band Four Doors Down. Did you hear that?
Pascal: Yeah 'cause Three Doors Down are playing.
Because Bruce Springsteen's tribute band dropped out
Chris: The B-side.
Pascal: Okay seriously, we've got another album coming out this year and we'll hopefully get that one out a bit quicker than the last one.
Yeah, and we're building up on and making that better.
We'd like to try get overseas if we can, we're making plans to do so whatever happens, we're going to fucking do that.
This is folk music, but not as you know it. Pulling inspiration from a wide spectrum of genres, from swing to bluegrass, soul, R&B, rock and world music, Albi and The Wolves offer a decadent serving of double bass, banjo, and fiddle accompanied by Albi's smooth vocal stylings. These elements come together to create both a potent foot stomping rhythm and a captivating music and stage presence never experienced before.
With this love and respect of music in all its forms, Albi and The Wolves not only offer vibrant and refreshing original songs which burst open the seams of traditional folk music, but they also inject their signature sound into modern classics from artists as diverse as Micheal Jackson, and Pink Floyd.
Since the band's formation in 2014, they have excelled in New Zealand's live music scene, pulling in large crowds with their unique performance style, making it irresistible to dance.