The Frank Burkitt Band just released their second album, Raconteur, and it’s a tasty one. Produced by the master of Wellington music, Gerry Paul, it’s a big step from their first album from a few years back. The arrangements are large, and require a deep listen to take it all in, from the cello to the brass and flute parts. ‘Work So Hard’ is a cracking opener, followed by the two best tracks, ‘Simple’ (video included below), and the title track ‘Raconteur’. Make sure you get to the end of the album as the nearly a-capella number ‘My Heart Waits’ is a beautiful closure.
I got some answers from Frank himself, just before they embarked on their first Australian tour!1. This being the second album with the band, has it changed the way songs are written?

So I still write all the songs but like always, we develop them and arrange them as a band during rehearsals. We did a lot of work in tightening up arrangements this time around to maximise our time in the studio. I did write some of these new songs more with the band in mind as I now have a better idea of what type of thing we do well after being together for 4 years. 2. How did you come to work with (producer) Gerry Paul?

I met Gerry shortly after I moved to New Zealand in 2014. He gave me so much great advice for how to approach the music world and was so open in sharing his phenomenal experience as a musician, promoter and producer. He has been involved in so many amazing projects and when I asked him if he would like to produce our album, he agreed and was a complete joy to work with. I have no doubt that this album is 10 times better than our first album and so much of that improvement is Gerry Paul. He is also a good pal of one of my musical heroes Tim O’Brien and has made an album with him. I’m still angling for an invite to hang out and jam with Tim so if you’re reading this Gerry…3. What was it like working with him?

Great. A really good mix of professional but friendly. He hears things that others don’t and executes them brilliantly to make huge differences to our songs. He only drinks fizzy water though, rather than still, which is pretty weird.  I think all those bubbles are the source of his charisma! 

4. You’ve filled the sound in with a lot more than just the four of you, especially including Oscar Laven (who’ll be touring with you in NZ).  Were the songs written with these parts in mind or did they happen as a part of working with Gerry and arranging them in the studio? 

So after arranging all the songs, we knew we wanted keys on some, horns on others. Particular breaks or sections of songs that we thought “that would be great with horns or imagine some keys in there”. But Gerry brought loads more new ideas, that sometimes seemed really subtle, but made an enormous impact. Like the trumpet and slide guitar throughout Raconteur or the amazing cello in Simple and Albert Woodfox played by the amazing Irish cellist Vyvienne Long.  Oscar is a total legend too. He put down all the horns (Clarinet, sax, trombone and trumpet) on over half the album, all in one day in the studio. The man is insanely talented and we are honoured to have him join us for all of our NZ tour dates in April. 

5. Touring Australia for the first time, including the two big festivals (Port Fairy Folk Festival and Blue Mountains Folk Festival), must be exciting, are you guys nervous?

We are probably more excited than nervous but yes, Port Fairy Folk Festival will be the biggest festival we have played (about 45 thousand people over the whole weekend) so it is a little bit squeaky bum. I have been rehearsing the band pretty hard though (they hate me) and I find that the nerve levels decrease, the more work you’ve done to prepare. Hopefully, we’re as rehearsed as possible although I don’t think you can ever rehearse enough. We’re also really excited to see how the Aussies receive our music. If it is half as well as the Kiwis then we’re gonna go down well. 

6. Like most of the musicians in our world, you do so much of the organising and managing yourself, while also having a full time day job, how do you balance this and keep some sanity?

It is the main stress in my life, juggling my day job with managing the band, on top of rehearsing and gigging and touring! But I really enjoy the journey we’re on as a band and all the admin and managing work I do helps us take the next step so it’s a very addictive thing. Knowing that the next phone call or email can lead to the next amazing project or gig. But it would be great to live in a world where artists got paid enormous amounts and bankers had to do Kickstarter campaigns but alas… 

Catch The Frank Burkitt Band on tour in NZ throughout April, including a concert with Albi & The Wolves at The Vic Theatre, Devonport, on Saturday 21st April.

(Finn McLennan-Elliott)

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