There is a sense of urgency to Six60.
Not panic or a rush, it is just that the five-piece New Zealand supergroup does not want to waste any time.
“It is a feeling we have always had, I just think maybe we have got our shit together,” lead singer Matiu Walters say. “Or maybe the picture that we are trying to paint, we got a bit better or concise about what we wanted to make. For 10-plus years we have been mulling around, and you can probably see the trajectory through the records of what we were trying to create. I guess the time is now and the environment we created really allowed us to hone into our deepest primal truths I suppose, that connect everybody.”
The creative result of this time is new album Castle St, which has already spawned singles Before You Leave and Never Been Tonight.
It is the group’s fourth studio album, named after the street on which they lived in Dunedin when they first got together in their days at the University of Otago.
“I think the stars aligned for this record,” Walters says.
“It is time, isn’t it? You are always wanting to go and make your best stuff yesterday. We are ambitious.”
There is no shame in ambition. Six60 have long stated they want to be as big as they can be globally.
They certainly have the talent, but successive years of Covid lockdowns didn’t help the band’s international plans.
“We definitely lost some important years of our potential momentum,” bass player Chris Mac says.
Six60, also made up Eli Paewai on drums, Ji Fraser on lead guitar, and Marlon Gerbes on synthesiser, is a different band than they were three years ago. And not just because of the pandemic.
Some band members have had children, and they’ve changed record labels from Sony Music to Universal Music.
So what does the album say about them?
“It is our origin story,” Walters explains. “I think with the pandemic and the growing family … it changes your perspective of music and changes your priorities, and we really turned inward with this album [rather] than outward with the last one. Instead of polishing out the creases, we put a light on them and celebrated our differences and celebrated the imperfections, which have always been the thing that was unique about this group. And now we had the time, I guess, for the album to brew and the balls to do it.”
Mac adds: “It is a very hopeful album I think, almost naively so, but in a positive way. Having kids and all that stuff gives you a different perspective but we tackled it in a hopeful way. It is easy to be pessimistic and throw the baby out with the bath water, but all of the songs are hopeful.”
Becoming a father for the first time, with daughter Boh Ataahua Freeman Walters born last year, has certainly changed Walters.
“For the band, it has changed our use and perception of time,” he says.
“We have less and we do more with the limited amount of time we have. We have less time to rehearse and so we are a lot more poignant now, and maybe that is something that came through with the record, too, we didn’t just fluff around and wait for it to arrive, I think we were a bit more purposeful.”
Fraser, who has two children, agrees.
“Maybe having kids makes you care less about what other people think … and not trying to be anything other than who we are,” he says. “I feel like it is the first time we’ve done that in years, musically that is, and that is why we feel so strongly and why it means so much to us.”
SIX60 has visited Australia several times over the past year as Covid border restrictions eased.
Gigs have sold out as their fanbase has grown. They have just played a run of shows in the US and Canada and are off to Europe to support the new album next.
Then it’s “back to New Zealand to do the first ever stadium tour that has ever gone through New Zealand, and that is going to be something”.
They are booked for a series of festival gigs in Australia in December, playing VanFest, among other shows.
Six60 has big plans for the future.
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“It has always been our goal from the start to achieve as much as we possibly can, so wherever we can put the goalposts we tend to head for it,” Fraser says.
Walters adds: “We are definitely an ambitious, driven group. The way we approach it now has changed. In the beginning it was very much goals of sales or tickets, those things that really drove us, but it is a futile pursuit. Now it is more about, we want to be the best band that we can be, we want to write the best music that we can, possibly make and be the most authentic version of ourselves, and as a result we are pretty confident that accolades, awards, money, shows and all of that will fall into place. It is a lot more peaceful, happy way of going about doing stuff.”
Six60s new album, Castle St, is out now, as is the single Before You Leave.
Originally published as New Zealand rockers Six60 are eyeing world domination – but family will always come first