A deep nostalgic trip by Madelaine Empson
20 years ago, The Phoenix Foundation released their debut album Horse Power. Recorded with Lee Prebble (The Black Seeds, Trinity Roots) at The Surgery in Newtown, the gruelling late nights and scurvy resulted in one of the most acclaimed New Zealand albums of the year and launched the triumphant career of a band now ensconced in our musical landscape.
“Performing with the NZSO was incredible”, says singer-guitarist Samuel Flynn Scott of their career highlights to date. “Making music with some of our heroes like Neil Finn and Dave Dobbyn, I mean who could have imagined that early on? Getting to tour Japan would be top of my bucket list. Touring anywhere new is always a pure joy. Sharing our music with new people, experiencing their culture. It’s a beautiful thing.”
With six more nuanced, richly detailed, genre-spanning albums to their name, co-frontman Luke Buda describes 2011 – the international release and subsequent UK and European tours of Buffalo – as the peak of their career, but says he has always just believed in the music.
“I still feel that way about our new stuff too, perhaps more than ever.”
At first, Buda felt weird about revisiting Horse Power.
“But now I have absolutely embraced it. It actually feels great to have a moment to appreciate the journey. Also I hadn’t listened to it in years and was sure I was going to find it really embarrassing but actually it stands up pretty good! Only one or two moments where I feel the cringe of listening to my 20-year-old self…”
The Phoenix Foundation will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the beloved album with a national tour and vinyl release on the 24th of November.
“When Horse Power came out there was no way we could afford to release it on vinyl” Flynn Scott says. “It was the golden age of the compact disk and we didn’t even know if we’d sell any of those to be honest. We’ve been wanting to release it on vinyl ever since. I mean at the time we were music nerds who loved the idea of seeing our record on the same format as our ancient heroes, but as we all know vinyl is no longer a nostalgic format and it’s about time our debut caught up with the times!”
When it comes to the Opera House concert on the 25th of November, the inimitable indie-rockers will perform Horse Power in its entirety, plus – while it’s not been finalised yet – Buda imagines “a big old favourites set”.
“Playing Horse Power live from start to finish is going to be a deep nostalgic trip mixed with a sweet fresh vibe as some of these songs have never been performed live”, Buda says. “We were so young, carefree, and enthusiastic in those days and that’s the vibe we’ll be channelling”.
“You will leave these shows having experienced every emotion known and as yet unknown to humanity”, Flynn Scott concludes. “Be prepared.”