The Pier sat down with Katchafire lead-singer Logan Bell during the band’s stop at Cervantes’ Masterpiece Ballroom in Denver, CO. In customary Maori fashion, Bell and the rest of Katchafire welcomed The Pier with open arms into the green room. Bell’s warm personality and infectious smile, along with his narrative, storytelling-style of conversation made for a laid back chat.
Katchafire is currently working on the band’s fifth studio album. For the first time, Bell discussed the broad details of the upcoming album, Along with these insights, Bell provided details on the band’s progressions in songwriting, relentless touring and their upcoming tour dates, which includes stops in Brazil and a return to the U.S. this summer.
The Pier: Logan! Thanks for sitting down with The Pier. You guys are on the road upwards of 49-weeks out of the year and have been doing it for many years. I’m sure you have stayed in some of the finest and not-so-fine establishments in cities across the world. And then you get on stage and play for 90-minutes almost every night of the week. You guys are Maori road warriors! Honestly, how do you guys do it?
Katchafire: Road warriors! Ha! (laughing). We are professional musicians. This is what we do for a living—this is our dream. Our families are behind us 100 percent and they support us. So, you know, we’re in it for the long game. When we are overseas and this far away from our homes we like to get as much done as we can. We kind of heap it (live shows) all in. It’s hard work. We could stay here (United States) for three months and do the same number of gigs we do in one month. But, it’s about trying to be as productive as we can and taken those offers to play while they are there. Really, it makes it easy when you love it (touring)!
The Pier: Katchafire has been called the “hardest working band in the country (NZ).” What does this mean to you and your fans?
Katchafire: I guess it means that we are the most dedicated to taking our music and our message out here on the road. We are always in a van traveling to some new place and looking to spread our message. I think it takes a lot. It is a lot of hard work. One hour on stage or two hours on stage, and the rest is traveling, sleeping in busses and hauling our luggage around forever. Those moments are not too clamorous, but it’s the drive and the goal that keeps us going. It’s still fun and we still love it!
The Pier: How has the US hospitality been thus far on your Spring Tour?
Katchafire: Very good! Good old Colorado has smiled upon us the most so far. It was quite hard coming from the east coast, because we’d never been there before. We didn’t know a lot of people. Now we do; now we’ve got a lot of connects, and family and links. It’s always an adventure coming to the States because it’s one of our favorite places to tour. I would probably think about living here—maybe in Colorado or Florida. (I’d live in) Colorado for sure. It’s not dry air or the altitude. Ha! (laughing) But, it’s definitely the nice contrast in the weather, landscape and there are some good people here.
The Pier: Are there any plans for a summer or Fall US Tour? What’s your tour schedule looking like the rest of the year?
Katchafire: We are coming back to the States for a tour in June, playing Sierra Nevada and a few other big things. And then Brazil right after this tour. (Starting) May 1st we are doing six shows in Brazil, and a couple more shows in neighboring countries. So, we are doing a lot of touring around the rest of the world this summer.
The Pier: Reggae music is big on the messages of unity, love and respect. Mutual respect is often shown when artists collaborate. Is there any artist or group that you’re looking to collaborate with on a song in the future? Which bands are out there that you really respect and would love to collaborate with?
Katchafire: Wow! That’s a tough call—tough call! I’d love to collaborate with Gentleman. That would be one of my all-time favorite collabs! I know Jamey (Ferguson) is wanting to do something with Gappy Ranks. I would also love to do something withJ-Boog. There are a lot of artists, even the support bands like the Common Kings. I’d love to collaborate with those boys. The list goes on, really. But, just Gappy (Ranks) and Gentleman are the ones we thinking about seriously for collabs. The rest are list wish. And Julian (Marley) would be at the top of that wish list—that would be cool!
The Pier: A person’s culture has huge influences on the stories they tell and art they make. How has Maori culture influenced your songwriting, live performances and musical approach? Are there any specific traditional Maori elements that you incorporate into your live show?
Katchafire: I think musically we love to harmonize. Every Maori knows how to play a guitar or knows how to play at least one song on the guitar. So, we (Maori) are very musical. We (Katchafire) love soul, blues and jazz. I think the main feature of our music where you can see our culture is the harmonies that we choose. The fact that we love to harmonize most of our songs with at least two or three part harmonies (is what sets us apart); to me that is the main feature. Secondly, the way we hold ourselves on stage. The Maori race is a very humble race. The indigenous people of New Zealand are very humble and we have a humble presence on stage. But, we are very aggressive if you test us. Shit can get real bad, real quick! Ha! (laughing) So, we are very humble. There’s not a lot of hype going around. You won’t catch us jumping around on stage. We rely heavily on our abilities and musicianship. Really, we are on the contemporary side of the spectrum between Maori culture and reggae music. If you look at the collaboration between Maori culture with modern reggae, it’s a spectrum—at one end Maori culture and the other end reggae. We’re kind of like towards the reggae end (of the spectrum).
The Pier: In the early days you (Logan) and Jamey were the band’s principle songwriters. Your latest album “On the Road Again” credits five singer songwriters. What are the factors behind this songwriting progression?
Katchafire: It’s been a natural progression, really. The other guys, in their own right, have been writing for years now. Even though they haven’t done any solo projects or anything, they have been sitting back, watching and observing and learning. When it’s song time or when it’s rehearsal time, they come around and have ideas. These guys are like “what about this idea?” and they pick up a guitar (and play)—they are bringing songs to the table. As creative people we are never going to shut them down. We are always going to look and keep pushing our own abilities—our own (Katchafire) style really lies within everybody. The camp is talking about doing separate projects for each songwriter. You know, don’t be surprised, you could have the individuals within Katchafire putting their own albums out real soon.
The Pier: Reggae music has a history tied to protest songs, like Bob Marley’s “Soul Rebel” and Peter Tosh’s “Get Up, Stand Up.” On your latest release “On the Road Again” my favorite song is called “Lead Us,” which has a protest song feel. You say, “They try to take our culture. They try to segregate. They try to take away our birth place.” Several parallels can be drawn between your lyrics, the Maori people’s experience and other indigenous cultures (like American Indians) around the world. As musicians you guys are in a unique position to educate through your music. So, how important is it to you to tell the stories of marginalized communities of people? Do you feel as New Zealand’s reggae Kings you have a responsibility to share these stories?
Katchafire: I definitely think knowing that history is important to know. As a New Zealander, Maori history didn’t get taught in schools—probably, very similar to the States where indigenous people’s history doesn’t get taught, either. I’m not crying about, “they tried to take our land.” I just thought the history needed to be touched on. I’m putting it out and letting it be known for people who might need to know more about it (the history). The many different instances and stuff I’m talking about in the song is real, and has come to fruition. Those are very real stories and close to the heart. I feel like it’s kind of our responsibility to tell those stories. We’ve been dubbed the kings of reggae music at home. So, I do feel a little bit of that pressure to tell those stories, and we haven’t until now. We are definitely feeling a lot more of that pressure now, whereas before our songs were more about our way of life and enjoying ourselves.
The Pier: It’s been a year since your last album. Do you guys have any plans for your next release? Have any labels expressed interest in working with you on your next album?
Katchafire: We are working on a new album now. It’s three months underway already. We have six tracks down and that are being worked on while we are on tour. We are looking to finish twelve tracks. We are looking to package that (the album) up around the end of the year or the start of next year to get it out to the people. We are looking at inking a deal with VP Records. They reached out to us and have shown interest. It’s just kind of opening up and we are working through the details on that. I don’t know if we can say that yet, ha! (laughing) We have had a band meeting about the new record and the general concept (for the record) is how we are unique and how New Zealand is unique to the rest of the world. So, that’s the broad creative concept that the boys have in the back of their minds for writing.
The Pier: Logan, thank you for taking the time to sit down with The Pier! Have a great show tonight. We are looking forward to the new album.
Katchafire: Thank you guys!
Katchafire Show Locator
Interview & Photos By: Kit Chalberg
Katchafire’s official music video to “On The Road Again”. Enjoy!..