1:20 Neil Finn: Live in studio with new Crowded House album

Crowded House in 2024

Crowded House in 2024 Photo: Supplied

It’s fun to be part of a band that’s still evolving on their eighth album, says Crowded House frontman Neil Finn.

The iconic band - now featuring three Finn family members - experiments with psychedelia on their new album Gravity Stairs.

“It's something we can't be too deliberate about but it just seems to be evolving in a nice way to take people on a bit of a trip as it were,” Neil Finn tells Charlotte Ryan.

Although he’s “pretty restless” in terms of musical collaboration, Crowded House is a brilliant vehicle for delivering new songs, Finn says.

Alongside his current Crowded House bandmates -  sons Liam Finn (guitar) and Elroy Finn (drums), original member Nick Seymour (bass) and long-time member Mitchell Froom (keyboards) - doing music videos and promotion is a lot more enjoyable, he says.

“You can sit around and subvert the process as a band. When you're solo, you feel quite… sometimes it feels a little bit earnest and a bit lonely. So having a band is fantastic.”

Gravity Stairs takes its name from the nickname for an actual staircase Finn regularly climbs while on family holidays in Greece.

“It's a particularly heavy staircase that we've struggled up many times with suitcases and it just always feels like it's got double gravity on it … We imagine that it opens up into the underworld and they're trying to pull you down. 

“Quite often I'm ascending the stairs, coming up from dinner, and I hear the sound of bazookas… It's kind of a magic thing and it draws you forward.”

To Finn, the idea of a staircase with its own gravitational pull represents the struggle to be creative and also to find something like enlightenment. 

“It's [about] the mechanics of living, which involve every day getting out of bed and actually having the will to push on through.”

A lot of Individual and team effort is required to pull a Crowded House album together these days, Finn says, as the band members are scattered between Auckland, London, Ireland and LA.

The upside of this distance is that members gets a chance to work their musical ideas through in their own environments, he says, as opposed to a recording studio where they might get “rubbished” within five minutes.

“[Remote recording] has got mixed blessings as people work for two days on a really obscure idea and then it gets passed over and they feel sort of crushed. Sometimes it slows down the process so it is difficult.”

The cover of Gravity Stairs - a 2024 album by Crowded House

The cover of Gravity Stairs - a 2024 album by Crowded House Photo: Supplied

The process of creating music can be both “really really difficult” and “really easy.”, Finn says, and the secret ingredient is simply showing up.

“The magic strikes every now and again inspiration comes once in a while but turning up every day improves your odds. 

“I learned a long time ago that endurance is probably the most important thing. I have natural talent that I was given but that can be squandered and you can languish.

“On the one hand, music is so, so cosmically insignificant, but unless you feel like it's the most important thing in the world, you'll never get anything done.”

Music is also one of the few things that almost everybody on the world can agree can agree on, he says - “It's got value and it’s healing.”

Although Finn admits to being “slightly sick of” a couple of songs from the  Crowded House catalogue, he’s glad to still enjoys singing the band’s hits.

To his own ear, Finn’s singing voice has changed over the decades.

“When I'm listening to the older Crowded House songs I've got a certain adenoidal sound in my voice and I sound like I'm singing really hard. Whereas now I think I've got more control over my voice, which is lovely, and I've got more range. I can sing higher and go lower so that's nice to know. Hope it lasts.”

For Finn, the business of writing song lyric is an “unconscious” process in which he explores words and ideas which might foster human connection.

“I sort of thread things together, hoping to provoke some or evoke some empathy, I suppose. You know when you feel a connection to the song you're singing that it's got a possibility for making people feel connection to other people. You hope for that, that's a really nice outcome, if that's the case. 

“If music can serve to accompany important things for people and bring people back to the important things, loving and living, then it feels incredibly worthwhile.” 

That the same song that helps someone “going through a really awful time” can be the soundtrack to another person’s joy is a mystery he enjoys.

“I leave things a little bit open-ended in my songs, in part so that people can see them or hear them the way they want to.”


Crowded House have just announced New Zealand tour dates for Gravity Stairs

Saturday, 9 November, TSB Arena, Wellington
Tuesday, 12 November, Town Hall, Dunedin
Wednesday, 13 November, Wolfbrook Arena, Christchurch
Tuesday, 19 November, Regent on Broadway, Palmerston North
Wednesday, 20 November, Mercury Baypark Arena, Tauranga
Friday, 22 November, Globox Arena, Hamilton
Saturday 23 November, Spark Arena, Auckland 

Visit the Crowded House website for all dates and ticket links

Neil Finn in the RNZ Auckland studio

Neil Finn in the RNZ Auckland studio Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

2.06  Backstage at the Aotearoa Music Awards

Aotearoa’s biggest artists gathered for the music awards last night. There were performances, speeches and impromptu waiata with the audience. 

Music 101 reviewer Tony Stamp caught up with the winners backstage with their Tūī awards. 

Best Hip Hop Artist Winners Home Brew.

Best Hip Hop Artist Winners Home Brew. Photo: RNZ / Cole Eastham-Farrelly

2:40 Gore polishes boots for the Gold Guitars

We cross to Gore, the country music capital of Aotearoa, and where hundreds of amateur country musicians of all ages have travelled to compete for the coveted NZ Gold Guitar trophy this weekend. 

RNZ reporter Jogai Bhatt reports on the music, the buskers, and the art of cheese roll making.  

3.05  SWIDT on new album: “This is our art, this is our vessel, this is our voice to be heard”

SWIDT’s Spycc and Boomer join Maggie Tweedie in the studio to talk about their new album Taking Care of Business. 

The hip hop crew that hailed from Auckland’s Onehunga have been keeping us guessing right throughout May - dropping new tracks and music videos almost every day of NZ Music Month. Yesterday, in a surprise release, SWIDT dropped the first long player album since 2017, with a message to their fans, “you can’t rush greatness”.

SWIDT's Spycc and Boomer with Maggie Tweedie

SWIDT's Spycc and Boomer with Maggie Tweedie Photo:

3.40 Review: Hit Me Hard and Soft by Billie Eilish 

The pop prodigy's third album finds her continuing to deal with fame at a formative age, often speaking directly to fans and critics.

Billie Eilish

Photo: Petros Studio

4:00 The wonderful world of Rodger Fox

The Rodger Fox Big Band for NZ Live

The Rodger Fox Big Band, 2017.  Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Everyone can name one teacher who left a lasting imprint but only a few can say that teacher encouraged them to follow their true path. Rodger Fox was one of those, a band leader, trombonist extraordinaire, recording artist and big picture thinker. Broadly described by those who loved him as a ‘yes’ man, Fox’s zest for life rubbed off on many.  

Earlier this week the 71-year-old musician died, following a short illness, in Palmerston North. Since then, there has been an outpouring of grief for a man who opened doors for all in New Zealand's jazz music community. 

Rodger Fox founded his Big Band in 1971. In those five decades as band leader, he built a wide network abroad and brought hundreds of New Zealand musicians overseas to perform. Those players would go on to make connections internationally when Fox requested American jazz heavyweights like drummer Steve Gadd, saxophonist Adam Schroeder, trumpet player Jon Papenbrook and guitarist Larry Koonse to play with the big band.  

Rodger Fox received an honorary doctorate from Massey University and was awarded the companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for Services to music in 2022. His musical output was prolific, among countless album releases he also had a record of original music set to the poetry of Hone Tuwhare, and collaborated with Dave Dobbyn and King Kapisi. 

Saxophonist Eilish Wilson met Fox at age 13, when he travelled to Nelson to run workshops for her college big band. Later, at the Southern Jam Festival, he encouraged her to audition for the NZ School of Music Jazz Programme.  

Fox mentored Wilson at university and in her last year of study a spot opened in the Rodger Fox Big Band. Soon Wilson was touring as baritone saxophone chair and went onto play two American tours (the Monterey Jazz Festival and the JEN Conference) and to record albums at United Studio and The Bunker Studio.  

The Rodger Fox Big Band Bunker Studios, Brooklyn NYC Jan 2020

The Rodger Fox Big Band at Bunker Studios, Brooklyn, New York, January 2020.  Photo: Ian Hunt

“Rodger's legacy will be a life lived inspiring young people, lifting them up to perform with some of the world's best musicians, and spreading joy and love through music,” Wilson says. 

She credits the early opportunities she received with Fox as a launchpad for her career in music. Recently she was awarded a Fulbright scholarship, where she graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Jazz from California Institute of the Arts. 

London-based drummer and composer Myele Manzanza, who won Best Jazz artist on Thursday at the Aotearoa Music Awards, was also one of Fox’s students. The two met in Manzanza’s last year of college, when Fox ran a workshop with the Wellington High school’s jazz big band. 

Myele Manzanza

Mylele Manzana  Photo: Liane McGee

Manzanza then worked with him at the NZ School of Music and remembers Fox as a great band leader, who instilled the value of reading music and drove the group hard to deliver results.  

He says the jazz community has been left with “a big Rodger-shaped hole.” 

“More importantly for me though was the educational infrastructure he had a large hand in building. High school jazz summer programmes, the annual Tauranga Jazz Festival, National Big Band competitions, as well his direct work as an educator at the New Zealand School of Music all formed a big part of the community fabric that I and many many other musicians were able to grow out of. It takes a village to raise a child, and in our little jazz village he was a chief. May he rest in peace.”  

Schools concert as part of the 2016 NZSO and Rodger Fox big band tour 'Swing into Spring'

Schools concert as part of the 2016 NZSO and Rodger Fox big band tour 'Swing into Spring'.  Photo: Nick Granville

Nick Tipping, host of RNZ Concert show Inside Out, says he will remember Fox’s absolute dedication to his students. The two met in the late 90s when Tipping was a jazz school student and were colleagues at the NZ School of Music.   

Listen: Nick Tipping’s tribute to Rodger Fox on Inside Out 

Tipping was the bass player in the Rodger Fox Big Band for many years and found him quite relaxed as a bandleader until a couple of weeks out from the big performance. He enjoyed weekly rehearsals and tours around the country with notable American artists. Highlights include a trip to LA and Vegas to record at Capitol Studios.  

“The thing I’ve found hardest to get over is that he was involved in so many things, so many events and initiatives around the band, and that we won’t hear from him again. My first thought when I heard the news was that I guess I had assumed Rodger Fox was somehow immortal.”  

Rodger Fox, Nick Tipping and King Kapisi at Parliament House May 2023

Rodger Fox, Nick Tipping and King Kapisi at Parliament House May 2023 Photo: Molly Kennedy

Songs played on the show

The Ohio Players - Love Rollercoaster (Disco-matic Express Remix) 
Liam K Swiggs featuring Poneke based rapper Young Ghost - Skate Park
Sai galaxy - Sometimes it rains (feat Kavili) 
Roni Size- Let's Get it on 

Tom Tom Club - Genius of Love 
Marlin's Dreaming feat. Erny Belle - Earnestly
Japes - Process
Mitchell Twins - Find a river
Telescope - Hiatus Kaiyote   

Red Astaire - Rollin Stone
SWIDT - Protocols
Mt Kimbie - Empty and Silent 
Little Simz - Rasta Pasta
Haz' and Miloux - March 12 
Fazerdaze - Winter
Christoph El Truento - Ghost Rhythm
Elaquent - The Official