1 Jun 2024

Neil Finn: Live in studio with new Crowded House album

From Music 101, 1:20 pm on 1 June 2024

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 bouzoukis… 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 get 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 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.”


Songs played in Neil Finn’s RNZ live session:
Fall At Your Feet
All That I Can Ever Own
Teenage Summer


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

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