9 Nov 2023

Dallas Tamaira releases first EP in more than 20 years

4:31 pm on 10 November 2023
Dallas Tamaira catches up with his old friend Oscar Kightley.

Dallas Tamaira: "I don't have too many more boxes to tick." Photo: Dallas Tamaira

He's been playing music and delighting audiences for more than 30 years, but that doesn't mean that Dallas Tamaira isn't nervous about singing by himself in front of a crowd.

Levels, his first solo EP in more than 20 years, might surprise people who are more used to seeing him as the vocalist for Fat Freddy's Drop, he tells Oscar Kightley in a new video interview filmed in Wellington.

"These are things I'm a little bit nervous about because I don't know how it's going to go, but you know, I think the material, the songs are strong and I'm enjoying this whole process."

Tamaira (Ngāti Tūwharetoa, Pākehā) has been part of the Fat Freddy's Drop crew since the late 1990s. 

He released his first solo effort, Better Than Change, in 1999, in the hope of getting a record deal.

“Things didn't really pan out the way that I thought they would with the record deal. They just weren't 100 percent into it and it didn't feel like my creative efforts were getting appreciated.”

Disillusioned, Tamaira decided to focus on his work with Fat Freddy’s Drop instead.

“I just really took a back step from that solo stuff and then just fell into a much more free-flowing form of making music. It was easy with the Freddys'. We'd just turn up and have a jam."

Making the new EP is a way of dealing with that unfinished business, Tamaira says.

"I've always been writing for myself, but the timing was really tricky. I was always on the road with the Freddys', until Covid happened.”

This time round, Tamaira worked on the songs and made the EP while touring with Fat Freddy's Drop and being a dad.

“It's a great time to reflect, I think. This is my first body of work, it's six songs. There's a bit of jazz there... there's references to graphic novels I was reading, to video games I was playing. I feel like I've kind of nailed it.

“I feel like I've kind of nailed it. We mastered and mixed the EP and that was probably my greatest feeling of achievement… knowing that I managed to get it done at the same time as still being a dad, being a father, and touring and working with the Freddys'. That actually felt really good.”

Watch: Marauders - Fat Freddy's Drop 2003 debut European tour, captured in glorious handycam

While he’s confident about the material and the music, Tamaira admits he’s nervous about performing solo after so long.

“There are things that I haven't done that I'm nervous about, like solo shows, possibly singing without a band. In front of an audience, I haven't sung by myself for ages.

“For the most part, I'm just really looking forward to it. I've achieved a lot, I don't have too many more boxes to tick.”

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