by Jennifer K. Shields

C. Zukey: Bearing The Fruut Of Love

by Jennifer K. Shields

C. Zukey: Bearing The Fruut Of Love

It’s been 12 years since Christian Brenndorfer-Zucchiatti’s Farah Loux released their debut album, ‘Flaws’ – marking the last time Christian wrote music. Now working as C. Zukey (a shortened form of his name), his new album ‘Stone Fruut’, is suitably fresh. Jennifer Shields catches up with him.

“For me, it’s something completely different, and it’s really kind of varied – a lot of songs I wouldn’t have written back when I was writing with Farah Loux,” Christian says. “You can’t really change your voice, or how you write, but you can kind of try. I feel like I wrote differently. I wonder if people will think this is like a follow-up Farah Loux album, but I think it’s different enough that I shouldn’t have to worry about it!”

Released mid-May, ‘Stone Fruut’ is a spacious dream-pop exploration of love, grief, and nostalgia, drawing from Christian and his family’s experiences over the last few years.

A lot of these songs were written between 2019 and 2020, which is just after Lydia [Christian’s wife] had her brain injury. Lydia suffered a hypoxic brain injury, so due to the loss of blood, she wasn’t getting enough oxygen to her brain, and that led to a severe brain injury. It’s been a long journey. She stayed in hospital for months after that, and then moved on to the brain injury rehab centre for a number of years. She’s at home with us now – she moved home last year, around July or August.

“So that was obviously the catalyst, I think – such a big life event.

“Up until that point, I didn’t even own a guitar – like for most of Farah Loux I was borrowing guitars. I just went out and bought a nice electric guitar, and a nice amp, and some really great pedals, and so all of a sudden had great guitar gear. Sometimes with new gear comes new ideas.”

Those first few ideas were quite different to what ended up on ‘Stone Fruut’ through the process.

“Originally it was quite rocky, like I was heading in a really rocky direction. Some of the first songs I wrote were very dark, you know, just getting this energy out into a song. And after a little while, a few months, I wrote one song called Stone Fruut which didn’t even end up making the album! But after I wrote that one song, I thought, ‘Okay, that’s the start of something here. I can stop messing around and start writing a piece of work.’ And so the songs on the album came together quite quickly – in six months, it rounded out to be a group of songs I’d be happy to release as an album.”

The journey Christian and his whānau have been on is evident, the album filled with a nostalgic mix of sadness and tenderness.

“It’s a love album, but it’s also a grief album. There’s obviously deep sadness in a lot of the songs, but I didn’t want to make a depressing album. I wanted to always have a glimmer of hope in all of the songs, even the really depressing songs there’s still a bit of hope, that it’s going to be okay. It was definitely a conscious thing.”

To get the recording process started, Christian reached out to an old friend – Mark Perkins (Merk).

“We both kind of grew up together. We went to high school together, actually, so we’ve been friends since like 2006. It was awesome to be able to work with him, it was such a nice, relaxing environment. He was so good at taking the ideas I had and fleshing them out into a song that sounded like a song, you know what I mean? I was really happy with how Holy Water turned out, because it was one that I didn’t feel would make the album. When I was playing it, it was acoustic, and I’d shown it to a few people and didn’t really get that much positive feedback. But when we sat down with it we went, ‘Well, it probably won’t make it, so let’s just do something crazy with it’, and it turned into this soft rock anthem with a wah guitar. And now it’s my favourite song on the album!”

‘Stone Fruut’ to came together over years and a number of recording sessions.

“We recorded the first song in 2020 and the second in 2021, and then we just didn’t record any music until the start of 2023 where suddenly I went, ‘Why haven’t I released anything? I need to do this. I need to do music.’ So I just messaged Mark out of the blue, like,‘Let’s do it right now. I’ll come to Christchurch, let’s go.’”

The recording with Perkins took place in Diamond Harbour and Lyttleton, as well as a few sessions in Auckland, with a star-studded line up helping to produce it. Finn Scholes (Carnivorous Plant Society), Alex Freer (AC Freazy, Tiny Ruins), mixing by Shannon Fowler (Tom Lark), mastering by Paul Gold of Salt Mastering – and an old Farah Loux friend, John Bristow.

“John was really helpful in the writing process. I mean, he’s been my best friend for years and we’ve always had a great writing relationship, so a lot of the credit goes to him. I think it can really be heard in Small Victories, the last song on the album. That’s really one that came together once I sat down with John. He was on his keys. It’s mainly just a nylon guitar and keys, and what came out on the track is pretty much how we ended it on the writing day.”

Christian’s looking forward to playing live again, with shows planned with various old friends.

“I really, really like the writing and the recording and the playing live. Once it’s out, I kind of don’t know what to do. I’m like, twiddling my thumbs. So yeah, I’m ready for that feeling again – probably my favourite part about music is playing live. Even now, I’ve got enough for a second album. I’ve got so many songs to write, you know?”