December/January 2024

by Charlie Rodgers

Flaxxies: Striking Out Towards The Sun

by Charlie Rodgers

Flaxxies: Striking Out Towards The Sun

When two high school friends started jamming at Saint Kentigern College in Pakuranga, Tāmaki Makaurau, little did they suspect eight years later they would be working with one of Aotearoa’s biggest music producers and uniting dance-floors across Aotearoa. With their third EP ‘Sunstruck’ released in late 2023, Flaxxies are ready to take the country by storm. Charlie Rodgers speaks with rhythm guitarist Nick Tait.

“We started out as a co-curricular project back when Chris (Manning) and I were in year 8 and 9 just playing together for fun. There was no thought of ever taking it anywhere, but over the last couple of years at high school we got Eric (Goodger) on lead guitar and Benji (Humphries) on vocals,” Nick Tait opens.

“That was our final conception up until the start of this year, where we had to let our drummer Jayden (Welsh) go, who is who you hear on all the recordings of the EP. He wanted to take a different path in music and is now doing some session drumming for a few other people and bands. Neo Lee is our drummer now, he’s a real talented jazz cat.”

It was Humphries who found Lee through the podcast – a Whitianga local show hosted by Leonardo Magri in which Lee was voicing interest in coming back to Auckland to get on the gig circuit after living in the Coromandel for a couple years. His interest was piqued.

“We all individually went and had a listen to the podcast and agreed that the bloke had what we were looking for. Sure enough, we got him in for a jam, and we all loved it and the rest is history.'”

By now in their early 20s, the band say they’ve moved on from their debaucherous high school past, but the name Flaxxies, with its teen drinking culture reference, has stuck.

“A flaxxie is like a beer funnel, but with a piece of flax, so it has a bit of a number eight wire take on it. It’s a name that encompasses a bit of Kiwi culture, and a bit of Kiwi counter-culture if you will. I don’t know who spread it, or where it came from, but we were like, ‘Oh, that would actually make a mean band name!’ so we stole it and threw it in, and it’s working pretty well,” Tait laughs.

He conveniently describes their new EP ‘Sunstruck’ as “… a strong fusion of surf rock and reggae with a funk influence, and a bit of classic blues rock as well.”

“We really look up to your Mako Road, Sticky Fingers, Ocean Alley – a lot of Australian and NZ influences – but at the same time there are a lot of classic rock bands like Led Zeppelin that we listen to.”

Having mostly known each other for years makes songwriting easier, with their songwriting process often being a collective and very collaborative effort.

“It’ll start off as anything from Benji having a fully written song that he wants us to transpose into our parts, to Eric or I just having some chords that we jammed together to turn into a song.

“Sometimes it’s two people working together for most of the songs. Sometimes it’s all five, it really depends on who’s got the best ideas for any different song.”

The creation of ‘Sunstruck’ involved legendary Kiwi producer and artist, Tiki Taane, with recording done between Bay Of Plenty and Auckland. The production cycle ran over a year, with a couple of the songs included having been floating around for a few years awaiting completion.”

“We got the call from our manager about a year ago hearing that Tiki Taane was really keen to work with us, and at first it was to do a bit of pre-production and to get his head around some of our songs. After a couple of sessions just working on demos with him he let us know that he was pretty keen to try and see it through, and we could do the whole EP with him.

“We’ve been travelling down to Papamoa, where Tiki has his little home studio for the better part of the past year, getting all the songs finished and demoed up, and then we took them across to 11B Studios with Evan Pope in Mt Maunganui to sort out all of our drums, bass, and percussion. Then we came back up to Auckland to The Lab, with Olly Harmer, to work on all of our guitars and vocals.”

Another high school friend and original Flaxxies’ producer, Ryan Cruickshank, also got involved, Nick explaining that he helps translate their non-technical jargon into something other producers understand. Aesthetically, the band and Taane clearly gelled, and his influence on the songwriting and production process is heavily praised with words like ‘iconic’ or ‘legendary’ frequently used.

“He has all his own ways of doing everything and then he’s just so good at mixing dub as well. One of our songs, Brighter Days, on the EP has a lot of Tiki dub going on, which was so cool to watch him cook, he’s the king of dub!

“Tiki was born with a wizardry ear for music, one of a kind-sort of buzz. It doesn’t matter whether he’s mashin’ up some DnB with his wife Rach, or working on a surf rock track with us, he loves anything and everything music related. There’s never a dull moment in the studio with Tiki, nor any question too dumb. It’s always pure good vibes with a producer who’s willing to listen and contribute some of their own wisdom to achieve the sound that’s being gunned for.”

Tait recalls one moment on the EP that stands out for him.

“The bridge to Cast Me Away! His EQ sweep, low harmony on the vocals and bass drop-out created quite a euphoric moment which the band was chuffed about! We also loved being exposed to a bit of dub. This is a style we have always wanted to incorporate into a track of ours, but never had the tools to do so.

“Mixing can get quite complicated these days – a lot more buttons to push and plugins to use. Tiki still uses some old school techniques to get the sound he sets out to achieve for some aspects in his production which is a really cool characteristic of his.”

The band has stuck with making music after being encouraged by getting a bit of traction a couple of years in, saying it wasn’t a pre-existing plan for any of them.

“We started understanding the music industry and how you can make a living out of it as we went. We hadn’t gone into it expecting this outcome. I think as we got more and more into it we realised how rewarding of a job it is to have that full production cycle; where you go away, you write something, you then go and record it, then you get to go and tour it and show everyone and people get really excited about it!”

After leaving high school the band took a very DIY approach to the music industry, but these days have a team working with them. Matt Harvey, one half of legendary drum’n’bass duo Concord Dawn, is their manager.

“We got an email from Matt on the day of our ‘Beach Rudes’ EP release back in 2022. He basically reached out wanting to know a little bit more about who we were, what we were about and what we are wanting to achieve. It was a pretty surreal feeling as none of us wanted to approach a manager, all five of us had dreamed of being approached.

“We ended up bringing him around to our studio, and got him along to a couple of shows. We instantly clicked and thought he was a top bloke. We were lucky enough that he decided he was keen to look after the five of us for a little while and help us get on our feet.”

With a newly released EP and having just finished a full tour, the lads are looking ahead to their holiday gigs, including classic summer haunts like Coroglen Tavern and getting to share the stage with Tiki Taane.

“Moving on from here it’s really just getting around to play more shows, getting some more music out for all you people and working on another EP next year. One day we would love to be flying around the world playing shows for everyone, that’s our dream, but obviously you have to break that down into smaller steps. So for now our big goal is to get over to Aussie and play some good shows over there.”

support nzm