Fat Freddy's Drop turns on, tunes in

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Considering the tripped-out journeys of its songs, it comes as no surprise that Fat Freddy's Drop was born of psychedelic experimentations. A top seller in its native New Zealand, FFD focuses on maintaining a stellar groove — you'd be hard-pressed to find a Fat Freddy track clocking in at less than six minutes. The seven-member band dropped into town last fall to play to a ravenous, sold-out Independent crowd. While its devoted kiwi fanbase is regularly treated to FFD's funkafied, reggae-infused performances, the Independent show was the first U.S. appearance since a one-off back in 2004. With more SF shows this time around, it seems like the septet is really gaining traction on this side of the Pacific. Saxophonist Chopper Reeds gave us the lowdown on the Drop.

SFBG What's the name Fat Freddy's Drop about?
CHOPPER REEDS We're probably stepping all over Bay Area counterculture royalty here but, as you probably know, Fat Freddy was one of the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers. And he had a cat — a feline of somewhat loose morals. The cat had a cult following here in Wellington among a party-loving crowd. So we bastardized his name and embraced his vibe.

SFBG What are you looking forward to on this tour?
CR Some proper Mexican food. And looking for records. Oh, and playing for our U.S. friends. The reaction to our first West Coast gigs was fantastic. The band is in great form, so I think we'll have something fresh for people to see.

SFBG How have influences from the western hemisphere — dub, soul, funk — filtered into your music? And how did singer Joe Dukie develop his unique vocal style?
CR Filter is the right word. We can only really access that music through records or if we get a chance to see someone live when we're traveling. We're not purists — we're seven rabid fan boys all diggin' on some Al Green, Delroy Wilson, Prince, or Fela Kuti and trying to work out how we can cop that vibe rather than copy the notes. As for Dukie, well I can't answer for him. All I can say is, he is a deep pool. By that I mean he draws out his lyrics in a very considered and powerful way.

SFBG What about the mix of New Zealand-Pacific Islander backgrounds in the group and how that plays out in the music?
CR We've got one Samoan, three Maori, and three European New Zealanders. But our outlook is pretty internationalist, so we're prepared to steal musical influences from anywhere.

SFBG To me the music of Fat Freddy's Drop drips of summer. Is that just the general vibe of New Zealand, or is it particular to the group?
CR I like to think that the music can transport you. New Zealand can be a pretty grim place in winter, and the country's thoughts are very much on sunshine and warmth. Themes of family, love, and renewal are in all music. That sounds like a good summer to me.

FAT FREDDY'S DROP
Fri/25 and Sat/26, 9 p.m., $20
The Independent
628 Divisadero, SF
www.independentsf.com

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