“Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me as is ever so on the road..”
– Jack Kerouaic
There was a time, when ‘on the road’ meant whisky soaked adventures with the beat poets of the 1950s through the heart of America. Today, the road’s a little bigger, the adventures are soaked in reggae music and today’s beat poets are New Zealand reggae roots masters Katchafire.
‘When we get through each town be calling us home’
– Katchafire, On the Road Again
Successfully one-upping Kerouaic, with their platinum selling fourth studio album On the Road Again, the Aotearoa boys have sparked a global reggae blaze with their perfect musical high and won’t be coming down any time soon.
“It’s been a blessing. I think we’ve calculated, the last year we’ve pretty much toured the World, bar Japan and China” says drummer Jordan Bell. “We’ve got a lot to go, but it’s been a busy year and it keeps us out of trouble”.
Not that there’s been much time for trouble, with the band recently finishing up sell-out headline tours of Brazil, Hawaii and America. Including the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, being Nominated Best International Band at the British Reggae Music Awards, not to mention a documentary in the works.
Yet this monster schedule, which would devour and digest a lesser band, seems to only strengthen the reggae inferno. Katchafire’s live gigs stoke fans like embers: everyone is at ease and, as the beat kicks in, the room ignites. Bell agrees: “The vibe is still the same. The audiences no matter where we are in the world… they’re all singing the songs, they know the words, they’ve got the energy screaming at the top of their lungs. To have that kind of reaction at a place you never thought you’d be in your life is a pretty cool feeling”.
With the dynamic 8-piece spending such long periods away from home, the aptly titled On the Road Again features reflective and soulful harmonies, as nourishing as Mum’s home cooking. It’s a perfect blend of happy nostalgic tones: substantial, comforting, tasty and made with care.
“We were touring for months and that started coming out in the music,” Bell explains. “It just happened naturally, a lot of love tones and missing home, there’s a lot of loving in that album”.
Katchafire’s unique fusion of soulful New Zealand styled roots music creates an authentic sound you can’t help but enjoy. It embraces those parts of reggae that make it a universal genre.
“It’s another step up from the last three studio albums, we’re always evolving, Bell says. “Any musician is always evolving. That’s the good thing about music: you can never master it. You can never become top of the game, because you’re always learning. So in that sense we get better and better every album.”
“As well as keeping our traditional roots, Katchafire sound, we’ve always prided ourselves on trying to push boundaries of reggae music,” he says. “You can adapt almost any style to reggae. You can be very eclectic with it and take a lot of influences… and bridge it with the music and it just seems to fit nicely with the message and the lyrics, when teamed up with that, it’s unstoppable”.
Due to hit our shores this August for their Irie Tour, the Kiwi lads are keen to once again visit their favourite homes away from home.
“It’s awesome to get around and rekindle all the fans and see the place through what we love to do. Aussies are great and keep us on our toes. It’s that competitive love relationship dynamic going on. We like to come and get our dose of that whenever we can,” Bell says.
During their visit, Katchafire have also been honoured with headlining the 10th Anniversary of the Reggaeton festival in Cairns, a gig that’s close to their heart. “Reggaeton is awesome. We love that show.” says Bell excitedly “It’s really good that we can sit back and hear from other musicians, learn techniques, have a few beers and talk stories, to be at a concert full of reggae artists, especially reggae greats that we never thought we’d ever see, let alone play with next to on stage rubbing shoulders”.
With the international success of their overwhelmingly sold out shows, Bell says that reggae music is still just as powerful as ever: “The fact that it crosses over any age group or barrier with this music. It’s been here before us, it’s going to be here after us and the messages of love and unity is what everybody needs right now, everybody needs that kind of music. There’s hard times out there so reggae music is there to help patch things up and help people feel a bit better”.
It seems the hard work has paid off and the fire has caught, with the band continuing to gain momentum, always bringing unstoppable energy and retina burning performances to each live show, simultaneously inspiring and unifying fans.
“After 10 years it’s really important to keep getting excited, keep that spark,” agrees Bell. “We’ve always been lovers of reggae music and love to play it live. I guess the secret to longevity is you’ve got to love something first.”
So where does Katchafire’s road lead to? “World Domination,” smiles Bell through the phone.
“We’re trying to take over the world. We’ve got so many years left ahead of us, so I think I’ll be ready to hit the stage … 80 or 90 years old in my little electric controlled chair out with the mic. As long as you love us we’ll be loving you a million times back.”
On The Road Again is out now through Lion House Records. Katchafire kick off their Australian tour at the end of August. Full dates and details here.