Meet: Reb Fountain talks about the highly anticipated tour of her 2021 release ‘Iris’ and growing through collective and personal trauma

Photo: Marissa Findlay

With touring plans curtailed in 2021, critically acclaimed and award winning weaver of musical sorcery Reb Fountain brings her ethereal soaring vocals and all-star band back to unleash her latest album ‘Iris’. We catch up with Reb halfway through her long awaited tour and discuss inspirations, challenges and the appreciation of comradery and community through isolation.

Iris was written in lockdown 2020, can you tell us more about that process? Did it influence how you wrote compared to previous releases?
Yeah definitely. I guess we were heading into lockdown and feeling pretty despondent because all our kind of plans to tour and release my previous record “Reb Fountain” were relatively thwarted. So my friend Dave Khan suggested that I write a song a day which I kind of took on as a bit of a challenge but mostly to give myself something to do. I’d never really written songs like that, being that studious or dedicated about it and also it was quite weird because some days writing would be really hard to get one song done and then other times would be like 6 songs. When I say songs I mean they’re loosely (laughs) a song right, they’re not fully developed but this kind of idea that, you know, I had to practice my craft and doing that really helped me make sense of what a strange landscape I was in.

From that I guess the album was born. I really had no intention of writing a record, I mean like a lot of other people as well right, that did creative projects over that time but I think for me I was also working with the Save our Venues crew and I released my record during lockdown and I was imagining what our future would hold and that venues that may or may not be open and the focus that wouldn’t necessarily have work with crews and technicians and my band. So making an album out of some of those songs kind of felt like a natural next step to set a project that in the future could help us have work you know, so the songs were written in quite a strange time. I guess in some ways they reflect that sense of isolation but mostly they reflect what was going on in the world I think. It was a very isolating time and yet we were reaching out so much, we were so desperate for information. We had the Black Lives Matter movement, you had Afghanistan going on, you had all these sort of quite global macro issues occurring, which of course we do now but we were responding to them in different ways because we were in lockdown.

I guess lastly about the record is that although it was written during this period of isolation it really was cultivated and born through a sense of community because we got out of lockdown and Dave and I started work on the songs then we went to record as a band and with Simon Gooding to Sublime (studios), so we had two weeks of recording together really intensely, and so it was quite the opposite of that. We had this real comradery that was cultivating the music and bringing the songs to life.

How do you remain inspired through collectively difficult times? Did the 2021 lockdown which prevented you from touring inspire you to continue with that writing process and unearth any gems?
I think it was quite different, you know the first time or first several times around were quite a novelty right? But after awhile it got pretty tedious and I think particularly for us in Tāmaki Makaurau in August going into lockdown then, I wasn’t looking forward to it. I also knew I had an album, Iris, was coming out on October 1st and I was like “oh man…I just don’t know if I can do it again” you know? I felt a sense of pressure in myself, am I going to be productive? What am I going to do with this time?

Then interestingly I ended up getting a concussion relatively early on in lockdown and it just changed everything for me. So instead of sort of, you know going into lockdown thinking I’m going to get super fit (laughs), I’m going to do something with my time and then write some music or whatever and it was completely the opposite. It really kind of change my relationship towards myself and to writing and I think it’s taken me a time because there’s been such a long time of recovery, particularly because I had an injury during lockdown so there wasn’t really the kind of recover support, rehab support at all, until earlier this year.

So that changed things for me and forced me to find other ways of keeping myself going which is interesting right, because you connect with parts of yourself that feel like your identity and help you make sense of yourself in the world and give you confidence and I think it took me a lot to find confidence and learn how to deal with a changed brain. Yeah, interesting.

That’s massive. A traumatic brain injury is a really hard and unpredictable ride. How has that recovery gone for you? Being at a place to tour, is that a therapeutic place to be or is it quite difficult on your mind and body?
I mean I love touring, its my favourite thing to do. Being present in performance, being there with the band. I’ve always loved being on the road and travelling and in many ways have found that a lot easier than the rest of my life. That coming on tour feels like a break in a way and I think the difference now is that I’ve been dealing with an injury that kind of overtakes everything. In many ways I’ve been fortunate that we’ve had this time off to deal with that recovery and then rebuild myself and it’s a day to day, moment to moment thing.

I’ve had to kind of work hard through some of sort of the classic brain injury symptoms which would make it really difficult to do the kind of work that I do, whether its audio or visual processing or brain fog, or sort of excessive anxiety…all of these things right? It’s been a real journey but I feel grateful, all I can do is take the opportunity and learn from it. So it’s helped me in lots of ways I think to just appreciate and to be more present and to fight harder for what I do.

What’s it like performing the album now after that break?
I guess it’s really exciting you know, the band and I have been waiting and working towards this for a long time. We excepted to be on tour in November of 21, so for us to be able to bring this album to life, to share what we’re doing, you know we feel super grateful as a band to be able to do our work now, we feel excited. It’s different than what it would have been you know if it was straight away but that’s okay, we’re just rolling with it and it’s given us an opportunity to develop other things with the band and work on new stuff, yeah its exciting.

You’ve got your band who we all know you perform incredibly well with, and you’ve got Jazmine Mary joining you for these shows. What’s it been like working with them?
I love Jazmine. I’ve been a fan of their work for a long time and it’s just a really great opportunity to bring them to meet and share their music with our audiences and Jaz is really fun on the road as well. It’s an honour, their music is a great opener for the show, it settles everybody in really well and a good companion. So that aspects really cool and its just been amazing to be making music live again. This is what everything that we do is working towards. It’s a beautiful process to write songs and to record song but really the magic for us is in the live performance.

Throughout your musical career you’ve already performed with some big names. Is there anyone on your wish list to collaborate or tour with?
I mean, there’s so many amazing people. I have been very fortunate to work with some great New Zealand artists and I think one of the people I’ve wanted to spend more time with, I mean who I love anyway, is Marlon Williams. Really that dream is coming true for us in October and November, we’re travelling and supporting Marlon through Europe and I love Marlon and his music and the band, yeah that’s exciting. Hopefully it will lead to cool things in the future!

You’ve been a pretty big deal for awhile now, I even came across a link to a myspace page in the NZ artist directory! You’ve received many accolades including the 2021 Taite award, nominations for five New Zealand music awards and shortlisted for the Silver Scroll award. At this point in your musical career, what are your future aspirations?

I think, you know, I’m always trying to create work. That’s the thing about being a creative is you’re sort of generating your own work as you go. Finding ways of cultivating employment for the next year or two years time and that sounds a bit sort of, I don’t know…it’s not that I’m not aspiring to other things, I am, but part of it is that journey, what can we do next, what shows can we play and then lets be in the moment and play them.

So I try and get a balance of cultivating that work for the future but also really enjoy where we are. I mean, we have aspirations to grow our audience and develop connections overseas and I would love to tour all the time, you know that’s the thing I love to do, so definitely I’ll be working towards those goals and at the same time keeping my feet on the ground and really being thankful for every moment that we have. I think if anything the pandemic taught us that, you know…we need to appreciate what we have right now and times are changing. This idea of travelling around the world isn’t necessarily one of the future, you know, and so I’m just really trying to work on creative projects that inspire me and connect me with other musicians.

Catch Reb Fountain and band performing Iris live at the following venues:

Thursday 18 August – Christchurch – Isaac Theatre

Saturday 20 August – Wellington – The Opera House

Friday 26 August – Gisborne – The Dome

Saturday 27 August – Hastings – ToiToi Opera House

Tickets for Christchurch and Wellington shows via Live Nation 

Tickets for Gisborne and Hastings via Reb 

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