Successful European tour for The Phoenix Foundation

By Stephen Jewell

Nothing sums up The Phoenix Foundation's triumphant gig at legendary Soho venue the Borderline better than the punter who regularly shouts out 'Awesome bro!' at the end of every song.

Luke Buda (left) and Sam Scott of The Phoenix Foundation perform at Paradiso in Amsterdam. Photo / Alison Netsel
Luke Buda (left) and Sam Scott of The Phoenix Foundation perform at Paradiso in Amsterdam. Photo / Alison Netsel

For the past month, The Wellington six-piece have toured Britain and Europe promoting the release of their fourth album Buffalo on Islington label Memphis Industries.

And while they can't wait to fly home in a few days time, right now the band are in their element, playing to a mostly ex-pat crowd that laps up their every note.

"There's definitely a few Kiwis at every show but there's also been plenty of locals as well," says Sam Scott, who shares front-man duties with Luke Buda.

"We've definitely been expecting a few Kiwis along to the Borderline, which sold out over two months ago. Since then, the album has come out and we've had airplay on the BBC and reviews in lots of newspapers and magazines. So our next show in London will probably have a more European crowd."

The pair certainly make for the proverbial odd couple with Scott's dryer humour offset by Buda's more clownish antics.

Between songs Scott reads out thank you notes from the audience while Buda occasionally breaks out into a comedy dance.

They open with the swooning Eventually before segueing into Buffalo's most upbeat moment Bitte Bitte, which as Buda informs us, they had to play twice in Berlin.

Over the next hour, they deliver a tight, disciplined set drawn mostly from Buffalo that is a stark contrast to their inaugural British concert at the Islington Academy a few years ago when they veered off onto a proggy tangent from which they never returned.

"We're definitely better equipped to deal with the reality of the situation now," laughs Scott.

"Our expectations aren't huge and we're not aiming to become the biggest band in England. But we want to get out to the right kind of people, who will really appreciate what we do.

"We're not looking for any kind of sensational impact. We just want people who really dig music, buy albums on vinyl and still like to listen to an album from start to finish. Those are the kinds of people who will understand a band like us. We're not excitably handsome men. We take music seriously but we don't take ourselves too seriously. Hopefully we're doing the right thing, which we seem to be as it's going really well."

Cleverly released in the doldrums of January when everyone is thirsting for new tunes, Buffalo was awarded an impressive five stars by Guardian critic Dave Simpson, who compared the band to the Byrds, Fleet Foxes and the xx.

"All these things definitely feel more significant than when we've previously tried to put our music out in America," says Scott.

"There's been a lot more happening and we've got a lot more people behind it. It feels much more focused and worthwhile. I'm too old to come over here, stay in a shitty flat and get smashed all the time while playing the occasional shitty gig. I'd rather be at home in New Zealand gardening than touring Europe but we're certainly here for the right reasons."

In addition to supporting fellow Memphis Industries act The Go Team, Phoenix Foundation have staged their own headline shows in places like Brighton, Amsterdam, Paris and Hamburg.

They will return to Britain in the summer, beginning with a date at the Scala in Kings Cross on June 2nd.

"We're just treating England as we'd treat New Zealand now," says Scott. "We want to keep on doing as much as we can and we're in a good position to do that."

Rather than embarking individually on more solo projects, Scott reveals that the band are itching to get back into the studio.

"We're all a bit fatigued at the moment but we're hoping to start recording another record in the next few months," he says.

"It always takes a long time to work on them so we'll have to see how it goes. But the next thing I want to work on is another Phoenix Foundation record, which is a bit different to what it's been like in the past where we've made a record and then everyone has gone off and worked on something else.

"We're all really keen to keep going on this because it feels really good right now."

*The Phoenix Foundation play at Auckland Zoo this Friday March 4th, along with Liam Finn and The Thomas Oliver Band. Buy tickets here.

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