We're looking back on some of our favourite big reads from TimeOut this year. Today, we revisit Chris Schulz's interview with Six60.

"Hey, can you turn that down?"

A man in a black hat and shirt has rushed into the middle of Six60's new Auckland studio, and he's yelling and waving his hands as he heads towards the band's frontman, Matiu Walters.

With his back turned, Walters is busy debuting one of Six60's summery new songs at full blast to a TimeOut journalist, who's a little nervous about the sudden studio invasion.

But Walters isn't concerned. He spins around in his chair, quickly apologises, and adjusts the volume knob down.


The man is the band's neighbour from a camera equipment hire store, and his tired tone as he mutters about an important customer coming in soon suggests he's visited Six60's studio before.

Turns out he has. In fact, an appearance from him, or one of his workmates, complaining about the volume, has become a regular occurrence.

"We're just noisy," explains Chris Mac, the band's easy-going bassist, after he leaves. "They're not being assholes about it. They find us playing music real loud quite annoying."

The five-piece - Walters, Mac, drummer Eli Paewai, guitarist Ji Fraser and sampler Marlon Gerbes - have tried their best to keep it down since moving into their new Eden Terrace studio a few months ago.

They boxed Paewai's drum kit in a bid to soundproof the "paper-thin" walls, delayed major recording sessions until evenings and plan to hang drapes across the wall between them.

Six60 in their new Eden Terrace studio.
Six60 in their new Eden Terrace studio.

But it's to no avail: these are neighbours on a path to war.

Sighs Mac: "I think we might have to move out ... They're trying to run a business, and we're trying to run a business."

It's an interesting choice of words because big business is exactly what Six60 is these days.


Already one of New Zealand's most successful bands, the Dunedin rockers have set up camp in a new Auckland studio to record their latest EP, a blast of summer soul-pop that's already yielded a top-10 hit, the earworm sugar rush Don't Give It Up.

Their EP's due out on November 17, and they're backing it up with their biggest-ever tour, a six-week jaunt through Europe with their Norwegian buddies Nico & Vinz. Afterwards, both bands will play four crowd-pleasing summer dates in New Zealand in January.

That's a major undertaking for any band, but Six60 are looking much further than just the next few months.

Visit their new studio, dubbed "HQ", and you won't find empty liquor bottles, pizza boxes and hungover entourage members asleep on the floor.

Knock on the door, walk in and you wouldn't know you were in a music studio at all. A boardroom table greets visitors, surrounded by whiteboards covered in green scribbles, office chairs and filing cabinets.

"This is such a shit entrance," explains Mac. "It's the mullet of studios."

By that, he means it's business at the front, party at the back. Through a second set of doors is Six60's dimly-lit studio, housing instruments, tour gear, recording equipment, computers and mixing boards.

Six60 head out on a summer tour in January.
Six60 head out on a summer tour in January.

But take a closer look and you'll see subtle differences. Just like an office, each band member has their own desk and computer. "It's really versatile, really collaborative," says Walters. "We can demo at our desks, work on the tracks here... and produce them up."

There are set hours: each band member is required to be in the studio by 11am. "Sometimes we'll have a Monday band management meeting," he continues.

And just like any corporation, there are key performance indicators. "We've made priorities to our culture," says Mac, sounding like an HR rep. "One of the things is to celebrate and have fun as well as working hard, innovating and being good people."

The corporate culture became complete with coaching sessions by All Blacks mental skills coach Gilbert Enoka. "He's taken us through team building, giving us tools (to make us better)," explains Walters.

Not everyone took to the band's new corporate vibe. "I don't like structure so much," says Mac. "It took me a while to acclimatise to it. I really like it now, I didn't think I would."

The big question is, why? Six60 are hoping that taking care of business will let them extend the life of the band - and help them make better music.

"If we didn't try and approach the business in different ways, we'd become a one-trick pony," says Walters. "The business is such an integral part of it... we're trying to put our fingers in all the pies."

So they're brewing their own beer. They're rolling out music differently. Their latest EP has seen one song released each week over the course of six weeks. And they say their new music is made with "no external influences at all".

"We've definitely maintained the thing that is Six60," says Mac. "There's soul and authenticity, a feel-good thing. We're pretty proud of them."

So far, so good. But Walters and Mac admit the band recently took things a little too far, launching into scathing critiques of their live shows the second they walked off stage.

"There were no high fives," says Mac. "It was, 'Bro, that thing there wasn't great'.

So they've relaxed a little, allocating 30 minutes to celebrate their performance before examining it in-depth.

"We just thought, if we want to make celebrating as much of a priority as the rest of it, we should give it space and allot time," says Mac.

"So, for this 30 minutes we'll celebrate that we played a fun show ... after [that] it's us dissecting the show."

Who: Matiu Walters and Chris Mac from Six60
What: New EP, Six60, released November 17
Live: Playing Christchurch's Horncastle Arena on January 6, Wellington's TSB Bank Arena on January 8, Tauranga's Wharepai Domain on January 11, and Auckland's Villa Maria Winery on January 13.