Whangarei will again have the chance to see arguably New Zealand's biggest band, Six60, at Toll Stadium in March. Andrew Johnsen talks to bassist Chris Mac about the band's progression, the uniqueness of Northland crowds and what Six60's March 17 show will give the fans
SIX60 are heading back to the top of the country to provide Northland the end to the summer season in a way only they can.
They are bringing their New Waves World Tour act back to Whangarei after last performing at Toll Stadium in 2016, and at the end of a split tour which earlier this summer had them playing to more than 20,000 in several venues in just over a week.
The quintet, made up of lead singer Matiu Walters, Chris Mac on bass guitar, guitarist Ji Fraser, sampler Marlon Gerbes and drummer Eli Paewai, have become synonymous with Kiwi music through their six years in the public eye.
Mac said it didn't take much to persuade them to return to Northland.
"We're pumped to be coming back up! Last time we were there it was one of the highlight shows on the tour," he said. "I don't know whether it's location or the people but for some reason it's a special show.
"The crowd loved it and that always helps us put on a great show.
"To be honest, we tried to kid ourselves that we would only do those first five shows. But we love it too much. We love touring.
"We were selling out our shows and people were asking us to come to different places and we've got rubber arms when it comes to adding new shows. We can't help ourselves."
Six60 recently released an EP, which includes the top-10 hit Don't Give It Up.
However, it's another track that Mac loves the most.
"Up There is my favourite. It's the most personal song on there for me and for the entire band," he said.
"It's all of us. It tells the story of how we got into what we do today. And I think everyone can relate to the feeling.
"For me it was riding around on my bike listening to Nirvana and feeling connected to the music and to a band and people that see the world in the same way I did. Everyone has that moment in life and it's great to have that feeling in a song."
Six60 recently have spent time in the US to progress themselves as artists and this can be heard on their latest EP.
Mac said the decision to head there has been hugely beneficial to the band.
"We love the second album we did [the self-titled Six60] and we love New Zealand music so much but we knew we could get better as a group so we went to the US to learn from the best," Mac said.
"Because of it, our songwriting has gotten better. Our willingness to just go with songs and let them become what they want to become rather than trying to force them somewhere has been really liberating. In the end we've got something we are really proud of."
During their time in the US, they got to work with legendary music producer Pharell Williams, not that Mac believed it until he saw him in the flesh.
"Up until the point where he walked into the room everyone was a little sceptical. We were sitting there going, 'You got me, we totally fell for it'.
"He's been my hero since I was 17."
Six60 have since moved their base to Auckland after starting in a cold flat in Dunedin.
The founding members met as students at the University of Otago and took the band's name from the street number of the house they lived at.
Their early following developed from Dunedin to other student hubs around the country, their unique sound a welcome, fresh Kiwi fusion of roots, reggae, hip-hop, dubstep, and drum and bass.
The band's new studio has been called "the mullet of studios" by Mac - business in the front, party at the back. The move has made fiscal sense for the band.
"Auckland's just closer to the record label, to radio stations and it's a lot cheaper to have all our stuff in the same city.
"It's better than flying everyone around for rehearsals. We're not made of money, though that would be nice.
"It would also be really problematic. We couldn't be out in strong winds or anything like that.
The band is looking forward to coming to Whangarei for their sixth date on a split New Zealand tour, with Christchurch being the last venue for the summer. Walters can't wait to return to the North.
"We always have an awesome time with our fans in Whangarei, and we think some people who missed out on the Auckland show will travel up too, so we're expecting a great crowd."
Mac said concert-goers will be in for a phenomenal night with the talents of Kings and P-Money complementing their variety of new tracks and old classics.
"Kings was on our last run with us and puts on an amazing show. He has a band with him and he does his thing. "He actually shreds on the guitar. I didn't know that until I met him.
"And P-Money, I mean can you really get any better? He's a Kiwi icon and we're proud to have him on the road with us.
"We're at the top of our game. Each year we get better. Our latest tour of Europe gave us the chance to refine our skills and we're having the time of our lives out there.
"We'll play all of our new stuff and try not to leave out any of the crowd favourites as well. We just love to play so we want to play every song we have."