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Interview: Reb Fountain - Auckland Headline Show w/ Band + Arahi

Interview: Reb Fountain - Auckland Headline Show w/ Band + Arahi

Samantha Cheong / Photo credit: Francis Carter / Monday 29th May, 2023 11:31AM

Aotearoa's widely cherished and multi-award winning Reb Fountain has returned from a jam-packed UK tour after sharing her new single ‘Faithless Lover’ — an evocative tale of the stories we tell ourselves in hopes of protecting the ego. The Lyttelton songwriter kindly sat down with me last month despite some intense jet lag (and Coronation lag) to discuss her upcoming show at The Powerstation this week on Saturday 3rd June, her only super city headline event of 2023. She will joined by full band of Dave Khan, Karin Canzek and Earl Robertson for the first time at the iconic Tāmaki Makaurau venue, with special guest and Aotearoa shooting star Arahi (also of Pony Baby with Jazmine Mary) — whose heartfelt and soulful music will kick off a grand yet intimate evening. Fountain and band will soon be jetting off to Melbourne for a headline show at The Brunswick Ballroom on 13th July. Our chat certainly got my skin buzzing for the show (and my mouth watering for burgers), but had me questioning the own stories I tell myself to get to sleep at night…

UnderTheRadar proudly presents…

Reb Fountain
with special guest Arahi
Saturday 3rd June - The Powerstation, Auckland

General public tickets on sale via

Samantha Cheong: First off, how were your string of UK shows just last week?

Reb Fountain: We did five shows in four days. Flew in and out. Very 'In-N-Out Burger' is what it was. It was fantastic. We all love playing live, it’s the gold pot at the end of the rainbow. It was great to be working and then playing gigs. They’re all very different shows: three Great Escape showcases and then two of our own. I love touring and performing live and being able to do shows back-to-back is great. We don’t often get to do that here in New Zealand so I appreciate it very much.

Did you have any favourite spots you did get to visit on your own time?

There was really very little down time, but it was nice to be able to hang out in Brighton for a few days. I didn’t get to see very much, managed to miss all the King’s coronation giftware, but we did wander down to the Royal Pavilion which is this quite pompous, absurd castle made by King George IV. Well, the castle existed but he kind of turned it into the style of the Taj Mahal temple and it’s beautiful in this sort of gaudy way, but just a reminder of the opulence of the Crown. So yeah, that was an interesting stroll. The streets of Brighton were beautiful and everyone was really lovely.

I’ve seen you play twice now — last year at Auckland Town Hall and at the Taite Music Awards. I think what you do with your shows is it feels like you’re in your own world in most of it, connecting to the music. I just love that the energy that you give is so sincere and also I just like the outfits that you wear too, the kind of power suits. I’m excited for next month’s show.

I feel very fortunate to work with the band family that I do. I think we all listen and connect to each other deeply, but we can do so in an insular way. I feel very supported to just dive deeper into the moment and be as present as I can, because I have this incredible landscape to work with and this team that makes that possible. It’s really cultivated a space for me to be free in a way that I’ve always wanted to be. It’s helped me emerge more as a performance artist I suppose.

Like I said earlier, live performance is where it’s at for me. It offers this opportunity to be ultimately present with an audience who’ve made this massive effort to come and see you. Maybe they’ve taken a risk — they have never seen you before. Maybe they’ve been planning for months and paid for a babysitter. Everyone’s got their lives and their emotions and we’re all fuckin’ human and we’re in this space and I want to honour that. It’s a very sacred moment for me and I want to fill it with intention of being connected. Part of what I do is connect deeply wth myself in a space that’s very vulnerable and weird, where you feel like you’re transparent in some ways. I’m quite shy or reserved, so it’s a strange thing to have all these people staring at you and listening. But in the moment, none of that matters for me. The work is in being present, owning the space and committing to the music. I feel that this is how I survive and make sense of being human. Being in the world is to take the space and it’s like a meditation.

I hope it inspires the audience to give a shit about themselves that much. Maybe it’s a different world and I’m welcoming you into mine, but I also hope that inspires others to make space, to explore their own creativity, art and humanness. I feel like we’re having a conversation. Even though maybe it appears that I’m quite lost and in my own zone, I’m talking to you. [laughs] I’m reaching out saying, “We’re here”.

Same for me when I’m performing — there’s nothing like it. You feel this energy from the room, but also a deep connection with yourself and there’s nothing that can mimic that. I liked that you talked about it as welcoming people into your world, which is how I felt watching you.

Thank you, I’m pleased that resonates with you. It’s just such an important space. It feels like there’s so much happening in the world politically and socially and environmentally that is incredibly challenging and tiring and taxing — and I just want to save us all [laughs]. It can feel really hopeless and what’s beautiful about the human spirit is the possibility for grace, intention, compassion, commitment and love. All of those things can come to light in music in a very special way in performance and art. It sounds cheesy but it feels important to have that right now, as important as it’s ever been. Not so much in a sense of solace, but in order to cultivate a progressive human condition that can maybe fuckin’ do something about the situation we’re in. As opposed to being apathetic and fearful or lost in capitalism or patriarchy or other things that make us blind for taking action.

Yeah — when you have art and music, that’s the heart that you want to actually connect with and share around and fight for with all these systems that we’re oppressed by. Music keeps us sane or human. With your newest single 'Faithless Lover', to me, it’s about looking past the illusions that we create for ourselves and become so accustomed to. Is your next work treading on such solid ground as rebellion, escapism, and myth?

I don’t know! I’m still working that out. I feel like I’m getting there. In terms of next work, I’m remaining open to all possibilities. I find that very challenging too. Because sometimes I wanna control it and be like, “I wanna write this kind of song and say this sort of thing.” But often it’s in those moments where you invite the muse to direct you. Most of the time, like this morning, I’m waking up with a song in my head from a dream and then it forms out of that. I think I’ve always really done that. It’s always in the ether.

I enjoy wrestling with the political on a personal level. I feel like the micro-relationships that we have, have a lot to tell us about the macro, the worlds that we’ve created. I find it interesting to try and cultivate a universal story out of something that’s really personal because it resonates more with people. In 'Faithless Lover' I definitely tried to do that. On one level, it’s a story of a relationship where you want something to be a certain way — you hope someone will love you back and they never do — or you buy into the story that they tell you, just because it feels better than being honest with yourself about the truth. All of those things exist in a one-on-one relationship context, but they also exist in the world. That we buy into stories because they benefit us, like white supremacy or privilege, hierarchy or capitalism.

Nobody wants to let go of the things that feel like they support you or benefit you. What if we allowed ourselves to question that? What other story could we tell ourselves? I hope the song is a bit of a a transformation from start to end of this place where it’s quite a vulnerability. Of bearing witness to the myth that you tell yourself and the myths of the world. At the end, I can fucking believe in myself. That’s painful but I can own up to the truth. Even though fact and fiction is being wrestled with, like fake news and what is reality, there is a truth, something that’s real and tangible and worth fighting for.

I was also wondering just how you’re feeling about your first own Powerstation show as a band?

Very excited. The last few shows we’ve played in Auckland and around the country have been sit-down theatre shows.

I stood up and went to the front (at the Town Hall)!

Ah! Good on you! It’s great, everyone loves to sit down. The music that we do can create that vibe where you want to sit and be immersed in something in those beautiful theatres. But it’s also great to have a rock show and to get a little bit sweaty on it. It changes the atmosphere to all be huddled up close together. The Powerstation is such an iconic venue and we’ve all in different capacities performed there before with other artists but never as a band. I’m really looking forward to it.

Yeah your full band! I’m so excited to be among throngs of bodies — we’re all gonna be eyes closed and listening to you.

The sticky floor and the sweaty smell, all those things. It’s good.

With Arahi who’s supporting you guys, what do you love about his performance energy and music?

We met Arahi in the Hawkes Bay and were just really struck. He’s a beautiful singer and great songwriter. Incredibly confident in a very unassuming way as a performer. Dave Khan, who’s in my band, produced some of his record and Karin (Canzek) played bass on a couple of tracks. In lots of different ways, we’ve had overlapping musical connections and friendships since that time. He’s a rising star. He’s really talented and sweet and captivating. I’m so excited to share him with those in the audience that don’t know who he is or haven’t heard his music before.

It’s great to uplift other artists and I can see that everyone is so connected and supporting each other in this industry.

Part of it is because it’s so small, but a lot of it’s because it’s those connections and relationships that help foster things for your growth and the growth of others, right? I think our music industry has changed a lot, especially fifteen years ago when major labels were on the outs but still holding for dear life. It was very competitive. It felt really hard to get any foothold. There were only a couple of female singer-songwriters at the top and it didn’t feel community-oriented. There’s been some massive shifts… building up community support in smaller towns. Particularly starting in Lyttelton really changed the narrative on what’s important. It’s really a beautiful thing when you can celebrate the successes of other people!

What have you been enjoying listening to recently — anything that’s specifically influenced your next music or work?

There’s been a lot of things actually. A sort of variety. I’ve been listening a lot recently to Lana Del Rey’s new album Did You Know That There’s A Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd. I find it quite mesmerising. I’ve been listening to a lot of hip hop of various types.

This amazing artist who I’ve just come across, their album is M For Empathy by Lomelda. It’s beautiful and just came up one day on Spotify as an extra listen. I’ve been obsessing over that. Kind of simple guitar / piano melody stuff.

Really enjoying some of the new New Zealand music coming out, like Jazmine Mary’s work is great. There’s a few albums I’m really excited about that are in the works that I’ve heard snippets of. I guess everything influences me? Whether it’s music or otherwise. I kind of take it all.

I had the very great pleasure of sharing the stage of Proteins of Magic when we were in the UK. She came along and we played at the NZ Music Commission’s showcase. I missed her because we had another showcase going on, but she came and played for us at The Lexington. I’d never seen her live before, but it was brave and beautiful and inspirational. I’m looking forward to more things from her. She’s very commanding. I was quite awestruck actually. I think she’s incredibly emotive. What makes her quite unique is that this is not a fabrication or a show, this is from the heart and this is who she is. She’s very deep and heartfelt. It reminded a little bit of when I first saw Sinéad O'Connor — not because they both have short hair or no hair — there was the 'Mandinka' music video and you’re like, “What the fuck is this?” [laughs] It kind of blows your mind because it’s so left-field and fresh and confronting but also necessary. I felt all those things when I watched her play. It was very exciting.

What’s your collaborative process with your daughter Lola (Fountain-Best) with the music videos you’ve been making? Recently, you’ve been inspired by other filmmakers like Jean Cocteau. Will you be continuing to collaborate with her for the next round of music videos?

That’s a great question and I’ll have to ask her [laughs]. This particular one for 'Faithless Lover', we’d been dreaming for a while less of the concept and more what we’re going to do with all this old film stock we got offered. We wanted to make something that would suit the format of expired film stock. We’re working with a medium that’s a little bit dodgy, that has its own characteristics. You can’t control — you don’t know what it’s going to turn out like. Sometimes there’ll be part of a reel that doesn’t develop at all! Which certainly was the case for this music video. So you come up with a concept and a narrative and then you film as much as you can in this tiny window... and then you see what happens. Lola edits it and she’s great at that. We’ve developed a really positive way of interacting. We’re very fast, we’re always rolling and changing ideas and throwing stuff in or out. You can certainly take yourself by surprise like, “What the fuck is happening here?” We create on the spot a lot. It’s fun, we work very well together in that way. She’s fantastic at seeing the whole picture and taking the initial idea… turning it into something tangible. She’s amazing.

I love that it’s expired film. It suits because the lens that you see yourself through is threatening to be challenged, just like our conception of what is truth or the lies we tell ourselves. I think it works very well.

That’s beautiful, Sam. Thank you. We created our own myth or narrative behind the video as a a kind of seed planting of those sorts of concepts and themes throughout. What if you’re confronted with your own self that’s not as beautiful as you wanna be?

Where to next after lighting up The Powerstation, and have there been any more 'Smurfcidents' (surprising performance stories, as discussed here) maybe?

That’s very funny that you say that. We’re heading to Melbourne at The Brunswick Ballroom. We’re recording in September, and writing is really the focus for us.

And… the Smurf situation is a great metaphor for the insane Coronation debacle that happened recently, where I put up a stupid post about playing at the King’s Coronation when really I was just trying to promote our London gig. A lot of people seemed to think that it was true... no! Maybe that’s the thing, it’s so weird being in a position where you have a platform. Everyone has that with social media, but who are we in this light? What does that say about the things we believe or don’t?

Or don’t believe. That’s more interesting!


This interview has been edited for clarity and length.


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Reb Fountain
Sat 3rd Jun 8:00pm
The Powerstation, Auckland